Category Archives: political

Race Matters; or, the Judge, the Professor, and the Doctor

These are interesting times.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been taken to task for stating, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  Her word choice is poor, but her point is that her ethnicity and gender carry with them a wealth of experience simply unavailable to a white man.

Can race, gender, or ethnicity be instructive?  Well, let’s examine the evidence.

In a recent moment of almost perfect poetic symbolism, the fine officers of Cambridge, Massachusetts, racially profiled one of the finest minds in Af-Am scholarship, a man who has been instrumental in creating a space in which the uniqueness of black experiences and voices is honored.  Well, now he sure as hell has had an edifying experience as a black American male that is not available to the white population.  Having been an academic long enough to know how their minds work, one of my first thoughts upon reading of Gates’s arrest was, “Wow.  Think of the article he’ll write after this one.”

Don’t get me wrong – I think the man is a genius regardless of race. But, his experiences as an African-American have shaped him into the type of scholar he is.  And, I’d be shocked if this latest experience doesn’t further shape his academic work.

And then we have Regina Benjamin, the nominee for Surgeon General, who is being criticized as too fat for the job.  Now, setting aside my immediate reaction of “Are you fucking kidding me?” for a moment, I do see the point that we need role models for good health.  However, a couple of photos of a plus-sized woman do not by any stretch of the imagination demonstrate that she is not a good doctor or role model.  Show me a grocery receipt with $78 of Twinkees on it and then we can talk about poor health choices.  For all I know Dr. Benjamin eats well and exercises regularly and would weigh a helluvalot more if she didn’t.  Last I checked, people come with different body types.

Oh-ho-ho-ho, isn’t it fun to characterize black women as lazy, stupid slobs who can’t be bothered to walk their empty tub of KFC X-tra Crispy to the trash can?  It’s uncool to call black women “Welfare Queens” nowadays, but calling them too fat and unhealthy to be good doctors is every bit as much about race and gender.

I don’t know Thing One about how it feels to be discriminated against for being fat, female, and black, but Regina Benjamin sure does.  I suspect that experience will serve her well as she tries to educate Americans on their health choices.

Does race, gender, and ethnicity qualify someone for a job?  Of course not.  Does being black or Latina in American make a person necessarily wiser or smarter than someone who is white and male?  Not last I checked?  Does it provide a library of experience from which to draw?  Absolutely.  To pretend otherwise, to try to simply ignore racial and gender identity, is to attempt to marginalize minorities by erasing the very bodies on which American society has been writing far more negative stereotypes for centuries.

Questionable Interrogation Techniques

            Far too busy committing war crimes during his two terms in office, George W. Bush never did get around to signing the War Crimes Treaty.  Now, however, there is a new sheriff in town, so I have sent him a little note:

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to encourage you to sign the War Crimes Treaty.  Actually, I’d like to you re-sign it, since we signed it once before but your predecessor decided to back out.  I think that the International Criminal Court is a very handy little institution and that the United States ought to support it.

United States participation in the International Criminal Court will make it much easier for those dudes over in The Hague to try George W. Bush for war crimes.  Should they have a hard time establishing that he committed any war crimes, let’s try some “questionable interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding or sleep deprivation, to get him to admit his guilt.  After all, he has already proven how effective these techniques can be.

Mr. President, I know times are hard and that the government is kind of short on cash right now.  So, if you need donations to help fund George W. Bush’s flight over for his trial, I am happy to donate to the Haul George W.’s Butt Into Court Fund.  I think I may know another couple of people who are willing to donate, as well.

And, by the way, I think you are doing a pretty good job, no matter what people say.  Making those D.O.J. reports public was an act of integrity, which has been sorely missing from Pennsylvania Avenue for almost a decade.  Carry on, sir.

All the best,

Emily Rosenbaum

            Oh, yes, I did.  Please feel free to write your own note, or you can use mine.  I don’t mind.

Yertle and McDreamy

            “Is Georges Bush still the leader of the kingdom?” Zachary asked me last week.

            “He is, baby, but only for another week,” I replied, thinking smugly about how Yertle the Turtle ended up, turtle head deep in the mud and feet flailing about in the air as he fell from his perch of egotism and stupidity.

            Not long after, Zach asked another question.  “Why do we pick a new President?  Why does Georges Bush stop being President?”

            “Well, they have to take turns.  George Bush’s turn is over, and so we picked Barack Obama to do it next.”

            “I’m glad that Mr. Pain is not going to be President,” he went on.  “I’m glad they picked the smartest one.”

            “I’m glad John McCain isn’t going to be President, too,” I told him.  And I am.  I am glad that we picked a man who shares my values, a man I can trust.  I am relieved we chose a man who is smarter than I am, because I am pretty damned sure that I have no idea how to fix the problems we now face.

            You know, things like a collapsing economy.  Or, is it already collapsed?  I haven’t the faintest of clues how to prop it up again, and I am only too happy to put my trust in someone else.

            Plus, there is a bit of political upheaval going on.  Nowadays, you can’t throw a dart at a map of the Middle East without hitting a war of some sort.  I have no idea what can be done to resolve conflicts going back thousands of years, violence based in ethnic hatred and modern economic disparities, and I am mighty glad it is not my job to figure it out.

            Oh, and there are all those melting ice caps, plus two continent-sized flotillas of plastic out in the middle of the ocean.  I’m pretty content that I am not in charge of thinking about those things, too.

            In a few hours, Barack Obama will become President, right about the time I drop the boys at preschool.  Zach and I will stop and look at the clock, and we will note the exact moment that George W. gets smacked in the ass by the door.  He has left behind a colossal disaster, and I can only imagine how Obama must feel stepping right into an Oval Office knee-deep in offal.  People have awfully high hopes that he will be able to fix the economy, end the war(s), and stop global warming.  Theses are rough times for becoming the most powerful man in the world, and he must have a serious case of First-Day Jitters.

            I’ll leave the boys at preschool, relieved that they are someone else’s problem for a few hours, but before long I will have to come back and get them.  We can only hand the tough jobs over to someone else for so long.  The fact is that a good leader of the kingdom does not perch, Yertle-like, on our shoulders, looking out over his domain.  A true leader guides us in our work of cleaning up the mud that we would all rather ignore around our feet.

            So, welcome to President McDreamy.  I’m so very glad it’s your turn.

I don’t feel like blogging today

Now, this could be due to the total sleep deprivation.  Or it could be because anything I have to say today is vapid compared with what’s going on in Gaza.  And Iraq.  And Tennessee.  And [insert location here].  We’re crapping in our living room and blowing up our neighbors and building an economy out of empty Pixie Stix wrappers and distracting ourselves with shiny baubles so that we don’t notice the sludge we are wading through to get to the After Christmas Sales.  

Next year in Jerusalem.  Next year may all have peace.

Photos of a rally

I am a straight Californian, and this is how I define a family:

(I even threw in a picture of me with Lilah…)

And happy Monday to you

            I have been trying to figure out why I am so devastated by the passage of Proposition 8.  I am – and this may come as a shock to some of you – not gay.  I have no openly gay relatives.  Sure, I have gay friends, but this amendment does not affect me personally.  I can sympathize with my friends, but I am still legally married, after all.  Yet, for some reason, the fact that a majority of my fellow Californians decided to take away a basic right from a group of people has me waking up at night.

            Actually, the baby has me waking up at night, but I am thinking about Proposition 8 while I am feeding her.

            Then I reread an old post of mine, and it hit me.  This amendment is about hate.  My fellow Californians have voted to amend the state constitution to include hate. 

            I may fear another Holocaust, but until this passed, I hadn’t really realized that people need hate.  It is just as human an emotion as love.  Now, I get it.  We simply cannot evolve ourselves or educate ourselves out of hating one another.  It makes us feel better for someone else to be lesser.  And, if hate is a basic human emotion, it means I have it, and it means my kids have it.  It means love cannot conquer all, or even very much.

Party pooper

            I am writing this shortly after the polls have closed here in California.  Across the country, my friends are rejoicing.  Facebook is a veritable confetti-fest of Obamalove.  With all the celebrating going on, I will not be surprised if there is a baby boom about nine months from now.

            And, yet, I want to cry.  Yes, I am relieved that the Reign of Terror is over.  I am pleased Sarah Palin will not be a (weak) heartbeat from the Oval Office.  I am hopeful that my next President will help save the planet for the little girl I am holding to my breast.

            But, as I type with my one free hand, I know she is not safe from bigotry and restriction.  I hope that, should she ever be in the awful position of needing an abortion, she will feel safe telling me.  And if she doesn’t, since it seems Prop 4 will pass here, she is going to have to tell me, anyway.  Of course, by that time, who knows how many more restrictions there will be on her right to choose?

            If she turns out to be a lesbian, she’s pretty screwed, too, since it looks like Prop 8 will pass, amending the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  (I guess she’s also in trouble if she turns out to have a tendency towards polygamy.)  On the bright side, if she is a lesbian, she does greatly lessen her chances of an unwanted pregnancy.

            Americans voted for Obama because they are afraid, as well they should be.  I just wish their votes were a signal that they have put their bigotry behind them.

Addendum: I may have jumped the gun here.  Prop 4 may fail.  Fingers crossed.


            There’s an election coming up, and I have no idea how I am going to vote.

            Sure, I know I’m voting for Obama, but that is just the start of my civic duty.  See, I live in California, where they take the democratic process very, very seriously.  In every other state I have lived in, it has been up to the legislature to legislate.  Here, apparently the electorate does its fair share of making decisions.

            We have these things called Propositions.  Not one or two, like Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.  We have twelve.  Twelve propositions.  I am supposed to get educated on twelve ballot initiatives.

            Fortunately, the state kindly puts out a handy little booklet with all of the propositions, the pro and con arguments for each, plus a bonus section alluringly titled “An Overview of State Bond Debt.”  All I have to do is read all 143 pages prior to Election Day.

            I have been working on it, and so far what I can tell you is that the crazies have been mighty busy here in California.  We’ve got it all: a parental notification proposition, a proposition to send more minors to adult prison, and the one I like to call the Chicken Proposition.  Don’t ask.

              Of course, my favorite is Proposition 8.  I like that one because at least I know how I am going to vote on it.  I still think it is stupid that I, a straight woman, am voting on whether two men or two women can get married to one another.  Doesn’t seem like my business.  But, it’s on there, so obviously there are folks who think that other people’s love lives are up for discussion.

            I am starting to get nostalgic for Pennsylvania.  Sure, it snows a lot, but there are no wildfires, no earthquakes, and one lone Sewer Bond Measure on the ballot. 

            Oh, and did I mention that the city has a few Propositions, too?

Did you know that the President’s job is to run the country?

            I was raised in Massachusetts.  I am a thirty-something, secular-Jewish woman with several graduate degrees.  In the humanities.

            Let’s just say that the Republican Party ain’t working too hard to try to win over my vote.  I am a pretty clear demographic, and there aren’t a whole lot of doubts about which way I am likely to swing in any given election.  It probably will shock no one to hear I am pro-choice, list the environment as one of my top concerns, support gay rights, and worry a lot about the public schools.

            All that said, John McCain does not scare the shit out of me.  I know I probably should be able to say more for him, but the fact is, given his predecessor, that is saying quite a bit.  The man seems intelligent enough to run a country, as opposed to certain other recent Republican Presidents. 

            This does not mean I want him to be President.  I disagree with him on so many points it is dizzying.  But, I do not think he is an evil force in the universe, and I do not think he is ill-qualified to be President.  (We’ll leave aside for the moment his totally unqualified running mate who I think is a frightening prospect for this country.)

            I’ll bet that most Democratic politicians also recognize that McCain is perfectly capable of the job to which he aspires.  Yet, we spend our days now listening to diatribes against the man.  Not against his policies, mind you, but the man himself.

            And it goes both ways.  I am pretty sure most Republicans realize that Barack Obama is a pretty smart guy and could handle the Presidency.  Yet, they feel the need to attack him continually.

            Why?  Why can we not debate the issues?  Why can’t we talk about policy plans, rather than personal qualifications?  Why the hell can’t we admit that both candidates are capable, and then move on to talk about their different opinions?  Why does it have to be a popularity contest?

            Are we really that shallow?  Can we really not handle hearing the reason one man likes one set of tax cuts and another likes a different one?  Are we incapable of hearing two different plans for addressing global warming without couching them in personal attacks on the people with the plans?

            Or do our politicians just think we are that dumb?  After all, we do seem to be acting as though Barak Obama is running against Sarah Palin.


Just saw this video over at someone else’s place  Go watch it — much funnier than my post.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

            At first, I was sort of amused.  We all have been running about, talking about how Sarah Palin’s family should be left alone to deal with private matters.  Yet, there she was, pushing them front and center during her acceptance speech.

            My amusement, however, quickly changed to horror.  Yes, her speech was ugly in the same way Biden’s was.  I would love to see a campaign during which no one ever attacks the other candidate, but I am realistic enough to accept that this is the nature of contemporary American politics. 

            No, my horror came when the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate made a joke about Obama “Turning back the waters and healing the planet.”  Turning back the waters?  TURNING BACK THE WATERS?  Is a Republican candidate seriously joking about turning back the waters three years after Hurricane Katrina?  Maybe there’s a reference I missed in there that makes it a little more palatable, because everyone in the audience seemed highly amused.

            Healing the planet is not a joke.  It is not to be taken lightly, and a woman who professes to be religious ought to take her responsibility to the planet a little more seriously. 

            Healing the planet ought to be the first priority of any candidate who claims to want to serve the American people.  Because, without someplace to live, all the abstinence and victory and drilling will be pointless.  Who the hell cares if we can claim “victory” in a war about oil if our children face a future filled with wars over clean water and food supplies?

            So, her answer to everything may be to stick a drill into the ground and pump more gas into SUVs, but I have news for Sarah Palin.  You cannot claim to put your country first if you are putting the planet that it is a part of dead last.