Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Barack Obama

One Day Break from Cynicism

I am so glad that Obama won this historic election, but I couldn’t sleep all night. I was worried about what this election would mean to my future. I’m not talking about more taxes. What truly bothered me is that as a cynical person, all this hope and good will is bad for my writing. An African-American President. Respect from the world. People caring about each other. People are so optimistic on Twitter, I don’t even recognize the application anymore. Who are these people? Weren’t they just a bunch of assholes a few days ago? Have they all changed overnight? I even read some blogger who said that from now on, she will only read bloggers who “are positive about the world.” I don’t want to lose readers, as newly good-hearted people run away from my dislike of humanity.

But then a ghost appeared to me. It was the late Nipsy Russell, the first black performer to be a regular panelist on a weekly game show. I loved Nipsy Russell, especially the poems he would recite on the old Match Game, gems like these:

If you ever go out with a schoolteacher,
You’re in for a sensational night;
She’ll make you do it over and over again
Until you do it right.

The opposite of ‘pro’ is ‘con’
This fact is clearly seen
But if ‘progress’ means move forward
What does ‘Congress’ mean?

Nipsy Russell was a big influence on my love of words. Seriously. He was great.

“Neilochka, Neilochka. Cheer up.” the ghost of Nipsy Russell said to me. “I wrote this little poem for you —

Today we all are proud
A good man’s won for you
But life would really suck
Without some sarcasm too”

“So, what are you saying?” I asked, confused and startled by his sudden appearance in my bedroom.

“I’m saying that America — the world — still needs you.” said the comedian. “God put each of us on this earth for a reason. Some are here to lead America as the President of the United States. Some to write poems on game shows. And others are here to kvetch and look at the negative side of things. America needs all of us.”

“But what is there to feel negative about? I don’t really believe that President Obama will bring in a socialist government and destroy America — like those crazy right-wing talk show hosts do?

“Neilochka, open your eyes. There is one reason to truly be cyncial about the Obama administration. Something all Americans should be in fear of every day of their lives. Something so scary, that I almost would have suggested for you to vote for McCain instead.”

“What’s that?”

“Guess Who’s Coming to Stay at the White House… a lot!”

“Oh, no – NOT MORE OPRAH!”

Are Obama Supporters Too Elitist?

Did you ever notice that the humor in the the site “Stuff White People Like” is not really about “white people,” but about upscale, educated white people? They are the ones interested in New Balance shoes and ipods. Of course, most of us don’t really care about the OTHER white people — the ones who live in trailer parks in Kentucky — they’re off our radar anyway, so it isn’t a big issue. Not working class minorities. Those we do find interesting. But working class white people.

Can we add “Supporting Obama” as “Stuff Upscale, Educated, White People Like?” (at least the ones I read all the time on the blogosphere)

While I usually don’t write much about politics, I have been fascinated by the growing class distinctions in the Democratic race. You would think that this year’s election would be manna from heaven for the Democratic party, as the candidates include a woman AND a man of color. Instead, upscale white people, meaning most of the media, academia, and Democratic blogosphere are crazy over Obama, leaving Clinton with the underbelly of the party. Ironically, this group is helping Clinton win the nomination.

Obama is a great orator, someone who inspires the intellectual with visions of hope (which means living in a country that isn’t run by George Bush), but the actual working class seems to be voting for Clinton. They gave her the victory in Pennsylvania. Why isn’t the working class inspired by Obama? Is it because Clinton gets down and dirty and speaks to the real-life issues that face these citizens rather than speaking in flowery tones about hope? Is it racism, where the Archie Bunkers of the world feel more comfortable with a woman than a man of color?

I think we should partly blame ourselves… and our own elitism, which is affecting the whole election. While the Democratic party was once the strong hold of the working and middle class, most of the upper middle class now look on them with disdain. Our issues are not their issues. Maybe we are embarrassed about our own humble backgrounds, wanting to maintain a certain sophisticated image as we Twitter away in our loft/office in San Francisco. Obama has been criticized as elitist, but I think he is only trying to appeal to his followers — us.

Here are a couple of Twitters I just read after Hillary’s victory speech in Pennsylvania:

Watching a Hillary Clinton “victory speech” is like watching puppies raping kitties.

Let me rephrase that, Hillary’s audience looks like the crowd that got turned away at the Jerry Springer taping.

“blah blah blah day one, blah blah blah gas prices, blah blah blah give me money”

I love watching the idiots behind Hillary… they are funny to look at.

I really want to understand how anyone can look at Hillary Clinton & think to themselves: “You know? I think she should be president!” WTF?!

Not only did I notice a hatred for Clinton, but also for her followers, as if they were stupid. They are described like the unwelcome family members from the deep South that you hide from your children. I even read a blogger calling Clinton the candidate of “old saggy women,” and this was written by a woman! Great, let’s add a little ageism to the mix!

Why do people who always complain about lack of equality in life, always turn around and act just as pig-headed? Maybe someone working hard to care of their family doesn’t have the time to go to seminars about global warming or Darfur, but it doesn’t mean that we both can’t be part of the Democratic party. That’s what politics is all about. If the Democrats really want to win, they need to get the working class under their wing. Without them, first Clinton will win, and then McCain will be President.

Too many people think supporting a candidate is akin to following some cool band. I don’t think it is a good idea for Obama supporters to be dismissive of the lower middle class, calling them ” gun-toting trailer trash.” This is not an effective way to win voters over to your side. Supporting a candidate isn’t feeling good about yourself. It is about winning elections.

If I were some hard-working blue-collar guy working in Pennsylvania, there would be no way I would vote for Obama after reading some of the things Obama supporters write about ME on Twitter. It’s like when Simon Cowell trashes some singer on American Idol, and the bulk of Americans vote the opposite way just to sting him. Why are we mocking those necessary to win an election? At some point, hipsters have to listen to at least one Randy Travis song if they want to win the election.

Clinton or Obama?

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In all my years of following politics, I don’t recall a Democratic race being so close and and so embittered as the current race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Like in a Hollywood movie, these are two allies torn apart by the intensity of the political process.   Democrats usually rally behind a candidate by March.  Events are different this year.  Tensions are high as friends and families draw the lines in the sand — Clinton or Obama.  The Democratic Party has been splintered.  Liberals, progressives, men, women — these “categories” are now useless, as each demographic divides itself into smaller and smaller sub-groups.  Blacks, whites, Jews, union members — no one votes as a single bloc anymore.  Candidates and pollsters alike are scrambling to decipher what Democrats want and who to appeal to in this important election.

As of today, here is what the Democratic landscape looks like, according to the most recent polling:

Women over 50 who lived through the feminist movement:  Clinton

Women under 40 who know more about their vibrators than the feminist movement:  Obama

Voters who want change:  Obama

Voters who want change, but not as much as the other voters:  Clinton

Women who make over 100k — Clinton

Women who make over 100K but are divorced from a randy husband who was getting oral sex from his “intern” — Obama

Blacks who think Obama is too “white”  — Obama

Blacks who think Obama is too “black” — Obama

Blacks who owe favors to the Clintons — Clinton

Guilty Liberal Jews who say they love “rap music” just to look cool — Obama

Religious Jews who think Obama will nickname the White House the “First Mosque” — Clinton

Small Town Americans who have never met a black person, but feel comfortable with them  — Obama

Small Town Americans who have never met a black person, but still don’t like them — Clinton

Small Town Americans who have never met a black person, but still don’t like them, but have heard Clinton speaking on the TV — Obama

Misogynists — Obama

Racists — Clinton

Misogynists and Racists —  McCain

Misogynists and Racists who hate McCain – Clinton, because at least she doesn’t seem like a typical dame

Academics in Universities — Obama

Academics in Universities with Tenure — Ralph Nader (what do they care?!  They have a job!)

Asian male models who look gay, but aren’t — Obama

Women who buy Anne Taylor suits at the outlet mall — Clinton

Men who show their private parts on MySpace — Clinton

Men who go online and ask for photos of women in bras — Obama

Crest users — Obama

Colgate users — Clinton

Those who make love to Neil Diamond — Obama

Those who make love to Nine Inch Nails — Clinton

Those who know that Hillary Clinton and Hilary Duff spell their first name differently — Obama

Those who say, “Who’s Hillary Duff?” — Clinton

It is clear that this race is going down to the wire!

Black-White Issues Jump the Shark

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Recently, there was a lot of arguing going on at Los Angeles talk radio stations about a crime in Long Beach, CA that happened last October, where a gang of thirty youths severely beat three girls. One girl was so battered that she had multiple fractures and required surgery to reposition one of her eyes. The gang consisted of black boys and girls. The victims were all white. The victims were tormented about their “whiteness,” so when the perpetrators were caught, they were charged with an additional hate crime. This caused a big turmoil as some questioned whether blacks could ever be charged with a hate crime against whites. As one commenter in the Huffington Post recently said after an article on this subject:

The fact is that black people in the U.S. represent a distinct minority with a unique history of having been brought here as slaves, against their will. They cannot “pass” into the majority population because of skin color. And they continue to be the objects of constant and often violent racism directed at them by the majority. They are also, in large numbers, segregated into separate housing, schools, places of work, and jobs within any particular business.

Is it fair to say that a violent act against a black person, motivated by race, is equal to a violent act against a white person, motivated by race? No, actually, it’s not at all fair. There is a long history of majority white violence against black people in this country publicly represented by the Klan, but privately supported by millions of white citizens. The effect of that racism is to continue to brutally enforce patterns of racism and segregation.

These three women were beaten to a pulp because they were white. Hate crime laws are on the books. So, what gives? For some, ideological distinctions are more important than justice. Isn’t it time to move to a new level in racial relations where the aim is to protect anyone from being victimized? If we want to have “hate crime” laws, we should at least use them to help all victims. Of course, as in many of these racially-tinged trials, the biggest losers were the three victims. The defendants were given amazingly light sentences.

Four of nine black teenagers convicted in the racially charged beating of three white women on Halloween were sentenced to probation Friday.

Punishment could have ranged up to confinement in a California Youth Authority lockup until age 25. The teens were ordered to serve 250 hours of community service, 60 days house arrest, and take anger management and racial tolerance programs.

Some saw this as a victory for the African-American community. And why is that? The fact remains that these three girls were beaten up by a gang of young criminals, and scarred for life, both emotionally and physically. The criminals will just go back to their community and continue to terrorize innocent people in their own community.

Until college, I attended public school in Queens. I received a pretty good education, mostly because I was shoved into special advanced classes. Sadly, much of the school lived on in chaos. As in any large urban school, there were gangs of kids who would steal your lunch money or worse. In my school, these kids were mostly black. Now that I’m far away in suburban Redondo Beach, it’s easy to remember these poor youths as underprivileged, but at the time, when you heard the term “F**k you, whitey,” you just wondered if you could run as fast as the “Six Million Dollar Man.”

Still, even in the middle of these crime sprees, I never visualized it as a black vs. white issue. These bad kids were black mostly because the school had a large black population of students. There were plenty of smart black kids in our advanced class, and they were picked on as much as the white kids, if not more. In fact, after school, my Jewish friends and I walked one way home, to the “better” neighborhood, while my black friends walked in the same direction as the thugs, getting beaten up twice as badly.

To me, the issue at my junior high school was the same as it was in Long Beach — a criminal element acting against innocents. End of story. I’m sorry, but forty years after Martin Luther King, race issues are beginning to jump the shark for me. Can’t we move onto talking about race in a new way?

Today, I read an article asking another very important racial question — Is Barack Obama black enough?

There are degrees of black political cred in America. Those whose ancestors lived through the harrowing years of slavery, might well take the view that a guy like Obama with a Kenyan father and a white mother hasn’t “lived” the black American experience the hard way.

As far as his professional path is concerned, Obama hasn’t risen through the ranks by taking the route well traveled by many prominent African American leaders. No service as a pastor or as an activist in the NAACP. Some in the black community see him as too fresh, too fast and too slick. A graduate of Harvard who made his own running. A guy with a foot in the white camp.

Am I supposed to care? How black SHOULD he be? This is another example of race-related talk that just seems out-dated. Hey, I grew up in Queens (birthplace of Run DMC). I went to a public school with a large black population.  I’ve been to a rap concert AND, once upon a time, owned an album by the Commodores.  If you really want street cred — I’m more black than Barack Obama.  But that doesn’t make me a better candidate?

When are we going to grow up?

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