Briefly

Four years ago, I watched the election returns from a Holiday Inn off the 240 Loop. It sounds more sordid than it really was. I was called for jury duty and, because my luck is nothing if not stellar, I was sequestered. One of the things Shelby County does really well is scheduling for jury duty. You get to pick the week you’re called. Knowing this, I voted early. We were, along with our bailiffs, allowed to watch the returns.

I didn’t serve in the military. I have no interest in any job that involves campaigning. And while I think both the jury system and electoral system are flawed beyond reason, I vote and I serve on a jury.  There was something about sitting in a hotel room with more than a dozen other citizens, all strangers, watching history being made. I’d have preferred to be watching the returns with my family, but it was still a little patriotic jolt to get the results the way I did.

This year I’ll be plopped in front of the television in the den, kid on one side, husband on the other. Hopefully something in front of me involving items from the wine, pickle, and cheese groups.

And I will, as I was four years ago, be missing Tim Russert.

Allow Me To Explain

Here’s the thing. I’ve been laying low because I’m sick of national politics. I’m sick of the fact that the nation is closer to double-digit unemployment rate than not, but YET! What are presidential candidates talking about? Romney’s saying that Obama is out of touch with reality because when you’re president, you get to use gold-leaf toilet paper and diamond toothpicks. Who knew? Santorum claims them communist you-knee-versities out there in California don’t even teach American history! And Obama’s all HE STARTED IT! and pointing at the Republicans.

So.

What I’ve been thinking is that our government works for us, and we should control the dialog. I do not find abortion to be the single most important issue in the health care debate, so I’ve not talked about it recently. I don’t think immigration is the biggest threat to our way of life, so I’ve not talked about it. Not that any of that matters. I’m just one person with no money, a couple of ovaries, and a burgeoning chocolate pudding cup habit. Just because I’ve taken away the dish of milk on my back porch doesn’t mean the conversation won’t slink over to my neighbor’s where she puts out cans of salmon for it.

The overwhelming BLECH I feel towards the national discourse overshadows things I did want to talk about. You might have started reading this blog because of a piece I wrote about a murder in my home state. I won’t go into the details here, but last June in Jackson, Mississippi James Anderson was murdered by 19 year-old Deryl Dedmon. I can now say murdered and not allegedly murdered because Mr. Dedmon pled guilty to capital murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences, one for the murder and one for the hate crime enhancement. Mr. Anderson’s family asked prosecutors not seek the death penalty. Referencing the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers whose bodies were found in Neshoba County, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr. said to Mr. Dedmon, “All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you,  a stain that will take years to fade.” Weill told the gallery, “know that this craven act isn’t who we are. We can say this now. Maybe there was a time when we couldn’t.”

Even now, even as I want to write about what it feels like to hear someone take responsibility, even as I want the world to see my home in a positive light, even as I want to talk about how I am so happy to be wrong about the piece I wrote in which I voiced my opinion that Mississippians would look away from the murder of a black man by a white man, I hesitate. I hesitate because I want to talk about how two lives were ruined. Mr. Anderson lost his, and Mr. Dedmon will never leave the prison grounds. And our conversation parameters tell me I cannot feel sympathy for both sides. Our social contract dictates I must take a side. So I say up front, Mr. Dedmon deserves every day he sits in that cell. The people who were with him deserve punishment. And when I read that Mr. Dedmon feels remorse and has now found God, I roll my eyes and think of course.  You feel remorse that you got caught.

We have created an either-or world where being right means we can do what we want. Arizona lawmakers wrote a bill that would allow employers to find out why female employees on company insurance were using contraception. Tennessee lawmakers want to publish names of abortion providers and detailed demographic information about patients. Alabama allows police to stop people they have a “reasonable” suspicion to be illegal. And all of this is because the other guy should not be able to have his way. You don’t agree with what I believe, so you are less than I am. You are not as moral as I am. You are not human in the way I am, and I may deny you rights because of it.

Debate has changed its meaning just like what it means to be conservative has changed. It’s tiresome. And it’s mainly tiresome because most of the people I know don’t really live on one end of the spectrum or the other. Most of us are stuck here in the middle where we may give a point to this side one day and the other the next. That’s the way life works. It drives you crazy that your husband leaves his clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor, but you take it in stride because you love the way he folds you up to him when you’ve had a terrible day.

I think in order to keep writing–which is something I love to do and feel incomplete when I don’t–I’m going to keep to the mundane, profane, and urbane. More to come. Really.

(UPDATE: No sooner had I gotten this post published did I come upon this piece which discusses what goes wrong when talking about two sides of an issue. It’s a great piece, and I hope you’ll read it. Top 10 Misguided Responses To Calls for Compassion)

Sweet Fancy Moses Award

Y’all, I feel like I’m beating my head against a hard brick wall of stupid. Today I’m introducing an award. It’s called The Sweet Fancy Moses. The winner or winners are people or issues that make me want to barricade myself inside my house and eat lots of fudge.  Let’s chat a moment, shall we?

Newt. We need to talk about Newt. Despite the fact that I totally yelled “BUUUUUURN!” at the television the other night when he told Romney he was not a career politician only because he lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994, Newt has today earned a Sweet Fancy Moses from me by pledging “to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse.” Um? Newt? I don’t want to pick nits here, but didn’t you pretty much do that when you got married? All three times? Now, I understand your love of country got you all hawt and bothered. Okay, I don’t understand that. I understand that’s what you said after you’d cheated. “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” You said that. So what, exactly, is going to happen if the fine people of The US of A elect you as our supreme overlord president? If you thought you were workin’ hard trying to crucify Clinton for knockin’ boots with an intern, what is it you think’s going to happen as president? Or do you just not feel as passionately about your country as you did then? There’s a pill for that. But if you stand for the Pledge Of Allegiance for more than four hours, call a doctor. 

A no adultery pledge means about as much as renewing wedding vows. THAT’S WHAT MARRIAGE MEANS. That part where you said you’d forsake all others until death? That means it’s not like your driver’s license. You don’t have to renew every four years.

Interestingly enough, in this pledge, Newt also promised to respect the marital bonds of others. AWESOME! So now I guess that means he believes the gays can get married and take part in such subversive acts as joint tax returns just like the rest…oh. I’m getting word that is not actually what that means. Newt also promised to do away with big government by using the federal government to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, enacting and promoting legislation to allow healthcare workers not to treat people if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and enact legislation to promote a pro-fetus agenda. Newt, I think you and I have a different idea of what big government means.

Congratulations, Newt. You’re in good company with your SFM Award. A company such as Lowe’s.

Apparently there’s a show called “All-American Muslim” which is, obviously, about a Catholic family in Tokyo. I kid. I’d never hear of it until today because I don’t have cable and I don’t get out much. You can watch the show on the same network that brings you such thought-provoking programs as “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and “Extreme Couponing”. It’s about Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. Point is, Lowe’s pulled out as an advertiser after pressure from a group called the Florida Family Association. I’m not linking to their site. You’ll have to go on your own if you want to get in on their particular brand of hate.

According to a story on mlive.com, a Michigan news site, a Lowe’s spokesperson said, “We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show. We based our decision to pull the advertising on this research and after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports.”

In case you’re interested in the sort of anti-American, jihadist propaganda the show espouses, let me show you something from the show. A new mother,  Nawal Aoude, wrote a letter to her newborn son. It will give you a good idea of their radical agenda up there in Michigan:

My dearest Naseem,

Before you were born, your father bought a journal. We agreed to write in it and document your first year in this world. When you’re old enough, you’ll read all about the adventures and emotions we had welcoming you into this world. He writes in it almost every day. However, you might notice that it takes many weeks (6 to be exact) before I write my first entry. There is a reason for this. Hopefully this letter will help you understand why it took me a while to find the strength and courage to write.  

Looking at you, now 4 months old, it is so hard for me to express or describe what these past months have been like. No amount of words can describe the worries, the joy, and most importantly the love that have consumed my heart all starting with your first breath of air at 11:28 am on August 5, 2011.

Becoming a mom, most importantly –YOUR mom, has been a wonderful experience and nothing will ever take the place of the emotions I felt the first time I held you in my arms. 

My lovely boy, bringing you home was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride of emotions that weren’t easy. In my mind, you had become my ultimate responsibility—it was just you and I, there were no more physicians, and no more nurses to help usher me into motherhood. This terrified me. I was so afraid that I wasn’t good enough.  Your beauty and innocence was intimidating. How could I care for such perfection? I am not perfect; I make mistakes, and what if I made a mistake? These were my thoughts…I couldn’t afford to make a mistake; the repercussions were too great to take any chances. So, what was I to do?  

Overwhelmed with all of these scary feelings was isolating. I felt helpless; I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I wasn’t able to control the situation…(something you’ll come to learn is very unusual for me).

As I began to recover (physically) from delivering you into this world, I was desperately trying to recover emotionally and mentally as well. I lost all sense of my identity — who was I? Was I the respiratory therapist who nursed newborns back to health? The 25 year old, devoted wife of Nader Aoude, or now the loving and nurturing mother of Naseem Aoude? And if I’m a combination of all of these things, how do I begin to create this new and improved identity. It wasn’t easy to conceptualize.

In prayer, during Qunoot (supplication during prayer) I begged for answers. At Sujood (prostration during prayer) I cried and cried. I had no way of releasing my emotions but through my constant, uncontrollable cries and prayer.

But, my point Naseem, and this is the one most important thing I need you to always know: although my recovery was a hard time for me, in no way did this affect my love for you and happiness that was buried deep down inside.

The truth is, it was YOUR beautiful face that got me through these rough moments. It was the sound of YOUR voice that comforted me. It was YOU…..And your dad of course —lets not forget about him. He is the backbone to our family; and without him there is no us.

And now, as I find my way back to our new normal, one thing has become increasingly clear: Motherhood is one of God’s greatest rewards in life. And, Alhamdulillah (thank God), I have been blessed with this opportunity.  

Every new dawn is a new day, a new breath, a new Naseem. And it is you who brings me to life everyday. My little one, it is you who has taught me about the greatest rewards in this world.  It was you who brought me back to life. I have become a woman beyond capable measures—totally exceeding any expectations I ever had for myself.  Thank You  my angel.

I love you.  

Yours always,

Mama

Here’s a tissue. I kind of needed one after reading that. I think if you substituted “Margaret” for “Nawal” and “Brad” for “Naseem”, no one would give this show a second look. After perusing the website of the show, I recommend they change the name to “Muslims Doing Boring Stuff” or “Normal Americans Who Love Their Families”. These are fairly conservative Americans, guys.

Lowe’s has acted irresponsibly, and I don’t necessarily mean by pulling the ads. Lowe’s apparently didn’t do its homework on the front end to find out about where it was putting its advertising dollars. If they don’t want to advertise on a certain show, that’s fine. But there is doing what you want and doing what’s right. Lowe’s had a chance to do right and blew it. The company could have said, you know what? We don’t discriminate based on religion. Period, end of discussion. But it didn’t and now it’s getting tons of free publicity which, honestly, I believe to be the reason the company pulled the ads. Why pay for something you can get free? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? As Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Congratulations to today’s Sweet Fancy Moses winners!