Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I’d like to phone a friend, Regis

Phone - vintage Today it was time for something completely different, and I toddled on down to the DNC local Headquarters downtown to do phone bank duty! It was all hustle and bustle, with dozens of people talking at once, phones ringing, people running in constantly with updates....

Well, not exactly. It was very quiet, and I sat at an oval table by myself with a list of names and numbers and a cell phone. There were other people there making phone calls, but one was back in an office, and one was at a desk several feet away. In two hours, I made my way through dozens of names, but at this time of day, many weren't home. These were all numbers of supporters and sometimes volunteers in the past, so I wasn't debating with anyone. It was mainly a way for Organizing for America to get people to contact their members of Congress to urge them to support health care reform legislation, and to get more volunteers. Everyone I spoke to was friendly and most had already contacted their legislators; a few even committed to coming down to do phone calls! (My Mom used to work on a switchboard like the one in the picture, by the way!)

One phone call was exhausting, lasting a good 15 minutes. A woman who was the caregiver to her mother had questions, some of which I could answer, some of which I couldn't. She was almost a nonstop talker, so I mostly said, "Mm-hm. That's right." The most heartbreaking call--one that brought tears to my eyes--was my next-to-last call, which would make it...anyone? Bueller? My penultimate call. That's right, class! Good job! Anyhoo, this guy was all for health care reform. He is the caregiver to his wife, who has Alzheimer's. He said about the only place he's been able to get help was through Hospice (a wonderful organization). He went to one place that told him he'd have to pay for a month upfront, $6500. He said, "We don't have that kind of money!"

Phone - vintage2 It's people like that man and his wife, or like my in-laws who had to declare bankruptcy several years ago due to medical bills, that have made me want to get more involved. You know what else finally did it? I was sitting here last week reading about these protesters that carry signs like "It's MY money, not yours" or "Obama lied, Grandma died," and people like Palin and Bachmann with their lies about non-existent death panels, and I was writing an entry about some of this stuff. OFA called and asked if I could work the phones, and I think I was to the point where I'd just had it, so I said, "Yes. I would love to do that."

I suppose that the message here is that for all those who think that their voices are being heard as they march (all 70,000 of them, not 1.5 million as Glenn Beck reported--oh, and he wasn't even there) on Washington, or those that think that carrying an assault rifle to a town hall meeting somehow makes them more of an American than me, or for anyone who thinks it's funny to carry a sign that says "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy," understand this: your voice is being heard. It's being heard by people like me who believe in affordable health care for all, and who find your lack of compassion appalling and frankly, un-American. Yeah, I said it. It's being heard by those of us who find your scare tactics ridiculous, and by those of us who can't abide the lies you're spreading about this plan. We're hearing you loud and clear, believe me. And those of us who feel differently also have voices.

On a related note, Sherry wrote that she'd be interested to know my thoughts on President Carter's interview with NBC, in which he said that he believes that much of the animosity, from some factions, towards President Obama is because of racism. I'm glad he said it, and I believe he's right.

Let me start off by saying that I do not believe, in any way, shape, or form, that everyone who opposes President Obama's plans does so because of racially-motivated reasons. I have several family members who do not care for him and did not vote for him, and I know without a doubt that they feel that way because of political leanings, not because of race. I know that the statement "Anyone who doesn't like Obama is a racist!" is not true, and it is hyperbole that has no place in civil discussion. If someone makes that statement to me, I will tell them that I believe that it is false.

President Carter However, I also feel, like President Carter, that some of the more vociferous and vitriolic anti-Obama sentiment is coming from those who do hate him because of his skin color. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst at the President's speech to a joint session the other night would not have taken place if it had been a white man standing up there. I firmly believe that. Wilson is a member of the Sons of the Confederacy and was one of only seven members of the South Carolina Senate who voted to continue to fly the Confederate flag over the state house in 2000. I don't believe his disrespect to the President would have happened if he didn't have racially-motivated feelings.

It can be hard to pin this down; most people don't speak right up and say, yeah, I hate the guy because he's black. (Although I'll never forget hearing a guy from Kentucky say on CNN during the election that the best advice he can give Obama was to "Quit bein' so black." Lovely.) Sometimes it's just a feeling, a general impression. Indiana has more than our fair share of racists (just one is one too many, in my opinion), and I've heard it all my life, so I know when I'm getting racist vibes from someone. It's usually sort of conspiratorial, like "Look at that black girl with that baby. I wonder how many more she has at home?" Right. White girls don't get knocked up, do they, Br--nahhh, I won't go there. Other times it can be blatant, like "Stay away from those street monkeys." It's ugly and hateful, and it's still here, in my state and in much of our country.

So when I see people carrying signs that show Obama as an African witch doctor, or when I still--still --hear people wanting to see his birth certificate, I get the definite vibe that it's racially-motivated. I heard a good example last night. Say that Obama was a white guy, with a father who came from Ireland. O'Bama, if you will. Do you really think people would be foaming at the mouth to see his birth certificate and producing bogus birth certificates from County Cork? You know they wouldn't. These are deep-seated feelings coming from certain people who just can't accept the fact that a black man is the President of the United States. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Get over it.

Racism I'm glad that President Carter spoke up about this. He grew up in the South, and I believe he is well-qualified to offer his opinion on this. If it were someone from New Hampshire, for example, people would be saying that he's just some liberal East coast elitist. (Whatever that is.) With him speaking out, I hope others will have the courage to stand up and say, "This is wrong. We’re better than this." Nothing will be solved overnight, but it has to begin with a discussion, and I applaud the former President for bringing it out into the open.

Let me reiterate. I do not believe that every person who opposes Obama is a racist. But without a doubt, there are many who are, and anyone who flatly denies that is naive and disingenuous.


  1. President Jimmy Carter was courageous enough to say what so many of us have been thinking. Carter has always been my hero because of his plain speaking and intelligent thought, and once again he hasn't disappointed me.
    Thank you for your day of phone calling. You, and others like you, are getting the word out, and we appreciate it.

  2. I have not heard President Carter's comments, but I look forward to it. As someone who has had black friends all my life, I dispise what how some people are acting toward our president.

  3. Black Pres or otherwise, Wilson is an ass and was wayyyyy out of line. But I do think there is truth in Pres. Carter's take.

    You rock Beth... way to go - getting out there and walking the walk.

    Whatever your cause or political leanings, it rocks when someone does more than armchair QB~!

    be well...

  4. im kind if curious-if he's half white, half black, why is he always referred to as black? Not that it matters either way, but that's always made me curious...

  5. as i have said before, if those who do not support health care reform had went hungry because of no insurance or being under insured or had someone die due to not being approved to have medical procedures done since they were NOT on Medicaid or their insurance said no,well, they'd change their mind. I find it sickening that they stand in judgment but few of them have been touched personally.

    i have told you before that i know many people who openly do not support the President due to his race. I said it during the election. You can not change the minds of these people either. Some educated and some not. Some Republicans, some Democrats and some have never voted in their lives. I also believe Pres. Carter is correct though i was shocked he said it. Wilson is a disgrace. Beck is a disgrace. Shame on both of them.
    Loved your entry. Glad you went and did something today that meant something to you.

  6. We need more voices and more effort.
    Thank you, Beth!

  7. I do not agree with you that Joe Wilson's comment had racial connotations. I think Wilson is passionate about this debate and thought it was okay for him to say that. Who wouldn't? Look at how the citizens behaved in the town hall meetings.

    Jimmy Carter is making situations worse for the president. Sooner than later Obama will be pressed to make comments on race yet again. When will we learn?

    Personally, I believe that race will always exist, some people because of their own issues will always have problems with the color of people's skin. People who disagree with Obama are not for the most part racist they are upset because they have fundamental differences on issues.

  8. Beth, while we may differ in some of our political beliefs, I always respect your views.

    BTW, have you ever heard of the "nitch years'?
    just curious.

  9. Beth,

    Thanks for an articulate expansion of what I was

  10. Yikes! Not sure how that last 'half post' instantly went live....

    All I was trying to say was thanks for a clearly worded version of my own muddled post. Unlike "corvedacosta" above, I do agree that race is underneath some of the more unreasonable/illogical opposition to Obama (as opposed to genuine policy differences). BUT I do agree that the speaker may not be doing so intentionally. I think this is DEEP stuff, medulla oblongata material for many people, especially white Southerners like myself, and that some people who have convinced themselves that they distrust Obama because "he isn't really an American", truly at their core don't feel that a black man should be their President.

  11. You and I are on the same page about this nonsense. It's okay to call the man a communist or socialist or any -ist, so they use those words as a mask for what they really want to say.
    And they're idiots, those who hide their racism behind an -ist. I talked with one such man in downtown Smallville the other day who says, with a straight face, that the debt were in now as a country began the day Obama took office.
    He actually believes that.
    Sad little man.

  12. Grr....lost another comment.
    Ok, short version. I'm dying to know what you think of Pres calling Kayne a jackass. I for one am most proud and was smiling ear to ear to watch the video. The man is keeping it real, keeping it honest and I admire that.
    I didn't watch the Carter interview so I can't comment, but as always, I appreciate your view and perspective of the world around us.

  13. ... I ain't talkin' to you, but I am talkin' to Beth!

    But damn, corvedecosta must either be high or huffin'. Joe Wilson by affliation and by PRIOR acts, is a racist as they come. Ooh, he makes me want to curse! It is hard for me to believe that corvedecosta don't have issues with ethnic groups himself. That is the kind of thinking that has led to the ascension of the Beck's, Bauchmann's and Palin's, not just of this country but the world. They are bringing back Stalin in the old USSR.

    I want to hear Jimmy Carter's words, but with all the feed back, I am sure that he took a strong, principled stand on the topic.

    A term that was already buzzing in my mind that I read in you journal, is going to get a working over soon! Oh, and kudos for putting your money where your mouth is!!

  14. You go girl! Great Post!

    All these Protestors need to gain more knowledge about the health care reform. They are just blocking their ears and refuse to even listen to understand it better.

  15. Hi Beth,
    There's no question that some of the opposition against Obama is racist ... but I also have the feeling (or hope) that we're talking about a very vocal and not-all-that credible minority. I think most people want to see our healthcare system reformed and the insurance companies brought under control ... it's just a question of how we do it.

  16. I agree with your assessment of former President Carter's insightful comments. I also agree that not all of those who disagree with President Obama's politics are racist either, but I do think their is, as Carter said, "a fringe element" that cannot or will not accept an African-American as president. While this has not been a hot summer (temperature-wise), it sure has been one of hot tempers, ugly placards and hateful words. I have to wonder what is going on in this country of ours.


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