Friday, August 29, 2008

Don’t You Dare, Republicans

Republicans, hello Republicans, are you listening? Don’t dare insult my intelligence. Below we have an individual that could still be argued is the most qualified presidential candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton. Also below is Governor Sarah Palin, McCain’s newly minted vice presidential running mate.

Though typical of Republican’s love of irony, I do not think it’s okay for a woman to take away my rights to my own body. There’s breaking the glass ceiling and there’s tokenism. We are talking about someone who, as former Bill Clinton advisor James Carville said, "is one 72-year-old heartbeat from the presidency."

In any case, it doesn’t matter. Republicans may very well find another way to steal this election too. For those not yet registered to vote or sitting on the fence about their candidate, what do you make of all this?

The Colored Elephant In the Room

Congratulations to the next president and vice president of the United States, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden. I thought nothing could beat the Olympic games this summer in terms of sheer excitement, strength, skill, heart, soul, hope,…but the 2008 Democratic Convention did it for me. I anticipated each new high profile speech with as much anxiousness as waiting for Phelps to grab another gold. My girl from Boston and I even stayed on the phone together to hear Barrack Obama give his historic acceptance speech (and clown on the sad CNN commentators afterwards).

But when the love fest subsided, the truth remains – there is a huge colored elephant in the room and no one wants to talk about it. Barack Obama is a man with a black African father and a European American mother. He was raised in part by his mother and Indonesian stepfather in Indonesia and his maternal grandparents in Hawaii. He has a Euro-American/Indonesian hapa half sister and, as he proudly proclaims, a kinship reminiscent of members in the United Nations. Obama went to reputable local, private schools in Indonesia and Hawaii. He transferred to Columbia after a two-year stint at Occidental and then earned his degree at Harvard Law School.

Image of Obama with his mother, step-father and half-sister.
Even given these rich multi-racial, cultural, ethnic and class life experiences, none of it was mentioned in his acceptance speech. Much of his views around the list of issues above is documented in his books and "A More Perfect Union" speech. They are adequate representations of history but all say the same thing, “shit happens but ultimately we must pull ourselves up from our own bootstraps.” In other words, as a person of color, be extraordinary and accept white, male heterosexual privilege as a matter of fact.

Like he wishes, I don’t see Obama as a black candidate. He’s not! He’s a person of copious experiences including riding the race and class divides. I do not adhere to the “one blood drop” rule that conveniently divides our nation in order to control resources while ignoring the multi-ethnic, racial, and class realities of so many beyond black and white binaries. But, I do expect real change from Obama.

On the historic day 45 years after Martin Luther King gave his immensely emotive speech, “I have A Dream,” any presidential candidate should answer to MLK’s call for freedom and justice for all. Obama asks us to not look only at the bad but also the good in the United States. But, 45 years after MLK demanded civil rights, I still see so much injustice and I’m still 'not satisfied' that MLK’s dream was realized.
Springfield Avenue in Newark on July 14, 1967
Twenty-three people were killed and 700 injured in "rioting".
Obama's candidacy does not erase the complacency of the privilege in a society that ignores the plight of so many others. My dream is not that we have a “black” presidential candidate. My dream is that he will look to front of him, to his sides and behind him so he can see the giant colored elephant in the room—an elephant that represents generations of cruel intentions and real oppressions, a history of discrimination and future promising more of the same. I hope Obama will make real change and not just say, “shit happens, but look, you can be like me, a black man who will be the next president of the United States.” Or say nothing at all in a sea of old, white, male power holders. I am not yet comforted and am certainly not yet 'satisfied'.

As MLK stated:

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition

Add on 45 years and in the place of “Negro,” the vast majority of Americans not coming from wealthy white families and you’d have our great nation. I won’t be satisfied even if an openly gay, Muslim Asian American woman becomes president. That is not the point. The point is, we need a leader of any creed, color, gender and sexual orientation with a platform that calls to eradicate poverty and promote tolerance and equal rights for all and backs it up with real plans. Are you the person to lead this cause, Obama?

Below are Obama's and MLK's take on race in the United States. Enjoy and please please let us know what you think about all of this.

Monday, August 25, 2008

One Person Can Make a Difference

Ensure peace! Register to vote today! It is not too late, just go here.

Okay, so I resorted to sex to get your attention. But, now that I have it, seriously, please register to vote if you have not already done so. I'm using this venue to implore you once more to get ready for the 2008 presidential elections.

Maybe I hang out with too many hypocritical intellectuals, but if I hear one more of them mouth off about the sad state of affairs in the U.S., yet they themselves are not registered to vote and have not casted a ballot in over a decade, I'm gonna get irate. If you ever wonder why we are in the mess we are in, please consider your own (in)action first.

Also, I won't even feint non-partisanship, vote democrat! I remember years ago insisting my 18-year-old bro vote and even said, "it doesn't matter who you vote for, just participate in the voting process." I regret supporting my brother to take full advantage of his citizenship because he always voted for the wrong person! Well like my bro, you're probably hella old and hella bent on doing whatever it is you damn well please. Fine! But, just don't vote for another devil spawn. Nuff said.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympics is in full swing. Even though these games are never just about sports but rather about country image building and showcasing of global dominance, I still enjoy watching the competitive nature of the athletes. I have perennial favorite games like track and field, gymnastics and swimming. Call it my Cold War upbringing, but I still smirk with pride when the US beats the PRC or former USSR. And it does warm my heart to witness the make-up of our relatively multiethnic, multiracial USA athletes. Take for example, pictured above is Raj Bhavsar who in the eleventh hour was elevated from alternate to a full fledged member for the US men's gymnastics team. He did tremendously well to help the US gain the bronze. It feels almost like saying, “see, diversity builds strength.” Take that Hitler!

One of the highlights for me is actually a non-sporting event, the “walk of nations.” Here athletes from around the world parade on the stadium tracks with their fellow countryman, often in national dress and always with beaming smiles because everyone’s still a winner at this point. Being of Vietnamese decent, I usually look out for “my people”. I remember in one previous summer game, a contingent of only four compatriots joined the parade. The announcer’s obligatory tidbit turned to Viet Nam. They announced ironically enough that three of the athletes were competing in shooting and one in karate. Hey, if the Viets are good at anything, that’s marksmanship due to early revolutionary training.
Maybe the most memorable of these walks happened at the Sydney games when North and South Korea walked together (pictured above waving their self-created Olympics flag). You see, Viet Nam pretty much followed the history of Korea with its civil war and meddling by super powers. The big difference is that Viet Nam reunified in 1975 with the victory of the communists from the North whereas Korea remains divided between North and South. Seeing the athletes from these two nations walking hand in hand got me thinking, "gosh, if only Viet Nam reunified in a more peaceful manner -- so much pain, lost and poverty could have been prevented." It was a water-welling-up-in-eyes moment. Unfortunately, even though there is a steady rise in sentiments for reunification, this year North and South Korea walked separately, divided by another nation.

There has been too many quirky things about this Olympics to detail but some of my favorites involve China’s all out attempt to clean up Beijing in order to put forth the best face possible. That has meant evacuating the “imperfect” residents, "velvet roping" Olympic attendees, and using a girl deemed more attractive to lip sync to the voice of less “photogenic” little girl. To be honest, I have no qualms with any of this. If I invested $40.9 billion to reintroduce myself to the world, I’d want it to go just “perfect” too. Besides, even with all its propaganda, who doesn’t know China is an authoritarian state.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vanilla Swingers

Just when you think music lacks imagination, then comes along an album to prove you wrong. Vanilla Swingers made of UK duo Miles Jackson and Anne Gilpin in their self-titled debut album, Vanilla Swingers, tells the epic story of two people who travel through time from 1985 to 2015 to only lose each other but eventually reunite. In their song, "Goodbye Lennon," they offer lyrics like these:

It's thirty years since '85 | Robbie's dead but Pete's alive | Or so the weblogs say | But no-one's reading them | Today my past caught up with me | And you were standing over there | You asked me what's the time | You asked me what's the year and smiled the saddest smile I'd ever seen

Delivered in ocean serene ballads, one can easily swim in their world a while. Their album drops on September 8, 2008 for FREE on their website but if you have to have it NOW, Rough Trade has it available for a small fee. In the mean time, sample their brilliance on their myspace site.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Geese Hunting Season!

You’d think in this election year with the first viable black candidate that I’d be at every Obama rally. Oh, it’s not that easy to move me politically, dear readers. But then there comes a cause that one cannot turn away from. It affects an entire community and threatens the welfare of generations to come. Yes, exactly, I am talking about the geese droppings that blanket the Lake Merritt area in my wonderful hometown of Oakland!

As an Oaklanese I grew up frequenting Lake Merritt, the pearl of Oakland, playing at the kiddie parks, picnicking on the grass, and even boating on the water. My parents never worried about sanitation issues because the lake and surrounding area, aside from the seasonal stench, was a great place for people of all ages to enjoy.

Fast forward to 20 years later. My beautiful lake is now a wasteland for geese poop! There is literally not one inch of poop-free surface. My neighbor cannot take her granddaughter picnicking there. My friend cannot go for runs with her dog because it’s like dodging minds to jog the lake. When she goes to pick up her dog’s litter, she has to drudge through the mounds of geese poop to get to it. Who is accountable for geese waste then?

I’m normally not anti-immigration, but it’s precisely due to these Canadian geese that we now have the filth issue. They come through and stay in the thousands. Why not just kill them you say, you’ll even supply the bb guns (okay, now I’m just obviously projecting)? Poison them, smash their eggs, sic dobermans or better yet, sell them to merchants from nearby Chinatown to hang them roasted displayed at restaurant windows. Unfortunately, none of this can take place. Why?

The lake area is the proud home of the oldest Wildlife Sanctuary in the country. That means it’s a no-kill zone for these lucky geese bastards. So, who’s protecting the people’s health and guaranteeing all can partake in the wonders of the lake? Uh, no one, I mean no one is allowed. The bird loving fools of this city have successfully used the sanctuary argument to protect the precious geese and their precious poop, Jim Ryugo, Public Works manager explained. He was of course slightly more diplomatic.

Sane residents of Oakland have also raised voice. So, after a decade of enduring the poop drama, the city finally bought a “nature sweeper” that arrived in mid-July of this year. With budget cuts however, it seems one part-time "nature sweeper" driver is hardly enough for the daily cleanup required. Additionally, with the insurmountable task of clearing out tons of poop, the machine has suffered more dents than it has made. It's been in the shop most of the summer Parks Superintendent, Roy Morgan, disclosed to me.

So, I call for geese hunting season. As it is illegal to kill these mofos, I will just have to get out my frustration by writing this blog and fantasizing about the carnage. Oh, yes, and do my civic duty of contacting my Council Member, Nancy Nadel, and further harassing the Parks and Recreation head, Jim Ryugo. Please help and do the same. Contacts below.

Nancy Nadel, Council Woman district 3
510 238 7003

Jim Ryugo, Public Works/Parks and Recreation
510 615 5987