Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2

Upon being asked why she refused to give up her seat on the bus, the late, great Rosa Parks replied, "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

Do not think I'm enough of an asshole to compare myself to Rosa Parks. Not even close. She was brave as all get-out. She took chances. She quite literally risked her life in an effort to get a small bit of human decency out of people. She was someone we should make sure our kids know about and admire. 

I, on the other hand, am someone who sits in my safe, comfortable apartment, jots down some uncomfortably funny scenarios from a safe distance, and hopes they'll make people laugh and think and squirm and, in some small way, challenge the status quo. What I do is as easy and safe and cushy as it gets yet, this year, it bruised my heart, as corny as that sounds. It exhausted me.

If I'm exhausted, I can't even imagine the sort of tired a Rosa Parks must have felt. 

A few people have asked me about the last couple of White Histrionics entries for the year, which I never wrote. I'll be honest: seeing more and more shit like this, in the actual news, made it more and more difficult to write a new entry every day. No bit of satire I could dream up and write down could be a better example of how fucking privileged white folks in this country have it, than THIS sort of thing. 

I've been doing White Histrionics Month for a few years, now, and started documenting it in blog form in 2016. I'm not sure there will be a month of White Histrionics in 2019 - not because there isn't enough material to work with, but because there's TOO MUCH. 

The fact that a white person wrote to me, early in March, to let me know how hurtful, offensive, and divisive they found White Histrionics to be, and how unfair to white people they thought it was, should have tipped me off that this year's White Histrionics Month was going to be a rough one. 

What started out as a creative endeavor has ended up being a little bit soul-killing. No one who really needs to open their eyes to the major problem this country has with race actually WANTS to. No one who really needs to step up and admit that they, as a white person, enjoy privileges that their non-white counterparts do NOT is willing to do so. I'm not saying that there are NO white people who get it. I'm saying that the ones who get it, already get it. The ones who don't? They don't want to and, frankly, I don't believe they ever will. 

I'm not sure how I'll feel about this in a year, but I at least wanted to explain why March 2018 on this blog is an incomplete month. I also wanted to thank everyone who took the time to read even a single post, everyone who shared the link with others, everyone who suggested topics or submitted entries (Robert Sanchez - you know I love you) and every person who wrote to ask where the rest of the month's posts were: the fact that you've read what I've written, and want more, means a lot to me. 


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March 27

Newly elected Mayor of Alabaster, Alabama, Selwyn Montgomery, had the distinction of being the southern city’s first black person to hold this office - a personal triumph for the great great grandson of slaves who had labored on a peanut farm in this very community. After winning by a landslide, Montgomery hit the ground running by passing two ordinances regarding public health. The first required all public school children to present up-to-date immunization records on the first day of school, or be turned away until such records be made made available or immunizations updated. The ordinance made provisions for children whose immunizations were not up-to-date to receive virtual lessons via the internet, until their parents were in compliance. The second ordinance devoted the City’s annual financial surplus to the funding of free immunizations for all school-aged children living within the Alabaster city limits. 

While most applauded the Mayor’s bold stance on the issue, 8th generation Alabasterian Wendell Montgomery III, (no blood relation) a member of The John Birch Society, founder of The Alabaster Southern Heritage Brotherhood, and loser, by a wide margin, of the recent mayoral election, did not. “Monty,” as Wendell Mongomery III was called, had run on a ‘personal freedom/hands-off government’ platform which had not appealed to many locals. With respect to the new vaccine policies, he cried foul to the media, stating, “The people of Alabaster, where my family has been farming peanuts since 1803, before Alabama was even a state, will come to regret their choice of mayor. Selwyn Montgomery is already showing total disregard for the civil rights of the private citizen. Today, he’s forcing y’all to vacinate your babies. Tomorrow, he’ll be telling you how to make love to your women and raise your sons. This vaccine business is exactly the sort of dangerous government interference that exemplifies why we need to get back to the south of yesteryear, when the rights of the individual man were given some respect.”

Monday, March 26, 2018

March 26

Nathaniel Parker, a native of Chicago and a long-time ACLU supporter ripped up a reminder to renew his membership, upon reading in the accompanying Member Newsletter that the social justice organization’s chief focus for the year would be protecting the rights of Syrian immigrants and refugees who were at risk of deportation. When his wife saw the mailing in the recycling bin, she was shocked - they had supported the ACLU as a couple for over 15 years. When she asked him if he’d meant to throw the newsletter and remit envelope away, Nathaniel explained that his recent experience at O’Hare Airport - over an hour at a security checkpoint, having to remove his shoes, belt, ring, and his laptop, and the humiliation of having to be frisked and subjected to an under-the-waistband check, when the x-ray unit detected the metal pins from his knee surgery. “I’m as liberal as the next guy,” he told her, “and I’ve always been willing to sign a check to support anyone’s civil rights, no matter what their ethnicity, but I’ve had it. Air travel used to be something I looked forward to, but that’s all changed, and it’s because of the whole Middle East terror threat.  Who’s taking up a collection to get things back to the way they used to be, is what I want to know? Why am I supporting their rights, when my own are being violated?”

Appalled, Isabel Parker reminded her husband that not all Middle Easterners were the same, that the 9/11 hijackers had not been Syrian, at all, and that the ACLU didn’t, as far as she knew, have any plans to fight for the rights of Saudi, Egyptian, or Lebanese refugees. Realizing he’d aimed his anger at the wrong immigrant group, Nathaniel admitted his error in being so hasty, and renewed their ACLU membership online.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

March 25

Investment strategist Charles Kolb, who was celebrated for decades as "Wall Street's King Midas," was arrested and charged with over 600 counts of fraud and grand larceny when it was discovered that he had been doctoring records to indicate wealthy clients' monies had been placed in long-term, high-yield investments. In reality, Kolb had diverted all of his clients' money into untraceable foreign accounts he had set up for himself. Due to a technicality regarding the wording of the search warrant which had been issued, the presiding judge had no choice but to deem all the evidence collected inadmissible, reject the case due to a lack of admissible evidence, and grant Kolb his freedom. Kolb went directly to JFK airport and boarded a chartered plane bound for Algeria, where he was free to access the stolen monies, settle into a sprawling estate, and set the wheels in motion for acquiring citizenship. The lack of a U.S./Algerian extradition treaty meant that, for all intents and purposes, Kolb was home free. 

With charges against Kolb no longer viable, Congressman Richard Pembroke, of Idaho,  who'd invested (and lost) an undisclosed amount with Kolb, introduced a bill that, if passed, would cut off humanitarian aid to Algeria, a country where 24% of the population live at or below the poverty level, and unemployment among people under 30 has reached as high as 70%. The bill was fast-tracked and passed, despite an official declaration from the United Nations stating that the Algerian people had no part in Kolb's illegal activity, and stood to gain nothing by his presence in their country. In response to the U.N.'s declaration, Pembroke, who had a history of opposing legislation aimed at protecting the rights of women, minorities, and other protected classes, quoted Mary Wollstonecraft in a Tweet, "It is justice, not charity that is wanting in the world. The people of Algeria have a lot to answer for." 

March 24

When the American Coalition For Civil Rights (ACCR) chose as honorees, at their annual Freedom Fighters Awards gala, the founders of Black Lives Matters, the decision caused controversy among ACCR members. 

Black Lives Matters, which was officially founded in 2013, as a direct response to the racially-motivated murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, and the disregard with which the crime was handled by law enforcement, is a social justice/activist movement without boundaries, which calls attention to systemic racial inequality in the United States, including police violence against people of color. 

The controversy around the award stemmed from a faction of ACCR members who, in 2016, founded El Bonnet Rouge, a social justice coalition which received wide media coverage because of the many high-profile celebrities who offered their support by donning the floppy, red, woolen caps that were associated with the group, and with the strong merchandising arm of the movement, which marketed not only red caps, but buttons, miniature versions of the red caps (suitable for cats or small dogs), coffee mugs, tshirts, cell phone cases, branded styluses, an adult social justice coloring book, and a special Bonnet Rouge Latte, produced in conjunction with Starbucks. Founders of El Bonnet Rouge objected to Black Lives Matter being singled out for their work in the social justice arena and pointed out that, in recognizing the efforts of BOTH movements, the ACCR would at least avoid offending the efforts of the many allies who "preferred a color-blind brand of social justice." 

Bowing to pressure from a large number of dues-paying members, the ACCR  backtracked, and named Black Lives Matter and El Bonnet Rouge co-honorees. 

Commemorative "ACCR Freedom Fighter" floppy, red, woolen hats and a range of other related merch is available at www.ElBonnetRougeSwag.com, and Jamba Juice has announced their newest smoothie: Freedom Fighter Raspberry Rouge, available for a limited time, only. 


Friday, March 23, 2018

March 23

When a passenger on the bus being driven by Latifah Conway collapsed, other passengers stood up and ran to the side of the older man. Conway pulled over, and took charge of the situation. She radioed in for an ambulance, ordered everyone to return to their seats and give the fallen passenger space, and began administering CPR. As she was administering CPR, she instructed one passenger to sit at the driver's seat, and man the radio, in case any attempt at communication was made, and ordered another to go through the fallen passenger's briefcase, and pull out any prescription or over-the-counter drugs he found, as they may well be important for the paramedics to know about.  A six-car pile-up several miles down the road significantly delayed the arrival of the paramedics, but Conway knew that ongoing CPR was the best chance her passenger had of surviving.  Exhausted as she was, she pushed on. When the ambulance arrived, paramedics couldn't risk moving the fallen man off the bus. One paramedic took over CPR on site, while the other readied a defibrillator unit. Making sure all was clear, they used the machine on the passenger and, after three tries, got his heart back to a steady rhythm. As the paramedics loaded their patient on to the ambulance, one of them told Latifah Conway that she had certainly saved the man's life, by single-handedly administering CPR, without letting up, for over 25 minutes. 

Later that day, The Maryland Transit Administration received an email from a passenger. Kaitlyn Polhemus-Fiske wrote to complain that she'd missed an important meeting with a software developer, on account of the driver of her morning bus, who she described as "an upitty African-American woman with unkempt hair" making an unnecessary stop. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

March 22

When ride-share giant MegaRide launched in Dallas, Texas, their slogan was, "Ride ANYWHERE, and ride for LESS, with MegaRide." The Dallas County Taxi Commission petitioned to keep MegaRide from entering the private transportation business in Dallas, which they basically ran as a monopoly. A public hearing was called by County officials - a technicality, as such meetings, although mandated, were rarely attended by members of the public. To the surprise of the Taxi Commission, there was not an empty seat in the meeting room - most of them were occupied by black residents who had banded together with the support of a community organizer. Attendees were each given three minutes to speak freely. One after another, the black residents of Dallas made their public comments about the difficulty they'd had over the years, in getting taxis to pick them up or drop them off in Oak Cliff, a predominantly black community, and how they welcomed an alternative to yellow taxis, especially one that pledged their drivers would cover every corner of the county. 

Also in attendance were several taxi drivers, all of whom spoke about how MegaRide's aggressive advertising, coupled with their business model would make it impossible for them to earn a living wage as taxi drivers. Several drivers who spoke accused MegaRide of providing transportation to the residents of Oak Cliff to attend the hearing.

While the driver's stories were compelling, County officials could not ignore the strong point made by the large contingency from Oak Cliff, and ruled that MegaRide could, indeed, begin operating in Dallas.

A mere 18 months after MegaRide was given the go-ahead, Alamo Yellow Cab, a company well known for refusing fares to Oak Cliff, filed Chapter 11. A spokesperson for the company made an official comment to the press: "Next Tuesday, the 120 men who now earn their livings and feed their families as Alamo drivers will no longer have jobs to go to. I would urge the good people of Dallas to remember, the next time they hail a MegaRide car, that the two or three dollars they're saving is ruining the lives of very real people, by stealing their livelihood. I have lived in Dallas my entire life, and have always known this city and county to be a community where we all hold each other up. I never thought I'd see the day when the people of Dallas would tear one another down with such callous disregard."