Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lay in bed this morning listening to the hour-long panel discussion we taped last Sunday; "Wrap up for the Election" ... .

What a trip!

My original impressions about the event were right on. The only thing missing was some indication that I was seriously considering bopping the columnist (sitting to my right) over the head with my umbrella! This morning I lay there in my pajamas laughing out loud at the thought of it, and wishing I'd said so on the air. This young man simply couldn't enjoy the moment. He sounded like Eeyore of the Pooh stories. I was even more annoyed listening to the conversation one whole week after the fact.

Except for wishing I'd delivered words profound enough to fit the historic occasion we were gathered to talk about, I felt reasonably comfortable while listening.

I heard what was obvious; that poor Mr. President-elect may have inherited an electorate that has lost sight of the fact that this is a participatory democracy that requires that we the people must remain in the equation. What specific policies he will enact; what programs he will immediately introduce are of less importance to me than what is it that we as a nation will become under his leadership. It is obvious that we may have finally elected someone who is ready and willing to tap into our considerable strengths. As I said at the end of the taping, "...he needs me nipping at his heels. His stated plan is to govern from the bottom up. I take him at his word, and plan to go on being as political as I've always been.

You can hear the panel discussion at There's a little box on the left side of the screen where it says, "Listen to the Globe". You just click on the black section in the middle of the box. When I figure out how to do so I'll post the discussion in CBreaux Annex.

Meanwhile, I plan to keep my day job.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It was a long night of tossing fitfully -- dreams of the last time Rick and Gordon and I were together ...

on board the SS Red Oak Victory as she was being towed down from the mothball fleet berthed at Benicia ten years ago. She was a gift from the Navy to the museum and would be restored lovingly by veterans of WWII over the next ten years. Gordon had been working as a volunteer for the Richmond Museum of History and had been enthusiastically stamping and folding invitations and otherwise engaged in the planning of this grand adventure. I was working at the time as field representative for Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, and had made it onto the invitation list as such. Rick was there with Gordon. We were so happy that day -- with several hundred other celebrants; with fire boats greeting us with their giant sprays; with WWII planes flying overhead as we sailed triumphantly under the Richmond/San Rafael bridge!

One year later Gordon would be dead of throat cancer and Rick would soon follow him into that watery grave beside the ship -- a victim of alcoholic abuse and the pain of rejection since childhood. They were not only a gay couple, but Gordon was white and from Portland, Maine, and Rick was African American. They were scorned on both scores.

Woke this morning feeling very tired and forlorn (old fashioned word, but fitting), and I'm foolish to think that I can face today unmoved by memories of their loss. A microphone in my hands might be very risky. I'll stand at attention with the others. Will surely hold the flowers for the ceremony -- because my work demands that I fulfill those duties. It will be difficult to remain in the present and not see that very painful past. The triggers are hairlike, and hard to control. I will ask to be relieved of the "saying of a few words" as planned.

I dare not tempt fate ... .

There will be many opportunities to challenge conventional thinking on the matter of same sex marriage. Today is about something quite different. Today we honor the veterans of all wars and there is a responsibility to contribute to this ceremony in the ways that are pre-ordained by custom.

But there will be moments -- some time between one o'clock and four when my stint ends -- when I can stand alone at the railing and remember the little boy I so loved and have now outlived by eight long years.

The holiday season is always the most painful.

Small wonder that the cracks in my psychological armor were pierced on Sunday.

It's Misery Eve... .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Participated as a panelist in a radio wrap-up of the presidential election ... .

That was Sunday afternoon.

I arrived at the offices of The Globe, a local African American Newspaper with a radio division. The moderator is a friend of long-standing and someone I find it difficult to say no to -- ever.

The other two panelists were a columnist for the newspaper and a young fourth grade teacher from the local school district. Both were male.

I was in a foul mood for reasons unclear at the time, and I'm afraid it showed. I felt myself increasingly combative with one of the panelists; at odds with his opinions more often than not. Though it was an internal battle that was being waged with myself and I suspect hardly showed except harmlessly. Not sure about the why of it, but some of the not so subtle irritation had to do with what I heard as his inexplicable conservatism. His cautious attitude was annoying, though this was someone I'd never met before, so such feelings were clearly irrational.

I heard myself say at one point, "...O Lordy, I expect any minute now to hear you say -- with all deliberate speed!" I was clearly the most liberal (does that word still mean what it used to?) among the three of us, and that surprised me. I would have imagined that young people would be far more daring and "progressive." It was not to be. They were as old and as measured and as conservative (if that word still means what I thought it did) as one might imagine about men twice their age. Though the teacher was clearly more of a free thinker than the columnist, who was a Stanford grad and an attorney -- and clearly right of center.

I suppose I wasn't ready yet to get out of my paper hat, and felt that my parade was being rained on. It may have been as simple as that.

I may be in a confetti mood for days!

But then the irritation may have been related to excruciatingly painful events I was subconsciously trying hard to smother ... it's that time of year.

Tomorrow I will be in uniform participating in Veterans Day observances on board the SS Red Oak Victory at Shipyard 3. I'll speak a few words to the visitors in the planned ceremony and will participate in the flower tribute. I will be representing Rosie the Riveter WWII/Home Front National Historical Park, officially. The ceremony will be an emotional one for me; though no one will know.

It was from the deck of the Red Oak Victory that I scattered the ashes of my eldest son, Dale Richard Reid, 8 years ago, in the autumn of the year 2000. I held his remains in my hand -- combined them with beautiful red roses as I let them drop over the rail -- one by one -- into the waters below. It was just 18 months after Rick and I had scattered the remains of his partner, Gordon Higgins in the same manner -- from this ship.

Their's had been an 18 year monogamous relationship that ended with their deaths, just months apart. Two lives destroyed by a thinly-veiled staggered act of suicide brought on by alcoholism and the heartbreak of lifelong social rejection.

On the same day that brought such exaltation with the Obama victory ... Proposition 8 passed in the state of California overturning the right of same sex couples to marry. There is great irony in the fact that the same African American voters who helped to bring the great joy of the election of Barack Obama-- voted simultaneously to take away the precious right of others to wed. How in the world could anyone choose against the right to love? What a tragic juxtaposition of events!

I'm only becoming aware as my fingers tap the keys -- why I was so irritated at the taping. Small wonder, right?

How I wish I could have influenced those who voted away the rights of others ... how I wish they could realize the pain of rejection inflicted upon so many who so recently were given the right to wed ... but then, how on earth could African Americans not know? Is that not the stony road that we've just traveled?

I'll stand at the rail tomorrow and drop red roses into the waters, again. This time for all those who perished in all of the wars of our time and before. I'm certain that this struggle, too, will one day be won -- but please, let no one suggest that it will happen "with all deliberate speed"!

Then -- if I'm lucky -- I'll try to get back into my paper hat for another round of exaltation -- once I get past the tears ... .

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Unlikely, perhaps unrecognized -- gentle Revolutionary ... .

He was born in racist Greenville, Mississippi, in 1936. He died far too young. He grew up in Maryland, in the shadow of a Capitol built by slaves. There is no way that Jim Henson could have not been shaped by his times -- the Civil Rights movement was surely playing powerfully in the background of his life. The influences of the vestiges of the Civil War; the trail of violence that marked his birthplace; the history of lynchings, the lives sacrificed for the right to vote ... .

Strangely, it was the memory of this gentle artist with the inner child so strongly influencing his work that has haunted me in the days following the election of our new president.

Henson, alone, may have quietly changed the mindset of an entire generation of children who were enchanted by his multi-colored, multi-everything creatures who slowly chipped away at the way we saw ourselves and one another. He taught compassion to some and self-esteem to others -- and love to all.

Henson and his Children's Television Workshop confronted the stereotypes and created pathways between children of every color and culture. He did it at a time when they were eager to learn and accepting of differences. We all got to learn how "one of these things is not like the other" and how it "isn't easy bein' green" from a thoughtful and wise Kermit the Frog. And our parents were listening in the other room as the tiny ones -- so malleable -- so innocent -- so open-- experienced the evolution of a nation's ethos -- and in time were touched as deeply as were the children.

Does anyone doubt, any longer, the power in early childhood education? Has it dawned on anyone besides me (and Linda Tillery, of course) that those babies of the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, and beyond are now sitting in the boardrooms of major corporations; are the legislators now entering the state houses across the nation; are running the military and guiding the arts? They're the Sesame Street alumni, and they "got it!"

If only he could have lived to see how his magical creatures helped to change the world!

On Tuesday, those Sesame Street graduates were gathered on the malls, in front of the courthouses, waving American flags in town squares all across the country. They've reclaimed "patriotism" and sentimentality. They came together spontaneously in the thousands, peacefully, in celebration at Grants Park in Chicago; and in the far corners of the world. They were proud of themselves and of their new president-elect, knowing that we'd all crossed a threshold of some sort and that life would not be the same, ever again.

The little Obama girls will see a very different world than the one that Jim Henson was born into, and it's my guess that he intended it to be just that way.

And, I do believe that we have a ways to go still before equality is fully realized for all, but those facing up to that challenge are approaching it from the same side of the social barriers --and we're about as varied as those lovable Muppets are that Jim Henson gave to the world.

There are many heroes who contributed to this movement, and Jim Henson should be up there with the rest of them.

Photo: Bottom photo taken in Brisbane, Australia, when the election outcome was announced to the world.