“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” ~ Wayne Dyer

 

                   

“No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.” ~ Elie Wiesel 

Republican Kansas state legislator Connie O’Brien (Tonganoxie) really stuck her foot in it at a hearing last week when speaking against the subject of in-state tuition being granted to illegal immigrants who had met Kansas state residency requirements, which has been the state’s policy since 2004.

REP. O’BRIEN: My son who’s a Kansas resident, born here, raised here, didn’t qualify for any financial aid. Yet this girl was going to get financial aid. My son was kinda upset about it because he works and pays for his own schooling and his books and everything and he didn’t think that was fair. We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was, we didn’t think that was proper. But we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country. […]

REP. GATEWOOD: Can you expand on how you could tell that they were illegal?

REP. O’BRIEN: Well she wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.

According to an article in ljworld.com. this is, in fact, what happened:

The dispute was over testimony O’Brien gave last week to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee in support of a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for certain undocumented students.

O’Brien told the committee about an incident last year when she accompanied her son to enroll at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

A woman near them in line was requesting her scholarship money, but when the clerk asked for her photo identification, the woman said she had none, O’Brien said.

The woman then asked for someone else to help her, O’Brien said. O’Brien told the committee that the woman was going to get financial assistance, and her son, who was born and raised in Kansas, wasn’t.

“We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was. We didn’t think that was proper but we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country,” O’Brien said.

Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, had asked O’Brien how she could tell, and O’Brien replied, “She wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.” O’Brien said she had a son-in-law from Afghanistan, who had olive complexion, so the woman could have been from Afghanistan.

Another committee member, Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, told O’Brien during the committee hearing that the woman O’Brien had been speaking about, if she was an undocumented student, could not have received any federal or state scholarship funds.

“To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott

I’m so fricking angry that I’m spitting, and there exists a real possibility that I may kill my keyboard from typing too hard. And it’s not over the illegal immigrants thing (which is a whole other issue), but over the blatant racism: “She had the olive complexion.” (emphasis mine: the, as in there is only one kind of olive complexion?)

Excuse me . . . what? Olive complexion? You mean like mine? You mean like my sons? That olive complexion? The one that we got from my father who fought in three wars for this country? That olive complexion?

Oh, you know what? You, Connie O’Brien, and those of your ilk aren’t worth my dying from an aneurism from high blood pressure. Do all of us a favor and just sit down and shut up. Your extreme ignorance and racism are showing.

“Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful.” ~ Margaret Mead

As recently as Monday, O’Brien wasn’t certain that she was going to apologize, saying she needed “time to think.” O’Brien said that she thought that “the Democrats were making a big deal out of nothing ‘like they did with Bill Otto.’ Otto, a Republican state legislator from LeRoy, was criticized for making a video in 2009 in which he criticized President Obama in a ‘RedNeck Rap,’ while wearing a hat that said ‘OPOSSUM the other Dark Meat.’ Otto said he didn’t mean for his video to have any racial overtones.”

O’Brien’s apology today? “I misspoke and apologize to those I offended. I have learned from this situation and will be more careful with my choice of words in the future.”

I love that word—misspoke. It’s the ultimate in back-peddling: I said something, but actually, I misspoke, because I meant to say something less offensive, you know, something that wouldn’t cause a backlash, but as to my original sentiment, well, what can I say?

Misspoke/misspeak is so 1984: If you don’t like history, rewrite it, say that you misspoke. Or just use 1984‘s duckspeak, to speak without thinking, or as is the case with so many politicians who misspeak, they seem to get their singular brand of truth from Minitrue (the Ministry of Truth). I could go on, but really, you probably understand fullwise the day order of political doublethink.

But I digress . . .

I mean, certainly Bill Otto certainly didn’t mean anything offensive about “the other Dark Meat.” How could anyone with a brain believe otherwise?

Oh, wait. Operative phrase being with a brain, which, apparently, too many people in positions of power seem to be without.

Entertainer Josephine Baker said in 1963, “Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul; when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.”

Obviously, that day has yet to arrive.

More later. Peace.

Music by 30 Seconds to Mars, “Hurricane (This is War)”

                   

The following is one of my favorite Langston Hughes’ poems, and I taught it in every literature class that I had. I did not pick this poem to go with this post because Hughes was a black writer. I chose it because I believe that this is the kind of message that all mothers should pass on to their children: Life isn’t always easy, and it may not always seem to be fair; life isn’t always beautiful, and sometimes, you might seem to be stumbling around in the dark, but that doesn’t mean that you give up or that you quit trying. And by the way, Rep. O’Brien, you could learn a thing or two from Hughes.

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

And I Quote: “They made a pact with the devil (true story).” ~ Pat Robertson on the situation in Haiti

I apologize in advance if the image or content offend anyone. This particular post should probably be rated R for graphic violence and imagery.

The Face of Haiti, image by Eduardo Munez/Reuters

 

This is the circle in which we now dance:
One more body to tally, to move, to bury or burn,
no refuge, no safety, no comfort, no succor
only suvival now. ~ L. Liwag

I could not let go of this photograph. It stayed with me deep into the night and well past daybreak. From a country only hundreds of miles away and a culture far light years removed, this man called to me, and I could not let it go until I put something down in words. The words are rushed, coming into my mind faster than I can arrange them, but for now, this is what my heart wanted to say:

The Man Beseeches—

His tear-filled eyes plea
for help that will come too late
for the child he bears in his arms,
her lifeless body wrapped in a blood-stained winding sheet.
We cannot hear his anguished cries—
we know only that the closing of the shutter
has forever silenced that second of sorrow.

Look at him closely:
his furrowed brow and his fallen jaw
are mirrored on his daughter’s face,
now carefree in death.
The blood of his child seeps onto his dark shirt
and mingles there with his own unseen wounds,
indistinguishable, together,
memorialized now forever in the images
we ingest in the cloaked safety
of our existence,
completely removed from his pain. 

What are we to do with this man,
this manifestation of his country’s destruction?
Our words will not help him,
our wallets will not find him,
our shame will not touch him,
and sooner than we would like,
our guilt will render him into nothingness.

He is looking in the wrong direction,
this man beseeching.

“It’s possible to fight intolerance, stupidity and fanaticism when they come separately. When you get all three together it’s probably wiser to get out, if only to preserve your sanity.” ~ P. D. James

Infamous Image of Secret Service Agent Climbing President Kennedy’s Limousine

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ Haile Selassie

Warning: Free-thinking female liberal on a rant . . .

While perusing Andrew Sullivan’s “Daily Dish,” one of my political blogs, I came across a reference to an article by Mark Warren of Esquire. I clicked on the link to the article, which deals with the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and certain parallels to today’s society.

President Kennedy's Dallas Motorcade

The article, entitled “On the Anniversary of Kennedy’s Death, Extremism Lives On,” is a wonderful commentary on “the toxic atmosphere that holds in our current politics” with cries of socialism and communism at very turn. Warren then explains how he came across the following letter while doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas. Initially, I was going to include only selected parts of the letter, but after rereading it, I realized that the entire letter deserves to be read, so here it is.

The Letter:

Tyler, Texas
November 24, 1963
President Lyndon B Johnson
The White House
Washington D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

In this time of mourning and appreciating how very busy you are, I still must write about existing conditions here in East Texas, even if you are too busy to read this, because I feel it is my duty to do so. I wanted to write President Kennedy’s staff and try to get them to persuade him not to go to Dallas but unfortunately didn’t do it for fear of being that crank or busy–body. This time I will risk that appellation. I am frightened at conditions that prevail in East Texas.

Flier Created by John Birch Society

Mr. President, the easy thing and what is desperately trying to be done [is] to convince a stunned nation and world that Mr. Kennedy’s murder was the work of some deranged crackpot, and while the trigger was pulled by such a one, perhaps the atmosphere that made it inevitable was the hatred of the people (I don’t mean every one of them but a big majority) who wanted Mr. Kennedy and any one connected with him out of the White House. A week ago this might have sounded ridiculous but subsequent events lend it credence, I believe. There is a virus of disrespect and hate spreading here very rapidly. And unless one lives right here with it, day in and day out, it is unbelievable how quickly and subtly it infects reasonably intelligent persons. This is not too hard to understand only if one recognizes the unremitting, deep, bitter religious and racial prejudice existing today in this section of our land — I don’t know if any of them are similarly infected in other sections, but I know personally of what I speak as regards East Texas. In fact, although nearly every one indignantly denies having any racial or religious prejudice to the point where he deceives even himself in this matter, after listening seriously to protestations of horror and shock one can almost hear a collective sigh in essence, “Too bad he had to die but after all a Catholic is no longer in the White House and this ought to set the ‘niggers’ back on their heels for awhile!” It is painful to some of us I know to give credence to such a condition so we blind ourselves and blame a mentally confused person — forgetting in our desire to remove the blame from ourselves that where religious and racial prejudice prevails, not just the killer but all are mentally confused. When this prejudice is played upon adroitly and exploited actively (as in our locality) by such groups as The American Fact-Finding Committee and many more [of] that ilk, for instance the John Birchers, etc., it soon fans into a situation as exists here, many, many citizens ridden by a vicious hate which inevitably erupts and expresses itself in violence — as in the case of Mr. Kennedy’s murder in Dallas.

A strong evidence of this was the recent demonstration of violence against Ambassador Stevenson in Dallas, and even more clearly by an article carried in the Dallas News (a 100% anti-Kennedy sheet) stating that Mr. Bruce Alger [then-congressman from Dallas, and the only Republican in the Texas delegation] advised the citizens of Dallas there was absolutely no need to feel apologetic about this incident — everyone being free to express his opinion. He neglected to specify the degree of violence of such expression. And the citizens vote for Bruce Alger! So what can one expect? I just heard the flash about Oswald being shot and also the theory that is was caused by mass hysteria. That is here, all night, but I think rather there are certain groups and individuals who wish to insure Oswald’s complete and continuing silence because, knowing the ‘temper’ of Dallas, I can’t believe a known police character of Ruby’s caliber would risk his neck through any feeling of patriotism or love for Mr. Kennedy — can you?

I don’t know if anything can be done about the festering sore of prejudice and hatred on our social structure here, but I doubt if you can know its deadliness unless you are in constant, daily touch, and I thought it my duty to mention it, in that case, even though you may consider I am an alarmist and am exaggerating. I only wish I were.

Respectfully,

Charlotte Essman

Barack Obama at Richmond, VA Rally

“You have been asking what you could do in the great events that are now stirring, and have found that you could do nothing. But that is because your suffering has caused you to phrase the question in the wrong way . . . Instead of asking what you could do, you ought to have been asking what needs to be done.” ~ Steven Brust

What an incredible find, not just for Warren but also for those of us who carry with us a deep-seated anxiety over the current state of politics in the U.S., those of us who wonder openly if President Obama has enough security, wonder if the Secret Service is doing enough, if they are taking seriously the hate-fueled threats against the sitting POTUS.

To be perfectly candid, the anxiety over Obama’s safety is something that has plagued me since the campaign. After attending on of candidate Obama’s rallies, and seeing how open he made himself, I was immediately reminded of another president who wanted to make himself open to the American people: John Kennedy.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” ~ John F. Kennedy 

The other parallels between these two men have been discussed in just about every forum, but they bear noting: both men were accused of being communists because of their liberal politics. Both men were accused of dragging the country into socialism because of their desire to implement social change in a country that still treats part of its population as less than equal. Both men were questioned because of their ideologies, their backgrounds, their religious affiliations (or in the case of Obama, his supposed affiliations).

Fox Noise Phony Glenn Beck

And the most worrisome parallel between the two men rests not in the men themselves, but in the reactionaries who shout to the rafters about these two Presidents, separated by 46 years, generations, wars, and social change. In some of the more fanatical (and ignorant) quarters, President Obama’s plans for national healthcare are being compared to Nazi Germany. Take Rush Limbaugh: “Obama’s got a health care logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook . . . Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate.”  Or how about former New York lieutenant governor Betsy McCaughey with her death panel lie:  “Congress would make it mandatory—absolutely require—that every five years people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner.” And then there is Louie Grohmert, a Republican representative from Tyler Texas, who claims that the president’s healthcare bill will “absolutely kill senior citizens. They’ll put them on lists and force them to die early.”

What is truly amazing is that people really believe this idiocy. Death panels? Killing senior citizens? Nazi Germany? What are these people putting on their Wheaties?

Then there are the comments that defy categorizing: “This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, for the white culture . . . I’m not saying he hates white people (uh, you just did you moron). This guy has a problem. He has exposed himself as a racist,” this according to pompous ass Glenn Beck. Or how about John Boehner, the House minority leader, who declared that Obama’s stimulus package was, “one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment.”

“No government can help the destinies of people who insist in putting sectional and class consciousness ahead of general weal.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin Roosevelt Signing Social Security Bill

Of course, President Obama is not the first president to be accused of being a socialist or a communist. Any president who goes in as a reformer, that is, someone who takes on the status quo to improve the lives of the majority, is usually labeled as such. Consider FDR: The American Liberty League called Roosevelt both a fascist and a  socialist (what?).  When JFK and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare—a system that has become a staple of American society—they were accused of trying to convert this country to socialism. The American Medical Association denounced proposed medicare, sending out a letter to its members,  “Doctor, now is the time for you and every other ethical physician in the United States to individually and voluntarily pledge nonparticipation in HR-6675, the socialized hospitalization and medical care program for the aged.”

In 1961, Ronald Regan made a ten-minute plea on an LP for the AMA, concluding by saying that if Medicare passed, “one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” Barry Goldwater, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole—all fought against Medicare because it would cause the U.S. to become a socialist nation.

Unless I am seriously mistaken, the U.S. did not become socialist after the New Deal, or after Social Security, or after Medicare, or even after Earned Income Credit (thank Ronald Reagan for that on), all of which were supposed to take us on that long dark road to socialism and the end of our country as we know it.

“What experience and history teach is this—that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles.” ~ George Wilhelm Hegel

But as usual, I digress. What first struck me when I began writing this post is how both JFK and Obama took office as reformers, and how both men really caused an upheaval in conservative parts of the nation with their supposed radical ideas for change. I won’t delve into a detailed analysis of how these two men differ or ar similar as that is not the point of this post.

Kennedy did not listen to his advisors and went to Dallas on November 22, 1963. Kennedy also made the fatal mistake of telling Secret Service agents that he did not want them to ride on the small running boards at the rear of his open convertible. We all know what happened on that fateful day. Even those of you who are not old enough to remember that day in November still know all about it. History also tells us that many in this country, politicians included, believed that Kennedy got what he deserved.

If ignorance is bliss, then this woman is one happy camper

What kind of climate fostered such animosity against the president 46 years ago? The same kind of climate in which we currently find our country: hate-filled speech, hyperbolic statements likening the POTUS with Adolf Hitler, calls to arms, bold statements by those in the public eye that perpetuate this climate of fear, hatred, racism, and paranoia.

But what we need to remember is what happened as a result of the pervasive unrest then could happen now. Those who are being churned into a collective frenzy in their hatred for the man who currently sits in the Oval Office include individuals who only need a push in the right direction to carry that hatred into an act of senseless violence.

It’s all well and good for me to include examples of extreme ignorance, such as the smiling woman with the stupid poster, because I know ignorance when I see it. I also know racism and hate when I see and hear them. But there are people out there who suck up this kind of thing like milk and honey. It nourishes and sustains the hatred that is already part of their make up, and it is precisely this segment of the population that scares the living crap out of me.

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana’s quote is often repeated with variations, but the fact remains that Charlotte Essman’s letter could have been written yesterday.

More later. Peace.

Jann Arden and Jackson Browne singing “Unloved”