Somebody get him outta here.

When will it be enough?

   Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images; via  The Guardian


Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images; via The Guardian

So, Trumpie is surprised at what happened after attempting to take his insipid rhetoric and notoriously racist supporters to one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago? I've listed a few of his lovely quotes below, some were listed in Rachel Maddow's commentary and some that I'd saved for my writing. It's clear he's been building a violent, xenophobic rhetoric that angers people, which in turn further whips up his angry supporters. Taking that volatile mixture to Chicago--he knew exactly what he was doing. He incited that violence. It's shocking that it hadn't happened sooner. And yet, with all that he has said and done, people are still trying to say that the whole thing was staged by the "liberals" and "Democrats." 

"He's not a war hero--he's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured."
"...knock the crap out of them. I promise I'll pay for the legal fees."
"I love the old days, you know what they would do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks."
"Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore."
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people."

Incitement. When is something going to be done about this man?

Some words to help cope with watching the latest political coverage

...at least I hope so!

 It’s Super Tuesday! Are you afraid? Are you very, very afraid? You should be. But let’s save that conversation for after the results come in, shall we?

Anyway... I have a story for you today. Well, a couple of stories. They're about people I've encountered through life who have taught me about intelligent interaction. Have a seat and start reading.

When I was in high school I became pretty interested in the political process. I used to think it was because I was obsessed with the television series, The West Wing, but it was recently pointed out that I was newly engaged to my husband when it premiered. I was pretty young when A. popped the question at our favorite restaurant, but I was at least a couple of years on the correct side of legal adulthood!

So, I guess all of the credit for this interest goes to my parents, teachers, and the week I spent in the Presidential Classroom program in Washington. However, I can’t leave Congressman Jim Clyburn out of this. One day I was allowed to skip the several hours we were to spend with at the Canadian Embassy* to shadow the South Carolina representative. I was pretty proud of myself when I walked into his office. I’d spent the week learning about the importance of going into a political discussion armed with facts and knowledge supporting both sides of an argument, been offered an internship by a lobbying firm,**and frustrated several boys by besting them in many of our daily debate practices. By the time I started playing authorized hooky I was about as bigheaded as a teenager can get. I wonder if Congressman Clyburn noticed my newfound arrogance when he found me eating cupcakes with his staff in his reception room. He probably did, because it wasn’t the first time we’d met (he and my parents were friendly at the time, and I’d been stung by a wasp on his Lake Marion fishing dock at least twice). I remember his Congressional aide giving him a good-natured roll of her eyes when he emerged from his office, then looking back at me and saying, “Don’t let him give you a hard time, but he’s about to completely wear you out.”

I basically had to sprint to keep up with Congressman Clyburn’s impossibly zippy stride as we navigated Capitol Hill’s underground tunnels. We waved to freshman Rep. Sonny Bono, who chuckled at the sight of a fit sixteen-year-old gulping for air in order to keep up with a man in his mid-fifties. I sat in on a couple of meetings. I don’t remember what they were about because I was too grateful to be seated, but I remember being asked by other representatives what I thought about a thing or two. Hopefully my memory lapse here means I didn’t say anything too embarrassing. 

Later, Congressman Clyburn's aide met us and we pushed our way through the crowd heading to the floor for roll call and and voting. The three of us were smashed into an elevator in which the aide and I were the only females, and since I hadn’t yet hit my full height of 5’5”, all I could see was the black and navy fabric of several suits. 

When the men exited, I remained on the elevator with the aide to continue further up to a viewing area. 

“Did you see him?” she breathed excitedly when the elevator doors closed.

“Who?” I asked, worrying about the extent to which I’d sweat through my brand-new houndstooth blazer.

“John F. Kennedy, Jr. almost got into the elevator with us just now!”

 image of John F. Kennedy, Jr. via  VanityFair.com

image of John F. Kennedy, Jr. via VanityFair.com

At this point, our ten-or-so year age difference leveled out as we squealed, and when we got to our viewing spot we proceeded to crouch, lean, crawl, and whisper back and forth in order to catch a glimpse of Kennedy’s gorgeous hair. The thought didn’t even occur to me to ask why he was on the House floor. I was too enthralled by it all — the meetings where Republicans and Democrats convivially worked out the business of government and the feeling of being at the site where the country’s most important decisions were made. I was especially overwhelmed by my newfound humility as I realized the amount of knowledge,  worldly acumen, and intellectual ability required to keep up with a crowd like this. While I never gained any political aspirations, I was a hooked superfan — not of a particular political party, but of the American political system. I wish I could say the same as an adult in 2016.

People sometimes ask when I knew I wanted to be a writer. The short answer (in what’s become a very long post) is that I don’t really remember not wanting to be a writer. The experience I just described with Congressman Clyburn (which I doubt he even remembers — he was busy working, after all!) was an important shift in my journey toward an inherent knowledge of who I was to become as a writer, which is more important than knowing what I want to write about or in what genre. I credit those few hours as significant to the directional pull of my life and work philosophies.

I found myself thinking about this the other day when my friend Alicia Barnes interviewed Congressman Clyburn the day after the South Carolina Democratic Primary. Alicia is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. Admittedly, I’m not an easy person to get to know past a superficial level. I don’t know if that’s due to my astrological sign (Capricorns rule the world!) or because I was one of those children who considered books to be better playmates than most humans could be, but it’s an understandably annoying trait to past, present, and future confidantes. I’m sure that as a result I’ve occasionally come off as snobby or self-centered, when the truth is that I’m easily distracted into becoming so hyperfocused that I forget there’s a world outside my office, which turns into a spiral of thinking the world is too busy to hang out with me. Alicia is one of those friends who doggedly pushed through that. She’s one of my little crew of friends who taught me what it means to keep special friendships as a grown-up. 

When Alicia interviewed Congressman Clyburn, I could see that dogged care she applies to her friendships being applied to her viewers. She was honestly representing their concerns to their U.S. representative, while also asking the types of questions our population isn’t trained to ask anymore when it comes to analyzing and sizing up presidential candidates.

Even earlier in the week another friend asked a question at CNN's Democratic Town Hall Meeting. To say that Marjory Wentworth is an intellectual and thoughtful person does no justice. Her mind always works at an intellectual clip that is faster than everyone else's in the room. If you don't already know Marjory's work (she's poet laureate for S.C. and writes brilliant prose, as well), you will be unable to avoid it in the very near future. 

It gave me hope to see some of the people who've taught me about grown-up interactions and friendships appearing in front of the world in an effort to make clear away some of the rhetorical noise and finally spur some important, critical thought into this mess of an election cycle. If these three got through my hard head during different phases of life, perhaps there are more out there effectively working to get through the hard heads who are making it unbearable to watch television or even have a dinner party conversation. Check out what Marjory had to say below, but first--and I hate to do this--I need to post a warning:

 I’m not posting these videos here for people to leave comments that are anything but what I described above regarding the way one is supposed to enter political discourse. It would make my week to see proof that people can log onto the internet to discuss the political landscape without resulting to name-calling, rhetoric-parroting, and unintelligent babble. If you have something to say about the candidates or anyone else here, do so respectfully and knowledgeably, which means you should have read something about them someplace other than a partisan blog before having something to say.

 

*Sorry, Canada. Please don’t hold that against me if I come knocking at your door next January.

**Short version: I struck up a conversation with some guy on the Capitol subway, told him why there were so many 15- and 16-year olds on the train, and then proceeded to try out my new information-based conversation skills on the poor guy. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I hadn’t yet learned what one is supposed to do when given a business card and a request to keep in touch.

When a community business goes tone deaf

Alternate Title: Why companies should only have trained professionals representing them on social media...

Or, perhaps: Why companies should put neighborhood solidarity above corporate image, and why all employees should be clear on what both of these things mean...

Earlier today Quintin Washington, a well-known journalist here in Charleston, posted the following on Twitter:

 image via Quintin Washington

image via Quintin Washington

Much to his surprise, he received a response from Charleston’s Courtyard Marriott asking him “not to include the hotel in mother AME [sic] photos.”

 The Courtyard Marriott's tweet has since been deleted and an "apology" issued.

The Courtyard Marriott's tweet has since been deleted and an "apology" issued.

When I saw this exchange I—along with much of the Twitterverse—was baffled. No one would have noticed the hotel in the photograph if they hadn’t responded. The image had nothing to do with them. 

A friend of mine happens to be in town this week doing research for her book, and since she’s staying at the Courtyard I sent her a text message suggesting she ask the front desk about the tweet. "We just want to keep the focus on the church,” is what the young woman working at the desk told her. 

“I said he just happened to include the hotel in the photo without commenting on the hotel,” my friend told me. “She nodded and paused and said, ‘we've been with them through everything they've been going through.’”

This particular hotel is located on the same block as Emanuel A.M.E., so yes, they have been through a lot. The hotel’s employees were undoubtedly shaken to the core the night Dylann Roof killed nine of the Mother Emanuel parishioners who were attending a weekly Bible study. Out-of-town family members stayed in this hotel during the aftermath that sent the entire Charleston peninsula—and state of South Carolina—reeling in a spiral of questions and grief. 

Having only lived on the peninsula since August, my husband and I have become a bit weary of the groups of people cutting through our neighborhood on tour buses and on foot to visit the church. Every day they stand in front of this important community cornerstone. They point as they recall details they’ve seen on the news. They take endless selfies. Sometimes I wonder if the congregation has grown weary of all of the attention. It’s been six months since they buried nine beloved members of their church family. The grieving process takes time, but how much does that process slow down when the building that supports it—and the grief itself—has become a daily tourist attraction? 

I’m sure many in Charleston have had similar thoughts, but the young twentysomething who explained the Courtyard Marriott’s reaction to Washington’s post was misguided and/or out of touch. Washington’s intentions were clear and heartfelt. He wanted to capture a shot of the stretch of road that was recently renamed “Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District” as it appeared on a warm, beautiful December day. As we later exchanged messages, Washington told me he’d never seen the Courtyard respond like this in regard to Mother Emanuel. My friend had heard the young woman tell another employee that she would “handle” questions about the tweet, and at one point she referred to actions on the account in the first person, but when asked if she was the person handling the account she said no. It seems to me that the young (I assume) person handling the Twitter account was—either on his or her own accord or in response to some corporate directive—trying to distance the hotel’s branding from the Mother Emanuel tragedy. When a backlash started to wash over the hotel’s Twitter account, she tried to backtrack and make it sound as if the reply had been out of concern for their neighbors rather than corporate branding. Even if the person managing the account was somehow acting out of a desire to protect Emanuel A.M.E., he or she clearly lacked the experience or public relations acumen to pull it off in such a public sphere.

I hope this doesn’t signal a leveling off of the swell of love and concern Charleston businesses and neighbors showed toward each other over the last six months. The city has proven itself capable of reaching great heights of transcendent love and empathy. I wish it hadn’t taken a tragic loss of life for these traits to be exposed to the world, but it would be a shame to let it dwindle now, when so many continue to reel over the seemingly unpredictable nature of this time in history.

Houston's Voters Were Too Lazy, Didn't Read

Holy crap. Shani wrote a blog post.

Read More

America needs a therapist

Why our racial discord isn't getting cured

I’ve been watching in dismay while traveling this week as headlines race through my news feed regarding the horrific murder of Walter Scott in N. Charleston, SC. My first thought was, “Damn it. Here we go again. What’s going on with white cops and black men?” If one were to only glance at the surface of this complex and multilayered issue, one might think the United States is engaged in a race war.

But we’re not (yet). What we do have is an internal culture of complacent whiners that have been enabled by 200 years of looking away from our country’s most criminal mistakes. We have a culture that promotes intra-regional misunderstanding and allows for scapegoating according to income and skin level. None of this is officially government sanctioned, but it may as well be, because the government, as a whole, has made no official move to reconcile the United States with her inner demons.

These days it’s common knowledge that if a person experiences years of trauma, the best course of action is to seek out a therapist with whom the patient can discuss the issues that are keeping her from living a productive, healthy life. The patient and therapist will spend months—even years—discovering how the path leading up to the trauma was paved, who helped lay the foundation, and what steps led her to the fate that awaited her at the path’s end. When the patient has a decent understanding of what roles the people in her life—including herself—played in getting to the breaking point she can finally, gingerly, start to put her life together. 

Somehow, this logic is lost on the collective citizens and policymakers of the United States of America. For years our country has acted under the rule of if we don’t talk about slavery/Jim Crow/institutionalized racism/discrimination, it will fade away and we’ll all get along. The result? A ticking time bomb whose clock is about to reach its end. People have run out of patience and their chests and throats are on the verge of bursting with all that there is to say. The death of Walter Scott has brought this feeling even closer to the surface, as friends, neighbors, writers and pundits hold a magnifying glass to the state that is perceived as the one that should be leading the charge against universal brotherhood.

THERE’S A REASON WHY WE’RE TOLD TO PAUSE AND TAKE A BREATH BEFORE RESPONDING TO AN ARGUMENT

That’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days, and now will be splitting my thoughts into two or three posts. For now, I’ll leave you with these facts about this case and South Carolina, the state that I love like a drunk uncle who’s obscenely embarrassing at Thanksgiving dinner but is the first to arrive when you need him most…

  • Walter Scott was killed as he ran from Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston on Saturday, April 4.
  • The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) received the video—the only evidence of what took place—on Tuesday, April 7.
  • On Wednesday, April 8 Officer Slager was charged with murder and fired from the police department.

South Carolina—like Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, New York, and California—has a wrenching, terrible history of dysfunction in its race relations. But, if one looks at the simple surface of the incident at hand as many pundits and columnists seem to do (though at the least productive layers), North Charleston moved swiftly into action instead of searching for reasons to excuse this officer-turned-murderer’s guilt. That’s not something we can say for most of the incidents that have made it to the headlines. It’s time to stop laying blame and focusing on the wrong parts of the issues. It’s time, instead, to bring the roots of America’s racial discord into a daily conversation, amongst our neighbors, and in an official capacity by a commission that should be appointed by the White House. If we don’t converse we will only continue to see more senseless murders, more strife, and more division. 

So now I'm a basketball fan?

The NCAA is starting to work it's magic on me

I’m not typically a big basketball fan, but Jr. Played his first season this year and worked at it harder than I’ve ever seen. I started watching basketball documentaries and games with him (and of course, his games!) out of admiration for my second grader’s dedication. Stereotypically, this writer isn’t huge on “big” sports, and I’ve often questioned the core philosophies behind the amount of time and labor that goes into high school and college leagues. Two things have started to turn me around, though.

 A'ja Wilson signing autographs for the younger kids on signing day. image via The State Newspaper. credit: Tracy Glantz

A'ja Wilson signing autographs for the younger kids on signing day. image via The State Newspaper. credit: Tracy Glantz

First, there’s A’ja Wilson, the freshman dynamo playing for the University of South Carolina’s Lady Gamecocks. A’ja actually graduated from the same school Jr. attends (which is also my alma mater). It’s not often that a small, private Episcopal school can claim the nation’s number one women’s basketball recruit as their own, so it’s not surprising that the school community has been swept up and A’ja-mania for quite some time. On signing day, Jr. begged for me to let him go. The ESPN cameramen surely had a blast in our gym, which was filled with screaming kids ages 3 - 18, plus parents and teachers. When A’ja’s first game came around this year, the kids had their parents buying up tickets for the women’s games, which outsold the men’s games most days. Jr. was starstruck even before A’ja graduated, reporting A’ja sightings when I’d pick him up from school, which was particularly funny considering the close-knit nature of the community. Everyone has easy access to everyone, whether they’re in first or twelfth grade.  When I recently told Jr. that I’d met A’ja’s dad and we’d become friends I thought he was literally going to do a backflip! I take a special pride in knowing that my son’s extra enthusiasm and hard work during his first basketball season can be directly tied to a smart, accomplished young woman who dominates the court. 

The second thing that has me seeing the big world of sports in a new light is the way the NCAA has been publicly stepping up to the plate to be leader on recent issues in the news. During the men’s Elite 8 I was heartened to see a commercial encouraging campus communities to prevent sexual assault. The #ItsOnUs commercials are the result of a partnership between the NCAA and the White House to promote the goals and findings of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  

Then, the other night, I read that the NCAA has threatened to move the organization's offices out of Indianapolis over the so-called "religious freedom" law signed in Indiana last week. In the words of the fake (wish he were real) President Josiah Bartlett, from his Twitter account:* "Forget putting the Christ back in Christmas. How about putting the Christ back in Christianity?"

On one hand, I’m not sure how I feel about our country having to look to its athletic institutions to show us how to have a moral backbone, but but it makes me feel a little better about our culture’s dark (or willfully uninvolved) side when I see the NCAA utilize its influence upon a large and impressionable audience to do some good. I know someone out there may wonder about my Pollyanna side on this issue, arguing that the NCAA is trying to save face and/or prevent a PR nightmare. But here’s the thing… they don’t have to. As long as they’re pouring big bucks into universities and generating kabillions of dollars in sales for advertisers, television networks, apparel companies, and endless other entities, they’ll be fine. The NCAA is one of the elite groups sitting atop our capitalist society’s food chain, but they’re opting to publicly speak out on some very hot-button issues. So for that, I’m applauding them today. Just don’t get mad at me when my March Madness tweets make little sense… I’m still learning about the game through an 8-year-old!

*how the main character from a show that was cancelled 9 years ago has a Twitter account will be saved for a lively discussion involving dinner & wine…

It's not about that. It's not even about you.

Y'all. I'm going to get the hang of this video thing, I promise. I will. Really. [insert eye roll here]. A combination of gaffes and slow internet speeds have me posting my latest YouTube video two days after it made it onto the channel, and that was still uploaded later than intended because of the late hour in which it ended up being recorded due to me fumbling with the camera equipment (and disconnecting the mic in the process). 

Anyhow, last week Nikki Haley was inaugurated into her second term as governor of South Carolina. If you've read a blog post or two of mine over the years, you'd probably guess (correctly) that I lean a bit to the left of the American political spectrum. If you've read more than a post or two of mine of the years, you know that I think our current obsession with identity politics is asinine and childish. The United States is like an abnormal cell that can't stop dividing itself over and over again. The country has divided itself into factions according to economic, social, racial and regional lines. Now it's found another way to draw lines amongst groups within groups within groups. One can increasingly hear disdainful tones when Democrat and Republican voters refer to each other. At this rate we'll be a country made up of alienated, isolated individuals who don't leave their homes within the next 30 years. 

I don't agree with many of Gov. Haley's policies, and even some procedures, but her family was the first to fully welcome mine when we moved to South Carolina in 1989. When the Randhawa's women's clothing store was in Bamberg, I would hide beneath racks of clothes and lose myself in Anne of Green Gables while my mother shopped, talked, and took refuge from the strangeness of the place to which we'd moved. Mr. and Mrs. Randhawa would set a special candy treat aside for me during the holidays. It was a simple mixture of caramel and chocolate, and Mr. Randhawa would always tell me that the confection company created by drizzling hot caramel over hard-packed snow so it would harden, then dipping it in the chocolate. Our families were close for many years until distance and life separated the two. As my parents found social outlets around the community, Nikki and her sister, Simi, would sometimes babysit me when my parents went out. These memories are important to me because they were a warming ray of light during a time that was, frankly, very lonely for my parents and me. So when some dear friends invited me to tag along to the inaugural ball last week I had to stop and think about it for a minute. I have friends of all political persuasions, but I wouldn't normally go to the inaugural festivities of a GOP official, but this was different (of course, it was to celebrate incoming legislators, as well, but I don't know anyone who ran for office and won this year). I don't keep in touch with the governor or her family other than greetings in passing. Also, there had been that snafu with my friend and mentor, Marjory Wentworth, who is South Carolina's poet laureate. I don't know why Marjory wasn't included in the inauguration when participation is typically one of the duties of the job. It was a move that didn't sit well with me, whether or not it was intentional. 

But then I thought: 

Your dear friends have offered you an expensive and coveted ticket.

You like hanging out with them.

There will be food.

There will be a band.

There will be dancing.

You can pay someone else to go through the exhausting process of wrestling the kids to bed.

It would be really nice to give Mrs. Randhawa a big hug.

There will be political characters in attendance who represent pretty much any and everything.

You've never been to an inaugural ball before. 

It could be a lot of fun.

Oh, and this isn't about you. It's about celebrating the state where you've chosen to live--the good, the bad, and the confusing.

I went to the ball. I had a wonderful time. I hugged Mrs. Randhawa AND Gov. Haley.  I ate too much. I danced too much. Everyone was glad to see everyone. No one was talking about politics. Not even this guy: 

 Yep. That's me and Gov. Chris Christie. My husband almost passed out when he saw the photo. Ha!

Yep. That's me and Gov. Chris Christie. My husband almost passed out when he saw the photo. Ha!

Before I went out, however, I read Marjory's poem into my camera, which is in the video below. Sorry about the sound quality, but enjoy!