Arizona Sucks

I lived in Arizona, I enjoyed it and at one time thought I wouldn’t mind going back.  But give me a break!  Doesn’t anyone remember where they came from?  Doesn’t anyone want to acknowledge that most of us are the sons and daughters of struggling immigrants, some legal some not.  Did we not, we sons and daughters of immigrants, kill, torture and isolate the indigenous peoples of this country, forcing them onto increasingly smaller plots of land and taking the arable fields for our own use?  While I recognize that  immigration in this country, and in many others, is a serious issue and that we need discussion about how to create fair, orderly, just rules for immigration, I cannot imagine how people can think that simply closing our borders is a good thing. 

First, I think of all the amazingly hardworking, big dreaming, pushing their children people I know and have met who are willing to do almost anything to remain here.  They pay taxes, hold jobs, participate in the economy and are otherwise good citizens; not all of them entirely legal as far as status.  Not to sound racist, but I do not see a whole bunch of unemployed American white men jumping at the chance to mow lawns, maintain pools, clean houses, lay asphalt, sweep streets, wash dishes… you get the picture.  The good ones, the ones who get it, do.  When unemployed, responsible people do whatever it takes.  But I see a whole lot of guys on front porches and street corners in the middle of the day.  Amazingly, I don’t know a lot of what Arizonans might call “immigrants” who are not working.  I really don’t see them on their front porches or on the street corners in the middle of the day.  I see them working hard, often at jobs nobody else wants to do.  I hear a lot of rhetoric about “immigrants” taking our jobs; what jobs are those?  Doctors, lawyers, teachers?  We have a terrible shortage of doctors in this country, lawyers… who cares, and teachers… great.  But more likely they are dry cleaning your clothes, landscaping your lawns, stuccoing your homes, etc. 

And I haven’t even gotten to the profiling issue yet.  Since the Supreme Court of the last few decades has eviscerated our rights, allowing police great latitude in the “stop and search” category, this Arizona law adds injury and indignity to insult.  Anyone who says this law does not permit or encourage profiling is kidding themselves.  How else would the police know who to choose to stop and “enquire of”? By the color of skin, by their apparent ethnicity of course.  Arizona should do well to remember that “ethnic” Americans are fast becoming the majority in many places, as we were back in the day when places like Ellis Island teemed with those “yearning to be free”.  The difference then was that most of the immigrants looked more alike, it was harder to tell all those Europeans apart. But that didn’t mean there weren’t vast cultural and ethnic differences.

Maureen Dowd, in another context, referred to this type of cultural behavor as “pulling the ladder up after you.”  It is, with a vengeance.  We will never be, thank God, a nation of white protestants.  We are the melting pot, it is part of what has made us great and interesting.  The American Dream, in capitals, is about what you can achieve here, the ordinary person, the newcomer.  Trying to pull the ladder up and close the borders is isolationist, xenophobic and foolish.  Creating orderly rational rules is good.  Hopefully those boycotting Arizona will have an effect.  I know lots of people don’t agree with me, but that’s what I love about blogging, this is my opinion. Vive la difference.

American Idol as Music, Not Contest

Last week it was the duets.  This week it was the “second songs”, the songs that were chosen for the contestants by the judges, rather than those they chose for themselves.  Usually it is all about the contest, who will win, who will lose, and the tension of that permeates each episode of American Idol.  Yes, I am an Idol fan, big time, get over it.

What feels different to me this year is that I listen to it, I look forward to listening to it, just for the music.  Last week I was transfixed by the duets.  They were astonishing, just to listen to, as music.  I found myself looking forward to each and every performance of everyone remaining just because I think they are good singers and musicians; even Casey, who I think is fluff, is a really nice singer.

This week there were three.  And  I was really sorry to see Big Mike go home.  He is a good singer and a really good guy, that was obvious.  But I don’t think he will actually be going home, I think his life is changed and he will be going on ~ which is why I am an American Idol fan.   And the first three performances were just okay.  It seems always to be that when the contestants get to just choose a song, without topic, theme or mentor, they don’t do so well.  They seem to choose what they just happen to like and not necessarily what is the right thing for them.  Isn’t that just like we all do, choosing what we like but not always what works.  But I digress (as usual).

This week it was the “second songs”, the songs the judges chose for the three remaining singers; they chose what they thought would be great and great they were, all three!  Casey sang Daughters by John Mayer and it was beautiful.  Mama Sox sang Baby I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney and it shook the house.  Lee sang Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and it brought the house down.  I found myself just listening to the performances, not thinking at all about who would win and who would lose, just listening to the performances.

So that is what I love about American Idol, it is real people trying to accomplish their dreams.  And this year, because these last four or so contestants have stayed remarkably true to themselves and their own styles, it really is about the music.

“Bach gave us God’s word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire and God gave us music so we could pray without words.” ~ Anonymous

Oyster Po’ Boys? Not for a While ~

Today they finally showed pictures of what might really be happening in the Gulf.  It is sickening to see.  It is sickening to begin to understand the devastation that is happening and will continue to happen in the gulf.  The extent of the environmental disaster almost can’t be imagined.  What will happen to fish, birds and other creatures is almost unimaginable and the consequences to the planet vast and long lasting.  Add to that the devastating consequences this disaster will have on the economy of a region already struggling desperately to recover from the hurricanes of the last six years and you realize that this is a disaster of much broader reach than we might have thought.

The oil company that brought this about, and the regulators that failed to do their jobs, bear a very grave responsibility.  Unfortunately, despite all their assurances that they were prepared for disaster, they clearly were not.  The very little they have tried has failed; and until today they simply lied about the extent of what was happening.  But today the grim underwater pictures of thousands of crude pumping into the water couldn’t be disguised or excused. 

So having faced the reality that BP is simply unprepared and incapable of fixing this, and leaving aside the question of how to handle the future, why isn’t the government stepping up?  We all know that BP is “responsible”, read financially.  Who cares right now? All that matters it that it is stopped, fixed, contained.  The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to know how to fix everything; there are scientists and technicians all over the globe working on this kind of project.  Why can’t they all talk to each other?  Why can’t the fixers and solvers get together and find fix or solution?   We know BP can’t by themselves.  So what are we waiting for?  The end of the world?

Miss USA in Lingerie?

Leave it to Trump to even further junkify the Miss USA pageant.  First, let me be clear, I am an ardent opponent of beauty pageants.  I think they personify everything feminist and out of balance between men and women and our cultural perceptions of each other in this country.  That being said, I understand that there are young women who think that strutting around in a bikini on national television is the only pathway to fame for them.  They might be right.  If they aren’t too bright or talented in a real sense, and they get past their surgical prime, they might not get famous. 

So the question arises “is getting famous a necessity for a happy, fulfilled life?”  Obviously not.  So why do so many young Americans think that getting famous for any reason is an ultimate goal, even if it is for bad, ugly reasons?  What are we missing that our teenagers simply don’t understand, even on the most superficial level (the one they best understand) the concept of internal  satisfaction?  Of being happy with your life because you are doing well, are healthy, have happy relationships, a fulfilling job, good grades, a decent place to live, a halfway nice ride, etc. etc.  I am guessing I am not the first parent in history to wonder why children don’t get what it took me a lifetime to learn.

But I digress.  So the Miss USA pageant, as tacky and distasteful as it already was, is now promoting photos of the contestants in Victoria’s Secret ad type attire.  Keep in mind that the previous Miss USA was de-crowned for tacky pix.  The most humorous news bit of the week was watching Donald Trump explain why those pictures and these pictures are just different!  His explanation was that those were “over the top” and his were very “artsy”. Wow, maybe we should nominate him to the Supreme Court!  He’s got that first amendment jive down just right. 

So what began as a demeaning display of faux femininity just progressed to way worse.  How best can we reinforce our young men’s skewed ideas of what a woman should look like?  How best can we undermine our young women and encourage anorexia, bulemia and bionic boobs?  How can we create a set of expectations for our young people that ensures they will never be satisfied either with their un-famous lives or with each other? Just ask Trump.

And Kagan On the Other Hand?

So after yesterday’s post and its idealistic rhetoric, let’s talk politics.  Religion aside there is a whole other conversation going on; although the conversation about her being Jewish seems pretty loud.  Generally speaking you hear lots of grumbling from conservatives if there is a liberal paper trail, or at least one they can interpret as even marginally liberal.  And sometimes you hear grumbling from conservatives when, as now, there is virtually no paper trail, although that is not particularly common.  What is unusual, as far as I can tell (and I am not an historian of these sorts of things so feel free to correct me), is that liberals are now grumbling because there is no paper trail. 

There are whispered rumors that she is secretly much more conservative than we lefties would like, hiring so-called conservatives onto the faculty at harvard and allegedly adopting Bush-Cheney ideals in memos about Guantanamo.  National Public Radio tonight quoted a memo tonight that Kagan wrote when she was in the Clinton White House recommending that Clinton approve or support legislation banning partial birth abortion with exceptions only for rape, incest and the life of the mother, an obviously controversial position depending on your vantage point.  That, for sure, is a discussion for another time but what is clear is that everyone is scared of Kagan because nobody really knows where she stands. 

BUT… do we really believe that Obama or his crew have not asked her some of these questions?  Do we really believe that Obama is nominating her with absolutely no clue of her position on important issues, or at least her inclinations?  I find that mind bogglingly naive.  As I wrote yesterday, we have seen many appointees change considerably in their views from where we thought they started as their years of service progressed.  Nevertheless, knowing very well the judicial temperature on the current Supreme Court, and knowing very well whose chair he is filling, it seems impossible to me that there have not been some very serious, very intense and very private conversations between the President and Kagan.

So anti-semitism aside, religious, racial or gender “majorities” aside, the politics have to be in play.  That’s what we in America are all about.  So ideally we expect the scholar, the thinker, the ultimate lawyer, but can you have that and your ideological favority too?  Don’t know, stay tuned.

Elena Kagan and Anti Semitism On the Rise

In the last few days I have read more anti-semitic trash than I can wrap my head around.  Everywhere I look there are articles about the fact that the appointment of Elena Kagan will, if she’s confirmed, result in a Supreme Court made up entirely of Jews and Catholics.  The first comment I heard about it was from my Rabbi several weeks ago.  I thought it was interesting and so did he.  He spoke of diversity and history, education and curiousity and the Jewish legacy of questioning and learning.  He most specifically did not speak of any idea that somehow the Court would be “skewed” or manipulated as a result of the religious makeup of the Court.  I am shocked that many of the comments I have read have been in Jewish publications! First, I should say that I am a lawyer by training and I spent most of my working life as a public defender; whose primary job, I believe, is to defend the fundamental principles contained in our beautiful constitution.  I believe deeply in the freedoms embodied there and that they comprise the essential safeguards of our society, the first and last protection from unchecked power, often kown as fascism.  Next, I believe that those who serve as jurists in our Federal Court system generally feel the same way.  Often they share different beliefs about how best to interpret the constitution which, like the Torah, should be a living document, interpreted to be relevant in the modern world.  What constitutes judicial activism is a controversy that has gone on for decades; centuries?  And that debate is a healthy one, the different views keep our system in balance.  Those who serve on the Supreme Court, I believe, are always changed by that service.  Witness the number of democratic appointees that have turned conservative and republican appointees who have turned the other way.  They should be changed.  The responsibility of those who serve on the Supreme Court is awesome in my opinion and I believe that most who serve take that responsibility very, very seriously.  The one exception currently being Clarence Thomas but I will save my opinion on that for another day.  So, what stands out most is this.  When the entire Court, for virtually all of its history until the last decade, was white, male, protestants, nobody complained.  There was no talk of diversity, or the lack thereof.  There was no talk of a “skewed” Court because of the religious, gender or racial makeup of the Court. So instead of one protestant there will be none. Why do so many care so much all of a sudden about the religious composition of the Court?  Look around, our country is becoming more and more “diverse” every day.  My son’s friends are Hindu and Muslim, Jew and Protestant, with the Protestants in the minority.  The Court should be comprised of the best and brightest, the most thoughtful and the most caring.  The Court should be comprised of those who, like Elena Kagan, have dedicated their lives to learning the law, living the law, teaching the law and loving the law.  Why do so many care so much?  Because racism and anti-semitism are all too alive and well here in the land of the free.  It may be better but we are not done yet.

Boys’ Moms

They are almost grown, seventeen, and they feel that they are almost grown.  They think they know everything, they think the road is clear despite what they can’t see.  But they have thin skins, much more than they would want you to know. 

One of my son’s friends had a terrific fight with his mother and walked out.  It was a while before she realized that he had gone, his little sister told her he was gone; and had taken his homework.  My son and his friends are really good kids and generally there are only a few places any one of them would go.  So of course his mother called me.  My son wasn’t here and I didn’t know where hers was.

I called my son, who was on his way home and he arrived a short while later.  I could hear that someone else was with him and, of course, it was his friend.  He had walked all the way from his house to ours.  Quite a distance.  I told him one of us was going to call his mother because I would expect the same if I didn’t know where my son was.  I called her.   Her family are immigrants, her son first generation American, and her culture is quite rigid in its expectations of its sons in particular.  She didn’t understand why the argument was such a big deal.  Since I didn’t know what they argued about, I couldn’t really say.  But I convinced her to give him some space and let him stay here for the night. 

The concept that a son might be “sensitive” or have hurt feelings was quite alien to her.  But my son is pretty sensitive and I get the whole mood swing and hurt feelings thing.  I can’t always avoid hurting them but I understand that he has them.  My son’s friend explained to me that his parents don’t feel that he should have feelings or a point of view, they feel that everything about him is or should be circumscribed and defined by their experience.  He tries to explain to them how he feels, but he thinks they don’t care how he feels.

I don’t know the truth of the matter but I know boys have feelings and I know they are more sensitive than you might think, or than you want them to know.  They have mood swings, they have moods.  They think they know everything but lots of things still confuse them.  They want to be independent, but they want support.  Being a boy’s mom is a hard job, but one I wouldn’t trade.