Friday, July 17, 2009

morning haiku

pre-ground hazelnut
bitter and mellow and smooth
the hot bites my tongue

muted morning sun
air so still it suffocates
thunderstorm looming

Jillian Michaels
waits in the dvd; come
I sigh, I obey

Sunday, July 12, 2009

swimming against the current

If you read the news, you've probably heard of the incident of the private swim club in Pennsylvania that told a mostly-minority daycamp that they were no longer going to be allowed to bring their kids there to swim this summer. One of the families that attends the daycamp just filed a lawsuit against the swim club for racial discrimination.
[Funny aside. I read about the suit earlier and didn't remember where I'd seen it. I wanted to link to it, so I did a quick google search to find the article. You need more than "swim" and "suit" to narrow this one down. Gads I can be such a dork sometimes.]
Racial discrimination?

First, and most importantly, this particular daycamp wasn't the only one affected; the swim club had changed its mind about letting several daycamps utilize their private facilities this summer. The other daycamps affected aren't predominately minority. How then can racisim be claimed as a motivating factor?

I can so easily envision a possible (likely?) scenario:

Many public pools in Philadelphia have closed because of the horrid economy. Mr. Private Swim Club director sees an opportunity to make some extra cash by opening his pool up to nearby summer child cares and camps. He probably means well but didn't spend enough time thinking through the consequences of this decision. Hoards of children descend upon the pool, surprising and angering dues-paying members who expected their investment to yield a quiet, controlled pool environment. [The daycamp in question brought 65 children to the pool. SIXTY FIVE children in a pool is a LOT.] Paying members complain to Swim Club director, who realizes he'd not thought this through very well, so he returns the money for all of the local day cares and camps who had decided to participate and informs them it's not going to work after all. Only one of those facilities is predominately minority, and it decides to throw the word "racism" into the scenario. At that point, all hell breaks loose.

One of the daycamp children claims to have heard a club member ask why so many "black kids" were at the pool that day. That is probably true. Private club member mom probably said something stupid. But to extrapolate that to racism on the part of the swim club is an awfully quick and sloppy determination. Another daycamper reported that they heard an adult member worry that her child was going to be "hurt" by the kids. (You can interpret this to mean she was worried that black children would hurt her child, or you can interpret this to mean she was worried that her child would be hurt in an overcrowded pool. Your choice.) Further, in response to the incident, the director replied "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion...and the atmosphere of the club". That statement has been held up as proof of his racist attitude. His use of the word "complexion" is, apparently, the ringer. Complexion can mean "the hue and appearance of the skin" but can also mean "overall aspect or character." Taken in context, it seems obvious to me that he was using the word with the latter definition. Too many children made the pool uncomfortable and unsafe. Do people really think that by "complexion" he meant color? Really? Or are they jumping all over that to continue to fuel their rage? Honestly, when I read his statement, it never occured to me that his use of the word mean skin color. Good grief.

I know I know I know I KNOW that racism is a real problem in the U.S. I know real cases of it exist and they make my stomach turn and should never be ignored. But this kind of reaction - this immediate bandwagon response of calling out RACISM only exaserbates our problems. The most common response I hear when people read about this incident is surprise. Opinion writers opine their "SURPRISE" that such blatent racism still exists today. If that is true - if these reporters and opinion writers are so surprised that this kind of racism would happen - then why does the default assumption immediately fall on the side of racism?

I think this is ridiculous. In addition to the lawsuit, Arlen Spector has weighed in and requested an investigation by the Federal Department of Justice. The state Human Relations Commission is investigating at the request of the NAACP. What a waste of resources.

The director of the daycamp, Alethea Wright, has been quite vocal about the incident. She has stated that she is looking for a psychologist to talk to the children about the incident. Perhaps she means well. Perhaps she really feels like there is racism at play. I think her reaction to this incident has done more harm to the kids in her care than anything else. She is teaching them to live life as victims and teaching them that discrimination is to be expected. She is teaching them that the "others" in the US are not to be trusted and to suspect the motives behind every action. She is teaching them that they are different.

And with that, I guess my liberal-lefty membership card will soon be revoked.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

another birthday

Today is my birthday, and look at what gift I received from Mother Nature.
As of 2:45 this afternoon:

Light Rain
Feels Like
Updated Jul 5 02:45 p.m. ET

I've got the air conditioning off and the windows open so I can hear the rain and feel the cool wind. Mmmm. I'm watching it come down, and the smell of wet earth is heavy in the house now. I'm still full from a lovely birthday brunch from a dear friend this morning (grits casserole, sausage, bacon, blueberry pound cake, baked french toast from homemade sourdough bread, fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee, etc), and am now happy with a beer and cheez-its. I've got all the senses happily covered. Daughter E is busy baking me a cake and our plans are to go out to dinner tonight. I'm thinking perhaps lobster or crab legs? Woo.

Speaking of senses, I feel more than a little overwhelmed with love today. I'm getting lovely and thoughtful gifts and lots of hugs and kisses and phone calls. If I can get over my guilt about being the recipient of such a wealth of love, it'll be an absolutely perfect birthday.

I'm mostly feeling ambivalence over turning 45. Actually, I've been mistakenly thinking I was already 45 for the last several months, so the real birthday lost any punch in that respect long ago. One year ago on my birthday, I was on a bus riding toward Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada for our field campaign. I stared out as the Texas-like landscape rolled by and tried to think deeply about what I wanted as I entered the mid-40s. Today, I've been trying to remember what it was that I wanted for this past year. I wanted to lose weight (well I have, though I've promptly put it back on again), I wanted to have a better organized house (parts of it are better and parts of it are worse), I wanted to be more patient with my kids (I am sometimes, and am sometimes not). In other words, all these abstract, hand-wavy things that I wanted to improve in my life this last year are about the same as they were then.

What I really accomplished without any prior planning, is living another year, and thoroughly enjoying it.

Our dear assistant principal at the kids' elementary school is retiring this year. I adore this man. I've heard him quote something from his uncle many times. "Whatever it is that life puts in your way, it's up to you to enjoy the ride." His uncle was killed in the 9/11 attacks, which makes his words resonate all the more.

This last year has been a pretty easy one for me, personally. It's not hard to enjoy life when things are going mostly as you have planned. I'm certainly not looking for a tough year, though I know there are inevitably some out there in my future. In the meantime, the best I can do is practice enjoying the ride, with all the unplanned little curves and jogs that take me by surprise. And that's what I hope my 45th year will be filled with. Open eyes, ears that truly hear, slow meals where I truly savor the taste, deep breaths and long pauses.