Sunday, June 29, 2008

Elite? You Bet! And I Don't Care

I’ve been sitting on this idea for a little while. I just really didn’t know where to start, but “luckily” the neo-cons came to the “rescue.” I was thinking about elitism and how to handle it, when Karl Rove pathetically attempted to paint Obama as an arrogant elitist (“You know, he’s that guy at the country club…” No Karl, we don’t know people at the country club, you do.). Ha! Karl Rove, the mind behind the permanent campaign and the worst presidency in history. Maybe Karl should remember the old saying, “when you point a finger at somebody, three more point back to you.” In his attempt to brand someone as elitist, Rove demonstrated just how arrogant and elite the right wing has become. But, when you get right down to it, the people running for president are elite. What we’re really talking about these days is what kind of elite we want in power.

I’m not sure where this anti-elitist idea came from. Why do people want the “leader of the free world” to be just like the guy down the street? People understand that some people are not athletic, not everyone can sing or dance or draw. We happily chalk these up to “natural ability.” Why would politics be any different? I know, I know, politics is about the people, about ideas, and everyone can have those. Well, I’m going to lay out the truth: a lot of people are stupid. A lot of people (obviously) don’t understand the complexities of government, and even the smart ones get it wrong. It takes a special person, with a certain mix of smarts and savvy to be successful in America’s political jungle.

Here’s another secret that the GOP doesn’t want you to know: the men that founded America were highly educated, wealthy and intelligent. They weren’t the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. They were lawyers, judges, scientists, physicians, plantation owners and financial giants. Many were known beyond their communities, a rare feat in that time. They were elite. Or, to put it another way, do you really think that the average person could write and lead the greatest experiment in individual freedom and self-determination in history? I thought not. I certainly don’t want Larry the Cable Guy writing (or rewriting) the Constitution.

And yet, this election year, the charges of elitism are already flying. Multi-millionaires each claiming that the other is “out of touch” with the cares of the average Americans. It’s ludicrous! But, more importantly, it’s a superficial waste of time. The question shouldn’t be who is more elite, but instead, who will work for the elite and who will work for the average citizen. And, with W as our guide, it’s quite obvious that Republican policies are geared towards the wealthy. Well, “geared towards” may not be strong enough. “Specifically written for and solely benefiting the wealthy” is a better way to describe these failed policies.

I guess the question you should be asking is: What kind of elitist do you want? Do you want someone who was born into privilege, handed the best off all worlds and then married into millions? Someone who feeds of the wealth of his wife’s father? Someone who acts for the rich because they made him who he is now? Or, do you want someone who came from humble beginnings, worked his way to success, and is the epitome of the American dream? Someone continues to work for the people and continues to protect the American dream? Being elite and caring about the average American are not mutually exclusive. Let’s ensure we elect a president who believes in the dream because he is living the dream.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I’ve been eying the stock market in the same manner as the political spectrum: at times incredibly interested, and at times pathetically bored. They seem to go hand-in-hand. Just when I’m completely frustrated and apathetic with the sinking economy, John McCain makes another war-mongrel comment, and my heart swells with political enthusiasm. Life’s funny like that.

Now that America’s desperate housewives have ousted Hillary’s fat ankles off the political podium, we’re back to the waiting game again. I’ve sent my money into the DNC; I even bought a bumper sticker. The only thing left to do is sit back and pray for either Republicans to get smart, or for McCain to crumble. It’s going to be a long summer.

Maybe Michelle Obama will challenge Cindy McCain to a spelling bee. That would provide some comic relief. [insert fist pound here]

Speaking of funny -- before my ultimate political boredom lapsed into a summer induced coma, the stock market barreled through with some charming summer humor.

At this point, Americans are struggling obtaining some of the most basic necessities. We can’t drive anywhere. We certainly can’t fly anywhere. We can’t buy new houses. We even found out last week that for the first time in almost two decades - the price of bananas is going up.

But if it’s one thing Americans haven’t given up on yet, it’s the power of good-old cheap, quickly made, American food. Maybe that’s why 4 out of 16 of Marketwatch’s “Stocks in Focus” are cheap restaurant or food brands.

We’re Americans! When life gives your lemons (or Bush’s oil war, a sinking economy and high gas prices) we make lemon pie! And lemon cake! And lemon pudding!

My gut tells me to trust Marketwatch – keep an eye on SONC, DRI, CKE and GIS.

I’m a skeptic; I don’t trust that Americans will vote for Obama, or that they’ll buy hybrids, or support women’s rights.

But if it’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that Americans will eat. As far as the stock market goes, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Past Sexism in the Present Military

The other day, I started a discussion about Sen. Jim Webb’s 1979 editorial railing against women in the military. The reaction of the general population? “Get over it.” And it made me wonder, if his statements had been about race instead of gender, would people tell me to let it go already? Doubt it. In the grand scheme of things, the past sexist ravings of a potential Vice Presidential candidate aren’t deal breakers. When I cast my ballot in November, I will be voting for Obama and his message of change. However, I believe that his number two also needs to be an agent of change, and this gives me reason to believe that Sen. Webb is not that person.

If we look at race, we can see what happened with Ron Paul. A series of writings dating back to 1978, penned under his name, espouse extreme racist and anti-Semitic views. And instead of people “getting over it,” they were shocked, outraged and disgusted by these views. Paul has claimed that he is not responsible for those writings and that he is not, nor has he ever been, racist. But, no matter, the damning label stuck. Why should sexism be any different?

I have definitely been berated for my lack of forgiveness towards Webb. People asked me if I believe that no one is allowed to change their mind, if I believe that Sen. Byrd is a still a racist (yes, I do), if I think Hillary Clinton is still a Goldwater Girl (sometimes it seemed like it, but no). I do believe that people can change their minds, but I think it’s harder for them to change their hearts. It also leads me to wonder whether we have to forgive and forget everything a person does as long as they apologize for it. Can a person spew hatred and then apologize when his position is no longer popular? “I said some hateful things in the past. Sorry. Here’s a grand gesture to make up for it.” It’s easy to say something that sounds good. It’s also easy to do something that the public supports, whether or not you believe it. In my mind, Sen. Webb will always be accompanied by a question mark when it comes to women’s rights.

As a minority in both the categories of race and gender, I am “lucky” enough to bear witness to discrimination on both points. As a female in the military, I can tell you that sexism is still alive and well. And while I do my best not to be a victim of sexism, it is constantly simmering right underneath the surface, tainting conversations and altering perceptions. I had an officer on my first ship that would send women off their watch stations if they “smelled too good.” Apparently, the first step to being a “real” sailor is not competency or skill, but smelling as if you’ve never been introduced to soap and deodorant. On a daily basis, women in the military are subjected to words and actions that would shock the civilian world. Actions that would get civilian men fired are acceptable in the military. And women often have no choice but to let it slide, lest they be painted as a whiner who can’t hack it.

I was in the 25th class to graduate women at the United States Naval Academy. No person who graduated in that class was alive before women were allowed into the service academies. Yet, there was constant, prevalent discrimination against and belittling of women. In a world of quotas, every woman’s accomplishment was attributed to “filling a quota” not her personal drive or ability. Men, on the other hand, earned everything they received. After my first midterm grades came out, my company officer, a Lieutenant, looked at the grades, and then looked at me and said “Wow, you actually are smart.” Well, gee thanks. I guess he missed the fact that it’s actually harder for women to be accepted into military academies. Approximately 2% of female applicants are accepted, as opposed to 9% for males.

The anti-female feelings still burn strong at our nation’s service academies. Outwardly, many men support women in the military, but behind closed doors, the sentiments are different. I will always be wary of someone who was so passionately against something that they now support. And, allowing women to hold more integrated and combat related roles in the military is still a battle. I don’t consider myself a super-feminist and I’ve been known to speak out against preferential treatment towards women. I believe that it only hinders our advancement and breeds resentment among men. While I attended the Naval Academy, the superintendent took bold steps to advance women, including the outlaw of derogatory terms and even changing the words in the alma mater. I’ve personally spoken with men who are angry and resentful towards women for changing “their” school. One of my neighbors was a 1958 grad who is against women in the military, but liked me and believed in me. He has yet to come around to fully support women in the military, but through me he saw that women were, in fact, compatible with the beliefs and teachings of the Naval Academy.

I think that when a majority of people look at the editorial by Sen. Webb and then his consequent actions, they see enough of a “change” to let it go. I think that these are also people who have never actually been through this warped world. When I look at Sen. Webb, I see someone who was passionately against women in the military. When I read his words, I feel the hatred and derision rising up from the page. I also see a political death trap. Jim Webb has been running from these words since the day he wrote them. What I see is someone trying to compensate for hatred that hides in his heart. I know the two-faced, politically convenient positions that men have taken over the years, and to me, Sen. Webb is no different.

I may never believe that Sen. Webb has truly had a change of heart. His position shift stinks of political convenience not genuine feeling. Unfortunately for Sen. Webb, his 1979 remarks were made at a time when women had demonstrated their competence and ability in technical and leadership positions. He is the one that opened his mouth and let his sexism show. He may see now that women are an integral part of our nation’s fighting force, but that will never fully excuse him from his past behavior. Has he repented? Yes. Willingly and whole-heartedly? We’ll never know. I will always doubt the sincerity of Sen. Webb’s subsequent actions regarding women in the military. It may be unfair or small-minded of me, but I treat claims of reformed sexism the same way I treat those of reformed racism, with skepticism and hesitation.

Click Here To Read Webb's Essay