This Thing Called Courage

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Celestial Event Monday Night

Venus and Jupiter to form triangle with moon
Celestial bodies reach closest point Monday
By Alan M. MacRobert, Globe Correspondent November 29, 2008
Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets, have been marching toward each other for more than a month in the southwestern sky at dusk. As they've drawn closer together, the sight has been catching more people's eyes, and now the show is reaching its climax.
This evening, weather permitting, you will see Venus and Jupiter blazing about a finger's width apart at arm's length. Look early enough and, far to their lower right, you can find the crescent moon just above the horizon.
Tomorrow evening, the two planets will be slightly closer together, and the moon will be hanging higher and nearer them.
Monday night brings the peak of the show. The two planets will remain as close as ever, and the moon will form a compact, extraordinary triangle with them.
Then on subsequent evenings, things fall apart. The moon will move farther off to the upper left, and Jupiter starts pulling away to Venus's right.
Although the three objects look close together, looks are deceiving. The moon is 252,000 miles away. Venus is currently 370 times farther than the moon, at 94 million miles. And Jupiter, at 540 million miles, is nearly six times as far away as Venus.
To put it another way: The moon is currently 1.4 light-seconds distant, Venus is 8.4 light-minutes distant, and Jupiter is 42 light-minutes away. That's how long the light from each has been traveling through space before it hits your eye.Alan M. MacRobert is a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine in Cambridge (

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Benefits of Getting Lost

MY GRANDMOTHER MOLLY AHERN was a deeply and Catholically religious woman, who nevertheless believed in Na Sean Nos, the Old Ways. This concept is easier to understand than it is to explain. One of the Na Sean Nos might be what we call sixth sense, or premonition; for it seems I have a certain premonition at times when it comes to rescuing, or finding, animals in danger-- lost dogs, turtles too near the highways and busy streets around her, etc. One of the things Molly used to say to me was, "If you lean into the world, the world leans into you." I was never quite sure what she meant by that, but I think I'm beginning to.

Last Monday night was the last night of the semester for the Irish Class I teach at the Cambridge Center. We usually celebrate by having food-- most everyone brings in something. I usually make Irish soda bread (not the white stuff, but a heartier, whole wheat peasant bread, crusty on the outside and soft and pully in the middle-- delicious!) and/or I stop at 'Bits and Bites of Ireland,' an Irish bakery on Main Street in Melrose (one town east) that has fabulous breads and pastries. I did so last Monday. As I was driving back, I came to the intersection of the Fellsway East and Ravine Road. I suppose it was 1:30 in the afternoon. Ordinarily I go straight at this intersection, as it's the fastest way home-- but something told me to take a left, which is almost the exact direction away from my home. I like to follow my instincts, so I did. I was driving up the hill, along this parkway that cuts through the eastern part of the Fells, a lovely winding road with soaring woods and cliffs on both sides. Suddenly up ahead, about 200 yards away, I saw something running toward me-- straddling the yellow line in the middle of the road. As we got closer to each other, I saw that it was a young, somewhat tall Boston Terrier, running down the road. He was dragging his leash behind him as he ran. There wasn't a human in sight. Clearly the poor creature had gotten away from his or her owner, and was pretty panicked. Cars were kind of whizzing by from both sides and I was outraged at this. I stopped my car in the middle of the road, at an angle so I was (hopefully) blocking traffic, put on my flashers, then hopped out of the car. As I did so the the dog stopped, and regarded me. I regarded him. I was maybe twenty feet away by now. I should have squatted, and taken off my sunglasses, and cooed softly, and pretended I had some kind of doggie treat--but instead I approached him, and he bolted into the woods to my right.

I got back into the car. Fionn was with me and hadn't been walked yet. There was a small dirt car park on the right just ahead, so we pulled into that and gave chase, following a trail that quickly became steeper. We kept climbing and climbing, stopping periodically to look for the dog-- but there was no sign of him. I was on this trail swatched with blue blazes, called the Cross Fells Trail, which happens to be the longest trail in the Fells. But where I was now was a part of the Fells I'm not very familiar with. But I thought, as long as I stay on the trail, we won't get lost.

But it's a rather circuitious trail, and at some point I evidently missed a turn. Before long we were lost (though Fionn didn't think so!) and we kept going and going, seemingly heading in the same direction and looking for a cross trail, but then the cross trails inevitably bringing us back, ultimately, to where we had been before. And everything began to look the same.

Every year, alas, I read in the Boston Globe about 'Hiker Still Missing' or 'Hopes Fading for Couple Lost in White Mountains,' about people who get lost in the woods of New England. When one does get lost, it's really easy to understand how quickly people can get disoriented. But it's also an interesting feeling, and a very (I suspect) primal one, in that this sort of thing must have happened all the time to our ancestors-- so I tried to savor the feeling, as it were, as one that modern man and woman very seldom get to experience: the runnels we travel daily are well greased indeed-- in fact most of us go out of our way to avoid getting lost, or trying different things, or breaking out of the daily routine. So in that sense I think it's really good to get lost once in a while. Plus, once you do get lost, and then find your way out-- you're left with a new part of the world that you're familiar with now, because of your experience. You won't get lost in there again most likely, especially if it's a relatively small area, like the Fells is: 2500 acres, big enough to get lost in without necessitating a headline in The Globe.

I made one really delightful discovery. At the top of a steep hill, I came across a high, old and rusty chainlink fence; someone had cut a hole in this and so I went through it, to see what I might see. There was a big, horseshoe-shaped reservoir beyond, and I suppose the hole-cutter was a young person anxious for a cooling swim on a hot summer night, and more power to him or her. But beside the reservoir was a very large high meadow, a large field of waist high grass, now dry and yellowed and curling in the wind. At the edges of this meadow were woods, and thickets, and I thought-- Aha! The perfect habitat for the American Woodcock, one of my favorite native birds, who carries spring on his back each year with his dazzling nocturnal mating display. It's really not spring until I see the woodcock dance. And then I thought-- I must come back with my drum, and sain this place.

Sain is an interesting word, archaic according to most dictionaries. I first came across it when I read Crossing the Circle at the Holy Wells of Ireland, a really fascinating book written by Walter and Mary Brennerman, a pair of PHd's from America who studied the holy wells of Ireland for several years. It's a decidely academic book, and yet very enjoyable for the layperson who might be interested in such things. Briefly, there are about 5000 wells (or small pools) scattered throughout Ireland; about 2000 of these are deemed, and have been deemed for millennia, to be 'holy,' and to possess curative powers. There are eye wells, and back wells, and fertility wells, etc, and each well has its 'patron,' or pattern, that is to be performed at the well. Many of these rituals include perambulating around the well, three, or nine, times; and always 'a soleil,' or 'king-wise,' meaning starting in the east, moving south, then into the west and north and finally back to the east again. You mustn't ever do it the other way, they say. At any rate the Brennermans, properly skeptical as we expect our Phd people to be, admit early on in their book: "We have felt the power at these places." Oi!

But I digress. In another place in the book, the authors talk about how, according to legend, Saint Patrick, while he was converting Ireland, visited each well, and 'sained' it, that is, blessed it or sanctified it, and took it from the realm of the pagan Tuatha de Daneann (People of the Goddess Danu) and brought it into the realm of Christianity. To this day, while most of the wells were rededicated 1600 years ago to Our Lady, or to various saints, some wells remain pagan in name.

Anyway, about two years ago, I, like Banana-rama, heard a rumor-- which was that woodcock were inhabiting Greenwood Park, a field down the street from me, about 400 yards as the crow flies. This, of course, titillated-- here I had been travelling up hill and down dale to observe the woodcock all over Middlesex and Essex and Worcester counties, when he was (practically) in my own backyard. So I went down there each evening, to Greenwood Park, and waited-- often in the cold, sometimes in the rain-- all in vain. There were no woodcocks there. Later that fall, or perhaps the next winter, I was walking across the street from Greenwood Park, and I was inspired--(literally-- in-spiro, from the Latin, infused with spirit, with the breath of spirit-- or Spirit, if you will--) and I crossed the street to Greenwood Park and something told me that if I wanted to attract woodcock to this place, semi-urban or at least suburban as it was, I must first sain it.

Well, why not? As the Bard noted, There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Or, to drag Joseph Campbell into it (a favorite writer of mine) he says that what modern man misses most is ritual and mystery. (And yet-- my God!-- what is life, if not mystery?) He talks about this old African chief who was found one day by the side of the road, weeping. His country had been colonized and 'civilized' by the British some twenty years beforehand. A white man stopped and asked him why he was weeping. "Because the local British magistrate knows everything!" the man sobbed. In other words his gods, and his wonder, were gone forever. Dear ones, trust me-- you'll never catch me crying by the side of the road. So, a-saining we went. I went home and got my drum, marched back down to Greenwood Park, and began walking around and across and over the field, beating on my drum and calling out that I was officially saining this place for the woodcock, inviting the woodcock, as it were, to come here and make it home. (I should add that Fionn the Dog is usually (but not always!) a patient (if bemused) witness to these...experiments.) Now, I can't tell you really how to sain a place-- but you'll learn as you do it. Solvitur ambulando, as Saint Augustine said, It is solved by walking, i.e., do it and you'll know.

Anyway-- ahem-- the woodcock returned to Greenwood Park the next spring. So, I guess I better get my drum out again, and get to that newly discovered field, which I never would have found if I hadn't got lost, nor if the little Boston Terrier hadn't got separated from his/her master/mistress.

I really do hope he or she found their way home. Or maybe, like me, he's still looking.

Keeping Stars in Their Eyes

BAR HARBOR, Maine - On a clear night, the Milky Way cuts across the sky and down to the horizon like a celestial lightning bolt, a giant, luminescent spear shrouded in a graceful veil of back-lighted stardust.
The sight has always been up there. But today, few Americans can see it, especially not in brightly lighted cities like Boston. On the densely populated East Coast, Mount Desert Island is one of the last inhabited places where the naked eye can still clearly observe the heavenly wonders that have inspired religion, mythology, science, and culture.
To preserve that natural spectacle - and protect one of the tourist attractions of the island's Acadia National Park - voters in Bar Harbor this month approved a "dark sky" ordinance aimed at limiting the manmade lighting that has blotted out the view of the stars over much of the country. Bright lights installed after Dec. 4 will have to be shielded from the sky to illuminate only the area beneath them.
"The idea is you put the light where you need it," said Peter Lord, who directs Island Astronomy Institute, a nonprofit organization on Mount Desert Island that studies the effect of manmade light on the night sky.
"There are many in Boston who have never seen the full specter of the Milky Way. In the United States, what you have is a generation of children who have never seen it."
Preserving the sight the ancients took for granted goes beyond saving a pretty view. The promise of a rare, unimpeded stargazing experience has the potential to draw more visitors to Maine, which depends heavily on tourism.
Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, estimates that 20 million people live within a day's drive of the Down East resort - all potential visitors, especially during an economic downturn, when many people go sightseeing closer to home.
He cites a recent National Geographic article that recommends Bar Harbor as one of the four best places in the country to see the stars.
Lord, who helped draft the ordinance, sees it as a stepping stone toward a more light-conscious society, in which understanding the correlation between the use of light and the view of the night sky becomes as widespread as people's awareness that recycling is good for the environment.
"If we are able to document the change," Lord said, "Bar Harbor will be able to encourage people to go beyond the basic minimum requirements of the ordinance."
Bar Harbor's night skies are so clear because the town sits on an island with no industry, a national park, and a large section of coastline that faces open ocean.
Three other communities on the island already enforce some restrictions on outdoor lights, but just a few miles over the bridge that connects Mount Desert Island to the mainland is Ellsworth, where signs and glaring parking lots cast a bright, yellow haze.
This is the glowing hallmark of growth - the "light pollution" that officials in Bar Harbor hope to limit. The new rules here will require all new construction projects to make sure lights brighter than a traditional incandescent 100-watt bulb have shields that prevent them from shining upward.
When the measure was first proposed, business owners worried about the cost of replacing lights until the town dropped a clause requiring them to comply within 10 years.
"There were some concerns that we were going to have some kind of light police out there," Fogg said with a laugh.
Once people understood that was not going to happen, the measure passed by a 2,270-to-568 vote.
Existing businesses won't be required to change their lighting unless they move their fixtures or add ones. Illuminated churches, flags, sporting venues, and emergency signals are exempt, as are lights for holiday celebrations.
"No one is going to run around and tell people they can't put up Christmas lights," Fogg said. "We love Santa up here."
What some see as a step toward preservation of an eons-old marvel, others see as another sign of unnecessary municipal interference in people's lives.
In particular, some residents object to a stipulation of the new rules that prevent "light trespassing" - shining a bright light into someone else's property.
"It seems intrusive," said Paul Paradis, a town councilor and hardware store owner who voted against the ordinance even though the lights and signs he installed outside his store comply with the rules.
"I hate to see ordinances that dictate you being a good neighbor, because I think people do that better on their own," he said.
"Now instead of doing that, there's the danger that if you shine a bright light on my property, I run to the town office and rat you out."
John Carter, a lobsterman who called the ordinance "stupid," said people rely on bright lights for security.
"If you don't have light on your property, someone can come and steal something, especially now," he said. "If you don't have lights and I trip and fall, I'm going to sue you."
Even critics acknowledge that talk about the ordinance has made them look at the skies in a new light.
"You take it for granted," said Paul Douglas, the owner of Mainely Meat Barbeque, which has a glaring spotlight overlooking its parking area. Douglas, who grew up in Florida, brought his love of pulled pork to Bar Harbor in 1984. "When I came to Maine," he said, "I thought, 'look at all the stars in the sky!' "
David Paine, whose blueberry pancakes are as much a staple in Bar Harbor as morning political talk in his coffee shop/restaurant, also said he had started to take note of the difference between the starry skies of home and the bright lights everywhere else.
But he voted against the ordinance and nodded sympathetically as Carter listed the issues that were more urgent to him than lighting: coming home safe from the capricious sea, making enough money selling lobster as the economy spirals.
Paine's daughter, Kelly, who co-owns the restaurant, also listened.
"I understand what they're saying: There are more important problems," she said. But recently, someone sent her a postcard from New York City. In the picture, a yellow glow enveloped the skyscrapers, and the sky above.
She thinks Bar Harbor is right to want to keep its starry sky.
"When you realize it's such an easy fix, why wouldn't we protect it?"
David Filipov can be reached at

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One Woman's Quest to Heal Firefighters

After September 11th Jessica Locke was so mad she wanted to kill a terrorist. Instead she traveled to New York to heal fire fighters.
This is fortunate, for Locke—now the founder of the Newton-based Jessica Locke Fire Fighter’s Fund— was a lot more qualified in healing than killing. Locke is trained in the Alexander Technique, a method of body and movement reeducation that brings you in accordance with what she calls “your primary movement.” It’s a holistic method that combines aspects of massage, psychology, and physical therapy to alleviate all kinds of pain. In some ways it’s very intuitive—like how the way you walk affects how your back feels—and in other ways it seems nonsensical—like how having had braces on your teeth could affect how your back feels.
“The first time I experience the technique it was like having my spine unwound and uncoiled,” Locke said. “You spend your entire life building up small pains and aches in your body, and you can’t imagine living without them. Then someone can make it all go away with just a touch. It was like how Jesus could put his hands on people and heal them.”
When Locke realized that she could do more good by applying this technique to the weary and worn fire fighters of New York than by seeking vigilante justice, she knocked on the door of Engine 32.
“I was very nervous when I got to the station,” Locke said. “But when the first fire fighter let me in, I knew I had to prove myself. I put my hands on him, and I felt his energy and realized he didn’t want the work, but was going to sit there for my sake. I felt so bad because I was not down here to take but to give. So now it was a contest to see whether I could give more to him than he gave to me. I won.”
Locke said that with that first body session, she was able to remove the fire fighter’s shoulder pain, something he said no physical therapy had ever been able to accomplish.
“In that moment I finally felt like I had gotten back at Bin Laden,” she said. “And for everything I did for my country’s heroes, they gave it back with respect. It became a symbiotic relationship, and it was the best relationship I had had with any men for as long as I can remember.”
This experience put Locke on a completely different life path. Until this point Locke had been a struggling composer with a masters from the New England Conservatory of music and a desire to be the next John Williams. Now, she dedicates her life to serving the fire fighters who serve the public.
New York may have been the catalyst for her involvement, but it is the Newton fire fighters that Locke spends most of her time with now. After seeing an article in the Newton Tab a few years back about conditions in the local fire stations, Locke realized that work needed to be done closer to her home in Watertown.
“When I learned that the buildings were crumbling, heat was failing, windows didn’t have screens, toilets backed up, sewage leaking from ceiling, there were no smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, and that engines were 23 years old and shouldn’t be on the road, I knew I needed to do something,” she said.
Now, in addition to having her own Alexander Technique practice in West Newton Locke has become a one-woman advocate group for the Newton fire fighters. Whether giving free bodywork to 15 firemen, raising awareness about working conditions, or standing outside of City Hall at least once a week for a year to protest Mayor Cohen’s assertion that the department used too many sick days, Locke certainly devotes much of her time to the cause.
For this reason, Locke officially founded her own nonprofit—The Fire Fighter’s Fund—and wrote a book about her post-9/11 experiences in 2005. The organization is just Locke and two other volunteers in New York, but members of the fire department say her presence has been invaluable.
The firefighters know her, that's for sure. On Tuesday evening, we visited Firehouse One and talked to a group of firefighters. Their dinner conversations ranged from how hot Punky Brewster had become, the sexual deviancy of female chimps, and how great Cinnamon Toast Crunch was.
But they also talked a little about Locke.
“She’s really lit a bunch of fires under people and helped get us the equipment we needed,” Lt. Mike Murphy said without a sense of irony “There should be a statue outside that says, ‘This is the station that Jessica built.’”
And, for a bunch of hardboiled firefighters these were some true believers in the Alexander Technique. Chris Lessard is such a fan of the technique that he has even brought in his wife and young child to have it done.
“All the other treatments I had were like getting a Band Aid for a bullet wound,” Lessard said between bites of ziti and meatballs. “But [Locke] understood what was going on better than anyone else and has really helped with the pain. She’d touch my shoulder and say, ‘you feel that in your toe?’ At first I’d have no idea what she was talking about, and then… I felt a tingling in my toe.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top 25 Censored Stories

This is from Project Censored, a great news-gathering operation that keeps track of news stories that didn't make the news. When you're tired of hearing about missing white women or 'pearls or diamonds,' check them out to see what you're missing. Here are their 25 top censored news stories of the year-- you should be able to click on any of them for more information. If not, go to then click on 'Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009' on the right hand side of the homepage for more info on each story.

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009
#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
# 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
# 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
# 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
# 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
# 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
# 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
# 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
#9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
# 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture
# 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
# 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
# 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
# 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
# 15 Worldwide Slavery
# 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
# 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
# 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
# 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
# 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
# 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid
# 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
# 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
# 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tears to Remember

On election night 2008, one generation released its grief. The next looked up confusedly, eager to please ... and yet unable to comprehend just what the tears were about.

NOVEMBER 6, 2008, 9:03 PM
Tears to Remember
On Wednesday, Nov. 5, 1980, my 10th-grade American history teacher started class by unfurling The New York Times. She pointed to its triple banner headline: “Reagan Easily Beats Carter; Republicans Gain in Congress; D’Amato and Dodd are Victors.”
“Save this paper,” she told us. “This is the start of a whole new era.”
And it was. An era of unbridled deregulation, wealth-enhancing perks for the already well-off, and miserly indifference to the poor and middle class; of the recasting of greed as goodness, the equation of bellicose provincialism with patriotism, the reframing of bigotry as small-town decency.
In short, it was the start of our current era. The Reagan Revolution was the formative political experience of my generation’s lifetime, like the Great Depression, the Second World War or Vietnam for those before us. And in its intellectual and moral paucity, in its eventual hegemony, these years shut down, for some of us, the ability to fully imagine another way.
I will admit that back in January, when Barack Obama, in his post-Iowa victory speech, spoke about the “cynics,” the “they” who said “this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose,” he was talking about me.
I will admit that the call of “change” did not speak to me as an achievable goal.
Until it actually came.
On Wednesday, there was a run on newspapers, as voters rushed to grab a tangible piece of the history they’d made. My husband Max and I, unable to find extra copies, brought our own worn papers home to 8- and 11-year-old Emilie and Julia.
Sept. 11, the seismic event that we’d feared would forever form their political consciousness, shaping their world and constricting the boundaries of the possible, had actually been eclipsed, light blotting out darkness, the best of America at long last driving away the demons of fear. We wanted them to see that it was the end of an era.
“Look,” we said, pointing to the headline “Racial Barrier Falls.” “This is huge.”
We labored to make them understand that their world — art that day, and orchestra, and Baked Potato Bar at lunch — had irrevocably changed.
But how can you understand change when you’ve only known one way of being?
They were happy because we were happy. They rose to the occasion in that bemused way children do when adults tell them what they should feel. They were glad to be rid of George W. Bush and to be saved – for now – from the specter of Sarah Palin. (“It is not O.K. to say she’s an ‘idiot,’” I had snapped when they came home from school stoked by the mob. “Prove your case. Show, don’t tell.”)
They’d had, like many D.C. children, more than their share of politics. After first following the country into battle against the all-purpose boogeyman Saddam Hussein, they’d become antiwar. They had opinions on tax policy and spoke angrily about the “wealth gap.” In the past election year, they’d been fired up about the woman thing, in all its pretty girl versus smart girl iterations; in fact, they and their friends had remained hard-core Hillaryites long after their moms had moved on.
But the race thing? The groundbreaking immensity of the election of our country’s first African-American president?
“You’re being racist,” Emilie had said when I made a comment about how particularly earth-moving this election was for black voters. “Why should it matter if people are black or white?”
Theirs has often looked to me like a world drained of meaning. Girl power put to the service of selling Hannah Montana. Feel-good inclusiveness that occulted the very real conflicts, crimes and hatreds of history.
It isn’t easy to let go of the past to embrace something new, to risk heartbreak on the chance of the world’s actually having changed.
Or at least, it hasn’t been easy for me. But it comes naturally to some. Like the hundreds of George Washington University students who gathered in front of the White House on Tuesday night, cheering and screaming and shouting their goodbyes to the political era of their youth.
“Bliss it was to be alive, but to be young was very heaven,” Max emailed me, paraphrasing William Wordsworth on the French Revolution, at 11:30 p.m. on election night, after leaving his desk to walk among the revelers downtown. I, home with the kids, was in bed, sleeping the drugged sleep of an alcohol-abstaining migraineuse after drinking half a glass of celebratory champagne.
Colin Powell did not dance for joy over Obama’s victory; he wept.
“Look what we did. Look what we did,” he said, puffy-faced, red-eyed, fighting back more tears on CNN. “He’s won. It’s over.”
David Dinkins was similarly solemn. “Things do change. There is a God. They do get better,” said the mayor who presided over New York City at a time of toxic racial tensions.
Obama, too, resisted giddy gladness on Tuesday night. But he did proclaim an end to the world as we’ve known it for far too long.
“To those who would tear the world down: we will defeat you,” he promised. “This is our moment. This is our time.”
The glory of Barack Obama is that there are so many different kinds of us who can claim a piece of that “our.” African-Americans, Democrats, post-boomers, progressives, people who rose from essentially nowhere and through hard work and determination succeeded beyond their parents’ wildest dreams are the most obvious.
But there are also people who respect intelligence and good grammar. People who see their spouse as their “best friend,” as Barack called Michelle on Tuesday night. People whose children have the same knowing look as Sasha and Malia, who are probably more excited about their puppy than about their father’s presidency.
Two images will forever stay in my mind to mark this epoch-breaking Election Day. One is that of Jesse Jackson’s face, drenched in tears, in Chicago’s Grant Park on Tuesday evening.
And the other is a photo that ran in The Times on Wednesday. In it, a black mother and daughter sit on the floor of a church in Harlem. The mother, Latrice Barnes, having heard of Obama’s victory, is doubled up in tears; her daughter, Jasmine, is reaching a tentative hand up to soothe her. To me, she looks like the future, reaching out to heal the past.
At the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, Latrice Barnes, right, is comforted by her daughter Jasmine Redd, 5. (David Goldman for The New York Times)
It is, I suppose, in part a matter of temperament, whether one shouts or weeps at happy transformative moments. But I also think it’s a matter of what has come before. The young people joyfully frolicking in front of the Bush White House never knew the universe whose passing was marked by Obama’s victory and Jackson’s tears.
This moment of triumph marks the end of such a long period of pain, of indignity and injustice for African-Americans. And for so many others of us, of the trampling and debasing of our most basic ideals, beliefs that we cherished every bit as deeply and passionately as those of the “values voters” around whose sensibilities we’ve had to tiptoe for the past 28 years.
The election brought the return of a country we’d lost for so long that it was almost forgotten under the accumulated scar tissue of accommodation and acceptance.
For me, this will be the enduring memory of election night 2008: One generation released its grief. The next looked up confusedly, eager to please and yet unable to comprehend just what the tears were about.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

As the mother of two, soon to be three bi-racial children I smiled as I listened to the eloquence of President Obama’s speech. My husband and I decided to wake our children. Our son seven & daughter four to share in this momentous and historical evening, huddle together in our bedroom.
My daughter who’s phenotype resembles her father, turned to me and said “look mommy he’s brown like me."
I knew America had made the right choice…and then I cried.
— Mina

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prop 8

(This is from today's Daily Kos, and was written by Kos. Wj\hile it's a day for celebration, it's also a day of mourning for GLBT people and their allies.)
Proposition 8
by kos
Wed Nov 05, 2008 at 02:25:04 PM EST
What a night of contrast, going from celebrating the first African American president and the defeat of another anti-abortion ban in South Dakota, to the narrow victory of the hateful and bigoted Proposition 8 in California. It seems that in the culture wars, we're winning on race and abortion. The new front lines are gay rights and immigration.
Immigration took a back seat this cycle (thanks to McCain's wobbly status on the issue), and the one race in which it played a huge role -- PA-11 -- embattled incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski survived a spirited challenge from hateful anti-immigrant activist Lou Barletta. The anti-immigrant forces still haven't been able to gain much traction, but they bear watching. The issue will be back in full force in 2010.
But for now, the flashpoint in the culture wars is gay rights, and I have to say, as wonderful as yesterday might've been, losing Prop 8 hit me hard. That California would vote for a black president with a margin of 61-37 and then shit on gays was horrifically disappointing. We have a long way to go. The anti-Prop 8 campaign wasn't helped by a shoddy operation that most observers who interacted with it admit was incompetent and ill-suited to wage a statewide campaign. While the Mormon Church flooded the state with ground troops for the fight, our side had no ground game. Inexcusable, but borne out of a complacency that I myself shared. No longer.
I admit, I was feeling run down yesterday, crawling across the finish line after a long marathon. Losing the Prop 8 battle has re-energized me. I'm ready for a rematch in 2010.
Perhaps the best solution, and one mentioned before, is to give all couples civil union licenses. Gay or straight, it's irrelevant. Then leave the "marriage" thing up to individual churches. They can decide if they want to be bigots or not.
But I doubt that happens anytime soon. So it's more likely that we'll get to do this all over again in 2010, fighting and arguing and spending tens of millions of dollars over whether it's still okay, in this day and age, to discriminate against an entire class of people. If nothing else, there will be more of us, and less of them in two years:
CNN exit poll
Vote by Age Yes No 18-29 (20%) 39 61 30-44 (28%) 55 45 45-64 (36%) 54 46 65+ (15%) 61 39
That's why the Mormon Church and their bigoted allies are so desperate in this fight. Young people aren't afraid of the gays. They're on the losing side of history.
And I'm not just ready for this fight, I'm eager for it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

YES WE DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love America again