Friday, August 19, 2011

What Would FDR Do?

"What would FDR do?"

It was a question former Clintonian Robert Reich asked on Twitter last week regarding to the Supreme Court's looking primed to shoot down "Obamacare." It was yet another unfavorable comparison to former Democratic presidents Obama's received pretty much since the Tea Party emerged in the summer of '09. Why can't Obama be more like FDR? LBJ? Carter? Clinton?

I often answer, especially with the last two, with a "Thank God, he ain't." Here we have a president who's accomplished a bunch of historic shit, who, as Rachel Maddow pointed out a few weeks ago, has come through on 85% of his campaign promises, and, with stiff opposition put universal health care on the books (Yes, I know it's neither perfect nor what everybody clamored for, but, to paraphrase LBJ, "I know it's messed up, but put it on the books. We'll fix it later." That's pretty much how our system works. They put something in place and modify it as time goes by. The Medicare and Social Security that you so prize today ain't what they were when first enacted.). Yet, I constantly hear how Obama's done absolutely nothing, how he's weak (in the face of the Tea Party who goes armed to public meetings talking about revolution and 300 death threats a month), and why can't he be more like the aforementioned presidents.

I blame a lot of it on the economy, of course. Unemployment's high. Insecurity's even higher. Everything else pales in comparison. I can blame the media, the Right Wing propaganda machine, Liberals penchant to whine about everything and their superhuman wobbly-kneed ability to make even their historic successes look like monumental failures. Nostalgia, romanticism. I can blame a whole host of things. But I mainly blame history.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I know I'm late to the game. I always am. But I just finished watching Skin with Sophie Okonedo (a goddess) and Sam Neill (so ubiquitous he's at least a demigod). It's one of those based-on-a-true-story stories about a white couple who give birth to a "dark-skinned" daughter during apartheid-era South Africa.

It's an intriguing flick. It's one of the few movies to ever explore race as a social construct (Black Like Me, Watermelon Man, and, ugh, Soul Man) come to mind. You watch a father's desperate struggle to have his daughter officially recognized by the state as being "white" to glean the advantages that that would garner her while society at large views her as "coloured." Since one's race is basically what one is perceived to be, you can only imagine the consequences. And, of course, it ain't pretty.

I am one who believes that race is, indeed, a social construct. Therefore, I found the movie very interesting and enjoyed it (as much as one can "enjoy" an apartheid flick) for exploring that. Also, as an American, I found it interesting because South Africa's construct of race differs a bit from ours. Having been ruled by the One Drop Rule for the lion's share of this country's existence, we have only relatively recently started to recognize that there's such a thing as a "mixed-race" person. Black is black is black is black. Though the character of this film was categorized as coloured it seemed like she was treated more as a black. Skin has piqued my interest in what the societal and legal differences were/are between black and coloured in South Africa.