Friday, November 21, 2008

Prop 8: The Ugly Stain on a Historic Election


The day after Barack Obama and the Americans that elected him made history came word that California’s Proposition 8, which sought to ban the gay marriage act that passed just this summer, won by a narrow margin of the popular vote.

That this Proposition even made it to the ballot was already absurd; technically this was an amendment to a law that had passed only months ago. At this point any change should have gone through the State Legislature and not a popular vote.

What hurt even more was discovering the high percentage of those who voted in favor of Prop 8 were African Americans, Latinos and Asians, many of whom probably were very happy to vote Obama in.

To me this is beyond absurd; it’s reprehensible. It’s no secret that most minority groups in America who are quick to point out the injustices their groups endure are also quick to discriminate against their own people of color and homosexuals. I’ve often wondered if this is a sick irony or is it just human nature to treat someone else like shit in order to feel good about oneself.

Since this Proposition was funded in large part by Mormon groups and supported by other churches and conservative backers, many of the minorities who explain their stance use their religion as the reason for passing Prop 8. Religion? Really? Is that really what would Jesus do? Or any other god for that matter? Let’s just call it what it really is—pure unadulterated bullshit.

There is no excuse that begins to justify limiting another citizen’s rights in this country. There is even less excuse if you belong to any group that has been discriminated against. How the hell can someone who has experienced racism or prejudice turn around and vote for any law that does the same to another group? No matter how you spin it, it’s despicable.

The gay civil rights movement will continue to move forward and so will the issue of gay marriage. As a flaming heterosexual I’ve got as much right to vote on a gay marriage proposition as does the government in making laws about what a woman should do with her reproductive rights. Who are we to decide on legislation that we would never have to live with?

If there is one good thing that does come from all this madness, it’s the revelation that prejudice and discrimination is hardly a problem isolated to white America. And good timing too, because if we are to embrace the United America that President-Elect Obama calls for in the years to come, then we must realize this will never happen so long as we continue to dehumanize parts of our society for no other reason than ignorance and unfounded fear.

How ironic it is that Martin Luther King’s dream of seeing all races united for a common cause freely elected an African American on the content of his character and not the color of his skin, while turning their back on another King’s dream—that of his wife Coretta Scott King. It was she who picked up the torch after his passing and expanded on his legacy, becoming one of the leading advocates for the gay rights movement. She got a lot of flack for it but she never backed down; famously saying:

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

So please, let’s get over ourselves and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, we can! Si se puede!

Here’s what you can do to help: File a complaint against the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Knights of Columbus, the Mormon and Catholic organizations who used church funds to lobby for political influence and put these anti-gay marriage propositions on the ballots of California, Arizona and Florida.

An organization called Shut Down Hate has made it easy to file these formal complaints with the IRS. The forms are pre-filled; all they need is your contact info and your pick of one or two articles (also listed) you can submit as proof of these churches’ campaign to dictate government policy with their tax-exempt funds. Show your support and go to http://www.shutdownhate.org/

Sunday, October 12, 2008

For Answers to Our Busted Economy, Take a Hard Look in the Mirror


Republicans will tell you at every turn that Democrats facilitated this economic disaster, never mind that it was Republicans running the show and its president vetoing any dissent for the past seven years. Democrats will remind you we had a surplus in 2000 when Clinton left after two terms, leaving out that he opened Pandora’s box when he allowed company mergers to run amuck during his era.

The Feds will swear it was Wall Street greed and financial gurus will say Alan Greenspan was in denial about the early signs that “Free” credit for all wasn’t such a hot idea. There’s truth to all of it.

And during the last stretch of this election campaign, both candidates treat the voters like we’re abuse victims. Truth is we’re not. Whether we care to admit it or not, the time has come to own up to our part in this mess.

To be fair, we didn’t ask to be scammed into subprime loans that would eat up our savings and force us deeper into credit debt to keep our homes. We didn’t realize that when they started outsourcing those computer company help desk jobs to India that we’d soon be seeing IT jobs and most middle class technical jobs go along with them.

To be honest, it was something we could have seen coming had we not fallen prey to the lull of complacency and empty consumerism. There are too many stories of people who should’ve bought the smaller starter house, but went for the 4 bedroom mini-mansion instead. And this mentality of bigger is better, spend now and worry later permeated into much of our purchasing decisions all across the board.

We used to be proud of making smart purchases, but in the 1990’s we were living in hog heaven. Who wanted to be sensible we had spending money itching to be spent? During that time of financial prosperity, internet companies promised big profits and it seemed like technology was spitting out sexy electronics by the second. Cars were getting bigger, houses were flashier and we were giddy. We partied like it was 1999 but like the pesky guest that never leaves, didn’t want the party to end after long after 2000.

Which made us ripe for the picking. While we camped out in long lines for Apple iPods, Microsoft Xboxes, Razor and iPhones; while we threw out perfectly good TV’s to get the next sleek two thousand dollar flat screen panel of the moment (and its obnoxiously loud sound system), there were some serious clouds gathering overhead.

We were so busy being such good consumers we never once peeked up to notice that yes, something is wrong when it was too easy to get a credit card with a $20,000.00 limit and that even teenagers could get credit cards before they could even score jobs to pay for them. When the president threw $600 rebates at us like pigeons at a park, we ate it up and looked forward to seconds. It never occurred to us to ask: what did we cut to pay for those rebates?

After Hurricane Katrina, we felt awful but not enough to wonder if maybe their infrastructure failures might be a sign that our cities were also in danger of corroding bridges, roads or other lifelines in need of constant maintenance now neglected so we can have meager tax cuts. Soon after hospitals in cities began to close and teens graduating high school faced college tuitions that cost as much as a luxury sedan for just one year of education. And still, we never raised an eyebrow. Because as long as it wasn’t happening in our homes, we could pretend it wasn’t a problem.

Sure there was a big war to finance, but one in a country that had nothing to do with the terrorists who attacked us. Still we asked nothing of the administration milking billions from us to continue a fight that has cost us more U.S. lives than the ones lost in the September 11 attacks while the ringleader Al Qaeda remains at large—in a whole other country.

Back in Iraq we keep fighting; first for weapons of mass destruction that never appeared and then to “liberate” the Iraqis and bring them democracy. Have we asked how much democracy our money and our soldiers’ efforts has brought? We hear about the soldiers we’ve lost on our side, but find a news outlet that covers the death toll we’ve brought to Iraqi civilians. You won’t. According to the site Iraq Body Count, that number today stands between 88,269 and 96,356.

How much of this financial and human loss could have been averted, had we the people, the true bosses of the American government, stepped up and said Enough?

Now, as that American dream of the white picket fence and the house behind it crumbles around us, as jobs have disappeared so quickly to outsourcing and shoddy corporate business plans, we stand amidst the rubble around us. What now?

I see people waking up from the hangover now, much more sober than in years past. In a year where one campaign has garnered strength from a message of hope, I hinge my own in the wish to see us get back to questioning our leaders, no matter what side of Capitol Hill they sit on. Our economy used to buy us choices and better options for each generation. It’s about all we’ve got left to protect, so let’s wipe the crust from our eyes, take that aspirin and get back to reminding our government they work for us.

We may be done for the count in the Superpower department, but it’s not too late to revive a pride in creating instead of consuming; of solving rather than squandering and of investing in our future instead of into trends. In the new world economy those who have assets have something to work with; those who have debt have nothing to bargain with. And we should know; we once were the best at that game.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Giving Them Everything is Bad

It’s the noblest of causes, the issue of making things better for future generations. After all, who can argue with fighting to remove barriers so that those after you aren’t subjected to unjust challenges you and those before you endured?

But observe such movements long enough and you’ll find an ironic byproduct; future generations, without connection to these challenges, glorify the stereotypes that were once fought in the name of their dignity. In other words; they leap headfirst out of the frying pan and smack into the very fire the elders tried to save them from.

When women fought for suffrage and later for equal rights, they wanted future generations of girls to grow up just as boys do: feeling they could follow any dream they wanted; pursue any career or goal and be treated with the same respect. The goal was to be judged by their legitimate merits and not be objectified in the process. Fast forward to early 21st century, and you have a pop culture supported by young women who’d much rather be called sexy than smart. As if they couldn’t be both!

When hip-hop was born in the streets not far from where I grew up, I was still a kid but I knew I was witnessing something both hopeful and incredible. Once an upper middle-class haven, the Bronx we grew up had become a wasteland of abandoned and burnt out buildings surrounded by rubble-filled lots. This was our playground. The only parks and playgrounds still standing were infested with gangs, drug dealers and strung out junkies.

Those were the days when the Bronx was always burning. That summer the NY Yankees were in the midst of an amazing winning season. As their championship was televised across the country, Howard Cosell famously said the Bronx was burning because its people were torching their own city. Had he or anyone given enough of a damn to look, they would’ve seen the truth before the damage was done: Landlords, in an effort to cash in on the suburban boom Upstate, would hire arsonists to burn their own buildings then take off with the insurance money to build outside of the Bronx. Those families without the means to move out (mostly Black and Hispanic) had no choice but to live in the few buildings that remained standing.

Still reeling long after the Vietnam War depleted the country of resources (sound familiar?) the Bronx and the rest of NYC was left to rot. With nowhere safe to go, kids began gathering in the streets with milk crates of records and miles of heavy duty extension cords they’d rig to street lamps to power their turntables. A microphone and some speakers was all they needed and the sounds would echo through the empty buildings and into our windows. There, in the rubble, a party would break out. The guy on the mic would start rhyming over the beats, telling people to throw their hands in the air and wave them like “you jus’ don’t care.” Crowds would gather and kids would show up with cardboard and jean cuffs pinned tight around their ankles. They’d groove to the beats like robots, undulate like snakes and spin on their backs so quickly that their legs became helicopter blades. These kids made something out of nothing, and that’s what hip-hop was about back in the day.

Today, with few exceptions, the average hip-hop song sounds more like a shopping list of gaudy shit only new money would buy. The misogyny that was always an underlying part of the culture now takes blatant center stage, making old songs and videos tame in comparison. There are still some creative and even groundbreaking rappers out there, (Common, some Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, K-OS, Talib Kweli—to name a few) but they’re not the norm.

What happened to Hip-hop is the same thing that happened to the women’s movement. The new guard doesn’t know or therefore care what it took for them to get there. In the process, they’ve got nothing of substance to pull their aspirations from.

And nowhere is this becoming more of an issue than in the way we choose to raise the future generation of kids. Parents don’t want their kids to suffer any of the hardships they or their parents went through—great! But shouldn’t this be done so that the next generation is free to tackle new frontiers and challenges without being held back as we once were?

As a soon-to-be mom, I’m already thinking about what’s best for my little one’s well being. But I admit it makes me squirm when I see how some modern parents go to counterproductive extremes to make their kids’ world the best ever. Over-structured agendas, organic everything and constant self-esteem building sound great in theory, but too much of a good thing can be bad.

Making sure your children live in a safe, happy environment is something all parents should aspire to, but it’s ridiculous what we try to shield our kids from these days. As I learn about all the “must have items” I should be getting my new baby, I’m dazzled by how much we’re overdoing it: Baby wipe warmers! For shit’s sake—pun intended—will Child Protective Services come after me if it’s discovered that my baby experienced a cold snap on its privates with a wipey?

Don’t get me wrong, I want my little one to have it easier than his parents, but I don’t want a kid who assumes that he’s entitled to little or no discomfort in life. Striving has never been a bad thing, yet it feels that this has become taboo.

I’m not going off into a rant about how young people today are no good little punks with no drive; I don’t believe that, nor do I appreciate when older people punk out with that lame-ass excuse for their own generation’s failings. Kids can only do what they are allowed—or not allowed to do. If you don’t allow a child to face a challenge or resolve it on their own, then how will they learn? If you fix everything so that they never know rejection, loss or accountability for their actions, how will they really grow?

Give a child everything and you teach them nothing. With little learned, there’s little to inspire, hence why much of today’s pop culture lacks substance, why social progress seems to go backwards and why my little one will not be getting a Baby wipe warmer. It’s a cold world out there sometimes, and the sooner he learns it, the more prepared he will be for it.

Babycakes, you’ll thank me later, I promise. If not, I give you permission to write a “Mommy Dearest” book about me.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The McCain/Palin Ticket as an Eddie Murphy Skit














Disclaimer: La Generalissima swore she would not write about politics this week, but then John McCain saw fit to flirt with us women by showing up with Sarah Palin. I had no choice but to go there.


After the initial shock over the most desperate, insincere political gesture I’ve ever experienced, I couldn’t understand why instead of insult or rage, all I could think of was Eddie Murphy’s old MacDonald’s skit from his concert Raw. I know, I’m still trippin’ over it myself, but bear with me.

For those who never heard it, or those who’ve forgotten: Eddie Murphy goes on this riff about being a kid in the ‘hood and wanting to get some MacDonald’s. The mom can’t afford it, so she swears she can make a way better burger than at Mickey D’s.

So off they are at home and Momma orders the boy to get some ingredients from the fridge. The boy starts to question; “There ain’t no peppers in MacDonald’s.” The Mom tells him to shut up as she prepares the burger her way. Long story short: Kid was hosed big time and there was nothing he could do about it.

And I can’t help but wonder if this was the McCain campaign strategy. They figured that while many women were fine with having Obama win the Democratic nomination, there’s a bittersweet undercurrent that runs in the back of many a woman’s mind: in the socio-political buffet of life, will we always eat last?

The McCain people tried to capitalize off of this with the hopes of winning over the dejected older feminists angered by Hillary’s loss. But instead of finding a candidate that would actually appeal to this group, what do they do? They hand out a Momma Burger; a slapped-together, Wonder Bread-coated imitation of a well-rounded politician. But she wears skirts! She has lots of babies! She’s a girl!!

Sure, women have gotten hosed many times over. Women were the last citizens to earn the right to vote, after freed black men. Women are still making less money for the same jobs and responsibilities as their male counterparts.

But women’s civil rights battles have always been inextricably linked to the Black civil rights movement. It’s the cruel joke of America; we will make you all fight for one crumb at a time--and only one will be allowed to win first. Our consolation is that at least the one who emerged to represent Democrats has built a platform of true diversity in his policies and from the sound of things, in his picks for political allies.

Had the McCain camp showed some sincere intention of being inclusive in the VP choices beforehand, I would have treated the Palin pick with more respect. But it was clear this was a poorly-planned afterthought spurred by the raging numbers and excitement generated by response to Obama at the Democratic convention.

Then I heard Palin speak and I couldn’t fathom who they were going to win over besides their already committed conservative base.

She may be McCain’s but she ain’t no MacDonald’s. Luckily, unlike Eddie Murphy’s poor boy stuck with the Momma burger, we can do something about it.

Image from: http://brisbaneburgersafari.blogspot.com/2008/03/moo-cheese-chimi-burger-fortitude.html

Sunday, August 24, 2008

E Pluribus, Unum: A Dictum for Change in Your Change



Take a penny (or nickel, dime, quarter); pick it up. Read the back. Old or new, you’ll find in tiny etching, E Pluribus, Unum. A Latin term that translates to “From Many, One.”

I never noticed it myself until I started college. My late journalism professor told us to get a quarter and flip it to the back. He asked us if we knew what it meant and went on this lecture about our founding fathers and how they choose this as the de facto motto to represent the power of our unified states to make one country.

He added that in modern times this phrase had more relevance than ever. He asked us to write a piece explaining what it meant to us. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I’m sure it wasn’t worth remembering. At 19 I was already jaded about all the patriotic rah-rah we were fed since elementary school. I knew all about the liberty and justice for all, the purple mountains majesty and that one of the first truths to be self-evident was that all men are created equal. I just never saw any of that in my South Bronx neighborhood.

But my professor had at one time an illustrious journalism career covering, among many world and political issues, the civil rights movement. He really believed that this motto had a new significance, but I still wasn’t seeing it. Born to Puerto Rican parents I was taught that we were American citizens and had been for hundreds of years since the Spanish American war. Yet almost every other interaction I had with a white person went like this:

WP: So where are you from?

Me: New York.

WP: No, where are you FROM?

Me: Uh, the South Bronx?

WP: (frustrated sigh): Where are your parents FROM?

Me: They’re from Puerto Rico.

WP: So you’re Puerto Rican.

Me: But I’ve never been to the Island….

And no matter how I explained we were Americans, it was always interrupted with “You’re Puerto Rican.” So there it was. I was raised to believe I’m American, but constantly reminded that I couldn’t really be. I was other. And so I turned more toward the culture of an island I’ve never been to. And I’ve been richer for it since.

Which brings me back to this motto, E Pluribus Unum. The one that should’ve always been our nation’s motto, but was replaced in the 1950’s by “In God We Trust.”

Admit it or not, our country’s wealth has always been and always will be our diversity. From that diversity comes our ingenuity, diplomacy and cultural richness. And now that we stand in the crux of a rapidly emerging world economy, it’s that diversity that will prove to be the most valuable asset of this nation of many races, backgrounds and beliefs.

As we enter the start of an historic election season, we discovered that people were a lot more comfortable with the prospect of a biracial, bicultural president. So much so that after a long tug of war with our first female frontrunner, it is Barack Obama who emerged as our Democratic candidate.

Still, there are some self-professed liberals who are nervous that someone of color couldn’t possibly represent the self-interests of all Americans. It reminds me of the Spanish saying: Ladron juzga por su condicion. (The thief assumes all think like a thief).

To those people I say it’s your time to put your money where your mouth is. If we Americans of color can vote time and time again for a white guy and hope he’ll remember us when he’s in the Oval Office, then you can surely muster up some trust too.

At a time of tattered diplomatic relations and a domestic landscape torpedoed by elite special interests, I can’t think of a better time to turn to each other, see the power of our diversity and finally put that motto to action. Our businesses and education will be better for it, and so will our country.

Paul, it took me a while but I think I finally get it. Thanks for everything and rest in peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Lou Dobbs Crusade: Fear and Loathing of the Lettuce Picker

Dear Mr. Dobbs;

For years I’ve watched the Broken Borders segment of your show and waited to hear something about ALL illegal immigration in the U.S. But no, it’s all Mexico, all the time.

Like the more primitive of your ilk (the Limbaughs, the Drudges, 99 percent of Fox), your whole thesis of immigration-fueled problems in the U.S. boils down to two words: Blame Mexico.

Mr. Dobbs, do you really believe that EVERY serious immigration issue can be solved by closing the U.S.-Mexican border? Seriously?

No one denies the level of illegal immigration from coming from an impoverished country that once owned the territories they sneak into now can bring daunting problems, but to pretend that 1.) The U.S. doesn’t benefit as much or more than the immigrants themselves and that 2.) Some of our ugliest immigration issues have nothing to do with Latin America is rather na├»ve.

In the interest of understanding your thesis, I’ve got questions about some of your favorite Broken Border subjects:

ILLEGAL LATINO IMMIGRANTS ARE TAKING OUR JOBS
Which ones? The kitchen and dishwashing gigs at your favorite restaurants? The crop picking stints or the domestic labor jobs for chump change they steal as the gather like hyenas in front of Home Depots?

I’ve lived in immigrant-heavy New York, Florida and Los Angeles and never seen one Latino laborer kick the door of a restaurant, hold a farmer or a homeowner hostage and demand to be underpaid to do heavy labor for them. Nope, it’s the bargain-hungry American that comes after them. Perhaps if we learned to love doing our own dishes or housework there will be less opportunities for these parasites to take advantage of the bounty they get from us. But I understand; it’s hard out there for a pimp, right?

To be fair, I remember you mentioned a couple of times how our white-collar jobs were being shipped to India and China. Wish you would’ve stayed on that story, but then you got distracted with lettuce pickers again while the middle class learned to compete with Third World rates in order to keep their jobs.

And in L.A. there are foreigners who sneak into our country for a shot at stardom in Hollywood. Many succeed to become directors, producers and actors. We don’t call them illegal aliens though. We call them Canadian.

TERRORISTS USING MEXICO’S BORDER TO COME GET US
Only Mexico’s border? The full picture is that some Al Qaeda terrorists did cross Mexico’s border to carry out the attacks in 9/11. But several also used Canada’s border and ALL secured legal visas into the U.S.

SPIKE IN U.S. CRIME? MUST BE ILLEGAL LATINO IMMIGRANTS
Yes, gangs and smugglers have come from South of the Border. Many other criminals from Latin America take advantage of the porous Mexican border to bring in drugs. But where are the stories about the mobs that run roughshod through the U.S.; the ones that deal in the most heinous of commodities; drugs, guns, and human trafficking? Modern day slavery is thriving around the world, including in the United States. Children and women from Eastern Europe, Asia and West Africa are brought to this country under false pretenses and exploited as forced servants and sex slaves. Every decade a new mob takes over inner cities like the one I grew up in and feast off the steady stream of undereducated young men to serve as minions to their drug cartels, only to die young or waste their lives in prison. What borders are they crossing?

You cannot be called a crusader when you’re only telling the smallest part of the illegal immigration story. Every day a young American falls prey to drugs brought in by mobsters, not Mexicans. So when will you talk about the illegal immigrant criminals from Italian or Albanian mafias that bring in those drugs? When will you talk about the innocent women from Albania or East Asia brought into this country against their will to live in subhuman conditions to serve as prostitutes?

Organized crime is the bloodiest and most destructive enterprise to thrive in American soil, run by illegal immigrants and supported by many Americans in power who seem to look the other way. They cost us billions of dollars and countless lives but no one talks about them. Instead we make movies and hit TV shows about them, give reality shows to anyone with Gotti’s last name and make chart-topping hip hop anthems about their lifestyle.

So Mr. Dobbs, next time you want to talk about the damage illegal immigration does to our pristine way of life, don’t half-ass it. Every time you complain about the Mexican laborer but ignore the dangers from other illegal immigrants, it demeans your cause. Like many talking heads in our media, there’s a nasty habit of getting self-righteous over the easier of our country’s challenges.

Admit it; it’s easier to bitch about the poor brown people coming in to take menial jobs that even our kids find beneath them. It feels like you’re doing something big without really tackling anything at all. Or maybe you’re right; maybe Latin American immigrants deserve your ire. If only they thought more like the mafia; bribed some government officials, rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, hire themselves out to kill people of power. Maybe then they wouldn’t be such a threat.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Broken Hero


He looked like a muscular version of skinny guy from Nacho Libre; long shaggy hair, lanky limbs and spandex everything. A small American flag served as a cape against his shirtless back. His crutches rested to the side as he labored over stretching exercises between countless mini rounds of push-ups. Packets of powdered energy drinks decorated one leg while the other was wrapped in an elastic ankle brace.

Huffing and puffing, stretching then strange gestures with his hands, fixing something only he and a mime would know. People pass by and give that sideways stare, the one reserved for strange people or things you want to know more about but you’re too weirded out to get involved. So instead, they pretend he doesn’t exist.

But he didn’t mind. To him the people didn’t exist either. Besides he was getting ready for a mission. Like Don Quixote, this hero had a windmill to fight. He braced himself and pushed forward with all his might. The concrete behemoth barely shifted as every muscle in his body tensed to make it move.

A kind young man offers help but he politely declines, saying he needed to tackle this one alone. No room for a sidekick on this job. The young man looks down at the concrete trash cube then moves on.

The mission continues. He makes a private joke to no one in particular and laughs out loud. Another shove manages to move the cube only slightly. The bolt that holds it down firmly into the sidewalk proves to be a formidable opponent. But that doesn’t stop him. He pushes on.

I wondered why he was doing this. Don Quixote was fighting for Dulcinea’s love. Was it the stars and stripes? I hoped not. Because I’d seen guys like him before, only it was the seventies and their windmill was called Vietnam. They were all like the Man of la Mancha; brave and determined but wasted and ignored. They had fought for the impossible dream only to be exiled when they returned broken. In our kingdom, there is no mercy for reminders of our follies.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

On Being Here and There



The act of being is complex enough as it is, but not as difficult as the act of being here. By “here” I mean wherever your “here” is; your job, your relationship, your life.

I look around and see examples of that zombie-like stupor, the one where people are physically there, but mentally and emotionally—Poof! Gone.

And it affects “being there” for others. Parents should “be there” for their children. Colleagues and bosses should be there for their departments. Friends and lovers should be there for each other.

How can you “be there” for anyone when you can’t even “be here?” Perhaps the issue is neither here nor there, but back at the point of being.

It seems these days something or someone is always clamoring for a piece of you. That hasn’t changed much, but the access to you has. Cellphones, emails, Instant and text messaging, the ubiquitous Blackberry demanding that you be here right now—All at the same time.

What exactly are we connected to now that we’re plugged in? When do we get to look around, take a breath and take in that moment to just be?

Earlier this year my friend and I decided to unplug from our office’s IM service, returning only after we configured the program’s filter to allow access to colleagues directly related to our responsibilities. Our productivity shot up, making it easier to go home at a decent hour to enjoy our families and reconnect with our neglected pursuits.

Next time you’re out with a friend or family member, try letting your voicemail answer some of your calls and let a couple of texts go straight to your inbox. Have a complete conversation with the person who thought enough of you to be THERE with you. I promise you’ll remember being there a lot more than any of those messages.

Try unplugging from time to time and give yourself some quality time. Who knows, you might even figure out that being there isn’t as great as being here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fear of the F-Word

I thought watching Hillary finally get her time in the spotlight would be such a relief; the panacea for the parade of female role models who truly believe the only thing they should develop is an ass with no tan lines and pole-dancing thigh muscles.

And I’m not just talking about the twenty-something celebs and trust fund babies whose idea of an opinion is saying “That’s hot.” Gen-Xers are not to be left out. The generation that first set out to defy categorization has borne a species of grown women who shop for tight baby Tees that say “Princess” and aspire to be MILF’s.

Then there’s Hillary; a reminder of a time when women wanted to show they’re so much more than Brazilian wax jobs. Hillary, the first woman since Eleanor Roosevelt to show us that a First Lady could bring more to the White House than decorating sense.

Now she’s Hillary, the first woman candidate to be accepted so openly in a Presidential race. The game is set: She tours, she talks and then come the polls. She’s not feminine enough. What does Hillary do: she cries. Damn. Et tu, Hillary? You never publicly cried when even the toughest chick would’ve: in the midst of all that Monica Mess. And you cry for the cameras to please a stupid poll? To quote text messaging sisters: WTF?!!!

Talk of feminism’s demise has abounded since the dawn of this new millennium. I’ve been in the camp that it isn’t dead; as a movement it did what movements are supposed to do. It moved beyond the stereotype of the angry woman to reflect a diverse range of viewpoints. And that’s just how it should be.

But it’s time to admit it: while trying to run away from earlier philosophies so preoccupied with keeping pace with men that it adapted their harsher qualities, some of us have gone to a whole other dark side. Some of us--dare I say it--have become content with being nothing more than pussies.

Why are some of us so scared of showing our true strengths? At a time when change is not only inevitable but essential to the survival of American life, it seems like a good time to take stock at ourselves and all we’ve accomplished because of and since the women’s movement. When Gloria Steinem put on that bunny suit and infiltrated the Playboy Mansion, she proved a feminist can look pretty damn hot and be pretty damn smart—gasp—at the same time.

Women before that and since have done incredible things. Today we can be mothers and CFOs; models who compete in triathlons; even a billionaire who can turn any book into a bestseller simply by pointing at it. And maybe, someday, a woman will run this country.

Women are emergency service workers, doctors and nurses, teachers, police officers and now war veterans who have always been there; underpaid but unwavering in their mission to do their best to maintain a solid community. And let’s not forget the mothers of them all: the stay-at-home moms.

So with all this inspiration, why is it that we see 7 and 8 year old girls eating only carrots because they think they’re too fat? Why do so many tween Halloween costumes look like hooker versions of what they’re really supposed to be? (I don’t remember Strawberry Shortcake's skirt being that short or her ever wearing thigh-high striped stockings!) Why are so many college women making sleazy men rich by “Going Wild” in front a video camera?

Something has gone awry. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with showing off your femininity, but when did it become wrong to show some I.Q. along with the flesh? In our quest to be proud of our woman-ness, have we abandoned the quest to develop our character and intelligence? I’d like to believe this isn’t true, but you can’t help but wonder how else can girls and young women growing up in an age with more life options than ever seem to worry more about how skinny they are and how sexy they look to boys.

And when a female candidate for President feels compelled to put on a waterworks display to prove she’s a woman, then maybe it’s time to shake the dust off of Feminism and prove that it’s more relevant than ever in our 21st century lives.

So as a starting gesture in the cause of Neo-Feminism, find yourselves an empowering goal and make it happen. I’ve already got mine: Like any girl, I would love to be in a music video; except I want to be surrounded by male video hotties and I want be the one slapping some ass for a change. Viva la revolucion!!