The GOP and their Personal Responsibility Problem

It’s become increasingly clear since last week’s U.S. Presidential election (though it was pretty clear even before that) that there are a fair number of people who are in crisis. People who are now going off the rails. Wives running over their husbands, people committing suicide, relationships in tatters, and so on—so much of it related to post-election angst.

It sure doesn’t help that the fella who had the not-so-good fortune of losing seems to be the leader in this parade of “just can’t let go of the dream.” Mitt Romney on a conference call to supporters reportedly told them that Obama had a bigger turnout because of the freebies he promised his core constituents. His core constituents of course being the Blacks, Browns, and whoever else—mind you, I just paraphrased but it gets to the heart of what Romney stated. For starters why is Romney still having so-called private discussions? Dude after that 47% incident maybe you need to watch what you say in so-called private discussions. This is 2012; nothing is private.

I am less concerned though with what Romney said and more concerned about Romney’s sense of personal responsibility. Look, Romney is part of a group that believes heavily in personal responsibility and it seems to me that personal responsibility is a two-way street. That means a willingness to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and take responsibility for them. The truth is Romney and his clan had a weaker strategy and more importantly they greatly discounted how much the changing racial and cultural demographics would mean in this election. Funny thing is both on my blog and in columns I have talked extensively about America’s browning and what that will mean to America. Guess Romney and the folks he employed don’t read my work or the work of any of the other folks out there who have discussed these issues. Sorry, Mitt. Let it go.

Closer to home in Maine, in the continuing saga of GOP folks losing their minds, we have outgoing Republican GOP Chair Charlie Webster.  “In some parts of the state, there were dozens of black people who came in to vote,” Charlie Webster said in an interview. “Nobody in town knew them.” When I first saw this report, I was flabbergasted. Egads! Whole dozens of Black folks showed up in towns just to vote and no one knew them. Of course Mr. Webster didn’t name any towns, so the accuracy and veracity of his claims is suspect already, but the implication for those of us who are Black and who make Maine our home is that we don’t belong.

Choosing to live in Maine as a person of color is already an arduous task. For starters, Mainers aren’t always the most overtly warm and friendly bunch and in places like this it takes time to build connections. I have a Black associate who lives in the same town as me and has probably been here almost as long as I have, yet we rarely see each other even in a city of only 16,000. Now one might think surely we should see each other often, after all there aren’t that many Black folks here, but the reality is we are out living out living our lives.

There is also the fact that Webster’s assumptions play into the outdated notion that Blacks aren’t in Maine. Yes, Maine is a pretty homogenous state but Blacks have a deep history here in this state and to imply otherwise continues to show just how outdated and out of touch from reality the GOP has become.

If there were some voting hijinks going on, I hardly think anyone was sitting around and making a plan that included an idea to bus some Black folks into Maine. Maine has 4 electoral votes; sure, every one of those votes counted but not nearly enough to plan for the type of deception that Webster’s words seem to imply.

The bottom line is that the GOP needs to take a little responsibility for their loss and their inability to connect with the current electorate and not the one they dreamed of in their heads. Let go of these dangerous and harmful fantasies, guys.



Race to the cell, the only thing America excels at in 2012

I really did not want anything to do with the final presidential debate; frankly these debates are starting to make me rage. Of course circumstances put me in a situation where I ended up listening to parts of the last debate and catching the running commentary on twitter.

The debates are simply good theater, the candidates are putting on a show for us and since most Americans are too busy to actually read/research the candidates we look to the debates to tell us all we need to know about the candidates. The funny thing, is that the debates and the entire election season with the campaigning and the billions of dollars being spent to one up the competition, shows us just how not exceptional we are as a nation despite this belief we hold that we are an exceptional nation.

I will take Obama any day over Romney, but that doesn’t mean I am jumping with joy because the truth is presidents for all the power they hold are essentially Cheerleaders in Chief. As this recent piece in the New York Times covers, no one who wants to truly make deep, systemic changes in this country is going to be elected and if they do, they will learn real soon, that we as a nation only like surface change. To create change is to acknowledge publicly that we have problems and when you think America is the “hope of the world” it can be hard to admit that the only thing we are excelling at these days locking up our citizens. Yep, America is the winner in the “Race to the Cell”.

For those of us who work with the most vulnerable among us, there is a growing sense of frustration as we see that poverty in this nation has changed. The face of poverty has changed and it looks more and more like us. Our smartphones and cars may hide those facts and the stiff upper lipped American way of keeping our financial lives private, hides a great deal. Ask any social service provider what they are seeing and they will tell you, that today’s client in need is just as likely to be a college educated person with no easily solvable problems and a solid work history as the stereotypical single mother with no education. It’s just easier to have the appearance of still being financially stable when we who are experiencing the economic downturn personally, still have the accoutrements and trappings from our formerly middle class lives. It also doesn’t hurt that many of us and I include myself since in recent years I have struggled financially are reluctant to share our business and talk about how bad things have gotten for us.

To some degree we have no one to blame but ourselves when we see politicians not discussing the issues that affect the millions who struggle daily to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. After all why would politicians want to discuss those issues when we ourselves can barely admit to family and friends that we have hit hard times? Yet in a nation that is sinking, we need to talk, and talk often on these issues.

Child poverty is a very real issue in this country; I see it every day at my job. Child poverty is the only reason I have a job at the moment. Out of the 35 most economically advantaged nations, America and her exceptional self, ranks number 34 in child poverty. That means you see child poverty too but don’t notice it because we expect child poverty to be a black, brown or tan face in a third world country. However ask any school teacher in America and they will tell you what child poverty looks like because they see it in the classroom. It’s Suzie who comes to school and has a bellyache every morning, because she is not getting enough to eat and her parents are too pride filled with American exceptional-ism to fill out the paperwork that would officially label them needy so that Suzie can actually have a full belly and focus at school. Instead we say Suzie has attention deficit issues, which is easier to acknowledge than the fact that Suzie is going hungry in a nation of plenty.  Ask Suzie how exceptional America is when at a tender young age she knows food is not a given. I see American exceptional-ism every day at my center when the same group of kids is more eager to eat the snack then to play in a fun activity after school. Not too damn exceptional if you ask me.

Our infant mortality rates are horrid for such an exceptional nation and social mobility here is a myth compared to most of Europe, Canada and Australia. Yet half of America is looking at Mitt Romney and his “success” and despite the fact that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have no fucks to give for the little guy, they will vote for these guys because the Horatio Alger myth is deeply ingrained in our psyche. This belief that hard work will turn us into millionaires is the lie we tell ourselves because we can’t handle the truth.

The problem with avoiding the real discussion on how unexceptional America and what our real issues are is that we keep putting a patch on the roof when really what is needed is a new roof. Eventually the patch job will fail and when it does, it is taking the whole damn house with it.



Obama, Mitt and how we can create real change…reflections on the debate

The last thing I should be doing today is writing a blog post since I have oodles of work for the day job and I am trying to wrap up a submission for paying work and these days I need all the paying work I can get. But after watching last night’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, I just had to blog. Shit, Mitty is the gift that keeps on giving a like a case of untreated clap.

For starters can I just say that at the end of the day, I feel like almost all politicians are disconnected from the realities of modern life in America. Instead we are being sold this dream that one day good jobs and prosperity will be ours again and frankly, I think that shit is gone with the wind. We are all Scarlett O’Hara looking for tomorrow and well, we will just be waiting. Modern technology and advancement has made many jobs obsolete, it’s really not that hard of a concept to grasp. Most of the growth industries are low paying service jobs that are actually very much needed, someone needs to wipe our asses in the nursing home and it’s the type of gig that can’t be outsourced. Yet we will dance around the fact that these types of jobs need higher wages.

Politicians love to speak to the middle class and I am sure at one point in time that was a great strategy, the problem is the true middle class is almost dead. Most of us have slid down into the working class but in a nation that only likes upward mobility, none of us are addressing the elephant in the room. So, we allow our politicians to talk of this middle class and we still believe the dream that we ourselves are middle class. Funny thing is today’s middle class looks a lot like the working class of decades past. For most of us in the so-called middle class, if we lost our jobs and didn’t replace them right away, within a year or two if we were lucky, we would be taking up resident in the local homeless shelter or living in a cardboard box. Today’s middle class has little in the way of real assets with our homes that are often worth a lot less than they used to be, serving as our only real asset.  Wages are stagnant and the cost of everything is up, most of us play the bill shuffle game which is better than our friends in the real poor class who can’t even play that game; but let’s stop being delusional, we aren’t middle class. In 2012 in America, there are the rich and then there are the rest of us with a few levels of the rest of us. However as long as we can buy that $4.59 pumpkin latte occasionally, still use our credit cards and present as middle class, that’s our story and we are sticking to it.

So it’s no surprise that politicians play along with us since we ourselves aren’t comfortable with truth then again Americans in general don’t like the truth. We like myths and fairy tales, they make us feel better. It’s why being a wedding planner is a great business and from my view damn near recession proof; we will go into debt to have one perfect day because we somehow believe that one perfect day will make for a great life.

On that note, politicians are funny and Mitt Romney is even funnier. I think it’s clear that he and running mate Paul “pump me up” Ryan think that women need to know their place (get yo ass home by 5pm to cook dinner now, ya here) after all Mitt cares about you broads. Mitt cares so much so that when he was governor of Massachusetts he had a binder full of women to find good ones to work in his administration.

I learned last night that if we want to decrease violence in our society that we need more two parent households, again 2 parents in a shared space is magical, bad shit never ever happens when you have two parents in a home. Never mind that half the guys in recent decades, who have snapped and committed mass murder, generally came from 2 parent households. Perhaps there is violence because we are a violent nation, we care less about the least among us instead paying lip service to the least among us but stripping away every useful service that people need to not be violent. Treatment for mental health, real services to lift the poor up, again, all shit that is gone with the wind and while I am talking about Mitt Romney, our friends in blue the Democrats don’t do much for the truly poor either.

Maybe I am growing old and losing my own shit, but I am starting to think that to create real and humane change that creates an environment where we all can thrive is for us, that’s you and me to be an active part of the community. It means more than watching a debate and voting, it’s about being present in our communities, knowing our neighbors, doing business with our neighbors and with millions of people creating change at a micro level maybe just maybe we will see some change at the macro level. Yet to take even that step means we need to put away the fairy tales and stop waiting for others to save us.