It is a popular meme, right now, to complain about everyone talking about Miley Cyrus and nobody talking about Syria. Let's look at this from a different perspective. We can argue into the wee hours of the morning the best course of action in a complicated geopolitical crisis. In fact, there are political leaders around the globe doing exactly that. Would a military strike be an unnecessary escalation of the conflict? Would failure to act be current day appeasement? What actions would have the most beneficial impact?
Yet the Miley Cyrus performance provides us with things we can do to make a difference. We can talk to the people around us, especially our children about social norms. What can we do, what are we doing, individually, each one of us, to fight racism, to fight sexism, to fight the objectification of people based on their gender, skin color, or sexual preferences?
Yes, by all accounts, it seems as if Bashar al-Assad is a bully, but what are we doing to address bullying in the lives of people around us? What can the Miley Cyrus performance tell us about how far people will go to be accepted? What can the suicide of the 15 year old boy in Greenwich, CT teach us about how to respond, or not respond, to bullies?
It is all well and good to be concerned about national and international events, but unless take these events and deal with them in our daily lives, it really doesn't seem to make a difference.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I am on vacation on Cape Cod and my friends are back from the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington. Sure, we have an African American President, but racism still abounds, as I am too frequently reminded of on Facebook.
Recent commentary has got me thinking more about black culture. When I think of black culture, I think of Nikki Giovanni ego tripping through Africa.
I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad
But that was over forty years ago. Where do egos trip today? At the video music awards, Miley Cyrus, apparently trying to tap into aspects of black culture, sang:
And we can't stop
And we won't stop
Can't you see it's we who own the night?
Can't you see it's we who 'bout that life?
Can't stop what? If you can't stop, you're out of control. You need help. Not being able to stop is a sign of addiction. It is part of the Lindsay Lohan path towards court mandated rehabilitation.
But we can stop, and we can stop in unexpected ways. After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, NRA's executive vice president said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". Antoinette Tuff showed this to be wrong, when she spoke from her own brokenness supported by a belief in God's love to stop a shooting.
My pastor, he just started this teaching on anchoring, and how you anchor yourself in the Lord…I just sat there and started praying.
Yes, Antoinette stopped a bad man with a gun. What will it take to stop a bad girl with a song?
As an aside, people are spending a lot of time complaining about how everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus as chemical weapons get used in Syria. This is not an either/or issue. In one discussion, I shared,
the dichotomy between women being violently oppressed because of social constructs of race and gender in the United States and women being violently oppressed by others seeking to maintain power in Syria through the use of chemical weapons seems a bit strained. Human justice for women battered because of the entertainment industry is as much of a human justice issue as how women are being battered by oppressors with chemical weapons on the world stage.
So, what will it take to stop a bad girl with a song, a bad girl with a performance that promotes the degradation of women and has troubling racial overtones? Perhaps, it takes a good man with a song,
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our mind…
All I ever had:
These songs of freedom,
Maybe it will take a great woman with a poem:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Or, as one strong preacher woman I know put it:
Janet's Wardrobe Malfunction; Madonna & Brittany's Kiss; Miley Cyrus's pitiful twerk...its still the oldest profession and pays the bills. Media Pimps and Women are exploited commodities in our sexist world. Pray for our sisters, our daughters, ourselves. Now Rise!
We should not slut shame Miley. We should not overlook the role of those around her in creating and performing the VMA performance. Instead, as Shelly said, we should pray for them, and all of us.
I continue to think about what we can learn from our Facebook friends and today, I read through the timeline and have gathered this collection of random thoughts.
A friend has recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has been writing a bit about it. One of her posts said,
An American College of Rheumatology study in 1992 found the the impact of FMS on your life is as bad, or worse , than Rheumatoid Arthritis. They listed one major factor in this as "clinician bias". FMS patients don't look sick, so they are often victimized by clinicians, family, and friends, leaving them with self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem.
I have friends with both RA and FMS and I don't think it is beneficial to get into whose conditions are worse. Yet the comment about having invisible illnesses is very important, especially as it relates to "self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem".
Are our interactions on Facebook helping others deal positively with self doubt, guilt, and loss of self-esteem, or are we posting negative comments about others or positive comments about ourselves in unconstructive efforts to boost our own pride at the expense of others?
As an illustration, another person I know, has been posting almost nothing but negative comments about President Obama and other black leaders. I suspect he doesn't considered himself racist, he's from Connecticut, after all, but he is the person most handicapped by racism that I know.
I've been thinking a bit about handicaps, whether it is invisible illness that is handicapping you, racism that is handicapping you, or more visible mobility issues that handicap you. Several friends of my shared a wonderful video Handicapped man answers "drummer wanted" ad and impresses others. Take time to watch this video and think about your handicaps and what you do to succeed in spite of them.
One final thought from this mornings Facebook posts. Many are telling great stories of heading to the March in Washington or to Burning Man. One friend wrote about her mother, who couldn't make it to the March fifty years ago because she was just out of college and had just started a teaching job.
She was broke, as many college graduates are (I can't imagine that much has changed lol); and was unable to attend the historic March on Washington.
#FastForward to 2013: she spent this whole week at Orientation at Yale Divinity School, prepping to pursue an M.Div.. And tonight she boarded a bus that's DC-bound for the 50th Commemoration of the March on Washington. "I might not get another chance like this."
I would love to be at the March. I would love to be at Burning Man. Other friends are posting wonderful pictures of their vacations, and I am long overdue for a vacation, so, I will do one last go round, cleaning the car, and then we will head off to Cape Cod.
Below is the address that I gave at the Commencement Ceremony for the 2013 Connecticut Health Leadership Fellow program last month. I've been meaning to post it for a while. It seems particularly apropos as part of the recent discussions about race following the George Zimmerman trial.
Last month, I went to three different commencement ceremonies and heard three different speeches. Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill told the graduates at UConn that people don’t remember commencement speeches. I don’t remember much else that she said. Film maker Joss Whedon told the graduating class at Wesleyan, “You are all going to die” and went on to talk about how we should live our lives. Yet the speech that really stuck with me was by Reverend Liz Walker who spoke about how as the world gets smaller, we are going to realize that people different from us, ‘they’ are really ‘us’.
In many ways, she provided a theme for my thinking about my experiences as a member of the 2013 Fellows class. I've always been ambivalent, at best, about leadership. It has always seemed to me that leaders are too often the people seeking to maintain a system that brings privileges to those leaders and their friends at the expense of everyone else. Yet this program has been about changing systems to bring equity, not maintain privilege. Our class has identified ourselves as agitators, and that’s a label I gladly wear.
I felt a bit uncomfortable about coming into this class for a couple different reasons. Addressing health disparities was not a big concern for me when I started this program. I've always been an equal opportunity agitator, railing against any sort of inequality or injustice… but, as Martin Luther King said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”. So, I've greatly appreciated our time working together to address health disparities.
Another thing that made feel a little uncomfortable coming into this program is all the really bright and impressive other members of the class of 2013. Between the MDs, PhD’s, Professors and numerous other titles, I wondered how a college dropout like me would fit in. I felt like an outsider, an interloper.
The Diversity Walk that we did a few months ago helped illustrate that all of us, are at times, the outsiders, the interlopers and at other times, privileged and in power. At various times, we are the ‘us’ and at other times, we are the ‘them’. Instead of ‘us’ trying to be more like ‘them’, or wanting ‘them’ to become more like ‘us’, we need to recognize the value that each person brings, no matter what their educational background, race, gender, sexual preference, or any other labels that we choose to divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’. A sermon I recently heard, put it nicely in terms of seeking unity, not uniformity.
So, as we think about this unity, it is perhaps useful to think about the word ‘fellowship’. We often think of this in terms of an award bestowed by a foundation or university, yet it is important to think about a more common form of the word, “A close association of friends or equals sharing similar interests.”
And perhaps that is the most important part of what this year has been about, establishing long lasting friendships that will carry us forward as we work together to eliminate health disparities.
As many of you know, this past year has been especially challenging for me, and from a time management sense, it might have been much easier if I didn't have all the Fellows activities to juggle along with everything else. But really, it probably would have been much more difficult if I didn't have all of my new friends from the Fellowship supporting me.
So now, the 2013 program comes to an end and we commence our ongoing work together to fight health disparities. To all the fellows, from this year and previous years, let’s stay in touch. I hope you’re all in the LinkedIn group. I hope you all get involved with affinity groups and I look forward to working alongside you.
I have never been a big fan localities fighting against one another to attract companies. Typically, the companies win and the localities lose. Yet some recent developments point larger political issues. A month ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry came to Connecticut to try and recruit local gun manufacturers to move to Texas in response to legislation passed in the wake of the Newtown shooting. Businesses have tried to fight worker and consumer friendly legislation talking about Connecticut being bad for business. Walmart has vowed not to open stores in Washington DC after the city council passed a law requiring large box stores to pay a living wage to its employees.
All of this begs a question, what sort of business is good for Connecticut? Do we want jobs where people have to rely on the Government or their families and friends to survive in this state? Texas might, but should we?
This was illustrated nicely in the latest Measure of America report, where Connecticut came out as the best state to live in.
Connecticut and Wyoming have nearly the same GDP. Yet Connecticut residents, on average, can expect to outlive their western compatriots by two and a half years, are almost 50 percent more likely to have a bachelor’s degree, and typically earn $7,000 more. This comparison shows how an overreliance on economic metrics such as GDP can provide misleading information about the everyday conditions of people’s lives.
Recently, Colorado has been attempting to attract businesses to relocate to their state because it is one of the healthiest states. If Connecticut wants to keep for jobs, it should be competing to be the healthiest and happiest state, and not the state where workers and consumers have the lowest paying jobs and worst health.
In the long term, this appears to be much more productive. Take a look at Costco and Walmart. Which one has better returns and stronger stock performance? Costco, the company that treats its employees well. I hope Costco will offer to step into Washington DC in lieu of Walmart.
Yet back to the politics. Gov. Perry came to Connecticut to recruit businesses that don't like our new gun laws. Perhaps, after the vote in the Texas State Legislature, it is time for Gov. Malloy to make a trip to Texas to recruit businesses that respect the rights of women.