Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Racey or Racist?

You know I tend to avoid potentially divisive issues, but perhaps as evidence of my increasingly stupid outspoken nature, I'm going to take on the issue of race, as raised by writer Anne Theriault. Anne got me worked up with her Huffpost Music article "What Miley Cyrus Did was Disgusting -- But Not for the Reasons You Think."

Yes, let's give her even more attention!
For those of you who have been living under a rock (or away from social media), Ms. Theriault is referring to the revolting, disgusting and scripted-to-generate-a-reaction performance of Miley Cyrus at the VMA Awards, The writer takes on what she refers to as "Miley's minstrel show."

She writes:
What Miley is doing is cultural appropriation. She, a wealthy white woman, is taking elements from black culture in order to achieve a specific image. Her status as a member of a traditionally oppressive race and class means that she is able to pick and choose what parts of black culture she wants to embrace without having to deal with the racism and racialization that black women live with every day. In short, she can imagine that she is being "ghetto" without having any concept of what living in a ghetto would really mean.
Ms. Theriault finds particular offense in Miley's use of "black women as props...Miley was, at one point, slapping a faceless black woman on the ass as if she was nothing more than a thing for Miley to dominate and humiliate."

My reaction to this post was disbelief and frustration. Is everything ultimately about race? Haven't white performers (musicians in particular) "culturally appropriated" elements of black culture for decades? Isn't imitation the highest form of flattery? Do African Americans really want to claim sexual vulgarity as their own? Would it have been okay if the woman Miley slapped was white? Would it be acceptable if a black woman slapped a white woman? Would the message have been different if Robin Thicke was black? Or what if Miley was a black woman rubbing up against a white man? Dear God, is this really about race?!

That was my initial response to Ms. Theriault's piece, when I assumed she was an African American woman. I confess to being surprised when I read her bio and saw her picture. Anne is white and this is her life:
Anne lives in Toronto with her husband and young son. She spends her days teaching yoga, reading in caf├ęs, and trying to figure out how to negotiate in toddler-ese. She regularly blogs about books, nostalgia and feminism.
Clearly, deep breathing in yoga studios and hanging out in cafes qualifies this woman to write about Miley's misuse of the black experience. She can identify with what black women live with every day. Seriously?

The issue of race in this country is challenging enough without bringing a Miley Cyrus performance into the conversation. We're at a place where "black America" takes up the Trayvon Martin case as a rallying cry, and later, when three black youth kill a white man for fun, "white America" responds by asking where the hoodies are for Chris Lane. Is someone keeping score of the violent attacks one race perpetrates on another? We want to be sure things are fair. Well, guess what? They're not. And once again we're failing to ask the questions that really matter. Imagine if we spent as much time debating and addressing the real issues as we spend engrossed in the nonsense of pop culture.

We're living through one of the most challenging and disturbing times in our country's recent history. From the economy and issues of social justice, to our under-resourced educational system and involvement in foreign affairs, it's time to put our priorities in order. Let's not add the fuel of a Miley Cyrus performance to fires that have been steadily burning without her help.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Grumpy Old Woman

A foreshadowing of things to come?
I turned 44 last month. One year closer to my mid-40s and middle age. I'm not often bothered by getting older, except for the gray hair and the hearing loss and my complete inability to read a pill bottle without glasses. The one real concern I have, however, is my potential for becoming a mean, grumpy, crotchety old woman. I'm already seeing signs:
  1. The "fun" I have being snarky, sassy and sarcastic in my blog is slipping over into "real life." For example, during his last visit to PA, I scolded my 4-year-old nephew for eating some of the rice from my Chinese food. I wasn't serious, of course (though I really don't like sharing my rice), but he gave me the death stare and then burst into tears. Damn kids and their tears. They'll do whatever it takes to get what they want. 
    Same thing happened when I saw some kids with their dad in a Dunkin' Donuts when I was on my way to Dutch Wonderland. I casually mentioned I was going there and how lucky I was and what a shame that their dad wasn't taking them somewhere cool like that. Again, the death stare (from the dad) and the tears (from the kids). Whatever.
  2. As I'm getting older, my confidence/attitude is leaning more toward "I don't give a damn." I feel like Kathy Bates in "Fried Green Tomatoes" when she goes a little nuts and tells those bitches in the parking lot at Winn-Dixie "Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance" (see video below).
  3. I'm more easily angered. Anger was never a prevalent emotion for me, but lately, perhaps because of the uptick in bullsh*t in my life, I definitely have a greater tendency for getting ticked off. Where I used to have a "stay out of it, keep your mouth shut, what's the point of starting something" attitude, I now feel like calling out people who are arrogant, talk out of both sides of their mouth, and don't stand up for what is right.
  4. I'm becoming defensive and starting to think that "don't go down without a fight" is a way of life that I've overlooked for too long.
  5. My skin is thickening. Someday I'll resemble a reptile. I'm learning, rather late in life, that it I have to toughen up if I'm going to survive in this world. Yes, there are people who don't like me. There are those who think I'm too outspoken. Some who don't think I'm "nice." Not being loved and adored used to bother me (just a few months ago), but my corporate bitch of a sister gave me a good talking to and set me straight.
  6. Finally, I need increasing amounts of alone/down time. I don't want to answer the phone, respond to texts, send emails, go to meetings, visit friends, cook dinner, run errands or even write blog posts. After a full day at work, all I want is to curl up with my iPad, and sometimes my cat, and fall asleep nice and early.
As evidence of this "change" (not the change, I hope), I'm finding the greatest enjoyment in spending time with my family (at least when I can't be alone). I actually like my kids' company, and that's saying something given that they're teenagers. Even better is a day on the boat with my parents (and the kids, too, assuming they're not whiny). And for a little slice of heaven give me a getaway with Rob and throw in a dear friend or two. 

As often happens when I put my issues/feelings/angst/funkapotomusness into writing, I'm blessed with some insight. The occasional "A Ha!" moment. Having put it all out there, it occurs to me that at least some of my personality disorder changes can be attributed to evolving family dynamics. I have two children who are torpedoing toward independence. I've also experienced entirely too much loss in the past nine months. In addition to the understandable haywire affect it's having on my emotions, this loss and change is calling me to re-prioritize. And shocker -- it looks like family really does come first, with friends and faith right up there as well. What's less important is the stress of a job, the need for a clean and tidy home, and social obligations with people I really don't want to spend my valuable time with. 

Today I leave for vacation -- Breckenridge, CO -- and it can't come soon enough. It's been a tough summer. It's been a tough year. I'm ready to get away from it all and focus on the stuff that matters. I may even refrain from checking my work email. 

Just one more thing. Before you think I've truly become an evil person, I didn't actually torture some stranger's kids at Dunkin' Donuts. You didn't really think I could actually be so heartless, did you?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Top 10 Reasons You Should Join Us Next Year

I returned home three days early from my church mission trip to Banner Elk, NC last week. This change in plans did not result from an ailing child, a broken fingernail or a frightening encounter with a galloping horse (though the horse thing did happen). Unfortunately, I was called home by the death of my Aunt Glenna who had suffered from leukemia for the past six months. This is the second of my mom's sisters to pass away this year - my Aunt Faith died on April 30. This loss, my mom's grief, and the need to leave my church family at a time when I needed them most, made for a weepy couple days. My ridiculously bad hair and increasing facial blemishes didn't help either.

But this post is not meant to bring you down; I can point you to some others if that's what you're looking for. No, this post is intended to convince you to join me on next year's Media Presbyterian mission trip (church member or not!). Here are the top 10 reasons (in David Letterman fashion) to mark your calendar for 2014:

10. There is nothing worth watching on television during July and August.

9. Hot, humid, buggy weather in Pennsylvania is replaced by pleasant days and cool, sweatshirt-weather nights in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina.

8. You will see teenagers taking on actual manual labor. You're also likely to meet a teenager who will talk to you. And perhaps hug you when you need to leave early. You'll feel much better about the next generation.

7. Evenings filled with games, devotions, carb loading in the dining hall, and rocking on the porch in the Lodge.

6. This trip provides a great opportunity to practice your southern twang and brush up on your knowledge of country music.

5. Taking vacation days to do work around your own home is sad and depressing. Taking vacation days to work on someone else's home is inspiring and rewarding.

4.  The chances are excellent that someone will actually express appreciation for your work.Try getting that at home!

3. If you're looking for friends, you will make them on this trip.

2. If MPC people are already your friends, there is no better way to spend a week together (a vacation to OBX would cost a great deal more and you wouldn't have that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping someone else).

1. In one week, your personal problems will be put in perspective and you'll be reminded that it isn't "all about you."

Need more convincing? Check out this video from our week:

Can we count you in next summer?