Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A true diplomat...

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary elections. I didn’t want her to be president. I wasn’t even a huge fan of hers. I don’t know why. I guess I was just excited about the potential for a Barack Obama presidency (and had been since his Democractic convention speech in 2004). The election got nasty. Hillary said some things that people cringed at. Bill said some things that people cringed at. Barack said some things people cringed at. It was thought that President Obama taking Joe Biden as his VP was a slight to Hillary – and maybe it was – but it turned out to be one of the best administrational slights ever made.
Hillary Clinton has been no less than a phenomenal Secretary of State. Hillary not only repaired the fracture within the Democratic party with her steadfast commitment to the Obama administration foreign policy, but also gained the respect of most Republican lawmakers and citizens with her tireless travel and diplomatic efforts in reaching out to leaders throughout all corners of the globe. Clinton has visited more countries and traveled more extensively than any other secretary of state in history. She is indefatigable. She’s visited several countries during her tenure that have been ignored by American presidents and secretaries of state for years. She saw before her as Secretary of State a task that was nothing short of changing how the rest of the world perceived the United States. And while that is a continuing process (and hopefully her legacy will continue under Sec. of State John Kerry), Clinton has made giant strides in improving the relations of the United States with the rest of the world.
Clinton faced congressional hearings today to answer questions about the murder of diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Clinton was nothing short of spectacular. Certainly this was an awful situation. Awful for the families who suffered losses of their loved ones. Awful for other diplomatic personnel who lost a colleague and are also put at unease over their own security. Awful for the administration that place those personnel in harm’s way. And awful for an American public that sees the hatred against the United States being manifested in such a horrific way. And rightly, the public and members of congress want answers to questions about how this was allowed to happen. Republican congressmen attempted – and succeeded – in making Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, the sacrificial lamb, by accusing her of fabricating a protest that had turned into an attack on the consulate in Benghazi. Susan Rice was incorrect, that much has been shown to be true, but she was simply relaying CIA talking points that she had been given, to the Sunday morning talk shows. Rice should not have had to fall on the sword, but as a consummate professional, she did so to protect the integrity of the office on Secretary of State.
Hillary has done the same thing. While Clinton wasn’t the one to attend the Sunday morning shows, she would have given the same information that Ambassador Rice gave. And that is what Hillary has indicated in these congressional hearings. She said it before and she’s repeated it today that she was the one responsible for diplomatic personnel, and while there might have been failures in providing adequate security to American consulates and diplomatic personnel around the globe, there was so much happening during that time that there was little that she or the State Department could do. It was a bad situation and the Secretary of State cannot wave a magic wand and make a bad situation disappear. But she’s proven throughout the questioning of the Benghazi attacks, and especially during these hearings, that she is a person of integrity and will sacrifice herself to the dogs of politics to save the face of the office of the Secretary of State, the President, and the country as a whole.
We will miss you Madame Secretary. See you in 2016.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Change and no change...

Today I wanted to write a dual post about the president and myself.
I know a lot of people did not care as much about the RE-election of Barack Obama as they did about the election. The economy is still poor. We will have wiretapping issues. We still use drone strikes. We’re still in Afghanistan. But watching the president take the oath of office, and deliver what many have considered a bold, hyper-partisan inaugural address, I couldn’t help but feel a little choked up at the idea that this country not only elected, but re-elected the first black president in our history. I read a great Eugene Robinson article today, where he talked about what an amazing statement it makes that through all of the president’s trials and tribulations during his first term, he came through with an electoral victory, and race (at least with regard to the president) has become a muted or non-existent issue. Now that is not to say that we’ve attained that post-racial world, but at least the majority of Americans now accept that it’s not strange for a black man to be occupy the White House and maintain the position as the most powerful man in the world.
It is amazing. Sure, we heard a lot of racist undertones (and overtones) throughout the first four years of Barack’s presidency, but most of that stuff was fallen off to a light din in the radical corners of American political life. The president, for all intents and purposes, has changed the dynamic of American politics by not becoming (in the eyes of prejudice people who don’t consider themselves prejudice) a token black president that we as a country can hang our hat on, and then send packing with the election of a rich old white man, but instead an enduring presence during a period of uncertainty and insecurity. Barack is no longer only the first black president, but he is now a re-elected president; and specifically a president re-elected in the midst of continuing economic turmoil. Good on you President Obama, good on you.
Now onto myself. I’m not perfect. I’m sure that I have prejudices just like everyone else, and I’m sure that from time to time I say things that some people cringe at. However, anyone who knows me knows that I make painstaking efforts to be sensitive in what I say, and am the first to correct someone who I feel has said something insensitive or offensive. Again, I’m not perfect and I’m not bringing this up to say that I’m “holier than thou”, but I at least make an effort.
This brings me to a frustrating point of contention I’ve encountered in American society. I’ve noticed this among white people, but in talking to people of other racial/ethnic groups I know that it occurs there too, that people think that somehow because you’re of the same race that they are free to say whatever they want in front of you. It’s as if because we share the same skin tone it means I automatically agree with your prejudice or outright racism. And then, when I correct the person and let them know that I’m NOT okay with what they’re saying, then I’m questioned as to why I’m so upset about, because “it doesn’t affect me”. And my response is always the same (albeit somewhat trite) – “it affect ALL of us”. I don’t to live in a society where prejudice and racism exist, so I’m offended when it occurs by anyone against anyone. I don’t need to be a member of any particular group to be offended and I shouldn’t have to defend myself for being so. I should be the one (and am) that is questioning the person for thinking that they can “get away with” talking in some loose, effluent manner, just because our skin color looks similar. It just makes me sad and angry.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Quentin unchained...

So I debated whether or not to write something about Django Unchained. I had considered writing about the movie before I had seen it, because what I was planning on writing didn't have so much to do with the movie itself, but the reaction to it. However, because of laziness, and also because of a certain uneasiness with writing about movies that I haven’t seen, I decided to hold off.
Well I saw Django Unchained over the weekend, and while I’m still digesting the film, I think I’m at least comfortable writing a post about it.
Let me begin by saying that while Spike Lee is an intelligent man (or seemingly so), a creative filmmaker, and an undisputed maven in black cinema (an American cinema in general), I question his criticism of Django before even seeing the film. I can’t say that no one will find this movie racist (I personally did not, but more on that later), because it is subjective, after all, and that means that what I took away from it is not necessarily what someone else will take away from it. But I can’t help but accuse Spike Lee of bias, as he has a history of criticizing Quentin Tarantino (don’t get me wrong, I’m no Tarantino apologist) for being a racist; so the context of a white filmmaker – especially Quentin Tarantino – making a glib film about slavery naturally would rub him the wrong way. But as a filmmaker – especially a filmmaker that deals with racial issues – should at least give Tarantino a chance to make his argument before completely debasing the film, and calling it racist.
That being said, had Spike Lee seen the film, he still might have come to the same conclusion. And to be fair, I’ll agree with Spike Lee in saying that Tarantino’s use of the “N” word in his movies seems more about his potential desire for using a controversial word freely than to create authenticity in his characters and movies. In my reality – and my reality in no way reflects anybody else’s – people don’t just throw around the “N” word, whether that be in the company of black people or not. The “N” word is a taboo word, and just because a white person is friendly or comfortable with an individual or group of black people, doesn't mean that the word becomes standard nomenclature. In the black community it could be different, and I understand that, but I think Lee’s criticism is more of Tarantino’s white characters’ flippant use of the word, rather than his black characters.
Sorry, I trailed off a bit there. So while I understand Lee’s issues with Tarantino’s use of the “N” word, and the “N” word was used A LOT – I repeat A LOT – in Django Unchained, the use actually seemed very apropos to the film, and actually added a certain authenticity that Tarantino sometimes lacks in his historic pieces. If you read my blog, you might have stumbled upon a piece where I talk about the “N” word, so you know that I’m no fan; but as I said, it’s use in Django Unchained, while very liberal, actually seemed quite realistic. The use of the word itself, I hope at least, didn't solely create the impression in some people’s minds that this movie, or Tarantino himself, is racist.
Now to the film itself. I personally did not find the film racist. It is true that a filmmaker ought to be sensitive when addressing a topic such as slavery; but Quentin Tarantino is not a sensitive filmmaker, so while should doesn't equate to is, that doesn't mean he was being racist with his insensitivity. The film, similar to his efforts in Inglorious Basterds, is essentially a revenge movie where Tarantino rewrites history to make oppressed people beat their oppressors. While people may question why Tarantino made the movie, if I was to venture a guess I would say that it’s because he’s a filmmaker who is interested in the idea of oppression and social injustice, and therefore wanted to make a bloody farce based upon what would happen if history were fair.
That’s my take on the movie, but I’m interested in knowing what others thought of the movie. Did you find it racist? Did you think there was a point in Tarantino making the movie? Is it fair for Spike Lee to disavow the movie without ever seeing it?