Archive for November, 2008


Stuffed full of love

The tub

Yum.  Thanksgiving was a tub full of love.  All the family made it down and back home safely.  It was a great holiday and the dressing was top notch, if I do say so myself.  Now, I’m stuffed full of love and ready to bring on the holiday cheer.


Thanksgiving Eve

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is the opening act of the holiday season.  The family is all together and there is enormous amounts of food.  But, for all of that, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving may truly be my favorite part. 

Wednesday is the preparation for all that is to come.  Hours are spent in the kitchen.  Phone calls are exchanged to verify kickoff time for the annual football game.  It is the anticipation that is exciting.  Then there is the dressing. 

I am sitting here at working counting the hours until I can get home.  For the first time ever the Making of the Dressing will be at my home, but other than location, nothing is changing.  This is a relatively simple task that has taken on so much history.  It has long been a generational gathering.  In the beginning it was my grandmother, my mother and me.  Three generations elbow deep in cornbread.  After my grandmother passed my niece joined us, keeping it three generations.  We laugh, we tell stories and we talk about the past.  And we make a washtub full of dressing.  Really.  We make it in a washtub because that is the only thing big enough to contain the mounds of cornbread and chicken and celery and onions and the family lore we have built around it.

Thursday is the feast.  Wednesday is the feast for the soul.


family matters

Thanksgiving in my family is sacrosanct.  Although it is nothing unusual our family has gathered for a day of feasting and games long before I was born.  With aunts and uncles and cousins we number anywhere from 30 to 40.  While the exact makeup of the group may change year to year, the tradition never does.  We play touch football at 11, eat at 1, watch football, eat again, play games and maybe hit the dessert table again. 


While everyone helps plan and everyone cooks, my mother is the cog of this wheel.  She makes sure everything is in order and makes it happen.  This year has come with events that make it impossible for her to fill this role.  She lives and works 200 miles from our ancestral home and when my step-father went into the hospital several weeks ago, she began to worry.  As he did not improve and the days to Thanksgiving became short, she took me aside and made me promise all her kids would still be at the family function.  She had tears in her eyes and was very insistent.  There would be no way for my step-father to travel; they wouldn’t be able to be there.  It didn’t feel right to have Thanksgiving without her.  We promised, but it just simply would not be the same.


It didn’t feel right to anyone else either.  The entire clan exchanged phone calls and emails and decided the entire production is moving to where she and my step-father are. 


When I told her, I could tell she was deeply moved.  But, still, she didn’t want to put anyone to any trouble.  For once though, she is simply letting someone do something for her.  When I told her that her granddaughter would be down Wednesday night so we could all make the dressing as normal, she genuinely smiled and nearly jumped for joy.  It was the first time I have seen her have any joy in weeks. 


Hard times, good times.  It doesn’t really matter.  All that matters is family.


Across barriers

Last night’s 60 Minutes interview with Michelle and Barack Obama was heartwarming.  There was no news to it.  There was no policy discussed.  It was simply a chance to meet them again.  For all those who are scared at what a Obama presidency might hold, it gave them a chance to see that they are just normal people.  They worry over their daughters and value time together as a family.  They banter and joke.  Talking about his “very modest” apartment in DC and the car he drove when they were dating got the message across that they are not from some privileged class.  Nice.  Barack lobbying for a college football playoff system?  That’s very nice.  Made me smile because I thought that that may be the only thing my brother would agree with him on.  I’ll have to ask him about that – just not at Thanksgiving.

My mother has warned me not to bring up politics over the holiday.  My two uncles are diametrically opposed on all issues.  One is mild-mannered and one is anything but.  I have been warned not to get anything started.  I won’t no matter how much I want to.  Oh it would just be so much fun! 

Instead, I had the fortune of having dinner with my anything but mild-mannered uncle and my aunt last night.  My uncle is stubborn and can be caustic, is socially conservative personally and keeps his personal purse strings tied shut –  and is as dyed in the wool Democrat as you can possible be.  He is also 80.  I really was curious about what he thought.  My mother was with me and she is one that believes in never discussing politics, so I didn’t bring it up.  Halfway through dinner, however, my uncle looked at me with a sideways glance and asked if my man had won.  I smiled and said he did.  He extended his arm across the table, fist first and gave me a fist jab.  That was priceless.


fight the distraction

Ok, here I go again, probably pissing someone talking about things I have no business talking about.

I have black friends.  I have gay friends.  The fact that Prop 8 passed in California pisses me off.  What pisses me off even more is the notion being floated that the black vote for Obama caused Prop 8 to pass.  My claim that the correlation was overstated pissed off my best friend.  He simply cannot be convinced that that is not the cause.  He’s pissed.  How could people whose history is the struggle for human rights vote against other people’s human rights?  And he’s right about that.  But our disagreement and fight was over his anger at the black vote.  Did a large African-American turnout play a part? Yeah, probably some.  Did it seal the deal for Prop 8 to pass?  No. 

Do I have absolute proof?  Nope, but neither does anyone else.  You can only look at patterns and trends.  Still, the figure I found was that the African-American vote was expected to be 6% of the total vote.  The Hispanic vote was expected to be 15%.  So, why simply target blacks for the ire?  It is not just my friend, the media wants to stir this up.  So, I tried to do a little research.  Oakland is the city with the biggest African-American population among the large cities in the state with 36%.  Alameda County voted against Prop 8 – 38.1% in favor vs. 61.9% against.  That is just one statistic.  We could go county by county and look at the population density of African-Americans and try account for every trend.  We could find proof of both theories. 

That would be a huge waste of time.

Ultimately, it simply doesn’t matter.  Or, rather, it shouldn’t.  It is a good story and it will float for quite awhile.  Who wouldn’t want to try to pit two minority groups against each other?  That’s fun tv to fill the 24 hour news cycle. 

We can play these games all day, but they are really just a distraction.  The truth is, Prop 8 passed.  It is horrible.  It simply manifests all the work that remains to be done.  So, to get caught up in the distraction of laying blame on someone else is simply a waste of time.


Exhaust fumes

Here is something that will make your head dizzy. 

I heard this on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.

If you bought ALL of GM’s stock, it would cost you $1 Billion.

As a bonus, of course, you get GM’s debt along with it.

And GM’s debt?  About  $45 Billion.


it’s been a long time coming… and still a ways to go

Note to reader:  This is all speculation and thoughts rolling around my head.  I do not deem to speak for minorities or how they feel.  I am just observing and pondering. 

There was an alarming report in the paper this morning.  A woman traveled to Louisiana to participate in a Klu Klux Klan initiation.  She apparently had been recruited to join and then recruit for the group.  She was shot after a fight broke out when she asked to be taken back to town.  My assumption is that she had perhaps gotten more than she bargained for and wanted out.  Unfortunately for her, she was killed because of it.  On the positive side, the leader of the group and 7 others were arrested. 

This is one small event.  But, how many small events?  How many little pockets of people have that much hate?  Is this what my friends were trying to say without saying it when they told me they were concerned about voting for Obama?  I thought they were talking just about his safety.  Were they talking about there own?  I think of the fear and hate that you saw when you watched the video clips of people at McCain rallies saying that the blacks would take over or that white people would become second-class citizens.  I truly believe those people are a small minority.  I believe that those people who would act on those fears and that hatred are a smaller minority still.  But, they are out there as evidenced by the story.

Obama’s election marks a milestone in a long journey.  It proves that there are no racial barriers in this country and once again American is an example to the world for something positive.  People in Western Europe hail this accomplishment and know that it is a long way off in their own countries.  America is not the sole proprietor of racial tension, but we have long been the poster child.  The election changes that, but it certainly doesn’t solve all the issues on the ground.

In addition to fear that is the basis of these extremist groups, we have another issue playing into this situation.  The economy sinking ever lower, jobs disappearing and everyone financially strapped amp up the fear.  Just as illegal immigration is never on the front burner when there are plenty of jobs, racial tensions can fade when everyone is doing well.  We aren’t, though.  The economy and labor issues are not going to be solved over night.  The stage is set for tensions to rise. 

We must be vigilant.  All of us.  Law enforcement must be more vigilant still. 

There is hope in this story, too.  The group was swiftly arrested.  I also take hope from a quote by the Sheriff in this case.  He noted that the group had done a thorough job of trying to hide the evidence and said it was “pretty impressive for a group with such a small IQ.”  People do get it.  The media has portrayed this faction as “uneducated” and outside the mainstream.  That is the truth and the majority recognizes it as such.  We all need to understand the horror and violence that is possible without giving it more credence than it deserves.  Evil does exist, but it should not deter us from our goals.