Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I want to believe Obama

I read the transcript of Obama's speech, and I cried. I cried because he said much more eloquently anything I've ever tried to explain about race relations in this country. I cried because it resonated with me. It resonated with me because I have had that cringe moments for family I loved. I understand the tip-toeing around conversations about race, because I'm afraid to face my own racism, and I'm afraid to expose my own ignorance and bigotry. I can remember when I was still religious, and when those bright moments of hope that I got from being part of a community were blighted by the horrible things the pastor said. And I understand the crushing cynicism that I fight against every time I read about this or that thing, or feel the sting of sexism, or hear about racism.

I want this to be the dominant discourse of American politics: not the sloganeering, not the focus testing, but real conversations about the problems in the United States.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Ah me, My Family

Spring Break has come and gone, and instead of exotic Germany this year, I spent it in not-so-exotic (but still very pleasant) Tucson, Arizona. There I met my cousin, and my mom and dad.

It was fun, if less than productive. I was hoping this week could be used to spur wedding plans, but alas, it was not to be. The only thing wedding-related that is DONE is that I have dance shoes now. That's it.

But, it was interesting talking to my dad; not interesting-good, more like interesting-frustrating-as-fuck. My dad, whom I love, and I do not agree on the nature of reality. Not in a general existential sense (although we disagree on that too) more like what facts ARE. For instance, we started talking about me going into law school, and I was talking about how much I enjoyed Constitutional Law. I made mention to the Bill of Rights, and how it wasn't actually designed to protect individual rights, it was designed to protect states: that states had to power to write laws against freedom of speech and such. He argued with me that wasn't true, that states couldn't go against the Bill of Rights. I said yes, now, but that's only after the 14th Amendment incorporating necessary rights to apply to citizens, and that the second amendment still hasn't been incorporated (although that may change). He argued with me, saying that no, they were all about individual rights. I just gave up at that point, although I didn't do it as gracefully as possible, so he was still mad at me because he (rightly) felt that I was humoring him.

Later, we were talking about welfare and taxes, and I was saying how I thought that it was retarded that we were getting a rebate when we were trillions of dollars in debt. He made the remark that I won't think that way when I have to pay real taxes ("like he does" went unsaid). I said that when I have to pay "real" taxes, I hope I remember how taxes helped me get to the ability to do that. He said "Like what?" I said things like roads, police, infostructure, school...he interrupted me and said that he had paid for my school (well, he paid for some of it). I said I meant K-12, and he said that he paid for that too, my school and every child of lazy parents. I said he contributed to it, but he pressed the point and I just let it go. I made mention that me and hubby will probably be taking advantage of HUD and food stamps, and that those will enable us to be able to make it into the middle, and upper middle class, and when I'm there, I want to extend the same courtesy to those after me. THAT got him really angry: he was railing about people who abused the system, and that he had a cousin that purposely got pregnant just to get a larger cheque of welfare. I said that the amount of money that you get off of welfare is not enough to raise a child, so that doesn't make any sense, and referenced the fact that food stamps, for instance, only gives you 122 dollars a month to live on. He said that people get THOUSANDS of dollars a month of food stamps. I stopped there, because he was really slipping into the racist/sexist mold, and it was just going to piss me off.

So, we couldn't even agree on things that are not uncontroversial, but easily verified facts. Nothing is going to convince my dad that the Bill of Rights was about what the state could do, originally, and nothing will convince him that the max amount of food stamps you can get is 919 dollars a month (and that's for a family of 10). I have no idea where these ideas come from. Nobody in their right freaking mind would have another child just to get a bigger welfare cheque. That is the dumbest thing that I have ever heard. "Let's make my life a million times more complicated by slutting around, risking STDs, so I can get pregnant, risking my health and my life, for a whopping 100 dollars more a month (which doesn't cover diapers), and many, many more hours of demand on my life, just so social services doesn't bother me. It's an asinine concept.

My dad is a smart man, but I swear to godless, he can be amazingly dense.