Friday, August 31, 2007
With the passing of Lady Bird Johnson, we are reminded that First Ladies used to stand for something. She was not as beautiful as Jackie Kennedy, and in the mid-1960s with the war in Vietnam escalating, beautifying America’s highways may have seemed a trivial goal. It wasn’t. Lady Bird Johnson—a successful businesswoman in her own right—combined a disdain for the spread of commercial clutter with a love for the environment that today seems positively progressive in a first lady. She helped her husband advance the Head Start program and civil rights; she spoke publicly in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
By contrast, what does Laura Bush stand for? Well, at first it was “literacy” and the merits of being a stay-at-home wife who gets her husband (allegedly) to quit drinking. Then she was going to combat the influence of gangs on school children. (Her husband subsequently eliminated this program.) Then there was some hand-waving about women’s heart disease. Her very glitzy website also cites “Gulf Coast Rebuilding” (no comment) and “Global Diplomacy” as top Laura priorities. All of these are advanced with a smile as lock-jawed as Nurse Ratched’s.
On Sept 3, the cleaners at Camden Yards will begin a hunger strike until living wages at the publicly owned stadium are secured.
UnitedWorkers.org has been trying to improve the conditions at Camden Yards for years. From their website:
We focused on a single demand from the start: Pay every worker at Camden Yards at least the Baltimore City living wage. Baltimore was the first city in the United States to pass living wage legislation, but the stadium was not covered by this law because Camden Yards belongs to the state of Maryland, not Baltimore City. Anything less than a living wage is a poverty-wage, and we wanted to drive home the point that paying workers poverty-wages is part of the cause of poverty.
The argument is often made that “these people” should be trying to get better jobs if they're not happy with the current wages. But that's not a fair statement. Not everyone has the same opportunities, skills, or abilities. Some of these workers live in shelters. This may be the best some of them can do. The fact that they want to work should be rewarded. Watch this video of Valerie, a middle aged, single woman who cleans at Camden Yards, and see if you think she's doing the best she can:
Camden Yards was rampant with human rights violations. When we started organizing at the stadium workers were paid a flat rate — regardless of hours worked. This resulted in workers usually making less than $4.50 an hour — not counting unpaid wait times. Woman were harassed. Breaks were denied and workers were mistreated on a daily basis.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It surprises me to feel sorry for them. They are, after all, the same people who spew hatred toward me and all other gay men and lesbians. They are the ones who deny us our most basic civil rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
But as these scandals come to a head (if you'll excuse the expression) I see these men (for they all seem to be white men) for what they truly are: normal human beings with normal sexual feelings who hate themselves. They hate what they feel so much that they sneak around in bathrooms and with prostitutes and congressional pages, rather than accept who they are. I don't know who's gay, bisexual, or just “curious.” And honestly, I don't care.
What I do care about is that these are all men of power, and they have all turned their self-loathing outward toward the rest of us. Larry Craig has a long history of questionable behavior, summarized by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
During all his years in Congress, there have been questions about Craig's personal life. At the same time, he was voting for the federal amendment banning gay marriage (the first time an amendment has ever been introduced to deny citizens rights), opposing allowing gays or lesbians in the military, as well as voting against extending civil rights protections to homosexuals in the workplace.
The extremists in the conservative Christian faction have created an atmosphere of hatred toward gays and lesbians that is so strong its own members are forced to troll bathrooms looking for sex rather than accept their normal human sexuality. Add to that the fact that these men are also covering up their behavior by focusing their fervor and hate toward the gay community.
As a gay person, that's not just pathetic. It's downright scary.
On Saturday, September 15, tens of thousands of people from across the country will gather at the White House and then march to the Capitol. The march is timed to coincide with the report by General Petraeus on the "Surge" in Iraq. (The report which we now know will actually be written by the White House, and not by Petraeus.)
Marchers will include Iraq War veterans, family members of soldiers and marines and other veterans. When the march arrives at the Capitol, the Iraq War veterans and family members will be the leadership of a mass die-in symbolizing the deaths of an estimated 4,000 U.S. service members. There will also be a representation of the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in this dramatic confrontation with Congress — at the very time that they will be debating spending another $100 billion to sustain the occupation of Iraq.
If you are in the DC area, I encourage you to attend. If you are out of town, check with the ANSWER Coalition website for options on travel and lodging. There are buses coming from all over the country, and many folks in the DC area are putting up marchers in their homes.
If you're frustrated with the politicians and you feel as though you can't make a difference, please consider attending this march. I mean, c'mon: unless you're 9 months pregnant or something, what's keeping you away?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
All of these stories will continue to be in the news in the coming days, I'm sure, so I'm not going to say too much about them today. I'm still trying to catch up at work and at home after a wonderfully exhausting trip to Vermont for a family reunion. The main event was a birthday party for my uncle who's turning 90 this fall. He still plays tennis and golf, and his health is probably due to his fondness for a 15 minute nap every day and a manhattan before dinner, as well a good genes.
Turns out there was indeed teh internets in Vermont, but who had time?! I saw cousins I hadn't seen in years, including cousins from Scotland who I hadn't seen in 23 years, since I visited them when I was in college. So although there was plenty of discussion on world politics, I probably watched a total of 30 minutes of t.v. over the course of 5 days. I checked the blog and saw that all was well, and went back to the party. It was wonderful!
On our last visit, when Lucy was fifteen
And getting creaky herself,
One of the nurses said to me,
"Why don't you take the cat to Mrs. Harris' room
—poor thing lost her leg to diabetes last fall —
she's ninety, and blind, and no one comes to see her.
"The door was open. I asked the tiny woman in the bed
if she would like me to bring Lucy in, and she turned her head
toward us. "Oh, yes, I want to touch her."
"I had a cat called Lily — she was so pretty, all white.
She was with me for twenty years, after my husband died too.
She slept with me every night — I loved her very much.
It's hard, in here, since I can't get around."
Lucy was settling in on the bed.
"You won't believe it, but I used to love to dance.
I was a fool for it! I even won contests.
I wish I had danced more.
It's funny, what you miss when everything.....is gone."
This last was a murmur. She'd fallen asleep.
I lifted the cat
from the bed, tiptoed out, and drove home.
I tried to do some desk work
but couldn't focus.
I went downstairs, pulled the shades,
put on Tina Turner
and cranked it up loud
and I danced.
— Alice N. Persons