Out of Curiosity

Does anyone out there ever look at this page anymore? Admittedly there hasn't been anything here to look at for quite a while - most of my musings these days come in status outbursts on Facebook. Just wondering.

Extending hands, hoping for unclenched fists

"Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more."
- Barack Obama, 1/20/09

I was stunned to hear the President of the United States say something like this today. Really, I almost couldn't believe my ears. I guess I am more used to hearing Presidents use phrases like "Evil Empire" and "Axis of Evil" and "you're either with us or against us." Today, I was not alone in seeing the world as one world - and in the midst of all the world's troubles, I am overwhelmed with hope. I want it to last. I'm prepared to put my own efforts into making it last.

I've never experienced a day like this before. My mother on the phone this evening told me I was getting a taste of what it was like in a time before me, when Americans knew the inspiration of leaders like John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I heard a new amazement in her voice, that her children were actually experiencing the kind of power those leaders once inspired. I think she thought she'd never see that happen for her kids (my sister and brother-in-law were somewhere out there on the Mall - I can't wait to hear their stories). I sure wouldn't have believed it myself, even four years ago. Our nation has been through a terrible, dark time. It's still in one. But today I fervently believe what I have often questioned in recent times - and I know the American spirit will prevail.

I took the morning off from work today to attend a community viewing of the Inauguration at the Mexican Heritage Center. The event was the brilliant brainchild of an African-American gentleman (I'm trying to Google his name now but I can't find it quickly) who related an anecdote about telling one of his fellow African-Americans about the Mexican Heritage Center, a wonderful community center in San Jose, and asking if she'd been there. She had replied, "Well - no, I didn't think that was for us." I was tempted to raise my hand and share with the auditorium my own anecdote, about how I once performed in the building in a Chinese play. And, of course, there were people of all races and cultural backgrounds in the auditorium today. Clearly, the Mexican Heritage Center is for everyone!

The hundreds of us present cheered at the sight of the sheer enormity of the walls and walls of people in D.C. when the giant TV screen was turned on. I couldn't helped but be moved by the massive example of a peaceful assembly. I could feel kindness and regard emanating from all those people. If that's a corny thing to say, I don't care. I know that's what I felt.

When Obama arrived on the scene, we engaged in a standing ovation for a man who was on the other side of the country and certainly couldn't see what we were doing. We cheered, we applauded, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who teared up. We stood for Biden's oath and we stood for Obama's oath. So much standing and sitting and standing again I began to feel like I was at Mass!

We watched the ceremonies up until the poem by Elizabeth Alexander. The TV was turned off and our organizer returned to the stage and said "Wow." I think he spoke for everyone in the building. He soon thereafter introduced Joyce Randolph, whom he called "our own Aretha Franklin" who led the crowd in "America the Beautiful." She was indeed fabulous like Aretha, living proof of the rich talent that exists in so many corners of the country. We held hands and strangers hugged strangers when the song was done.

Then we broke up in small groups that met in various rooms in the building - some groups met in the classroom; mine met in the theater lobby. Our group facilitator led us in discussion of two questions (here I paraphrase): "What did Obama's inaugural speech mean to you, and what do you think it means for America?" and "What are the possibilities you see in serving the community?" Our small group was reflective of the large group in terms of its diversity in age, race, and gender. We discussed a great spectrum of issues, and came up with an action item for everyone: "Get to Know Your Neighbors." We reconvened into the big group and representatives from each of the twelve of so small groups spent a few minutes sharing thoughts.

I have felt deep cynicism and sorrow in my life, on global, national, and personal levels. But I have never for one second, ever lost the belief I have in the incredible potential for goodness and strength that exists in human beings, and today I saw that potential brim to the surface, in the people around me, in the million or so on the National Mall, in the new leader of the Free World. Whatever happens from here on out, I will always know what I witnessed today.

Around noon Pacific Time, when this ingenious event in San Jose came to a close, Joyce Randolph took the stage again. She led us in another song. This time, it was "We Shall Overcome." Halfway through, the man next to me turned to me and warned me he was going to yell out: "Everybody hold hands." Everybody did. And, finally, Joyce brought to us one final verse:

We have overcome,
We have overcome,
We have overcome, today.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We have overcome, today.
  • Current Mood
    happy joyous

All Animals Deserve Humane Treatment

I'm tired, and my writing may not be at its most structured (or even at its least structured), but some of today's thoughts are below. There are likely to be typos that I'm too worn out to find and fix. And I'm ranting a bit, I'll admit. But I only rant when I care.

Here's a scan of the leaflet I passed out at the farmer's market yesterday. It was my first leaf-letting experience. I was scared about how people would react, but at a Prop 2 gathering I attended one of the speakers said to think about how you weren't campaigning for yourself, but for the animals, and that thought definitely helped me feel brave enough to spread the message. And fortunately, pretty much the worst thing anyone did to me was ignore me. Lots of people seems to really applaud what I was doing, and that felt good.

I've been studying the opposition's Web site a bit (the group calls itself SAFE: Safe and Affordable Fresh Eggs) and the deceptions there are pretty boggling. Most campaign materials for anything or anyone (at best) stretch or "garnish" the truth . . . I'll admit even the sides I'm on do that (Sarah Palin didn't try to coerce the Wasilla librarian into censoring that list of books, and she isn't trying to stop evolution from being taught in schools. Don't worry, I still don't want her in the White House).

But for a group like this to claim that they have the animals' best interests at heart is just - - - well, doesn't the slightest grain of truth matter to them? If they want to claim that Prop 2 will raise egg prices, fine. Perhaps they will go up by fractions of pennies, but IHMO the easing of lifetimes of suffering is well worth that. They want to argue that outdoor access for chickens puts them in contact with wild birds and increases risk of avian flu? Okay, but, while I could stop at pointing out that Prop 2 would phase out the use of battery cages by 2015 but doesn't mandate outdoor access, I also hardly think cramming chickens in cages so small and so close together that they are forced to defecate on each other sends a reassuring message about the priority factory farms place on public health.

Of all the "No on 2" arguments, though, the one that really gets me is that theirs is a coalition that cares about animal welfare. They might actually believe their other arguments, but I can't imagine they could believe this claim. Case in point: the No on 2 Web site lists the groups that support under different categories, one of which is "ANIMAL WELFARE INTERESTS & VETERINARY SERVICES." There aren't many groups under that heading (unsurprisingly, there are far more vets and welfare groups listed on the Yes on 2 site), but I checked out the Web sites of the groups that are, and here's a typical example:

Sportsmen’s & Animal Owner’s Voting Alliance, which describes itself as "a nationwide, nonpartisan group of volunteers seeking to elect politicians who will oppose the 'Animal Rightist' (AR) threat to our rights as Americans." It uses the term "Animal Rightist" and the abbreviation "AR" so often throughout its site it starts to seem like a twisted slur, and it lists politicians in all 50 states who support pro-animal legislation as problems. This is an animal welfare interest group how?

Also, I invite someone from the No on 2 campaign to tell me exactly how many of the businesses listed under the "FAMILY FARMS & BUSINESSES" category are actually family farms. I do recognize quite a few names under that heading as belonging to factory farms - names I recognize from past animal cruelty investigations.

I don't see anything extreme about ensuring that living, breathing creatures can live their lives with enough space to turn around. Happily, I think the majority of Californians will agree with me on Nov. 4. But that doesn't mean these dishonest tactics don't upset me, not when how we treat our fellow earthlings is at stake.

Maybe Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS makes it clearer than I am right now:
  • Current Mood
    hopeful hopeful


I was saddened and shocked to learn of the death of Pete Camejo this weekend. I believe he was in politics because he truly, deeply, simply wanted to make the world a better place. It's so regrettable to lose such a voice in times like these. May his ideals live on..


All I Want Is Some Truth

Weekend Assignment #231: Over the years we've had a number of oddball candidates for public office, from cartoon characters to a live pig, from comedians to tv stars to an ex-wrestler. But it's only in recent years that a candidate who doesn't fit the usual profile can run for office and actually expect to win. Who is the most unusual political candidate you have ever supported, either seriously or in jest?

Extra Credit: Present politicians excepted. have you ever regretted voting for a candidate, in light of later events?

Hmmmm . . . at first thought, at least, this one's a bit of a stumper. I've never supported a political candidate in jest . . . it's simply never occurred to me to do that. I've a feeling it was a good deal more common to do that sort of thing before I was of voting age . . . why that would be, I have no idea, but there it is. Then again, the California recall that brought us the Governator was really just a few years ago, and given what a circus that was, I may have to take the first part of this paragraph back. Still, even then, I didn't voice any support for Gary Coleman, the Porn Star, the Sumo Wrestler, or any of another 130+ candidates. I quite seriously voted against the recall, and quite seriously voted for Pete Camejo should the recall happen against my wishes. Obviously, things went really well on both counts for me there (not).

I've definitely supported candidates whom some people around me thought were real weirdos, especially on the local (i.e., City Council) level, but I just thought they were right. And courageous enough to stand for their real principles. Go weirdos!

As a member of the Green Party, I cast one of the votes that selected Cynthia McKinney as our party's official 2008 Presidential Candidate. I suppose she could be considered an unusual candidate for being both African-American and female, but those aren't good reasons to be considered unusual. Although I'm glad to see her make it this far, I do fully intend to vote for the Democratic ticket in the general election, largely because the only realistic alternative is far too frightening. Even though I live in a blue state and could most likely get away with voting for McKinney without risking anything for Obama anyway, strange things happen in this state sometimes (see above).

I'm kind of glad I didn't have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Obama, because, frankly, I couldn't. Now that that's been decided for me I am, like Hillary, behind Obama all the way.

Extra Credit:

Honestly, no, I've never regretted voting for a candidate. Usually, my candidate hasn't won anyway, so there's nothing to regret. I could write about the one time I voted for a Republican, but that was such a freezing day in hell I wasn't able to make it to the polls (ha!). Narrowing it down to Presidential elections, the first one I was (barely) eligible to vote in was Bill Clinton vs. Bush Sr. in 1992, and I'm glad my candidate won. In 1996, I voted for Ralph Nader because it was already abundantly clear that Clinton was going to take that one over Dole, so I don't regret voting my conscience in that one. In 2000 I voted for Gore and words cannot begin to express how strongly I feel that one should have worked out my way. In 2004 I voted for Kerry. Not that he's my favorite guy in the world, but I was/am very dismayed to see the Bush administration last four more long years.

On another note, which doesn't really fit the question but I'll write about it anyway, I expressed mild disappointment that Barack Obama picked yet another middle-aged white man to be his running mate. In most regards, Joe Biden seems like an acceptable choice, but I couldn't help thinking: after Hillary's concession, we have to go right back to the old boy's club? I thought that cinched it. It didn't even occur to me that John McCain would pick a woman for his running mate. He picked one with some of the scariest political stances I've ever seen, certainly not a woman who is any friend to the environmental and animal rights issues I deeply care about, and the idea of McCain winning the White House just became about a billion times more ominous to me. I clearly need to be more careful what I wish for.
  • Current Mood
    worried worried

The world is watching . . . something

Weekend Assignment #230: Have you been watching the Olympics? If so, what have you particularly enjoyed? If not, then what, if anything, would entice you to watch?

Extra Credit: Is there a sport not in the Olympics that ought to be there?

Um, the Olympics have been happening?

OK, actually it isn't quite that bad. I know the Olympics began on 8/8/08 and ended today. Having been in Beijing myself two years ago, I even made a few first-hand observations of the city's gargantuan efforts to prepare itself for them. However, although the Olympics happened neatly within the break I had between summer semester and fall semester (which starts tomorrow! - of course, I've still been working), my awareness of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing basically boils down to this:

There was a very expensive opening ceremony in which a little girl with straight teeth sang, and it was later revealed that it was a little girl with crooked teeth who was doing the actual singing, and there was an American guy named Michael Phelps who was a rather big deal, and he swam, and he has a mother.

I might have watched some of the Olympics if I were more inclined to watch things on television in general, and if I wasn't spending my brief break attending to the run of the play Proof at Santa Clara Players, where I'm on the Board, celebrating my birthday with my friends, celebrating my birthday with my family (actually I did see about five minutes of a women's track meet at my parents' house last Saturday), checking out the
Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Francisco MOMA, checking out the Santa Cruz White Album Ensemble at San Jose's free Music in the Park series, going out to a nature preserve to watch bats at sunset, and savoring the sublime luxury of actually getting to read a novel for fun.

All things considered, I think I'm happy with the way I spent my break.