Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I loved this speech

Barack Obama gave a speech today that touched on many tough issues and answered many tough questions. Race, rage, bigotry, faith, loyalty … these are not superficial topics and he handled them in a digntified, graceful and still very personal way. Here is my favorite part, the section of the speech that was, for me, key:

"This helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

"These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love."

Who among us hasn't listened to someone we love speak in politically incorrect, hurtful terms? My father died believing blacks are inherently "dirty," Jews are not patriotic, women are hyperemotional, and gays are depraved. My mom had a long way to go in understanding and appreciating that gays are people, too. My dad felt that way because he needed villains, someone to blame for his missed opportunities. My mom believed as she did because she's lived a very, very sheltered life. Yet I love my parents, and grew up because/in spite of them to have a diverse circle of friends who have enriched my life immeasurably.

I bet everyone who heard Obama's speech has a similar story. For bigotry is that pervasive in our society. We each have a story. I thank Barack Obama for describing it in those terms.

It's also a smart speech. He doesn't pander, he doesn't dumb it down. It was neither written nor delivered to be fed to us in nifty little sound bites. I appreciate the respect that showed the American people.

To paraphrase the Dixie Chicks, "I'm proud this Presidential candidate is from Illinois."

For the text of his speech, visit His Own Words.

They really hate her

"They" would be the London tabloids. Above is the front page of the London Sun.

"Her" would be Heather Mills.

She does herself no favors, to be sure. The way she's behaved during her split and subsequent divorce from Sir Paul has made her a target. She's leaked the most personal and unflattering moments of their married life (for example, Paul telling her not to nurse Baby Beatrice because he didn't "want a mouthful of breast milk") in hoping the public would take her side. They didn't.

She presents herself as a selfless charitable crusader, yet the judge who heard Mills vs. McCartney wrote:

• "Much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid."

• "Her tax returns disclose no charitable giving at all."

• "To some extent she is her own worst enemy. She has an explosive and volatile character."

• "In the light of the husband’s generosity towards her, as I have set out, I find the wife’s behaviour distinctly distasteful."

• "I reject her case. I am afraid I have to say her case is devoid of reality."

Still, her treatment in the British press does take my breath away. So far my favorite reference to her is as, "one-legged former porn model." And that can't be the most attractive picture of her they could find to run on page one.

I'm not saying Heather Mills doesn't deserve this. No one makes her appear on camera. No one forces her to cry and whine and air her personal dirty linen in public. No one insisted she throw a glass of water at her husband's lawyer in court. (Heather dismissed it by saying Paul's lawyer had simply been "baptized.") No one implored her to lie about her involvement with charitable causes. She's a 40 year old woman. She did all these things of her own volition. And she was made to look even worse because she was up against the most publicity-savvy Lad from Liverpool, who understood that by suffering in silence he'd look that much more gallant.

But still … I almost feel sorry for her.

Nailah Franklin Update -- Death Penalty Sought

Prosecutors here in Cook County have filed the necessary paperwork to seek the death penalty in the murder of Nailah Franklin.

I am not including a link to the news stories on this matter because they naturally include the suspect's name. I understand why news organizations must do that, but this blog is not journalism, it's my blog. I choose concentrate solely on Nailah Franklin. There was something about this young woman that touched and inspired her family and friends and I don't want her to be forgotten.

She was just 28 when she died last September.
She was a daughter and a sister, one of 5 girls.
She was a good student at Homewood Flossmoor High School and graduated from U of I.
She volunteered at the Chicago Urban League.
She worked for two well-known, well-respected companies, first Leo Burnett and then Eli Lilly.
Her friends fondly remember her sense of style, and how she loved all things Oprah.
Her funeral was attended by hundreds of mourners, who heard Nailah Franklin eulogized as "not just a star, but a superstar."