Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

What I Told My Granddaughters the Morning After the Election

Posted November 9th, 2016 by Tom

I awoke this morning to the realization that a man who has loudly and regularly proclaimed racism, sexism, xenophobia, white/male supremacy, and general intolerance has been elected President of the United States. I, along with so many others, feel various levels of shock, disbelief, and sadness. My first conscious thought as I rose from bed was of two granddaughters who were getting ready to go to school in the living room. They, ages 8 and 9, their mother, and my wife and I, have lived together for the past four years. I fully expected that I would speak with them today about the election of the first woman in the history of the United States to become President.

Instead, I walked into the living room for quite a different discussion. They understand that Donald Trump has said some very mean things; that he uses words that are on the “Bad words we should not say” list they wrote up for me a couple years ago; words their mom taught them not to use: hate, stupid, jerk, among others. They understand bullying. They get it when people are not nice. Make no mistake, children pick up on racism and intolerance.

2016-election-collage

My granddaughters paid close attention as I told them what happened in the election. I told them even though Donald Trump will be the president, and that the president is supposed to set a good example, that it is not okay to be mean to other people or to hurt other people. It is still not okay to use bad words.

I’m scared,” said the younger of the two.

It’s okay to be scared,” I said. “Lots of people are scared. And I want you to know I am here for you. So are your Mommy and Daddy. We will protect you. And no matter what happens, it is important for us to be kind and to help and support each other and other people.”

We talked for several minutes about intolerance and kindness, about fear and love. I told them I loved them several times. Our conversation was the best I felt I could do for them in our brief time together this morning. They soon walked out the front door with their grandmother for the short walk to school.

I think often of what Frederick Douglass said,

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

There are many men and women who understandably and justifiably feel broken today. And this is nothing new. I want to repeat that for myself and others: This is nothing new. This election is a reflection of the consistent, historic foundation of systemic racism, sexism, and injustice upon which the United States was built, and sadly, continues to perpetuate. I’ve communicated overnight with many friends; people of color, people in the LGBTQ community, and women. People who are afraid because they live in the marginalized communities specifically and directly targeted during this election by the man who has been elected, and by many who supported his candidacy.

I’m also reminded today of words spoken by Dr. King:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

cttt-logoUndoing and replacing deeply embedded systems of injustice is long, hard work. The results of this election are a powerful reminder of how much work remains to be done, and the urgency of this work. The Vision and Mission of Coming to the Table, the organization I’ve been involved with for more than a decade, is needed now more than ever.

Those who feel sad and angry, go ahead and feel sad and angry. Mourn. Honor what you’re feeling and work through it. Talk about it. It is through difficult and challenging times that we often learn how strong we are. This is clearly a time to be strong and to recognize the opportunity we have: to build peace, to seek justice, to honor and practice Love. Systems will change when attitudes change. Be that change. You are needed now more than ever.

We have a responsibility to remain committed to the long arc of the moral universe.

We have a responsibility to help build strong children.

We have a responsibility to support and care for the most vulnerable among us.

We have a responsibility to be compassionate voices for equality, justice and peace.

We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren, to ourselves and each other, to remember that Love prevails over fear… always.

No matter how you voted in the election, let’s reflect on where we stand today as a nation and as individuals. Let’s support each other. Let’s work for justice and peace. Let’s embrace Love. There is nothing – nothing – stronger than the power of LOVE.

That’s what I’m telling my granddaughters today.

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A Choice Between Yoga and the Presidential Debate

Posted October 10th, 2016 by Tom

I awoke leisurely this morning; thankful for another day, for my fortunate life and my healthy body, for my family and friends. When I checked Facebook one of the first items that came up was a video of musicians playing Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I closed my eyes and listened… a lovely way to begin my day.

I checked a news site. My high spirits began slipping downward. Presidential and Senate candidates dominated the top of the page… he said… she said… I say… he’s this or that… he needs to withdraw from the campaign… she’s lying… what a debate this is going to be tonight

Like many people, I’m drawn in by the spectacle of the 2016 election; by the potential for dramatic, explosive events. Like an accident on the highway, we slow down to look. Is there blood? Is someone hurt real bad, or dead? I shake my head at others slowing down for such spectacle… and I turn my head to look just like the people ahead of me did. Read the rest of this entry »

Can you handle an honest conversation about race?

Posted May 4th, 2014 by Tom

Clippers_SterlingVisiting our son’s family in Maryland, including our new, 1-month-old grandson, I sat down on Sunday morning with the Washington Post. In it I read Jonathan Capehart’s opinion piece, “That honest conversation about race everyone wants? We can’t handle it.” It’s one of the best commentaries I’ve read in a while about the difficulty navigating “race talk.” Here are a couple of teaser quotes to encourage you to read the article:

“God bless Donald Sterling. The octogenarian owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was caught on tape doing the one thing we all need to do. He talked openly and honestly with a trusted friend about race.”

and

“In politics, there is even less room for frank discussions of prejudice or for even talking about race, especially on the GOP side of the aisle.”

I work for the organization Coming to the Table. We provide leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. My friend Sharon Morgan and I wrote about “living” the Coming to the Table model together over a 3-year period in our book Gather at the Table.

Coming to the Table has members and supporters throughout the United States. It isn’t always easy or pretty, but we are engaged in an honest conversation about race. Our mission is to inspire more people to do the same. Learn more here. Join our Facebook group here.

(photo from U-T San Diego, (c) Associated Press)

The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years on

Posted November 22nd, 2013 by Tom

cronkite_w_bio1Fifty years ago I sat in my 4th grade classroom at San Jose Elementary School when Mr. Monteith, the 5th grade teacher from the room across the grassy space between our buildings was suddenly banging on the window of our room and shouting something unintelligible before turning and rushing back to his own classroom. His antics were amusing, we thought. When he returned a few minutes later and burst through the door into our classroom to announce the President had been shot, we were stunned to silence. We marched single-file to his room because his had a television and ours did not. We watched as Walter Cronkite soon removed his glasses, choked back what seemed to be tears, and announced that the President was dead.

The world as I knew it felt like it was spinning away, changing into something different that made no sense. Read the rest of this entry »

Irony snags Texas A.G. in Voter I.D. snafu

Posted November 6th, 2013 by Tom

TexasAG

 

Wouldn’t it be an ironic twist of fate if racist, right wing efforts at voter suppression end up backfiring by preventing conservative white voters from voting?

From the “things don’t always go as planned” department…

I got a chuckle when I read (here) about Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott having trouble voting due to the very Voter I.D. law he supported!

Abbott, a Republican, “was among the most vocal proponents of the state’s new voter ID law, which requires all voters to present valid identification at the polls.

“But when Abbott showed up to vote, there was a problem: although he is registered to vote as Greg Abbott, his driver’s license identifies him as Gregory Wayne Abbott. Thus, under the law he staunchly defended, he would be unable to vote.

Thankfully for Abbott and others in similar cases, he was still able to cast his ballot thanks to a provision added by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. According to Davis’ amendment, voters whose names are similar on their voter registration and ID card may still vote if they sign an affidavit confirming their true identity.”

Voter I.D. laws are about suppressing the vote, not about preventing fraud. Such laws are a thinly veiled tool being employed to disenfranchise voters who tend to be poor and people of color; people who tend to not vote for Republicans. Read more here and here.

After reading about Abbott’s experience at the voting booth, a distant cousin of mine, Christy DeWolf, wrote on Facebook, “I’m thinking too…. this law is going to prevent his Tea Party supporters from voting. I don’t really see Tea Party types signing government affidavits to exercise their constitutional rights to vote.” Interesting… I wonder how many anti-government, ultra-conservative, tea-party-supporting white people will rebel against providing the types of I.D. being required by the government in order to vote?

Ah, irony, your sense of humor is indeed twisted!

Prof. Howard Zinn vs. Gov. Mitch Daniels = Victory for Zinn (and Truth)

Posted August 21st, 2013 by Tom

Zinn_DanielsI take a healthy dose of satisfaction when privileged people in power are stifled in their wrong-headed attempts to exert control in clearly damaging ways.

Case in point: When Mitch Daniels was still governor of Indiana he attempted to influence the removal of books and courses from high schools and colleges that he considered too liberal. According to the Associated Press:

“Daniels requested that historian and anti-war activist Howard Zinn’s writings be banned from classrooms and asked for a “cleanup” of college courses. In another exchange, the Republican talks about cutting funding for a program run by a local university professor who was one of his sharpest critics.”

Within a series of emails the AP acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, on February 9, 2010 Daniels wrote of Zinn and his work:

“This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away. The obits and commentaries mentioned that his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is ‘the textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Read the rest of this entry »

Sending love to Congressman Steve Cohen

Posted February 15th, 2013 by Tom

Steve CohenI’ve been impressed with Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) ever since he caught my attention when he introduced legislation for the United States of America to apologize for its involvement in, and support for, slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed. The bill passed in 2008. Though it does not heal the traumatic wounds and does not repair the damage, it was a start. Both the House and Senate apologized for America’s complicity in slavery and Jim Crow. This movement, limited in its impact as it was, was led by Rep. Cohen.

Today came the news that the 63-year old congressman had tweeted a message to a 24-year old Texas woman, a so-called “bikini model“, during President Obama’s State of the Union Address, including the acronym “ilu” standing for “i love you”. The Tennessee Republican Party‘s executive director quickly issued a news release comparing Cohen to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned n 2011 after tweeting lewd pictures of himself.

Turns out that the woman in question, Victoria Brink, is Cohen’s daughter. He learned of his paternity three years ago. It looks to me like he’s done everything right since he found out, including respect for his daughter, respecting the privacy of her mother and the man who raised her; the man she’s always known as her father.

Well done, Rep. Cohen. Shame on you, Tennessee Republican’s who were so quick to jump to the absolutely wrong conclusion.

“About time we get a first lady… that looks like a first lady”

Posted August 30th, 2012 by Tom

Racism in politics is nothing new. But over the past half century it has been pushed more and more into the closet, so to speak. Now, with a black man in the white house, racism is on full display. Sure, a lot of racist statements are still couched in coded language that allows the speaker to deny being in any way racist. But more and more often we see blatant racism peeking out from behind that closet door.

Yesterday, Mitt Romney flew to Indianapolis to speak at an American Legion convention. NPR interviewed Bobbie Lucier from Manassas, Virginia regarding the upcoming election. Approximately one minute into this recording, you can hear her say,

I don’t like him. Can’t stand to look at him. I don’t like his wife. She’s far from the first lady. It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Return of Jimmy Crow

Posted August 19th, 2012 by Tom

I’ve posted several items to my Facebook page regarding the new voter I.D. laws sprouting up all over the nation. I do my best to not be blatantly partisan in what I write; which includes a great deal about racism, discrimination, prejudice, and oppression. Lord knows that people of all political persuasions have been guilty of saying and doing racist, discriminatory, prejudicial, oppressive, and downright stupid things (are you listening, Joe Biden?).

Disclaimer: I have voted for Republicans from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush. I have voted for Democrats from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama.

Over the past year or so, I have been amazed and disgusted by the tactics being employed by Republicans to restrict voter turnout that disproportionately impacts people of color, the elderly, the young, and the poor; people more likely to vote for Democrats.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Immeasurable Distance Between Us

Posted July 5th, 2012 by Tom

Gloria Steinem once said, “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” She is certainly correct.

I’ve researched my books, traveled my country and overseas, and pondered the United States as a beacon of hope and freedom in the world. How does this image jive with our history of annihilating indigenous people and enslaving African people? In more recent times, how does this image jive with our last President invading another country under false pretenses and our current President having a “secret kill list”? I am certain that drone attacks, which have killed many civilians in addition to their intended targets, create more enemies than they destroy; that they help foster sympathy for, and increase membership in, terrorist organizations. It seems to me that the most effective way to stop terrorism is to stop causing harm in other countries.

I want to believe that my country always stands for freedom and justice, but it too often hasn’t and doesn’t. So the 4th of July is problematic for me. When I responded to a request from my publisher’s blog to write about what I would be celebrating on the 4th, my answer was not the same as it was 12 years ago.

The truth has pissed me off. It has saddened me. It has strengthened my resolve to write more, speak out more, and try to make a positive difference in a violent world.

You can read what I wrote, as well as what my writing partner in Gather at the Table, Sharon Morgan, wrote in July 4th and “The Immeasurable Distance Between Us”.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry