Monday, January 19, 2009

Sorry Tyler....I have to weigh in on the inaugural!

Congratulations to Tyler on his engagement! Having never participated I have no advice whatsoever for you about weddings or marriage. But I did enjoy your recent blog entry. I'm getting ahead though. Tim, this is a great idea, nice going. Noelle, thanks for setting it up. And congratulations to me, an old fart actually able to hobble over here to post a blog entry!

I enjoyed Tim's entry also and agree with him that the ideal political party would combine social liberalism with fiscal conservatism, though I do not translate "fiscal conservatism" as no social entitlements. It's impossible in a capitalist economy for everyone to become wealthy enough to pay for all that life can throw at you. That's because any economic system needs a workforce and labor is treated as a cost that must be controlled. Can you imagine what its like to live in this society making $10 per hour? And that is almost $4 higher than minimum wage!

I have to weigh in on this inaugural expense issue by setting this expenditure in a broader perspective than has been offered so far. As a person of modest means I am dumbfounded by any expenditures that exceed, oh say $1 million. So whenever tons of money is spent on anything I'm quite sceptical of its necessity. The Iraq war comes to mind. Expensive weddings come to mind. But I would argue that this is not your garden variety presidential inauguration; in fact its actually much more than an inauguration. As white Americans we all need to take a quiet moment sitting in our favorite chair to reflect on what this event means to people of color.

Imagine for a moment that you are a black kid growing up somewhere in the south in the 1950's walking by a park with two drinking fountains, one for whites and one for "coloreds" and your mom has to pull you away because you go for the wrong one. Or you are a young newlywed couple married in 1965 Atlanta looking for a nice restaurant to celebrate your anniversary but you're turned away because Negroes are not allowed. Or you are an educated African American in downtown Chicago in 1979 and you search and search for a professional job in the private sector and no one will hire you, but they won't say why. Or you are a 50 year old black man exiting a fine hotel in downtown Boston in 1988 waiting for the valet to bring your car and a thirtysometing white guy comes out and barks at you to get him his car. Or you're a young black bride to be in 1993 Salt Lake City looking at wedding dresses in a suburban store and no salesperson bothers to approach you. Or you're a 25 year old brown skined male driving around anytown USA in 2005 and you get pulled over by the police and harrassed for no reason other than you fit the profile of a troublemaker.

Now think of all the average, honest, hardworking, taxpaying, patriotic African Americans alive today who have ingrained in their psyche that although they are legally Americans, somehow they're really not because white people just don't look at them in a way that says "you're one of us". Feel the sense of being on the outside of society looking in. Then one November day in 2008 the entire country, still mostly white people, elect a person of color to be the leader of the entire country. In 12 hours of voting almost 400 years of disrespect are seemingly erased. (African slaves were first brought to Virginia in 1619).

Yes its all very symbolic, but incredibly real and emtionally powerful nonetheless. This inauguration is not just the swearing in of a new president. For every American with skin darker that European, this is a euphoric moment in their personal life. These are individuals who have experienced racially motivated ignoring, disrespect, humiliation, and rejection in the daily events of their personal lives. All I'm saying is we as whites who have always had the comfort of being on the inside and being fully socially accepted need to be sensitive to what this moment means to the "coloreds".
Let them celebrate...and of course it costs alot, there's 3 million people on the Mall in Washington as I write this. Let "them" celebrate....and I don't know about you, but as an American I'm joining them in spirit because I'm so happy for them...and for our country...we've come a long, long way since 1619.



  1. Eloquently put, and yes, I personally did put myself in so many people's shoes today, people who travelled obscene distances to just stand in a crowd and shiver. (Not sure I would do that if an Irish-Italian Catholic were elected, which btw, has never happened.)

    I am elated not just for them, but for all of us, discrimination in any form is the sign of an ignorant society. We are a very big step closer to ending it. I am very pleased to sense in my own young children not just acceptance but true color blindness (okay so we live in rich whitey-ville but still.)

    I just thought it would have been interesting to celebrate it in a different way, not the old white fart establishment way with balls, etc, the pomp and circumstance that costs so much.

    Three million people on the mall is a start. But how about a barbeque? A barbeque for America...!

  2. Is it ok if a Harte jumps in?

    Justice would be truly served if Madoff were made to sign the Inaguaral check.

    It would be hard for me find a political seat that is far enough to the left. It sickened me to see a minister that views the love I share with Renee as an abomination and sinful give the inaugural blessing. And then I cried as Aretha Franklin brought a lovely yet formaly pretty staid American song to the heights of gospel beauty that could make a Hasidic Jew sing the praises of Jesus. I watched as a few older black men saluted through the service and saw a group of Tuskegee Airman and the awe and pure joy was evident on their faces. Also a sense of grace and victory that I would not have had the patience to wait for.

    I believe we have elected a man who has seen the danger of eight years of extreme view. While there is a part of me that actually respects George W's committment to following his moral compass, it is not only his to follow. He represents all of us.

    No one person can represent all points of view...we'd have a psycho in the White House...but I believe we have elected someone who can walk the middle road with passion and dignity.

    My personal hope is that I can choose the person I want to love and committ my life to without having to create special words, ceremony and catagories to have the legal right to do so. However, as passionate as I feel about that, the agenda of unemployed Americans, families without health insurance, children with third and fourth rate educations, the return to trust of our financial foundation takes precident.

    At the risk of sounding simplistic, I'm not sure we need any uber educated financial geniuses to get us out of this mess. Perhaps we should heed the advise of Tom and Gerry who managed to raise 7 kids, own a home and put them all through college. They know how to follow a budget.

    Thanks for letting me jump in. I promise not to intrude unless I am at the point of spontaneous combustion

    Mary Jo
    January 20, 2009 1:23 PM

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  3. My response to Mary Jo was made in the Welcome Archive where her text is but now I see her text is here as well.
    I am learning alot about the blog. Go read it.

    May I say that I feel discrimiated against when Mr President is always referred to as an African American. Is it only the black in him that makes him? I wonder what his white Grandfather thinks having raised him in a "white" culture.

  4. Its in two places because I don't know what the hell I'm doing either.

    The politics around racial nomenclature makes me crazy. My hope is that as he has more time as president, he will be referred to as just that....president.

    I was thinking today that it is precisely his mixed background that made it possible for him to win given that he is black. I think being raised "white" in Hawaii is pretty difficult because it is such a multi cultural state and I believe caucasians are a minority (actual hawaiian citizens, not tourists). But you're right. That picture of him with his grandparents looks like he's sitting in between grandma and grandpa Harte! There's no denying that he has roots in middle class, midwest, white America.

    Anybody know how long Pope John Paul whatever was referred to as the "Polish Pope". That's probably how long we have to wait!

  5. I love the idea of a The National Barbeque on the mall, a la Woodstock without the acid. I think someday that may happen, given, to use Obama's own frequent words, how "tired" and "stale" the Inaugural Parade and Balls are. But I think this time (and it may be the last) it was important for black America to have Obama inaugurated with all the regalia and formality that all his white predecessors enjoyed, so that there was no feeling of being treated less importantly. To simplify and informalize the inaugural events is an idea still ahead of its time, and one that will fall on the shoulders of some future generation that has evolved past the need for symbols that give a false sense of power, dignity, and triumph. That day will come when we have acheived true might by having faced head on our major national problems. Then with the self-assuredness that we know better who we are and what we are capable of, we can celebrate in a simple way without fear that it means we are weak. I don't think its fair to say that Obama didn't live up to his ideals by rejecting the old style inaugural. It was too important for him to stick with the old symbolism both for black America and for whites who can accept a black president only if he doesn't stray to far from the "white way". Someday we'll all be able to handle doing it any other way we choose because we'll know that we're all one and the same.

  6. I am quite delayed in responding to Larry's comments and extremely well written scenarios regarding being Black in America.

    I was so touched by your creativity and eloquence that Jim and I both said it should be published in a magazine. I have thought about your words very much this past week. I admire your ability to create, write and share such insightful thoughts.

    To Tyler,
    Everyday I could come up with a bit of advice but none of us wants to be subjected to that. I do agree with Tim and Eileen. I would also agree with so many cliches that are really true, one that always comes to mind Patience is a virtue, we chose this person for a reason and as Eileen said if we remember all of the qualities that we were attracted to originally, we should still appreciate them even when we don't always have the patience.

    This is also true for the children that you will be bledssed with someday. Although we don't necessarily choose them, they are us.

    I will have more advice for you later, although not nearly as wise or experienced as Grammy and Gramps advice should they choose to share the secret to their 60 years.

    To Ger-iatric... I love your pen name!