Take It Down – Thoughts

God forbid you get between a southerner and his or her rabid love for the rebel (confederate) flag. Geez – too bad we can’t get these people as het up about, I don’t know, education? Poverty? Random police shootings? But I know, it’s waaay easier to get riled up about something that actually doesn’t matter. It’s even a bit fun if we get to call it “heritage” isn’t it?TakeItDown

But let’s take a look at what that heritage is, shall we?

The confederate flag – well, actually, there’s the first issue. The flag we know of now was not the actual flag of the confederacy. There were two or three other models with different functions. The one we accept now was part of a design by a man named William Porcher Miles, a seemingly decent fellow on most accounts, unless you want to talk about abolition. Miles was a politician who gained favor in the south for his belief that slavery was a “divine institution” and opposed the inalienable right that all men are created equal. A democrat and plantation owner (he inherited the plantation from his father-in-law), Miles could be generous in individual cases but did not see the African race as human, but as a class of people born only for service to whites.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens declared the Founders “fundamentally wrong” in judging all humans equal. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—the subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”

Miles also felt that the United States flag was a flag of tyranny and proposed his design to be radically different because the first confederate flags could not be distinguished from the opposition in battle. And while he opposed the Civil War, he was strongly in favor of resuming the slave trade business with Africa. Of the 10 million captured men, women and children who survived the voyage from Africa, less than 500K arrived in North America. Most went to the Caribbean and South America. Please do keep in mind that there were slave farms in America where slave women would be impregnated and give birth to more slaves, so the need to keep the trade running was moot. By the time the confederate army fired on the Union army at Fort Sumter there were nearly 4 MILLION slaves owned by approximately 8% of the population.  The can-do spirit of American ingenuity made slavery self-replicating. Slaves begat more slaves, oftentimes with the slave-master’s “assistance.”

Anyway, back to the good ole confederate flag (or actually rebel flag – there are so many different iterations!)  The flag we know today was Robert E Lee’s battle flag, although I believe Lee’s flag was square. Lee was a bit of a contradiction on the issue of slavery. While he felt it was an evil to both blacks and whites (mostly whites) he owned slaves and did not free them as requested in the will of the man he inherited them from. He did however sell some of them, breaking up families in the process. After the war Lee said of the practice of erecting Civil War monuments:

“I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavoured to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered,”

Wow. Even the man who fought under the flag and is still revered in the south wanted the thing gone. But let’s move slightly sideways in flag evolution. William Tappan Thompson was the editor of the Savannah Morning News and designer of one of the seemingly endless flag designs declared:

As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical[sic] of our cause.… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.… As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. Another merit in the new flag is, that it bears no resemblance to the now infamous banner of the Yankee vandals.

imrs.phpHm. That’s kind of kicking the positive side of the heritage claim to the curb, ain’t it?

After the war the flag was mostly used to commemorate war veterans and battle sites. It was also popular at southern universities and colleges. At some point the KKK picked it up (although not as their official flag) and around the 1940s the flag became the banner of the growing white supremacist movement in America. It was the flag the Klan carried in rallies, in parades. It decorates their halls and is sold at their celebrations. It was also left behind sometimes with the victims of lynching. When we could not be enslaved by an institution anymore the south chose to enslave us by the bureaucracy of Jim Crow laws. As states became embroiled in Civil Rights issues, especially after Brown v the Board of Education, bigots took up the flag as a symbol of white rights and domination over what they considered lesser races. Now it has (sort of) become a sign of weird southern unity – hey! are you from Texas? Me too! But no one stops to examine the origins this sign of aggression, treason and oppression.

This flag was also the backdrop of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” speech. When you see the flag now it’s usually in the hands of whites who are standing with other whites. You rarely see people of any color proudly displaying the flag as a symbol of honor. Geez, that should tell you something right there. Probably the most positive association with the rebel flag now is probably The Dukes of Hazzard: good ole boys from the south who never seemed to talk about a formal education who were constantly pursued by a bumbling police officer and corrupt politician who didn’t seem to have the good sense to make change. And have you ever noticed when Hollywood wants to display someone as backward, racist or stupid, that character will likely have a southern accent? Maybe southerners should take up that cause instead of getting all crazy over a flag.

People compare the rebel flag to the swastika, but I don’t think that is really fair. The swastika was originally a positive symbol – Hindu or Buddhist, I dunno…you look it up – that was appropriated by the Nazi party and became a symbol of hate and terrorism. And yet, no one even dares to say the swastika is a symbol of their heritage. I’ve not seen a Buddhist temple flying a swastika from its ramparts. However, the confederate flag has ALWAYS been a symbol of racial division, from the time of its inception by Thompson and Miles, both strong advocates for slavery and white supremacy. Fly it if you want to, but don’t be fooled into thinking it is a symbol of your deep abiding love of sweet tea and country music. And don’t be offended when people think less of you for it.

What the “confederate” flag means to me:

  1. Bearers are proud of losing. Because their ancestors were unable to prevail in the War of Northern Aggression they have to make themselves feel better by making others feel less than (this is a BIG pet peeve of mine). Calling it “heritage” and not taking into account that it is the flag over a union that believed to its core that people of color were not equal to whites and therefore not even considered Americans with rights is only your attempt to claim half the story. Claim the FULL story – that your heritage has a foundation of violence and racial oppression.
  2. Consequently, I get to see it as a sign of victory. I know it’s my own romanticized view, but when I see that flag waving I get this crazy picture in my head of General Sherman burning palatial southern estates built on slave labor to the ground. Slave-owning families losing everything in one fell swoop and having to rely on the generosity of others.
  3. If your house is on fire and you have a confederate flag in your window I MAY call 911 but I likely WON’T run in and save your life. If your flag emblazoned truck is broken down on a dark, deserted stretch of highway I will not be pulling over to help you. I’m not proud of this, but currently it is my truth. I am a northerner and I have never associated this flag with warm, fuzzy feelings and if it is how you choose to declare yourself to the world I will just assume you do not want my intervention anyway. I’m also not going to hire you, by your goods or offer you monetary compensation.
  4. Freedom is freedom. You have the freedom to display your “heritage” on your personal property however you see fit within the boundaries of the law. Displaying this symbol of hatred on government buildings to me means that government believes it has different rights than what are allowed from the United States of America and may likely to secede again the next time they get their collective knickers in a twist.
  5. I think you’re less intelligent than I did before I knew about your flag pride. Not a fair assessment, I acknowledge, but my truth nevertheless. However, I’m not in the minority in this view:

Nearly half of those with at least a college degree (46%) say they have a negative reaction to the display of the Confederate flag, compared with a third (33%) of those with some college experience and just 18% of those with a high school diploma or less.

Sources:
http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/24/us/confederate-flag-myths-facts/
http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2012/10/how_many_slaves_came_to_america_fact_vs_fiction.html
http://www.civil-war.net/census.asp?census=Total
http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/26/6-startling-things-about-sex-farms-during-slavery-that-you-may-not-know/
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/opinion/david-brooks-the-robert-e-lee-problem.html
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/15/even-robert-e-lee-wanted-the-confederate-flag-gone.html
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/how-south-lost-the-civil-war-won-narrative-confederate-flag
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/what-this-cruel-war-was-over/396482/
http://www.people-press.org/2011/04/08/civil-war-at-150-still-relevant-still-divisive/

I FINISHED a Quilt!

IMG_5542I made this for a friend and her soon-to-be-born son. It’s my first finished quilt. Until now I was an excellent quilt top maker. I think I have 3-4 unfinished tops in boxes around the house somewhere.

I like that this one was much smaller and easier to handle. Putting the binding tape on was  kind of a bear though. I ended up being an hour late to the shower because first – spare threads EVERYWHERE! Every time I thought I was done, another 20 would pop up. Then, just as I was folding it to wrap I noticed I completely missed the binding tape. Like by an inch. How I didn’t notice the dark blue thread on the red background, I’ll never know. I had to rip out and re-stitch almost one whole side of the quilt. Had to force myself to slow down, too.

Anyway, it’s a very basic quilt. I just used my ruler to cut the strips then stitch them together and cut the strips into squares. I couldn’t decide how to do the quilting because half the squares were a textured fabric that I didn’t want to flatten. What I ended up doing was crisscross quilting on the Marvel squares which I think looks cute. I’m pleased with the final results.

I think I’m going to try a more abstract strip quilt for my next project.

I Just Did It

Okay. So for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I let someone else steal my thunder and didn’t write for a very long time. I got a break with Expression magazine and realized I have a voice. Since then I’ve been writing and thinking about publishing. But thinking about it and doing it are two very different things. Doing it is scary.

Anyway, I joined a writers group last year and I’ve really gotten positive feedback. Most importantly, I’ve learned that over the years I am now much less sensitive about my writing. It used to be that any criticism of my writing was akin to stabbing me straight through the heart. It looks like somewhere down the road I either developed a thicker skin or the ability to separate good advice from bad. Whatever happened, I’m grateful. I’ve taken the very first step. (And I’ve had one sale not even 24 hours after posting!)

Screen shot 2015-06-14 at 8.28.36 AM

Comaville is an episodic novelette featuring Kara, a sixteen year old girl in a coma. While she can’t seem to wake herself up, she can leave her body and communicate with others. Kara discovers a special ability that provides new perspectives of self-awareness. Hm. I have to work on the description a bit. I will publish and episode every three to four weeks.

The important thing here is that I set a goal for myself of publishing by 6/13 and I did it, despite the fact that the Amazon publishing process left me frustrated. Despite the fact that I don’t have anything beyond episode 4 written. Despite the fact that I didn’t even think of cover art until 2 days ago. It’s up. It’s out there. It’s me.

Good job, girl.

Dear 18 Year Old Me – Advice I Wish I’d Taken to Heart

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 9.58.00 AMWhen I turned 18 I was just completing my first semester of college. I made the Dean’s List and was excited about my future. I loved two things more than anything – theatre (we know I’m serious because I spell it with the ‘re’ rather than the ‘er’) and writing. At the time I felt pressure to major in something marketable – business, communications, or something else I felt was ridiculously boring.

One of my first acts of independence as an 18 year old was to major in what I wanted to major in: Theatre. I did it consciously not because I thought I was going to get a great job in the field, but because my interest was all-consuming and this would be the last chance to study something I loved to this degree. If it led to a job, then so be it. My one concession was to make my degree in theatre education even though I really had a marginal interest in teaching.

There are a few things I wish I had done differently. There are a few words of advice I would have like to have heard then. I write them now for both my and your benefit.

  • College is about exploration and learning from your mistakes. Use caution, but don’t be afraid to fail. If you learn by mistakes, you have to step out of the boat and make a few. Chances are they aren’t going to be life-threatening.
  • If money is the driving force for you choosing a career, you will eventually feel empty inside because you didn’t pursue your dream. Money is great – so much greater than being poor – but it doesn’t make up for missing your calling. Twenty years later, with your money in the bank and your career goals achieved, if you don’t have a passion for what you do the majority of your time you will end up seeking fulfillment elsewhere. It won’t be pretty.
  • Travel. I really wanted to do a semester abroad when I was in college, but I thought it was too cost prohibitive and I never even looked into it. Because I didn’t look into it I never knew that the additional cost of a semester abroad was generally your airfare and incidentals. I could have gone. It’s one of my biggest regrets today.
  • Cull the negative people from your life. You know the ones – they consistently only see the bad in life. When you’re on a high their goal is to bring you down. Oh, maybe they are not so forward about it – they’ll couch their negativity in “wanting to keep you grounded” or “keeping you from getting your hopes up” but they just want you to be at their level. Negative people find hope threatening. A lot of my self-doubts from that time came from negative people. I saw them as people offering sage advice – after all, they were older and who was I to doubt the wisdom of their years?
  • Cultivate self-confidence. I started doing this when I was 21 and it is still a daily exercise for me. When you are growing up your self is, in part, formed by the people who surround you. Their life experiences become a part of your psyche and can grow or fester inside you. If you believe you are dumb because your parents told you your grades weren’t good enough, those words can wind up being the foundation of your inner dialogue. You need to work to dispel those negative thoughts. It’s hard work. Self talk is an excellent way to start.
  • Keep a careful eye on your dreams and say yes to the things that will move you closer toward them. You want to be an author? Take writing classes! See how simple that is?
  • Worry more about your motives than what other people think. After ballerina, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. I remember taking trips to the library and dreaming where my books would be shelved. However, when I look at my early claims in the School Days books my mother kept, it said I wanted to be a teacher. I have no memory of wanting to be a teacher except for a brief period when I believe I equated teaching with reading. I never played at being a teacher, but I did finish a (terrible) novel at age 14. I think somewhere along the line I got the message that the arts were something you did as a hobby in addition to a “real” job. I studied education only because it allowed me to pursue theatre. I had fallen in love with stage design and lighting but didn’t see it as a practical career choice so I stuck with education knowing I didn’t find it as exciting.
  • Don’t let seemingly major setbacks determine your path. My second semester in college I was really excited to take a writing course through the Communications department. Until then my writing was mostly intuitive and well-received. This class was challenging and required a lot of hard work. I did it all happily even though struggling with an unfamiliar format took up a great deal of my time. My writing improved significantly. My final paper was probably the most work/research I’d ever done on a paper since my 5th grade report on the Native American tribes of the Finger Lakes area. I labored over this term paper and double-checked it with my textbook and all the work we had done over the semester. I think I turned in a solid paper. What I had forgotten to do was footnote my source of a definition I used, even though in the same paper I gave the dictionary for an additional term. I was marked down a full grade point for “plagiarism”. I misused a comma or a semi-colon or something and was marked down another full grade. My A paper received a C which still seems rather harsh to me now. It was freshman class, after all. And what written work doesn’t have minor errors? I could have only gotten an A+ for absolute perfection – which is reasonable, I think. I probably deserved a B-. Anyway, that single incident told me I sucked as a writer and from that point on, my writing was fraught with self-doubts. I questioned everything I put to the page. Had I been wiser, I would have given myself a some strong self talk and realized if this professor was the be-all and end-all of talented writing, she would herself be published instead of laboring away at a small commuter college in a temporary lecturer position. I let her criticism tell me I wasn’t worthy, that I had no hope of becoming a better writer because I made stupid mistakes.
  • Make learning the priority. I am a learner. I like acquiring knowledge. Sometimes college becomes a test mill – taking required courses and muddling through boring subjects taught by uninspiring teachers is a chore. However, I wish I knew then how to take responsibility for my own learning. It’s so easy to place blame on bad teaching but the truth is, if you have the textbook, you have 90% of what you need. I should have adjusted my attitude and looked for the exciting aspect of the course. The target shouldn’t be to get an A in the course (my own crazy, unpopular opinion) but to understand the subject matter. I got a C in Philosophy, but I’m pretty good at formulating an argument.
  • Have an open mind. I didn’t go to college with a totally open mind, but I was lucky that my mind was opened through my studies and my new friends. My life was enriched by the people I interacted with. A lot of kids go to college and spend all their time with people just like themselves. If you have strong opinions about something but have no practical knowledge of it, you’re platform is on thin ice.
  • Be vulnerable. This is definitely one I wish I knew years ago. We equate vulnerability with weakness. We’re expected to get over being hurt quickly with a pint of ice cream and a night of cocktails. At some point we accepted that we are supposed to be impenetrable and stalwart 24/7. But how can we do this and participate fully in life the way that gives us the biggest return if we are constantly putting a brick wall in front of what can be our best experiences? The thing is, putting a wall up doesn’t prevent us from getting hurt. We still get hurt when we realize we are isolated and apart. It’s better to go through that hurt with people who love you than it is to completely shut down. There’s an exception to this suggestion – you also can’t be the victim crying on the shoulders of those who are not in your support corner. Accept your own choices and realize they can go either way. The only thing you can be responsible for are your own reactions.
  • Live! My favorite line in the movie, Mame? “Life’s a banquet and most poor sons-a-bitches are starving to death!” It’s true. There’s also this quote by CS Lewis: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” For a lot of us the tendency is to live small, safe lives with few challenges and smaller victories. And then, because we are dissatisfied we warn others against living big, messy lives even though that may be the very best thing. Don’t be covered in mud and think that’s the best life has to offer.

I hate regret. It’s the worst feeling for me. Luckily, I have so very few. The travel thing is one of the biggest. And being afraid to be vulnerable. Younger me always felt as if I were constantly being watched and judged for every little choice I made. I’m so lucky I did not carry the fullness of that into adulthood because getting rid of the dregs of it was horrifically difficult and is constantly a struggle. Age helps. Turning 40 had me realizing I like what I like and it’s stupid to worry so much about other people’s perceptions of me. My perception and God’s perception of me is what really matters. Anyone else can love me or leave me. The bonus is the people who love me, really love me for my real and authentic self, are the ones who carry and encourage me and give me the capacity to love more. How can you not embrace and strive for that?!

Pass the Salt? Please!

I’m not a huge fan of contest reality shows. Mostly because they are manipulated for a reaction rather than talent. If I watch at all, I usually stop once my favorite contestant is voted off.

That being said, I’ve only made it through one season of The Next Food Network Star because Aarti Sequeira was my fave. I rarely watch Food Network anymore because no one cooks anymore – they just show you eating. So I’m looking forward to listening to this new podcast by Aarti and company.

Pass the Salt

Introducing… our podcast! | Aarti Paarti.

What Makes a Fashion Blog Fashion-y?

There are a few fashion blogs listed in my Blogroll on the right. I’m very particular about what constitutes a fashion blog. A lot of people with blogs just shop a lot and always have new clothes to wear. I don’t think that makes them a fashionista. It makes them a shopanista, really.  I mean, I would look totally current all the time if I spent all my time and money purchasing new clothes.

What I look for in a fashion blog is a new perspective on fashion. A good understanding of fashion history and a unique, personal perspective on how to wear clothes is exciting and fun to read about. People who dress against trends are always exciting. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of repetition: skinny jeans or flared skirt paired with a loose pullover top or a fitted button down, ballet flats or super high stilettos and a statement bag. The colors change but the basic idea is still the same.

Admittedly, I like a little more vintage than the average person, but that’s not what it takes to draw me in.

Two new fashion blogs for me are:

Oonaballoona

A Curious Fancy

They’re a lot of fun and very unique. I think fashion sense should reflect both who you are inside and who you want to be. The who you want to be is more of a interior expression – not “I want to be Taylor Swift” or something like that. For that reason, Advanced Style is my most favorite fashion blog. The thing about owning your body for a long period of time is that you know it well – what makes it happy and what makes it sing. Your clothes tell stories – about you, about the places you’ve been, about your life. You’re 80 years old walking down the street in a Chanel sweater, paper bag trousers and flowered Docs – you’re doing it for yourself, not because you give a flying you-know-what about what anyone else thinks. Something I aspire to.

The End of an Era – Mad Men Finale

Shifting From ‘Mad Men’ to Strong Women in a Series Finale – NYTimes.com.

So, what did you think of the Mad Men finale? I think I’m satisfied. I was thinking as I was watching it for the fourth time last night that Mad Men essentially covered my childhood. I would have been around the age of Gene Draper at the season finale. I don’t know if that means anything, but a lot of the Big Moments of the show I remember from the vantage point of a child.

While the whole Peggy/Stan thing made sense, I disliked that they saved their coming together for the last episode. Even if they’d done it last week, it would seem less forced. I always loved their whole office phone conversations. The fact that neither of them could sustain relationships with other people was the first clue that they were headed toward coupledom. Peggy is many times more ambitious than Stan and it’s cool that he’s okay with that. Peggy always represented that shift from housewife to career woman that was so revolutionary 40-50 years ago.

I’m not sure I bought Joan’s storyline. I mean, I get that she’s a woman of means now, but the whole driven career woman is not what I saw in her. I guess because her personal style didn’t really update over the years. Even when she went on her “poor me” shopping spree earlier this season, the clothes she bought were mature and serious. While I get that Joan is totally her own woman and knows her own power, as the series went on and we see the other women in the office embracing the 1970s freedoms, we don’t see that with Joan. Every outfit that she’s in requires a serious layer of restrictive foundation garments. She is probably in her late 30s at the show’s close, but the updo, the bullet bras, the full makeup, the form fitting skirts and the pumps all read much older, especially when she is standing next to Peggy. If she had loosened up one of her trademark elements, literally let her hair down, she would have looked fresher for starting a new business on her own.

The Coke ad at the end of the show kind of proves my point. This was a pivotal point where the views of young people were prominent and influential. Agencies knew they had to reach the 18-29 crowd in a different way than before – not unlike now where the internet social media grows faster (wasn’t Instagram brand new yesterday?) than companies’ market strategy. SCDP had to hire a younger creative team in the 60s so I wonder if Joan can be a success if we never got an indication of her appeal to a youth market.

Still, I like how Peggy and Joan were coming to power as Roger (and that awful moustache!) was fading and Don was doing one of his regular flip-outs. If Don had gotten all enlightened and tuned in, I would have doubted the storyline, but he remained true to who he always was.

I will miss the show a lot. I really enjoyed spending time with these characters although some of my favorites went by the wayside (Sal? Ginsberg?). I think what happened to them seemed reasonable and consistent (inconsistency is my pet peeve). I did feel rather a bit sorry for poor Sally – doomed to become the mother she had so much disdain for. I would love to see a series tackle the 70s – maybe not from the advertising point of view, but television news? Or computing? Just an idea.