“I’d prefer that people such as I get our rights because we command respect and evince dignity, but if we get them because there’s money in it, that’s fine.” ~ Andrew Solomon, from The New Yorker blog (April 5, 2014)

This is perfect for a drizzly Monday afternoon . . .

Reblogged from The New Yorker (to see full post, click on link)

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Honey Maid and the Business of Love

For a long time, prejudice made a certain business sense. You could argue that it was immoral or wrong; others insisted that it was moral and godly. But there was little dispute about the business piece of it. Bill Clinton liked gay people, but he signed the Defense of Marriage Act nonetheless. Karl Rove knew it was smart to put all those anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot. Coors beer could advertise in gay magazines while funding anti-gay interests and keeping any hint of the “non-traditional” out of the ads it ran for general audiences. The regressive side in the so-called culture wars was presumed to include a majority of American consumers; businesses, worried about their image, tended to defer to them.

Now, Honey Maid, that old-fashioned brand of graham crackers, has launched an ad that shows, in the most radical and moving way of any national campaign so far, how much that has changed. It shows a two-dad family, a rocker family, a single dad, an interracial family, a military family. The two-dad household is featured at some length; you cannot be distracted away from it. Most striking is the tagline of the ad: “No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will. Honey Maid. Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family. This is wholesome.” The ad is deeply heartwarming—not simply because it shows diversity (which other companies have done) but because it labels these families with the word “wholesome,” which is exactly the kind of word that tends to get claimed by the evangelical right. People have long suggested that the new structures of the American family are “unwholesome” as a way of rationalizing intolerance. The idea of what is “against nature” has been central to messages of prejudice about both interracial relationships and homosexuality.

Honey Maid knew its ad would provoke controversy, and it did. So the company has made a follow-up spot that has been released on social media. “On March 10th, 2014, Honey Maid launched ‘This is wholesome,’ a commercial that celebrates all families,” the online short proclaims. “Some people didn’t agree with our message.” Viewers see close-ups of tweets and e-mails with remarks such as “Horrible, NOT ‘WHOLESOME,’” “DO NOT APPROVE!,” and “Disgusting!!” The title card says, “So we asked two artists to take the negative comments and turn them into something else.” We then see thirty-year-olds Linsey Burritt and Crystal Grover, who collaborate under the name INDO, taking a printout of each hateful comment and rolling it into a tube, then grouping the tubes at one end of a vast, industrial-looking space to create an assemblage that spells out “Love.” The artists appear to walk away, their work done. Then the online ad proclaims, “But the best part was all the positive messages we received. Over ten times as many.” Then we see e-mails with epithets such as “family is family” and “love the Honey Maid ad” and “this story of a beautiful family” and “most beautiful thing.” The entire room fills up with tubes made from these messages. Finally, we are told, “Proving that only one thing really matters when it comes to family … ,” and then we see the word “love” embraced by a roomful of paper tubes. The pacing of the spot is impeccable: the first half turns hatred into love, and the second half provides evidence of love itself. In its first day online, it garnered more than 1.5 million views.

“The fruition of the year had come and the night should have been fine with a moon in the sky and the crisp sharp promise of frost in the air, but it wasn’t that way.” ~ Sherwood Anderson, from Winesburg, Ohio

John Fabian Carlson River in Winter oil on canvas nd

“River in Winter” (nd, oil on canvas)
by John Fabian Carlson

                   

The weather is calling for a massive winter storm. It was 62 degrees today. Does this make any sense? Well, I wanted snow, I suppose.

John Fabian Carlson WInter Willows c1935

“Winter Willows” (c1935)
by John Fabian Carlson

Bright Sun after Heavy Snow

A ledge of ice slides from the eaves,
piercing the crusted drift. Astonishing
how even a little violence
eases the mind.

In this extreme state of light
everything seems flawed: the streaked
pane, the forced bulbs on the sill
that refuse to bloom . . . A wad of dust
rolls like a desert weed
over the drafty floor.

Again I recall a neighbor’s
small affront — it rises in my mind
like the huge banks of snow along the road:
the plow, passing up and down all day,
pushes them higher and higher…

The shadow of smoke rising from the chimney
moves abruptly over the yard.
The clothesline rises in the wind. One
wooden pin is left, solitary as a finger;
it, too, rises and falls.

~ Jane Kenyon

                   

John Fabian Carlson Windswept Places, oil on canvas nd

“Windswept Places” (nd, oil on canvas)
by John Fabian Carlson

Snow at the Farm

My father gets his tractor out.
It is winter, finally—the first
big snow of the year—and

he is eighty-four. He does not leap
into the seat the way that I
remember, but once he’s there

he pulls down the brim of his cap,
and all-in-one his legs and arms
work at clutches, throttles, and

levers as he pushes and loads
the snow into neat hills at
the edge of the yard. The sun

is a bright shield in the sky,
something I cannot bear to look at,
and the snow is so white that

it shows black where the plow
cuts in. From the kitchen window
I watch the red tractor moving

back and forth through the blue
and white world, my father’s
hands at the wheel.

~ Joyce Sutphen

                   

Music by Lottie Kestner, “Halo”

“I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.” ~ Nelson Mandela, from a 1962 court statement

Nelson Mandela guardianlv dot com

Nelson Mandela (from guardianlv.com)

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995)
July 18, 1918 to December 5, 2013

I have always been in awe of this great man. I remember the protests at the South African Embassy in 1984 when it became de rigueur to be arrested for protesting against apartheid. We were living in Northern Virginia at the time, so it was constantly on the local news. By the time the protests began, Nelson Mandela had been in prison for over 20 years, having been convicted in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy and sabotage against the state of South Africa along with Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni. Mandela was released in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison.

In 1993 Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

But it was what happened in 1994 that really sticks with me: South Africa’s first free elections. The news reports and images were powerful, and they have stayed with me all these years.

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Voters line up outside the polling station in the black township of Soweto during South Africa’s first democratic elections, in 1994. Photograph by Denis Farrell/AP

It was not until April of 1994 that South Africa’s first all-race elections were held. Lines for the election stretched for more than a mile in some areas and with voters waiting up to 12 hours to cast their ballots in others. Though many feared violence would erupt, over the four day election period from April 26 to April 29, but peace remained in tact. More than 17 million black South Africans over the age of 18 voted for the first time during those four days (from Avoice)

I remember the historical first free election in South Africa in 1994, the articles about the long lines of people waiting hours and hours for the privilege of voting. The election lasted over four days because that’s how long it took to process everyone who wanted to vote.

“My parents never saw this day. My husband never saw this day,” regretted Mildred Motsuenane, a blind, arthritic mother of 10 children. The gray-haired woman was weeping in triumph after balloting in a church in the Soweto ghetto that was ringed and ringed again by a patient throng. Emerging into the sunlight, she could not see how elegantly the lines of voters laced the hillside sprawl of the dirt-road town.

Elderly Black Voter Casts his Vote in 1994 SA BBC AP

An elderly black man is supported while casting his vote (1994, BBC/AP)

For a long time, my bulletin board at work held a copy of a quote from one of the oldest individuals to vote in the election. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what the quote said or what happened to it; I just remember that it made me misty-eyed. I have tried to include some contextual articles below for those of you who do not remember those incredible days in 1994.

Over 17 million people voted; can you imagine that many people in our country voting? Standing in line for hours and hours, no shelter, no seating? I can’t see that happening here. Here are a few of the quotes from voters that I could find:

Vote for Democracy by Hamilton Budaza 1994 ink on paper

“Vote for Democracy” (1994, ink on paper)
by Hamilton Budaza

“I have waited all of my life for this day. No long queue is going to stop me.” ~ unknown voter

“I am so happy to have lived to see this day. It is the day Mandela is coming to us.” ~ Albert Madiwane, 108, voting for the first time in his life

“We’ve been waiting five hours, but other people have been waiting 40 years.”~ Thomas Lethiba, 24, a Soweto voter

“It’s finished, it’s finished, for the first time in 82 years. At the age of 82 I am free!” ~ Martha Motseli, voting for the first time in her life

“That was one of the things that worried me—to be raised to the position of a semi-god—because then you are no longer a human being. I wanted to be known as Mandela, a man with weaknesses, some of which are fundamental, and a man who is committed.”

In the U.S. we take for granted what other countries are willing to die for: basic human rights, democracy, free speech, clean drinking water, medical care, books . . . As a country, we choose to elevate our athletes and movie stars to positions of fame and fortune. We adore the moneyed, and we forgive their sins so easily (Wall Street, anyone?). We want our politics to be uncluttered and easy.

Nelson Mandela became a hero the hard way. He believed in an idea, and he worked tirelessly for that idea until the day he died. Mandela was the voice and face of freedom for so many. His death is a loss for peoples of all nations and creeds.

                   

Recommended Reading (from me), specifically on Mandela:

Context on key events surrounding apartheid and South Africa:

And of course, the quotes: