What So Proudly We Hailed?

Ft._Henry_bombardement_1814

Are you a patriot? Are you a real American? What does that mean?

Different things to different people, of course. This is #Amurrica. Home of the free and the brave. And of the diverse set of opinions that make us so interesting–if not highly functional.

Back to the home of the brave, some are braver than others. So there’s this professional football player that sat out the Star Spangled Banner for the entire pre-season. And just recently, it was noticed. I decided against tracking down the source of this Nile, I think it’s not germane to the tale-but I bet there’s a story there, too.

So, anyway, the athlete, who gets paid bring-your-team-to-the-Superbowl-but-not-actually-win-it wages, gets in big PR (that’s public relations, also known as yelled at on TV, Facebook and internet newspapers. Likely also in print newspapers, but are you actually physically reading them? I thought not.) trouble. People are saying that he is disrespecting veterans who have fought and died for this country. And there’s some people saying they fought and died just for this type of protest. It’s been noisy. And full of emotion.

Tonight da Twitterz lit up with a hashtag (this is a way for people to coalesce around a topic or idea on Twitter. I respect that many people do not get Twitter, but please, humor me on this.). There are always trending topics on Twitter. It’s based pretty much on volume of a word or phrase that people are using and which pass through Twitter’s servers. For example, it’s pretty normal for #TheBachelor to trend when people are watching it on TV. It must be on now. The Doc has pretty much no knowledge about this hashtag but I see it weekly. [As an aside, why do they call that kind of show reality TV?]

But back to the point, thousands of people are tagging their posts with #VeteransForKaepernick. Like this one.

And this perspective on the national anthem >>

These are among the many moving and patriotic tweets from veterans across the country. People who served in different wars in different parts of the world and who represent the entire diversity of the U.S. And, no, there is not a consensus among veterans and active duty around the way the football player is protesting against racism in the U.S. That’s #Amurrica, too.

Last, there’s nothing that I could write on this topic that would be more meaningful than this tweet by a vet >>

Yes, that is how a patriot sounds. Thank you for your service, good sir. And thanks for the reminder that we all have a role in making our country better. #AmericansForKaepernick, and, as they say, “Hooah!”

A Rose By Any Name

Gravestone of Iraq war hero Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan in Arlington National Cemetery, with his grieving mother.General Colin Powell announced that he was going to vote for Barack Obama, and it’s all the twitter. Calling Obama “transformational” and his own Republican Party “narrower and narrower,” Powell lent the considerable heft of the former general, chair of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of State to the candidate that some have said was too inexperienced and lacked judgement.

But this was not the most important thing he did on Meet the Press.

I think that the most important thing that he did was call out the members of his own party who find the practice of Islam a disqualification for the presidency.

I cringe every time someone denies that Barack Obama is Muslim. It goes like this.

“Obama is a Muslim”

“No, he’s not,” said like there is something wrong being Muslim.

Imagine saying there is something wrong with being Catholic, or Jewish. Or think about when you hear boys say, “You are such a girl” as if it’s an insult to be a girl–like their mother, like my mother or my sister. Making who people are synonymous with “you are bad” or “you are a dirty, filthy mother****in’ terrorist” is simply WRONG.

When General Powell told the story of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a twenty year old native of New Jersey who made the ultimate sacrifice of a soldier in Iraq, he reminded us of the best in Americans. And in doing so, called on us all to be the best Americans we can be.

So, we should all learn the name of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan. He is a hero. An American hero. And we should all learn that we can be heroes, too.

Yes we can.

Addicted to Palin

Okay. I said it. It’s the first step. I admit that I have a problem.

I have been thinking about Sarah Palin, reading about Sarah Palin, watching video about Sarah Palin, following convention coverage about Sarah Palin, wrestling with my feelings about Sarah Palin, and trying to figure out what I think about this polarizing newly minted political rockstar.

I can’t get her out of my mind, because I am having a hard time making a decision about her and what to think about her.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President.

The qualifications for the vice presidency are the same as those for the presidency. The vice president must be a native-born American of at least 35 years of age who has resided in the United States for at least 14 years. — Encarta

This means that I, too, am qualified to be Vice President–or President for that matter.

In my obsessive reading, some folks are saying that they have alot in common with Gov. Palin, and since they do NOT think that they are qualified for the job, therefore SHE isn’t qualified. Others are happy to have somebody who is “just like me,” who will understand and respond to their needs. Next I find myself thinking about why I believe that Brack Obama is qualified to be President.

This gets me thinking about serendipity and timing. Before Obama became a 2008 Presidential candidate, I was wishing that he would wait until the next round. But sometimes circumstances thrust you into a position and you have to grab for the ring. It might not be presented again. And I think that I need to apply that same standard to Palin.

But what about her family?, I was thinking. How could Palin be a mother to babies, young children and teens while being Vice President?

What wrong thinking.

I always thought that I tried hard not to judge other parents and their decisions–whether mom should work or stay home, what role does dad play, is quality time better than quantity time, prudes versus permissives, milk versus ice tea? In our family the mom went back to work when the babies were 9 and 8 weeks old–and still nursed both until they were two. The dad worked part time for the first few years and did main duty. The mom took a new job that entailed alot of domestic travel 4 months before the youngest was born–and she dragged the baby from coast to coast. His first hotel was in Boston at 10 weeks. Good mom? Bad mom? Sometimes. Okay, I think Palin is a fine parent. Her kids look happy (and gorgeous!) and I bet they will survive her parenting and become productive adults. As I pray my kids will survive my own parenting.

But what does parenting have to do with being a “heartbeat away from the Presidency” anyway? Nothing. But the heartbeat away from the Presidency thing is pretty important.

So, I think that Palin is qualified enough. And I think that, as Obama has forcefully and genuinely said, her family needs to be off limits. So that leads me to where I should have been from the beginning–what do I think about her as a potential president, because that’s the job she is going for?

I definitely think that she is a shrewd and formidable politician. She has worked hard and appears to spit nails and bring down the hammer on foes. Her rise to the governor’s mansion in Juneau is something to be respected and admired. Politics is a tough game, and a young upstart from a small town making it to the top of the heap in Alaska is nothing to shake a stick at. Go Sarah Barracuda!

So now I am returning to her convention speech–what tells me most about who she is and what kind of president she might be, because that’s all we got. And this is the source that makes me most uncomfortable about Sarah Palin, and a McCain-Palin presidency.

The speech–well delivered by a confident, accessible, smiling candidate–helped to draw a clear distinction between the choice we have in November. And it isn’t about Palin, specifically, but about what her ticket stands for.

Change for them means making a U-turn and going back to the 50’s. The speech was very backwards looking, to the “good ole days” of some idyllic and perhaps mythical small town America. Where people are homogeneous (but not homos), where nostalgia and the familiar trump intellectual curiosity, and where we need to run back to the cocoon rather than boldly face the challenges of health care, the environment, education and globalization.

Backwards to when diplomacy means that the U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A. (chant it with me like its 1980) plays nuclear games of chicken with our enemies, and globalization means that everyone oversees wants an American car and the imports from Japan are cheesy.

Where small towns are filled with honest, sincere dignified people who are somehow immune to a failing economy, the mortgage crisis, and the false prospect that cutting taxes for the wealthiest will make us all better off, even if that leaves state coffers empty without money for infrastructure projects and public safety (can you say levies?) and with gimmicks to improve education.

When the natural resources of this great planet were seen as infinite, and frontier settlers were the masters, taking whatever they wanted and moving on when the land was depleted or destroyed because it was their right. In contrast to the people already in this country that the settlers displaced. People who were stewards for the land, the water, the air, the animals and plants.

I watched Gov. Palin’s speech–and within the context of the Republican Convention–felt like she saw the best times were behind us. Simpler times. Times that needed to be protected from the future.

And her reiteration of wedge issues in the guise of small town values–guns, abortion, creationism–sets up the old “us against them” no-compromise zone. I appreciated Sen. McCain talking about reaching out across differences to make changes during his acceptance speech, but he really didn’t advocate anything new. And, if his running mate and others making speeches have their way (as they did with his choice for VP), his calls for pragmatic compromise to resolve tough issues will likely disappear.

I used to work in an academic environment with decisions made by “consensus.” What that meant in practice was that anyone could stop an idea by crapping on it. It was a huge challenge to get anything done, make change, see things in a new way, innovate or invent. It was status quo all the time, because there was always someone who knew they could stop change and keep their fiefdoms intact.

So it’s really not about Sarah Palin, who is truly a remarkable person on many levels. I don’t need to think about her, although she helped me to reconcile some ideas that were vexing me.

It’s about the fact that on most issues I absolutely and fundamentally disagree with Sarah Palin and her running mate. And all the distractions that have been fed up by the 24/7 news personalities and Democratic and Republican spinmeisters are just that. Distractions.

So yes, I have been thinking alot about Sarah Palin. And I think that now, I am on the road to recovery.