Thursday, July 29, 2010

Party Prep

My younger cousin and her husband are celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in a few days. Back in 1985 she was just out of high school. He was in the Navy, stationed in California. She went out to visit him, and they eloped. Now they are having a party, and a blessing of their vows.

It will take place in her parent's back yard. Like anyone giving such a party there is a terror that there won't be enough food. My aunt has been cooking and freezing for a few weeks, and still more to do. They are planning an all day cooking fest tomorrow. I think there will be enough food for ten times the number of guests, but we'll see. There is no doubt that they won't be embarrassed by hungry guests.

Today was my day off so I spent it helping to clean and prepare the yard. It was hard work, but the weather wasn't as unbearably hot as it has been lately. And we all enjoyed each other's company as we worked.

Although I'm divorced, I was married for twenty years. I know it's never easy, and P & T have had hardships thrown into their lives--as all couples endure. But they are really meant for each other. I am so very happy for them, and for the fact that we can celebrate this anniversary together.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Deep Fried America

I went to a County Fair today. I have not attended such an event in many many many years. It was a strange and interesting experience. When it was first suggested to me as an activity I set out to ask people why they went to the fair. Just to get an idea of what they found interesting.

I remember attending a few in my youth and recall lots of buildings filled with farm animals. A field surrounded by bleachers where they had tractor pulls and activities that involved things like chasing greased pigs. Various carnival rides and game booths with cheap and smarmy prizes that were difficult to win. And lots of other displays of varying interest.

Probably the best thing I ever found at a Fair was a copy of a Congressional Record when I was about twelve years old. I was fascinated by politics--and in those days before the internet and cable t.v. it wasn't as easy to learn what was going on in Washington in any detail. I remember being thrilled that I could take a copy for free. I spent months reading bits and pieces trying to comprehend all the florid language.

The results of my informal poll were that people my age went for the food, the flower show and to see the arts and crafts displays. That seemed reasonably interesting, so I agreed to go.

Today is the first day of any real relief from this terrible hot humid heat wave. It sounds odd to say that it was only in the mid-eighties--but that and a touch of a breeze are as good as it has been all month. In any case, a fine day to go to the fair.

Although parking was free, it cost $5. to enter the grounds. We were given a pamphlet, our hands were stamped with a green circle and we were on our own.
We strolled past a long line of small trailers selling food. Food of every kind and combination. Some trailers were decorated, some had seating for their guests.

As for the variety of food offerings--think of any meat or vegetable or sweet and add 'deep fried' and that was the menu. There were some odd variations though.
Deep-fried Pepsi......the concept truly frightens me and I didn't venture to try it. Too expensive for experimentation. Another food offering had already made the local news. A hamburger placed between two custard donuts. I tried to imagine the combination of tastes--it only made me nauseous.

The bewildering variety of offers were also confusing because price postings were limited and every possiblity seemed to have multiple options. For example: A dinner basket was $2. more than a dinner plate, but no one seemed able to explain the difference other than 'you get a basket'. I couldn't understand why a basket was more valuable than a plate, so I finally gave up. Meanwhile we passed the opportunity to meander off the main walkway to visit various barns of livestock and farm animals and see the prize winners. I found it kind of sad that they were selling 'pork burgers' just fifty feet from where the pigs were on display, and the cows surely could smell the hamburgers being offered just downwind. I'm not a vegetarian, it just seemed downright insensitive.

We finally selected a spot, I ordered a sausage sandwich, chips, and a small pepsi to drink. $14..............apparently I misunderstood their confusing menu board. Too late--the food was edible but not remotely worth the price. We wandered more but never found most of the things we were looking for. I never saw any arts and crafts, or flowers or anything but junk. And booth after booth where people wanted to sell me their version of politics, religion..........and more mundane offerings such as water softeners, lawn mowers and screened porches.

Our pamphlet directed us to such delights as the "Lamb Carcass on Hoof Show" and the 'Swine Pig Racing' (?I thought pigs were swine?). Or we could take in the 4H displays--farm children's projects and a "Traveling Reptile Show". I was kind of disappointed that I will miss the "Festival of the Forest People". That will take place tomorrow while I'm at work. I have no idea what it is, but it sounds more intriguing than the "Open Goat Show" or the "Antique Wheel Exhibit".

After another hour we decided that no fair was complete without elephant ears. These are a deep fried dough slathered with butter and sugar. Delicious...and actually worth the $4.

The band was loud and irritating and the hordes of unsupervised children running all over were no fun either. My companions weren't interested in going on any rides, playing any games, or walking far enough to see the flower displays. After a bit more wandering, we called it a day.
$23. spent, three hours spent...and not much to show for it.
I think it will be many many many years before I go to another County Fair.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A New Color Of Racism

One of the most bizarre turns in political propaganda since the Obama election has been the assertion of so many conservatives that "Obama is racist against whites". Although Obama is identified as black, he is half white. He was raised in an entirely white household, only seeing his black father a few times in his life. Although such racism is possible I suppose, I think such a repudiation of his entire background would be difficult to hide. In reality, such aggressive accusations seek to throw a smokescreen over the real issues of racism here.

I am white and strive to be as liberal and unprejudiced as possible with all people. I grew up in a highly prejudiced family, live in an area still remarkable for its lack of racial integration---in a very covert way. I know how racist so many Americans are, I see it every single day. The difference is the private attitude versus the more politically correct public attitude. If there are no black people around, (and if they don't know me well enough to know how I believe) people still make very racist comments in public. Whether at work, or standing in line at the grocery store---the only difference I can see in forty years is that people 'look around' first before making a derogatory racist comment.

Racism against blacks is just the tip of the iceberg. Attitudes against Hispanics and Arabs are just as insidious among the white middle class in middle America. However, since our President is black, stories of racism involving blacks and whites are the meat the media industrial complex feeds on every day.

Just about a year ago the news was full of a controversy with racial overtones. A black Harvard professor and a white policemen had a confrontation in the professor's home. (See my post "Are We Becoming a Police State?"). The story effectively ended with the two protaganists sharing a beer at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Biden.

The newest controversy involves an employee at the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Shirley Sherrod. A conservative blogger posted a doctored video of Sherrod making a speech. The impression in the doctored video aided and abetted the meme that blacks are prejudiced against whites. If you viewed the doctored video, it sounded as if Ms. Sherrod purposely let a white farmer lose his farm due to her own prejudices.

A media feed frenzy ensued after the release. No one checked to veracity of the video, even though the conservative that released it (Breitbart) had done the same thing once before. He released a doctored video to do damage to the community organizing group ACORN. It was part of an ongoing media campaign among conservatives against ACORN. The video seemed to be the final straw. The group's reputation was destroyed--and the fact that the video was doctored didn't receive the same frenzy of publicity from the media.

So Sherrod's name was dragged through the mud. She was fired from her job (or forced to resign) so quickly she barely had time to pick up her things from the office. Pundits trumpeted her tale on every network, Fox of course leading the pack.
When the news came out that her father had been killed by a white farmer...and that her husband had been one of the earliest civil rights activists...the media industrial complex and its pundits chewed and chewed on those tales hour after hour. Members of the White House staff and at the NAACP (a black organization) patted themselves on the back for swiftly taking action against this 'prejudiced' woman.

And then...the white farmer that Sherrod was referring to in the speech stepped forward. He hadn't lost his farm, in fact Sherrod had helped him save it. A few others stepped forward in her defense. Then the complete, undoctored video appeared in the media. The truth was the opposite of everything the media, the U. S. Government and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chose to believe.

Sherrod's boss apologized, the White House apologized, members of the media apologized. President Obama talked to Shirley Sherrod by telephone. Such apologies are nice, but you can't 'unring the bell'. The continued conservative strategy of 'if you throw enough crap at a wall some will stick' continues to succeed. Even vindicated, this incident has upended a decent person's life. And to her dying day, the controversy will continue to be mentioned when her name comes up.

Most of today's media are scribes and talking heads. The most basic elements of journalism (obtaining information and verifying it) are seldom present. These feeding frenzies filling the airwaves day after day with manufactured drama are becoming frightening.

Most of all, a year later the racism divide is just as deep. Is it growing? I don't know. I am impressed that this country elected a black President, so maybe we are getting better. Yet we must ask ourselves: How many hundreds, maybe thousands of blacks experience blatant racism such as this--but do not have the education and political connections of a Professor Gates or Shirley Sherrod? What about the people who aren't able to clear their names so easily?

What color is racism today? Once I would have described it as red--the color of anger and blood. Now I would say that it is yellow. The color of cowards.

Health Insurance is Everyone's Problem

My current job offers health insurance coverage that I can afford. That means with a $2000. deductible I pay over $400. a month for insurance for just me. That is a reasonable, actually very good deal in this day and age. At my last job, the exact same insurance would have cost me over $800. a month. I don't have any major health issues, there is no reason for the insurance coverage to be outrageously expensive. Especially for one single person who does not smoke, drinks socially and takes only blood pressure medication.

Yet so many people criticize our health care reform. A reform that will offer more insurance to more people. And eliminate the 'pre-existing condition' clauses that devastated the insurance coverage of so many.
The reform is just a tiny step towards what we really should have in this country. The attitude is 'other people's health insurance is not my problem'. That is such a fallacy.

Realistically, most uninsured Americans go to Emergency Rooms for their health care needs because they must be at least examined there whether they can pay or not. Emergency Room care is very expensive. I have worked in various aspects of emergency medicine throughout my life. I can't imagine why these people--and they are many-- who say health coverage is not their problem. I think they don't understand that they, the taxpayers, are paying for this expensive emergency care. It would be much cheaper to cover just regular doctor visits, and preventive care. Yet somehow they cannot comprehend that they ARE PAYING for it one way or another. So why not do it the most cost effective way?

Sadly, so many of these same people that tell me proudly that they only watch Fox News for their information, and believe Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh are the true voice of 'their' America.
I don't even know where to begin to have a discussion with people like this. It just frightens me that there are so many of them. And that they really believe that they are good, patriotic, Christian people.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Things Are Better Now

A year ago, not long after I stopped writing here, things were pretty bad. I ended up homeless and penniless. Pretty frightening, although the homeless part only lasted a few hours until a cousin took me in. Never in a million years would I have thought such a thing could happen to me. I have worked my entire life. Yet, like so much of the middle class in America today, I have lost everything I have worked for. I don't know if I'll ever be secure again.

I found a good job, with health insurance that I can afford. This was before the Health Care Reform Act passed. I'm one of the lucky ones, and I'm glad that some steps are now being taken for others to have insurance too.

My job is good because it is fairly secure, and the pay is well-above minimum wage. Not quite two times minimum wage, not that well above! Still, in this day and age I am grateful. I like the people I work with, but we work very very hard for our money. I have seven years of college collectively, and a lifetime of work experience. This is what is available--and the pay you get for that-- in America today.

Unlike so many, I am not angry at President Obama for all he hasn't accomplished. Considering the sorry state our country was in when he took office, and that we are fighting two wars, I think he's done a remarkable job. Yet, there is so much hate out there against him. I don't understand how people could tolerate so much from Bush, yet will not cut Obama one second of 'slack'.

Meanwhile it has been so incredibly hot. Terribly debilitatingly hot hot humid and hot. When I retire someday I'm going to find a piece of whatever is left of a glacier and sit on it until I die. Maybe, then, I will cool off!

A Year Later

So much has happened in the past year, so much in my life has changed. I am always inspired by the posts at "Jerusalem Wanderings", in fact her blog inspired me to create this one. And reading her posts today inspired me to return to this blog. I can't begin to fill her shoes. But I can share my own thoughts and perspectives.

I read many blogs from around the world. I think it's the best way for us to really know each other. Just sharing our day to day lives. Our frustrations, thoughts, opinions. It all started with "Where's Raed?" back during the invasion of Iraq. I followed that, then "A Family in Baghdad". I even spoke to Faiza by phone at one point.

These perspectives have helped me explore alternative ways of thinking. I was once a knee-jerk supporter of Israel. 'Those feisty Israelis standing up to their oppressors' was the way I looked back then. With the freedom of the Internet, I have sadly learned that just as we are often 'ugly Americans', the Israelis are often just as oppressive and prejudiced as their enemies. The more I've learned of their treatment of Palestinians, and the stories behind so much of what happened to create the state of Israel--the less I like.

The blogger of Jersualem Wanderings is very open-minded, and is actively working toward finding understanding and some sort of harmony among people of all faiths. I really admire that. Bearing in mind that we took this land of the United States away from the Native Americans, and treated them horribly---we have no right to judge.
On the other hand, you would hope that the people of the world would be more enlightened today than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. You would hope the the Jews, the people who were 'given' a homeland because of so much persecution would be more enlightened in their treatment of others. What a sad reflection on the human race that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

In any case, I'm back. Still me in the middle of America.