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Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Oh to be young again! Rarely have I experienced this particular regret ... yet ...

In listening to the hearings of the Judiciary I'm finding myself chewing the draperies and licking the wallpaper!

Unfortunately, in the middle of the testimonies I received an email that was blasted by Rev. Paul Sawyer to a broad list of Unitarian-Universalists across the country. It sounded so "reasonable;" didn't fit my rebellious mood one bit. I wanted more outrage! Couldn't resist the temptation to respond from the place of anger that has been eating at me here where there is little distraction given the fact that I'm home from work with Dorian suffering from a severe upper respiratory infection. Dorrie is developmentally-disabled so that the level of conversation is somewhat wanting. I was in no mood for "reasonable!"

So-saying, I sent off a flippant reply -- blasting it to the entire mailing list -- and felt better for a few minutes there.

In no time at all came a cautionary reply from a former president of the UUA, with more than a hint of annoyance and a curt bid for patience and fortitude on my part; inciting more resistance and defiance from a little ole lady who's earned her stripes and isn't ready to back off one iota.

How on earth can he or anyone know that I'm speaking from a body of experience that does little to encourage a rational response to an irrational world?

1. I was born an African-American woman to a world that appreciates neither.
2. Was 27 years-old when my slave ancestor died at 102 (whom I knew), so slavery is no abstraction but a living-breathing continuing factor of my being.
3. Lived through a young adulthood scarred by Jim Crow and blatant racial segregation after a childhood of relative acceptance (WWII migration into California),
4. Lived for 20 years as the mother of a young black family in an (all-white) California suburb where fighting for rights was both personal and collective, and sometimes perilous.
5. Raised an openly gay son to adulthood only to lose him to his inability to survive that world of physical abuse, social rejection, and alcoholism into a thinly-veiled suicide.
6. Spent 10 years as a university faculty spouse of a European professor -- and learned new levels of discrimination.
7. ...then another ten or so years as a social activist and black merchant in a welfare community followed by another ten living and working in the belly of the beast ...
8. ...as a field representative to one then another of two powerful members of the California State Assembly.
9. I'm still working fulltime with racial discrimination a continuing factor in my everyday existence. I'm working with the National Park Service in a newly-created park that enshrines Rosie the Riveter/Home Front of WWII, another era of overwhelming racial segregation. The sensitivity with what such enterprises must be approached is critical to our not supporting that which we have outlived, painfully, as a nation. I'm fine-tuned in ways that most are not, I'm sure, but have a sense of being quite able to work with those elements in ways that serve the greater cause of unity with a team of people who are sensitive to the needs and make every day worth rising for.

Having said all that; it felt right to express my impatience with the charade that I'm seeing on CSPAN this day. Those who are clearly challenging this appointment and demanding direct answers to direct questions are comforting to witness. The patronizing drooling cheek-patting Alito supporters on the Judiciary are infuriating and give me that familiar old feeling of being the only grownup in the room. I want to shake these powerful men until their teeth rattle and their wigs fall off!

Maybe demanding that room be made for those of us who've lived differing realities is not "reasonable." But, to be an aging grandmother who will leave behind progeny who will inherit this awfulness does little to encourage a rational response. I've given much and sacrificed much pride in the interest of social progress. Now age has brought a sense of urgency that will not be denied. There's no time to do it over. There isn't the time to try to convince those not already on the path -- so -- as it was during the Black Revolution of the Sixties -- I'll trust my anger to those with whom it may have some effect. The silent promise of our nation's founding documents plus those of a denomination where much of the work has already been done is seductive, indeed, and tempts me to continue to prod and poke ever in the hope that -- just a little nudge here or there ... (we've come so close at times in the past).

But patience wears thin, and voices become harsh and rasping as years go by and ... .

and ... time will not permit hesitation if my grandchildren and yours are to inherit the benefits of the just society we've worked and fought so hard to achieve, and for which so many are continuing to die.

Photo: Mel and Betty Reid (moi) photographed in front of the Oaks Baseball field in Emeryville. At that time he was playing for the Oakland Giants professional football club (circa 1943).

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