Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Let Us Give Thanks

Anne Lamott reminds me that, besides being grateful for our friends and family and the people who love us, we should also be thankful for what has happened in this country in the last month. So let's pause and appreciate the moment.

This man is going to be our next president.

This man will not be our next president.

In two months, this man will no longer be our president.

He will not be replaced by this man.

Or this man.

Or this man.

Or this woman.
He will be replaced by a man named Barack Obama.

We will have a president who speaks in complete sentences and thinks about his words.

We will have a president whose press conferences are not causes for alarm.

We will have a president who restores dignity and honor to the White House, a president who is not a worldwide embarrassment, a president who truly listens to the people.

We will have a president of whom we can be proud.

Let us be thankful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Human Spam?

Dan Savage has never offended me with any of his columns describing all manner of lewd, perverse, weird, kinky, and occasionally extralegal behavior. But today he went and did it.

Dan Savage called street canvassers "human spam" on the Stranger's blog today.

Human Spam. Spam, as in the annoying and often fraudulent crap that fills your email inbox. He thinks that canvassers are no better than spammers.

It's an insult to everyone who's ever been held a clipboard and asked for money. I should know. I was a field canvasser for a month, going door-to-door and raising money for a local nonprofit. It was one of the hardest jobs I've ever done, and I don't think I'd have the guts to do it again. But I have enormous respect for anyone who does this job - and clearly I'm ahead of Savage in this way.

I still raise money today, and I learned a tremendous amount in my time as a canvasser. If you don't like them, don't respond to them. But they deserve respect, whether or not you agree with them.

He apparently said the same thing a couple of years ago. This was from his column back in 2007.

So I watched as the WashPIRG workers hit the office workers up for donations. And I thought, man, I hate those WashPIRG people. I know, I know—all for a good cause, blah blah blah. But I still fucking hate it when one of a WashPIRGer collars me on the street. According to their website, WashPIRG is a "non-profit, non-partisan watchdog group working on behalf of consumers, the environment, and good government," and the subtext to any interaction with a WashPIRGer is, basically, "Give me some money—unless you don't care about product safety, the environment, good government, and all that other stuff."

I don't want to pretend that Dan Savage's opinion is more influential than someone like Joel Connelly or Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd. He's a professional loudmouth, a middle-aged curmudgeon. He's Andy Rooney for the hip Seattle set.

What's more discouraging is the number of people who agree with him, or who offer their own nasty comments about canvassers. Here's one response:

i view this as social terrorism. it's one of my biggest pet peeves. i'm serious. if i was interested in your damn cause, i'd seek you out. if it only happened occasionally, i'd mind less but it's a never-ending stream of someone needing something from me. i'm just trying to go about my business. it's no different from panhandling as far as i'm concerned. and if i have my headphones on or AM on a phone call, please don't interrupt me -- it's rude!

Like it's not bad enough to have Sarah Palin talking smack about community organizers. It's not bad enough to have everyone from Rush Limbaugh to John McCain talking smack about voter registration drives by groups like ACORN. Now we've got to deal with Dan Savage acting all offended and righteous about canvassers.

I've had it. This act of aggression will not stand, man. I'm going to put my two cents on the blog. And I'll encourage you all to do the same, if you've ever been a field canvasser. Or if you've ever known anyone who did the job. We need to add some balance to the blog's comments. Someone has to point out that, no matter how much they may not like it, canvassing is a legal activity. It's an important activity. It's not panhandling. It's still the way many nonprofits pay their bills and find new members. If it didn't work, no one would be doing it.

(A friendly reminder - if you do respond to Savage, remember to be civil. Any profanity, name-calling, insults, etc. will just be taken as evidence of our less-than-worthiness. Speak truth to Power, don't just call Power an asshole and think you did something great.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making Mischief

We have this great shelving unit thing in Oliver's playroom that holds all of his miscellaneous toys that doesn't go anywhere else - the random puzzle pieces, dolls, tops, stuffed animals, cards, and so on. It's pretty simple - twelve plastic bins of various sizes and a nice shelf to hold them all.

I knew I was in trouble when I saw him carrying all of the empty bins, stacked together, down the hall.

"Daddy, I'm going to take these far, far away."

I stared at him, dumbfounded, not realizing at first what had happened. And then I went to look in his bedroom, and found his shelf stripped bare. Everything - toys, bins, the whole kit and kaboodle - was gone.

And then I asked: "But Oliver, where did all the stuff go that was in those bins?"

"It's in my basket."

Yes, it was. All of it. Twelve bins, emptied into one vessel. It wasn't a pretty sight.

The strata of his playroom, as it were.

He then dragged the entire overstuffed bin down the hall into our bedroom, where he had already laid out all the bins. He proceeded to start sorting all of the toys back into the bins.

This fun game lasted for about five seconds before he decided it was more fun to toss everything onto our bed.

The moral of the story: when your child is in another room, happily and quietly playing, this is not a time to relax. This is the time to imagine the worst thing he could possibly be doing. Because the chances are good that's exactly what he's doing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memo re: Hustler

To: the sketchy-looking dude in the pick-up who was driving in front of me this morning

I wish to inform you that the "Hustler" bumper sticker on the back of your truck is not sending the message you intended.

I am sure that you meant to announce to the world that you are a hustler - i.e. someone who hustles, a playa, someone with street smarts, a sharp businessman. A pimp, if you will.

However, the only signal you were sending was that you read Hustler magazine. And we already knew that.



Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama Celebration at Hampshire College

This is my old college!

I never thought I'd see the day when a joyous screaming mob at Hampshire would break into the Star-Spangled Banner. Crazy times.

Obama Dance Party - in the streets of Seattle

Let's never forget how good it felt on Tuesday night, the moment we found out that Barack Obama was going to be our next president.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mutt Like Me

I didn't cry until this morning.

I've gotten emotional this week, of course. Tuesday night was amazing. I watched Obama's victory speech in awe and astonishment. But I never cried until today, watching his first post-election press conference.

Oddly enough, it was a question about dogs. He has promised his girls a dog if they move into the White House, and he was asked a light-hearted question about the kind of dog they were considering. And he said that he needed to consider getting a hypoallergenic dog because one of his girls is allergic.

But he then said that his preference was to get a dog from a shelter, and "most shelter dogs are mutts like me." I pumped my fist and cheered. And then I got misty-eyed.

Barack Obama is a mutt. He's a mixture, a hybrid, a biracial blend. He is both black and white, Kenyan and Hawaiian and Kansan, a swirl of cultures all at once.

I know something about this.

My father is 1st-generation Mexican-American, by which I mean that his parents were Mexican-born. He was born in Michigan, an American citizen although his father never became a naturalized citizen. He grew up speaking Spanish and English.

My mother was French-Canadian and English, from western Massachusetts. When they married and he came to New England to meet her family, he found them all staring anxiously out the window as he approached. They had never seen a Mexican person before, you see, and they couldn't wait to see what he looked like.

My childhood was a mixture of identities. I was never white, but never as dark as the pure Mexican kids in my neighborhood. I was in-between. I had a Spanish last name, but I couldn't speak Spanish beyond perro and gato. I was a typical American kid in most respects, I like to think: cable tv, video games, Sesame Street. And yet, there was that other thing that was so inconsequential and yet set me apart from the other kids on my block. I was different.

When I was thirteen, my family moved to a rural town in Colorado and I had to adjust to a whole new speed of living. I went from city life to a farm town. I adjusted well, learned to love country music and the Denver Broncos. I found many friends, graduated near the top of my class. I was in six plays in four years, played two years of high school baseball, won my first writing contest.

I believe today that because of my in-betweenness, I learned to drift and float between cultures and identities. Because I was always something in-between, I learned how to adapt to people who weren't exactly like me and assimilate myself to be just like them. As long as I needed to - until I needed to adapt to another group for an hour or a week or a year.

There were Mexican kids in my school who were low-riders, dropouts, drifters. There were also kids who were great students, cheerleaders, football stars. They weren't like each other, and none of them was like me, and I wasn't like any of them. I was someone who moved into town just in time to start 9th grade. I was an outsider as the new kid, the different kid. And then I was just me.

When I look at Barack Obama, I see a life story like mine. I was born in Michigan to a father whose parents were born in another country. He was born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya. I grew up a half-Mexican kid in Detroit and rural Colorado. He grew up a black kid in Honolulu and Indonesia.

I hear all these stories about how he crosses party lines, how well he works with political opponents, how he befriends his enemies. We do that. We see things from outside, always from outside, always sampling the other person's point of view. We wear different perspectives as a matter of course. We are always looking for the perspective that hasn't been expressed, for the point of view that isn't being noticed, the middle ground between the warring factions. We blend, and we try to bring together the seemingly irreconcilable as a matter of habit.

I have voted for presidents every year since 1988, and this is the first time I have been happy with my pick. No, more than that. I was overjoyed to select the name of Barack Hussein Obama to be my next president. He is of my generation - just eight years older than me. He is a parent of young children, like me. Like me, he married someone beautiful and intelligent and his equal, if not his better, in nearly every way. (Hi, sweetie.)

But it's deeper. Barack Obama has that complicated, hard-to-explain life story that I recognize all too well. He's several things all at once. He is at once African-American and white and neither of those things. He is a blend, multiracial, like me. He's a drifter between worlds, like me. He's a mutt, just like me, just like millions of Americans.

He's one of us.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Star-Spangled Mob

In Portland, OR, a crowd of celebrants (Is that the right word?) broke out in a spontaneous rendition of the National Anthem.

I heard this morning of one family who hung their American flag for the first time in seven years.

It's a very good time to be an American.

That's all I can say now. More later. Much much more later.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Future

That's the only prediction I'm going to make. Look, nobody comes to this blog to get cutting-edge punditry. Go to TPM or Kos or the Group News Blog.

Go vote, if you haven't already. I voted for Obama, Chris Gregoire, and I voted yes on Initiative 1000. I would have voted for Darcy Burner, but I'm not in her district. That's as much as I'm going to share about my choices.

Stop reading. Go vote. Do it now. Get yer free coffee or your free ice cream or your free I have no idea what this thing does, but go vote.

I'm on pins and needles waiting for the results to come in, but I think it's going to be a very good night tonight.