Posted tagged ‘politics’

The answer, my friend…

August 24, 2009

A few weeks ago I heard a man speaking about aid work. At one point, in the middle of a litany of problems in the world, he spoke of “countries where the winds of political change are blowing.”

I don’t know whether anyone else noticed what was happening through the plate glass windows behind him as he spoke, though: just as he dropped the tempest-as-politics metaphor a man walked into view in the background carrying a leaf blower, cleaning up outside while we sat inside listening. And there they were: the winds of change.

The contrast couldn’t have been much more stark: an older white man in an air-conditioned room talking about how we respond when the winds of change blow, discussing our reaction to the uncontrollable and unpredictable forces of political nature; and outside, a sweaty, dark-skinned man in his thirties making the wind blow, harnessing it to get the job done.

Maybe I should go on record here and say that I don’t actually think very highly of leaf blowers. Good old fashioned raking is good for me, doesn’t pollute the air and can actually get wet leaves as well as dry ones. And while I’m qualifying, I don’t want to pick on older white men or play into tired stereotypes. Actually, I’m seeing some particular older white men do amazing and visionary work these days. My point has more to do with the winds of political change. I think it’s important to realize that they don’t just blow, people make them blow.

The consequences of the distinction are notable, and significant in at least two ways. First, if we perceive the world as something that happens to us, then the best we can hope for is to react well. If we perceive the world as a space in which we move, however, our choices are much broader, and our sense of possibility much richer. We don’t just react, we act.

Perhaps more importantly, if we put the agency back into politics, i.e. we remember that movements and events don’t ‘just happen,’ but are chosen by individuals, then we are more likely to perceive not only the possibility of different choices, but also the humanity of the people involved in making them. That last part is particularly important, I think, and in a social context that so often tries to force complex reality into dichotomies— Democrat/Republican, Israeli/Palestinian, rich/poor, Christian/Muslim, us/them— it takes conscious intention to maintain a nuanced and human perspective.

When that ironic moment presented itself I almost chuckled out loud, but I caught myself, and I spent the rest of the day thinking about what it meant.

And what does it mean? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.


A quick post-election blog

November 10, 2008

… in between all the baby photos (more soon, you can be sure).

My sister Kathy, who is a first year law student at Cornell with a focus on working on our broken death penalty system, wrote a piece on her blog entitled “Now What? A Note to my Co-Liberals.” It’s a good read, whether you’re one of the aforementioned or not, and since I’m committed to an anti-gloating platform, I’ll just send folks there to read it.

On a personal note, I’m waking up in a hotel near Clemson this morning, having driven half-way back from my last road show in Atlanta last night. It was good fun, in spite of some fall allergy vocal issues I’m struggling with.

And now I’m going home. The next thing on my calendar that will require my being away from Deanna and Mason overnight is next June when I need to attend a conference in England. Wow. Seven months. So much to celebrate.

An email I just got

October 9, 2008

I got an email from an old friend in Wyoming today. It disturbed me.

I’ll include the text of the original email here and my response to it below that. I was writing primarily to a Christian friend of mine, and I write to her in that context, so forgive me if it’s a little long on religion for some readers.

On Oct 9, 2008, at 12:54 PM, ***** wrote:

—– Original Message —–

More on the special subject that keeps our blood pressures high.

Been around but you should read this one more time especially if you are a Democrat.

Think you know who this man is?

This possible President of the United States !! Read Below and ask yourselves, is this REALLY someone we can see as the President of our great nation!!!!

Below are a few lines from Obama’s books; In HIS words!

From Dreams of My Father: ‘I ceased to advertise my mother’s race at the age of 12 or 13, when I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.’

From Dreams of My Father : ‘I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mother’s race.’

From Dreams of My Father: ‘There was something about him that made me wary, a little too sure of himself, maybe. And white.’

From Dreams of My Father: ‘It remained necessary to prove which side youwere on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and namenames.’

From Dreams of My Father: ‘I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn’t speak to my own. It was into my father’s image, the black man, son of Africa , that I’d packed all the attributes I sought in myself , the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.’

And FINALLY the Most Damming one of ALL of them!!!

From Audacity of Hope: ‘I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.’

* If you have never forwarded an e-mail, now is the time to Do so!!!! We CANNOT have someone with this type of mentality running our GREAT nation!! I don’t care whether you a Democrat or a Conservative. We CANNOT turn ourselves over to this type of character in a President. PLEASE help spread the word!


To others who received and/or sent this note,

I received this email with some dismay, so I’m responding. To not respond would be disrespectful. I respect the person who sent it, and since I’ve been invited into the conversation, I’ll put in my two cents.

I highly, highly recommend that each of you get this book and read it. At least go and find the quotations and check their context. I challenge you to read Dreams From My Father and still think that these out of context excerpts represent the man who wrote it. It’s at the library if you’re concerned about sending money his way.

Until you do that, though, let me set some context.

The first excerpts about race have to do with the struggles of a biracial young man to find his identity in a world where he didn’t seem to belong anywhere. There were periods of his youth where he was angry (anyone not have those periods in their own youth?), and where he got into trouble in a search for who he is. These quotes relate to different times when as a teenager he got off-track. He is admitting that he was off-track in the book, and it is duplicitous to present these quotations as though he’s saying that’s how he feels and what he stands for.

It would be simple to pull lines out of context from the Holy Bible itself and make it look like a crazy rant, but if you actually read it, a different picture emerges. Anything can be pulled out of context and turned against itself.

It’s irresponsible to forward a fear-mongering note like this without having read the book. If anyone else has read it and wants to have a discussion of it, I welcome that – it’s the work of democracy to kick these ideas around and respectfully forge our way forward as a nation.

As for standing with the Muslims, it is the job of Christians to stand with all persecuted people when they are persecuted unfairly, as some Christians stood with Jews in southern France during the holocaust (told beautifully in the book “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed”) Read what Jesus had to say in the Sermon on the Mount. These are our instructions, and Obama in this part of the book is talking about unfair persecution of a religion within our country. Friends, if we’ve stopped believing in religious freedom, we have ceased to be America. If we will only stand up to defend people who agree with us, we have nothing left to be proud of. What Obama refers to in this quotation is a scenario where Muslims were being attacked for being Muslim. What would you do in that situation? I’d like to think I would come to their defense, as a Christian and an American.

Thanks to everyone in the country who is participating in the dialog. It’s our job as Americans. It’s what democracy looks like. Since I received this email from someone I love and respect, I’m responding with a heartfelt and I hope helpful contribution to the conversation that was started.

God bless us all,


Well Put

August 18, 2008

This is an op-ed in the religious section of the Washington Post regarding the McCain/Obama/Warren ‘conversation’ at the Saddleback Church yesterday. If you’re looking at politics from a Christian perspective, or interested in that conversation, it’s well worth a read.