Thursday, August 28, 2008

Once Upon a Dream

I've always loved telling about my grandma Nelle. Nelle was a teenager when she read the newspaper stories about the Wright Brothers' first flight.

Decades later, I sat with her as we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. And I've wondered, since, whether I would ever have a story like that.

Well, maybe I do.

45 years ago, a young white country girl sat in front of a black-and-white TV, mesmerized by the most eloquent speech she had ever heard.

"I have a dream today . . ."
You could still find separate water fountains signed "colored".
"that my four little children . . ."
Many schools were still segregated in fact, if not in theory. Run-down buildings, too few books, rare extra-curricular opportunities.
"will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin . . ."
Sure, women worked outside the home. But more often than not, it was because they couldn't afford not to, and in jobs with no possibility of serious advancement.
"but by the content of their character."

Last night, forty-five years later: same country girl, different TV, I watched Barack Obama accept the Democratic nomination for president. The culmination of a campaign that marked a sea-change in not just American politics, but in America.

Never again can anyone legitimately say that a person of color cannot achieve this.
Never again can anyone legitimately say that a female cannot achieve that.

Those days are gone, and good riddance. Thanks to Dr. King, thanks to Rosa Parks, thanks to the women of Seneca Falls. Thanks to the millions who gave their time, their hearts, and sometimes their lives, to confirm the words of the Declaration of Independence: that all are created equal.

From Kitty Hawk, to the moon.
From Jim Crow, to Barack Obama.
A journey of human ingenuity, and a journey of the human soul. Both breathtaking in their scope.

You have to wonder: What marvels will our children see?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Children of El Dorado

* Picture this: A call comes in to a local shelter, from a cell phone -- she says her name is Sarah, she's 16, she lives at the local FLDS compound, she was forced to marry an older man, who abuses her; she has an 8 month old child, she may be pregnant again, she's scared, she wants help.
State law requires that any suspicion of child abuse -- which includes sex between someone under sixteen and a man over nineteen -- be reported to Child Protective Services, which then is required to investigate. Their mandate, of course, is to protect any child shown to be abused, neglected, or in any immediate danger of abuse. No one can argue that.
And there have been reports, and even court cases, for years. Stories about how this sect treats young women, marrying them off in their teens, against their will, to much older men. About how the younger men are sent away, so the older men won't have any competition for the young brides. And there must be something creepy going on, right? Otherwise, why would they wall themselves off and keep to themselves?

* Now picture this: you are seven years old. You've spent your entire life in a very enclosed, very protected environment. You probably don't know that your church and home are regarded with a great deal of suspicion by the outside world. You do know that you are always, always, surrounded by family. Lots and lots of family. Your birth mother, your "other" mothers, four or five or six siblings, tons of cousins.
Suddenly your home is swarmed by law enforcement. Many of them carrying rifles. There is even a tank. You and all the rest of the children are taken away from your home, and you don't understand why. But at least your mother is with you.
But then, she's not. All children over 5 are separated from their mothers. You're left with strangers, strangers who are asking you questions you don't understand; the food is different, you're all crowded together in a strange place, they're having trouble finding clothes for you. You can't go home, not now, maybe not ever.

Polygamy is against the law. Forced marriage is against the law. Marriage under the age of sixteen is, in this state, against the law. The state, and society, have a duty to protect its people against all of these. Quite possibly the state had every right to go in looking for Sarah.
But . . .
Where is Sarah? Not yet identified. Is she in the crowd that was removed from the compound? If she is, she's not saying, and she's giving another name. The call was from a cell phone, and there have been no reports that the geographic origin of the call was traced.
There are reports that some of the young women, under sixteen, are pregnant. If true, there is cause in their cases. But the state will have to show that all 416 children have suffered, or are in immediate danger of suffering, abuse. All 416. Who have been torn from their homes & families.

I don't know anyone who doesn't think this sect is a little creepy. The question may come down to, is creepiness enough to justify this type of wholesale action?

And if it is, who defines "creepy"?

I've got no answers, folks. Only questions.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Another new addition

Junior here (that's a temporary name only) was born sometime after sunset yesterday. When mom Rose brought him up by the house this morning, he was already all dried off, and steady on his feet.
(For those of you interested in these kind of details, papa Skip on the left is a registered quarterhorse, and Rose is a registered Paint.)
Me? I just think he's adorable.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Say Good-Bye to the Texas Two-Step

It's not that often that we not only participate in the end of an era, but know it at the time. And no matter how necessary it may be, no matter why or how the era is ending, it's kind of sad, really.

I refer, of course, to the Texas Two-Step. A convoluted primary system that only this state could come up with. Yes, in Texas, you can legally vote twice (or more!) in the Democratic presidential primary.

First, you vote in the "normal" primary. Probably like any other primary state: you go to your precinct's polling place, show your voter registration card or ID, and vote either electronically or on a paper ballot. (No chads, please.) So far, so good.

But then, my friends, then the fun starts. Because you can go back that evening, after the polls close, and vote again!!! Call it a precinct convention, call it a caucus, call it total chaos (more on that later), but anyone who wants can go back and sign in for the presidential candidate of their choice. You don't even have to stay any longer than that -- sign in, go home, turn on the election results on TV.

That sign-in determines the allotment of delegates from your precinct to the county (or senatorial district, please don't ask) convention. If the sign-ins are 50% Clinton and 50% Obama, the delegates to the county (etc.) convention will be 50% Clinton and 50% Obama.
Now, if you do stay after signing in, you might be selected to be a delegate to that county (etc.) convention. As I did. Yes, yours truly can truthfully claim my moment in the sun as an Obama delegate!!!!!

But I digress. Now, if you are a delegate to the county (etc.) convention, you get to vote AGAIN! Yes, now you select delegates from your county (etc.) convention to the state convention. And here it gets REALLY complicated, with a formula based on how many votes your precinct turned in for the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate! Are you still with me? Don't worry, I'm not either. And I have the advantage of possessing the official "Rules of the Texas Democratic Party," 2006-2008 Edition. Subtitle: "Moving Texas Forward." I kid you not.

Now, you may ask, is anyone checking to make sure you're still voting for the same candidate you did when you first signed in on election evening? Heck, no. This is Texas! Nobody tells us what to do! Besides, we're all too busy working out complicated mathematical formulas.

Believe it or not, this system worked fine for the past 20 years. Why? Because nobody cared. The nomination was all sewn up before anyone had to even think about campaigning in Texas. Most voters were more interested in the candidates for sheriff and county commissioner, truth be told.

The result was that, in 2004, there were about a dozen people at my county's party convention.
This year? 150 delegates, plus alternates, plus party officials, plus . . . Not a problem here, but oh, my Lord! Larger, less civilized areas, like San Antonio, Houston -- total chaos. Now, they had weeks after the chaos of the precinct caucuses to prepare, but did they pay attention? Did they think, hey, we'd better be organized to within an inch of our lives, or else we'll get run out of town?
Um, apparently not. And it wasn't pretty.

One of the things the county conventions do, is to pass resolutions to be forwarded to the state convention. On all sorts of topics -- no border fence, abolish the Electoral College, death to the TransTexas Corridor, etc.
But I will bet you anything you like, that mine was not the only county passing a resolution to go to a straight primary, delegates to be awarded proportional to the popular vote. It won't be, can't be acted upon this year. But I'll be very suprised if we do this again in 2012.

It will be much easier to organize. The national media won't make fun of us. The primary system will make sense.

We'll be just like everybody else who holds a primary.

Kind of sad, really. The words "Texas" and "just like everybody else" should never never never be in the same sentence.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NBA Champions Again!

Yes, I know. Some of you (hi, TBL!) are sitting there muttering "Basketball? She's blogging about basketball?!?!?" Which is perfectly understandable. After all, my usual question about the very existence of the sport is: "Why?"

But, yes, even this total non-fan is happy today, after staying up late to watch an entire basketball game, to know that the San Antonio Spurs have brought home their fourth NBA championship in 9 years.

Why? Two reasons:
1) the team; and
2) the fans.

The Spurs --
When was the last time (and Rodman doesn't count) that you saw any weird news stories about these guys? Tim never gets photographed stumbling drunkenly out of a strip club. Manu doesn't toss things at the fans in the stands. Horry & Bowen don't throw punches at each other. Heck, they don't even seriously trashtalk the other teams. In fact, Tim was overheard telling LeBron James after the game last night, "This league will be yours soon."
(side note to Cavs management: LeBron is good. Damn good. But he can't do it all. Get him a team, would you?)

The fans --
number of fans to hit the streets of downtown celebrating last night: thousands
number of cars overturned and set on fire: zero
number of store windows smashed: zero
number of arrests for looting: zero

So, yes, I'm celebrating too. I'll be stopping by Academy on my way home from work to get my championship T-shirt. And then . . .

and then Tim & company need to get out of the way. We've got an All-Star game sneaking up on us.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

An Unexpected Guest

Hey, TBL, don't you miss country life?