vendredi, mars 28, 2008

The appearance of balance

It wasn't until I read Matt Bai's blog on the 2008 campaign this evening that I was able to think articulate what bothered me so much about the Barack Obama comment made while addressing the Jeremiah Wright contretemps.

His grandmother was a "typical white person," in her reactions to black people, specially young black men, he asserted. OK, that was a revealing comment. Some of us white folks don't get nervous and want to cross the street when we see a group of young black men walking towards us. Or any more nervous than if they were a group of young white men-in certain circumstances.

But what really bugged me was Obama's need to balance one criticism, that of Rev. Wright, with the other he implied-that of his white grandmother. There was some kind of covert signalling going on there-I suspect Obama was reassuring the black community that he wasn't slamming them to make whites feel good.

Yes-he gets a lot of credit for raising the topic of race in the sophisticated and open way that he did.

However, I still don't think he needed to bring his grandmother into the conversation. A more general reference to white fears would have done the same thing without dragging in someone with whom he admittedly had a challenging relationship..

We seem to believe that if we allow for competing voices, diverse points of view, we create balance.

Yet in fact, we are left with competing voices-each whispering to their particular target group what they really would like to hear.

The invention before the invention

Didn't you grow up thinking Thomas Edison was the man who invented recorded sound?

Apparently he wasn't-although he may have been the first person who thought about recording it so we could hear it.

See the article linked above for a fascinating vignette about a Frenchman named Scott and his phonautogram, a horn attached to a stylus.

Invented years before Edison got his patent, the phonautogram recorded sound onto a piece of paper blackened by lamp oil. Edison still gets the nod for conceptualizing the notion of sound that is played back.

Discovered by American scientists, the seconds-long recording of "Au Clair de la Lune" will be played in public today at a conference. Discoverers speculate it was a recording made of Scott's 15 year old daughter-a small window into a past that, up until a day or so ago, few of us knew existed.

jeudi, mars 27, 2008

The sign (s) of McCain

So what do you know about Senator John McCain?

A war hero. Yes. But so was John Kerry.

An Episcopalian who now says he is Baptist, or it the other way around?

A member of the Senate who has missed a lot of important votes this year because he was campaigning-OK, so did Obama and Hillary.

A lawman who was against tax cuts for the wealthy before he was for them.

A Senator who indulged in a flirtation with the Democrats about becoming Vice President, who now says he is a conservative Republican.

A man who thinks we need to stay in Iraq until we "win."

A candidate who thinks those suckers with mortgages staring foreclosure in the face should drown, and the banks should be helped-because why feel sorry for people who got themselves into this mess to begin with...

In other words, a former member of the Straight Talk Express who has now veered off the tracks so that he can look more like a conservative, and less like a man with a conscience that bridges party lines. McCain might look good to independents right now-we'll see what happens when he debates Obama, and his views are defined...or redefined, for us, the voters.

mercredi, mars 26, 2008

My piece from the Inquirer today

Lots of helping hands needed
The culture makes it hard for a girl to grow into a woman.
By Elizabeth
> A few days ago, I made a reconnaissance mission through the living room to check out what my daughter was doing on our family computer.
> I stole up behind her chair and looked over her shoulder.
> Scanning the minuscule blue shorts and matching top that barely covered her virtual form on a Web site in which she was engrossed, I told my parochial school seventh grader to change the outfit immediately or delete the Web site.
> Upon closer inspection, I discovered that what I thought was an innocent fashion-oriented Web site was also a rendezvous point for male icons with names like "Screw-your-mother."
> It was a moment of truth for both of us.
> From the sexual opportunism of a rap songs (Ludacris' ditty "Money Maker," popular a few years ago, still gives me the creeps) to the more recent news that 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears was pregnant by her older boyfriend, girls are overwhelmed with negative messages about what it means to be young, American and female.
> As the mother of a girl on the cusp of what may be her most vulnerable years, I am dismayed that we haven't made more progress in creating a healthy social environment for our daughters.
> Instead, many parents seem to have bought into the hyper-sexualized media culture - or thrown up their hands and abandoned the arena.
> When I spoke to my daughter about the Spears family melodrama, she made an astute comment. "You don't hear much about Jamie's parents, Mom - except that her sister, Britney, thinks her mom slept with her boyfriend."
> Eeeeew.
> To be candid, I wish I didn't feel the need to have conversations about good choices, chastity and autonomy every other week. But as long as my daughter is willing to engage in them as an equal (or almost equal) partner, we're going to continue to have them.
> Given the plethora of bad examples out there, we have no shortage of material.
> In the recent sex-for-hire scandal involving Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York, and 22-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupre, one has to ask: Who was the real victim?
> Was it the wealthy man who was outed by a newspaper and forced to resign? Or was it the young woman who says she escaped a broken home, experienced drug addiction and homelessness, and turned to prostitution to pay the rent?
> Across college campuses, many young female students from relatively affluent middle-class families are being confronted with a "hook-up" culture that demands that they participate in casual sex if they are going to be popular.
> The damage being done to our kids crosses socioeconomic lines. I have listened to tales of sexual abuse, child abandonment and feuding parents from young stylists at the hair salon that almost moved me to tears.
> As parents, we need to be much bolder in holding our media and schools accountable in promoting healthy values - and we also have to take a long, honest look at our own choices.
> What do you watch? What kind of company do you keep? How do you act?
> Don't worry that showing persistent interest and setting rules makes you persona non grata with your daughter; it won't. Sometimes we also have to admit we are clueless and need help.
> I have found Dr. Walt Mueller's Center for ParentYouth Understanding ( to be an invaluable resource in educating me about movies, music and other media that are part of the youth culture.
> When my artsy daughter yearns for the Abercrombie & Fitch outfits and persona that she thinks would make her instantly chic, I tell her that she will never simply be an "Abercrombie girl."
> I have to trust that in time, she will learn from her parents, her friends and her church that it is a wonderful blessing to be strong and confident, creative and opinionated.
> It is my responsibility to help her claim her gifts, but it is also my great privilege.

Elizabeth lives and writes in Glenmoore.

lundi, mars 24, 2008

Summer Plans

We have interesting summer camps for the kids this year. They have clearly outgrown most of the YMCA camps that kept them amused in previous ones.

This year Mr. C and his sister the DQ (Drama Queen) are both going to Camp Invention. A national organization has a place in Coatesville for a week- a week in which children get to put their imaginations to work.

Colin is also going to a week away at camp. I find this very hard to take. I know I will cry. But I try not to let him know how upset I am, because, after all, he thinks he is ready to go. Asked about the week away as I talked to him in bed tonight, he said philosophically: "It will be an experience."

But it's Camp Invention he's really excited about. Sian is going, too, he said, and I'm going to make something for her. Knowing how fond he is of the sister who so often gives him grief, I asked him to tell me more. A grin splitting his freckled face, he said "Something that will give her a mild shock every time she's mean to me."

A doctor writes on prayer

I often wish people on both sides of the science-religion debate were less self-righteous and less ignorant. If it is based on knowledge, tolerance can help us make progress towards helping people.

If this arena wasn't mostly the province of men, we probably would have gotten further....

If only more could have Dr. Klitzman's irenic attitude (see the link above).

Although he may have been led to his position by personal tragedy, it is not an unreasonable one.
My son, at ten, is trying to find a place of reconciliation between science and religion. Would that our clergy and our scientists could find the maturity to do this, too!

dimanche, mars 23, 2008

Eastward towards Son Rise

I read a commentary in the "Modern Love" essays in the New York Times Saturday that made an impression on me. In fact, I wanted to write the author, Pete MacDonald, and tell him how sad I felt when I read it. MacDonald spoke of a visit he made after his and his wife separated-to his mother's grave. His visit was, apparently, an attempt to make peace, to find peace, to get some distance on the tragic events of his childhood. It really was a sad essay-the sense of regret, of past loss, of resignation lingered like acrid smoke after a house fire.

I hoped he had found some happiness in a life that seemed so bleak-and recognized that the tale he spoke of in his essay was a snippet.

Sitting in the prayer room at church this morning, I wondered-were Christians really more joyful people? I know I've known some truly dour believers-people who looked and acted, as Alice Longworth Roosevelt said in another context, like they'd been weaned on a pickle. But I've also known godly people who seem filled with supernatural peace-and can face awful events assured of a love that endures.

"Rise, heart, Thy Lord is Risen"

He is risen indeed.