A crisis for women…again.
I’ve not mentioned very much about this campaign but at this point, when the party is over and the strobe lights have just stopped flashing (this is when you wish you’d WAITED to give your number to the strobe light cute boy who is now not cute at all) Hilary Clinton is still there. Yes, I know this club joke about her has been made before (I believe it was Chris Rock) but it’s funny and not for me, a black woman.
This is a familiar episode of “Which Side of The Fence Do You Hang?” for us black women. If you can recall about a hundred plus years ago, some time after being told we were “free” but unable to vote, like our vanilla sistren and chocolate brethern (save for Wyoming - you progressive state you - which allowed women (not black) to cast their vote and hold office and dig dirt just like her man), we all decided to figure out a way to actually get some of the accessories that go with the freedom we were told we had. Several movements popped up forcing black women to choose race over gender or gender over race. Fast forward in the story: we were NOT included in the victory for white women’s voting rights. So we’re clear.
This is not a new revelation. There’s a very good article from March of 2008 in the Washington Post by DeNeen Brown, written soon after Gloria Steinem (she reminds me of a very smart little kindergartner they used to call “Hard Head” because of her will - that was me - except I’m black and know what that entails) basically said that gender is “the most restrictive force in America.” I wonder if she watches “Cops.”
Brown talks to NOW President Kim Gandy who sort of tries to explain why we are all still confused and pissed. Basically because racism, sexism, broke-ism, rich-ism and all other ill isms still exist today. I know tons of black women supporting HIlary and a whole bunch of white people supporting Obama. The point of all this is not to sway but to have everybody pull back from their lens for a second and see a bigger picture.
We are going down a road we went down already.
There was a deep diss that happened back during the suffrage movement. It is likened to white women back then who were fighting for voting rights telling black women to come along for the ride and then not showing up for the second date. You’d be a little mad too. This time around was probably a great time to repair that snafu that our ancestors went through but what seems to be happening is those supporters around both candidates are choosing to fight a harder fight with each other than the candidates.
Without going into a history lesson, here’s my final observation: because of what happened back then, Hilary’s refusal to read the graffiti on the wall is kind of doing a retroactive push for the solidarity of women. She fought a really good campaign, except now she’s in her third joke (that last joke that just makes the first two moot points) and what people are noticing is not that she is a fighter, but that she is a poor judge of when it’s time to move on. This is really not a game of checkers, seeing how many states you can collect, if you aren’t going to win the game. It’s called poor sportsmanship. If we’re going to rehash all these difficult political emotions, at least let it before a a good cause. At this point, it’s just making for a bad television show ending (ahem - Sopranos).
When I was younger, it was very easy to read things about people doing fabulous things and berate myself for not doing what they were doing. I’m a couch envier. An armchair competitor. I always want to do everything…from my bed. It’s my dichotomy and now, in my thirties, I’m okay with it. Especially since almost everything wonderful in life happens in the bed anyway.
Example, this morning, I open my Huffington Post and read this wonderful college commencement address from Susan Power (someone I should know but probably didn’t so had to Google, thus getting the scoop and then probably forgetting later on). About ten years ago, I would have read what homegirl does and probably drowned my sadness in gravy fries over the fact that I haven’t done one thing to improve Darfur (except buy some movie tickets on the subject but I bought popcorn too and I don’t know who got that money, certainly not the refugees) nor end poverty (except for my measly donation to America’s Harvest but I only do that once in a while) nor even stop the violence or kick science (I mean I am a writer but sometimes I have no faith that there’s anyone out there). But today I’m a new girl. I believe in my small things. I believe sometimes that power comes from the act of doing rather than the suerphero act of letting the world see what you’ve done. Today I know I’ve accomplished my things and I don’t stand them next to someone else’s because those are their things. It sounds quite kindergarten I know but work with me because I believe fundamentally that kindergarten was not so immature after all. In fact, most of the things we learned should have come from that base (BTW, did ANY of you learn to walk on the right side of the street? I did. I seem to be running into a bunch of people who skipped that day in kindergarten and it drives me crazy).
So I’ll share Susan Power’s address because I think this is an act of empowerment and I hope that by reading this, you will feel like you are something and can do many things. That is my armchair activisim for the day.
“The experts deal in probabilities, but you all have the chance to decide on possibilities and make what is possible real.
So how do you begin to think about doing that? I’d like to offer five suggestions.
First, as you figure out your path in life, try to follow your nose. I had classmates in college who had decided by the time we graduated what they wanted to be on this earth - “Tony award winning actor,” “congressman by the age of thirty,” “broker of an India-Pakistan peace deal.” These folks were unbelievably determined and polished. They had amassed thick rolodexes and devised detailed flow charts, indicating how they would get to their self-designated promised lands. They knew their end states and would have given Machiavelli a good run for his money in reaching their goals. I have students like this too. One young man came into my office recently and said, “I want your life. I want to write books and magazine articles and get to know a Presidential candidate.” My response was: “you so don’t want my life!” Now don’t get me wrong: I love my life. But this student knew that life only in silhouette. He knew nothing of my many missteps, of the internal struggles, of the constant tradeoffs, and he knew nothing of how I set out on a path hoping to do one thing and ended up doing something radically different. He only knew the box score. But just as one can not decide in advance to win a baseball game by a score of 6-3, one can not script a precise professional destination. The contingencies - and one’s ability to pivot from them - have a greater impact upon one’s destiny than one’s plan.
I promise you that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I had set out to reach a specific end state. Every choice up to this point, I have made by following my nose. I went to Bosnia as a journalist in the early 1990s not so I could somehow, one day, end up having the honor of speaking at your commencement, but because I was one of many Americans sickened by the television images of emaciated men and women imprisoned behind barbed wire in modern-day concentration camps.
And believe me, while in college, I didn’t say, “I want to become the author of long books on dark topics.” I wrote a paper for a law school class on U.S. responses to the major genocides of the twentieth century. And then at the end of the semester decided I still didn’t have an adequate answer to the question of why U.S. leaders had done so little to stop genocide, from the Armenians to the Holocaust to Rwanda. So I kept going. I took a year off law school to try to figure out the answer to that question, and, only when I got the impression that others were interested in the answer too did I decide to pull my findings together in a book, which became “A Problem from Hell” — a title my mother thinks I chose to describe my personal relationship to the book writing process. When I was later told by publishers that there was no market for such a book, I was crushed of course, but it didn’t stop me because I still hadn’t quite figured out the answer to my question.
When I went to work for Senator Obama in 2005, I went not because I thought he would run for president, but because I thought he had a lot to teach. I also realized I’d been writing about American foreign policy for a long time but was woefully ignorant about how the Congress functioned day to day. If, going forward, you view yourselves as full-time students in a real world university, it is difficult to go that far astray.
Parents, please don’t worry! I’m not using this privileged pulpit to encourage dilettantism. Instead, I’m encouraging you, class of 2008, to focus on the next thing, and take some of the pressure off finding the eventual thing. Emphasize the substance of what you will learn, not the status of what you will be called. Ask yourself, “What will I take away from this? Will I learn a new skill? A new town? A new mindset?” Put one foot in front of the other for as long as you can afford to, rather than trying to map your way to the winner’s platform.
Second, be sure to create quiet time so you maximize the chances you will be able to hear your gut when it speaks to you. The French film director Jean Renoir once said, “The foundation of all great civilizations is loitering.” But class of 2008, we have all stopped loitering. I don’t mean we aren’t lazy at times. I mean that no moment goes unoccupied. A year or so I was driving my car to work, and I caught myself — ladies and gentlemen don’t try this at home - listening to a book on tape, talking on my cellphone, keeping an eye on the GPS, and texting a friend on my blackberry at the same time. I’m not proud of this. And it gets even worse. Now a recovering member of Pathological Multi-Taskers Anonymous, I am here to admit that I do not drive an automatic! Yes, I performed all of these tasks while driving a stick shift. Not good.
Not only “not good” because of the physical hazards associated with such reckless multi-tasking. But also not good because this moment approximates the modern American condition. Stillness is becoming as extinct as the polar bear. More people spend more time with their computers today than with their spouse or significant other. And indeed a quarter of Americans say the internet can serve as a substitute for a spouse or a significant other!
We go for a run, and we listen to music. We sit down to write, and we secretly pine for the ping of the email interruption. We wait in line at the grocery store, and we use the check out line to return phone calls. Soon when we fly on airplanes, we will be able to fill every airborne moment with calls and emails and connectedness. If I am not mistaken, the shower is now the only place we are guaranteed to have time to ourselves, and soon undoubtedly, our iPods will be waterproof and our cell phones will be devised to drown out the shower current and to amplify the human voice. All that we will have left will be that quiet, peaceful time when we wait expectantly at the other side of the airport x-ray belt for our gadgets to be returned to us after screening … and think now, how we already break the airport rules and reach our hands back into the dark vortex of the conveyor belt just so we can be reunited with our technology seconds more quickly!
There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven’t wrapped our minds around the costs. Comedy Central would happily hire a limo to take Steven Colbert to and from work every day. But he says he wouldn’t be funny if he didn’t drive himself home. On his drive from New York to New Jersey, he puts the devices away and lets his mind drift … with side-splittingly funny results. Many of the best decisions you make in life will come from listening not to your parents, not to your horoscope, and not to your MySpace visitors. Your best decisions will come after you have placed a metaphorical stethoscope up to your gut and managed to listen to yourself. These days it can be hard to hear oneself amid the din, but try!!
Third, by far the most important quality one needs in life is not in fact talent; it is resiliency. I just spent the last four years writing a book about Sergio Vieira de Mello, a person I have begun to describe as “the most important man you’ve never heard of,” a cross between James Bond and Bobby Kennedy, who was a global trouble-shooter, nation builder, and peacemaker. He spoke seven languages, worked in fourteen war zones, and knew more than anyone on earth about how to deal with violent and broken places. Tragically Sergio and 21 others were blown up by a suicide bomber in the attack on UN headquarters in Iraq in 2003. Sergio was like Sysyphus. He pushed that boulder up the hill, and it rolled back down that hill, but he retrieved it and pushed it up again, over time making incremental but essential progress. He managed to save the lives he did less because of his judgment than because of his resiliency.
When I think about resiliency today, I also think about a man named Gil Loescher. When the suicide bomber struck the UN’s Iraq base in 2003, Sergio happened to be meeting with Gil, an American human rights and refugee advocate. Miraculously, although the bomb went off right outside Sergio’s office, Gil managed to survive the explosion and was pinned beneath concrete. Now sadly American soldiers had been deployed without the equipment they needed to do a proper, full-scale search and rescue mission. Nonetheless, they improvised, tracking down a rusty saw in one of the bombed-out UN offices. With this saw they amputated Gil’s legs and pulled him out of the collapsed building. Gil was flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany and given a 25% chance of survival. For more than a year after the attack, tiny shards of glass would work themselves free from his skin. His face was badly scarred, and he initially had no use of his right hand. But Gil made extraordinary progress, reacquiring the use of that hand and mastering computer-assisted prosthetic legs. He resumed writing a book on protracted refugee crises and, in 2006, just three years after the attack, he managed to travel 1,200 miles along the northern Thai border to interview Burmese refugees. In one of the camps, he made a special point of visiting an out-of-the-way care center for disabled refugees run by Handicap International. But after wheeling himself across the camp, he found the facility had been built atop a steep mud bank that his wheelchair could not ascend. Resigned to turning back, Gil suddenly saw five Burmese faces peering down at him from the top of the bank. The Burmese, each of whom had a wooden prosthetic leg, scrambled down the bank, raised Gil’s wheelchair onto their shoulders and carried him up the hill.
Loescher divides his existence into his “first life” and his “second life.” He says that on occasions when he is tempted to feel sorry for himself, he thinks about refugees. “My whole career,” he says, “I have been visiting refugee camps, and, without realizing it, I was getting tutorials about resilience. If they can bounce back, I certainly can.” Life is a crucible, but whenever I’m tempted to give up on something, I think of Gil and those selfless and determined Burmese. And after today, whenever I waver, I’m going to think about Lauren. [Lauren Steinberg is a Pitzer senior who spoke during the commencement ceremony. Last year she was hit by a car and narrowly survived. Despite extensive head and body injuries, multiple surgeries, and prolonged absences, she returned to Pitzer this year and came just one credit shy of graduating with her class.]
Success is not about who never fails. It is about who can spring - or even stagger - back up. That immortal American philosopher John Wayne said “life is getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”
Fourth, find friends who have your back. Last weekend I attended a conference in honor of a Nobel Prize winning Princeton psychologist named Danny Kahneman. Kahneman is a remarkable scholar who has done groundbreaking experiments which showed the ways in which humans are not as rational as had long been assumed. At the conference, which celebrated his retirement, lawyers, economists, and psychologists got up to present work that had been galvanized or influenced by his theories. The day was a tour de force, a monument to the kind of impact one man and his ideas can have on the world. At the end of the day Kahneman was asked what he was most likely to be remembered for. The audience hushed in anticipation. Here Kahneman would elevate one of his many theories above the rest. Posterity would record which experimental research the great Kahneman himself thought most landmark. “The one thing that I’m sure of,” he said, “is that I’ll be forgotten.” But he was next asked the source of his nearly unrivalled professional success. Again the scholars in the room waited expectantly. This time, he gave them a response they could take home, answering, “my choice of friends.”
The beauty of this is that, while much in this life is beyond our control, all of us hold the power to choose our friends. We can each be a Nobel prize winner at friendship. None of us are perfect friends always, but one way to think about friendship is in terms of carefulness. Be careful with those you love. And surround yourself with people who are careful with you. A good friend of mine devised a rather taxing standard for love and friendship - and a grim one too - “who would you want to become a refugee with?” If your neighborhood were hit by Hurricane Katrina, or Cyclone Nargis, who would have your back? Look around you today. Your parents have your back, your siblings have your back, your closest friends have your back. Keep it that way. And be sure they know you have theirs.
Fifth and final suggestion — actually more of a plaintive appeal — please be a good ancestor. Two or three or even four decades from now, you will get to sit where your parents are sitting today. Your kids will know that in 2008 your generation stood at a crossroads. They will know that you had a chance to stem the tide of global warming — to undo the damage that my generation and our predecessors have done to our shared planet. Your kids will know that you had a chance to restore the Constitution of the United States, a constitution that of late has come to be seen by some as optional. On issue after issue, your kids will know that you were the first generation to be educated about global challenges — global warming, nuclear proliferation, global disease pandemics, terrorism, etc. — and your kids will ask you, “what did you do to meet those challenges?” I hope you can claim prouder ancestry than we can. Already seventy-two percent of you can say you studied abroad, many of you can say that you led the drive to make your resident halls green and energy efficient, and several of you high-tailed it down to New Orleans after the hurricane to help those in need. Your student body amassed 110,000 hours of community service. That is 110,000 hours you could have spent doing something else!
And now going forward you can build on these efforts. You can be the generation that makes this country energy independent; you can be the generation that wipes out malaria in the developing world; you can be the generation that summons global resources to halt genocide in Darfur and beyond; you can be the generation that deals with the scourge of terrorism and its causes; and you can be the generation that ends extreme poverty. My generation and our predecessors haven’t been responsible caretakers. But you can be. In John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address he observed that Americans were daunted by the mortal challenges of the Cold War and the nuclear age. But he declared, “I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.”
That is the attitude to bring out into the messy world you inherit. The responsibilities of global citizenship are a burden. But my, those responsibilities are also a real privilege. Some poet once said, “Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw the mud, the other saw the stars.” You can choose to see the stars, Pitzer class of 2008.
Take the time this weekend to celebrate with the parents who made today possible, the teachers who made today valuable, and the friends who made your last four years unforgettable. And then go forth to be this 21st century’s “greatest generation.” Follow your nose. Find quiet time to listen to your gut. Be resilient. Find friends who have your back. And above all, please be a good ancestor. You can. And you must.
Thank you, Pitzer class of 2008, and good luck.”
And for you guys who are all about freindvy or stranger-vy, here’s homegirl’s bio. I am thinking maybe we should start these addresses in kindergarten.
Samantha Power, Anna Lindh Professor of the Practice of Global Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is the author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (Penguin Press, 2008), a biography of the UN peacemaker killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq. The founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (1998-2002), she is also the author of “A Problem from Hell:” America and the Age of Genocide (Harper Collins, 2003), which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy.
I know that Malcom probably would advise me towards some kind of attitude that would elevate me past the clouds and into the land of milk and honey over this but I’m not budging. Maybe I’ve not yet reached the enlightenment where this bullshit makes sense to me. But then, I may be wrong about Malcolm. It was Martin who had the “turn the other cheek” philosophy. I’m just not betting on anything since they started to morph into the other towards the ends of the lives. At any rate, this fool needs to be the source of every horror movie known. He should wake up with jihad sweats.
Any time my elders start talking about how it wasn’t back in the day, I’m going to pull this picture out of killer grandpa.
Malcolm X killer eyes full parole
BY JOSE MARTINEZ
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Friday, April 25th 2008, 4:00 AM
The man who confessed to shooting Malcolm X to death is tired of spending 12 hours a week in lockup.
Thomas Hagan, who was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1965 assassination of the black leader, on Thursday filed court papers demanding a 14th parole hearing hoping to get full parole.
Hagan, 66, has spent 19 years on a work-release program in which he spends 12 hours a week at a corrections facility in Harlem and the rest of his time working or at home with his wife and kids.
“Indeed, multiplied by 19 years, [Hagan] has spent an overwhelming majority of his time in everyday society,” he argued in papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. “Yet, his movement is monitored and limited.”
Hagan, who was once known as Talmadge Hayer, portrayed himself in court papers as a law-abiding inmate who rebuilt his life while doing hard time.
“[Hagan] has repeatedly expressed remorse for his actions and realizes the consequences of his conduct, and the tragic impact that he caused for the victim’s family, and society as a whole,” he wrote.
Three men were convicted of killing Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom at Broadway and 166th St. in February 1965. The two other men - who Hagan says were not present or involved in the shooting - were paroled nearly 20 years ago.
Hagan was most recently rejected for parole in September 2007. His next appearance before the state panel is not until January.
The former member of the Nation of Islam is serving a 20-years-to-life sentence for killing Malcolm X.
“Hagan evidently acted out his rage on impulse and loyalty to the religious group and leadership that he was formerly associated with,” he wrote. “He has accepted full responsibility for his conduct.”
So I’m an Obama supporter but larger than that, I just don’t like shadey business. Yes, I was on the Clinton bandwagon when he was President and I STILL think the man is smart and charasmatic. I also didn’t have to dip into my mattress to pay for gas when he was in the office. This does NOT excuse the below: