Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Virtual March on Washington

I didn't go to the peace march on Washington this past weekend despite my grandiose dreams of hopping in the car last minute and speeding up to the event., however, is offering a second, more convenient (is that terrible?) chance to get in on the anti-war action by participating in their Virtual March on Washington tomorrow.

Sign up here for a time slot to call your Senator and express your opposition to the escalation in Iraq - the goal is to have Congressional phones ringing off the hook the entire day leading up to the vote.

You can do it from your office, it'll only take a minute but make your voice heard. The only way to support our brave troops is to oppose the war!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Vote Vets

From Vote Vets, a group working to place Iraq and Afghanistan vets in elected office in the hopes that they can collectively turn this country into its best self. Just another reminder that you support the troops by opposing the war.

Advice for Guilford

I got home late tonight - Rob and I were standing in the kitchen chatting as I scanned the paper, right over the sociological study they call the letters to the editor when I saw Advice for Guilford. According to Gloria Allen of Greensboro:

Perhaps the next time the pacifist folks at Guilford College are moved to demonstrate against war and violence out on Friendly Avenue and New Garden Road, they'll consider adding an in-house demonstration.
What I want to know is, who hurt darling Gloria so badly that she felt the need to use her once monthly opportunity to state her opinions to the readers of the News & Record to send in such a venomous and utterly pointless letter? Why must she rub salt in the wound of this terrible event?

There, there, Gloria - I'm sure someone loves you!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

In the end, words will triumph

This column was originally published in the News & Record on January 24, 2007.

Ideas are bullet proof.

- V for Vendetta

This past summer, I found myself in a conversation with a friend of a friend about the true power of the pen versus the sword. I, of course, stood firmly on the side of a pen victory in an epic winner-takes-all battle, while the friend stood firmly in opposition, no doubt with images of a heavy, sharpened blade a la the Knights of the Roundtable.

I will side with the pen any day if only for the beauty and simplicity of its power. At the root of human existence are dueling needs: to be unique and to be understood, and in that way find community. Words, by allowing us to share our individual perception of the world with one another, fill those two needs at once - through differing perceptions, we see our individuality and, through agreement, we find our community. Of course, that’s not the only reason words are powerful.

While I admit that it is hard to beat the intimidation factor of a well-handled weapon, a quick look at the state of the world is enough to see that the pen is the undefeated champ and there’s not a sword, IED or biological weapon strong enough to knock it off its throne. Truly, the power disparity between the pen and the sword has never been as great or as apparent as in the modern world. Spin your globe to the Middle East for a prime example of the limitations of firepower.

Now open your Web browser and search for blogs. You get millions of hits, right? Each of those URLs represents people with opinions, people willing to broadcast their version of the world. They are concerned with their families or their search for romance; they are sharing stories about work, vacations and hobbies; they are offering their expertise on baking, tricking out cars and investing. They are keeping an eye on the government, the schools, the eco-companies and the industrial giants. Each and every one of them are working to impact their sliver of the world using the seemingly limitless power of instant communication and citizen journalism.

Case in point: Greensboro 101. Run by Roch Smith, Jr., Greensboro 101 is a blog aggregator featuring the sites of bloggers within, from or writing about Greensboro.

While Greensboro 101 certainly has its share of mainstream headline commentators and enthusiasts for any variety of hobby and art, it has also, on occasion, used the power of the Web to remind our local politicians that, though the citizens of Greensboro may be the Little Brothers to the governmental Big Brother, we are watching and we are willing to use the powerful and far-reaching tool of communication to share what we see. Notably, a few months ago, Greensboro 101 earned its citizen journalism chops by being the outlet through which an anonymous blogger posted the leaked RMA report on David Wray and the Greensboro Police Department.

Of all the enduring lessons that were celebrated during last week’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the one that is rarely spoken yet always present is that, indeed, ideas, most often expressed in words, are bulletproof. James Earl Ray was able to take Dr. King’s life but there’s not enough ammunition under the sun to puncture his ideas which continue to impact America almost 40 years later.

The sword may win the battle, but pens will always take the war.

Monday, January 22, 2007


One of my many e-newsletter subscriptions recently turned me on to an interesting fledgling company called GreenDimes. Their mission is pretty simple: to positively impact the environment by eliminating junk mail. It makes sense: junk mail wastes paper - which of course uses trees and water by the tanker-full to produce - and the fossil fuels used to transport it. For a dime a day, GreenDimes does all the leg work to unsubscribing your household from the many, many mailing lists that our names get tagged onto when we donate to charity or order something through the mail or however our names get on any given list. Because names are constantly sold and resold, it's the kind of hounding most of us don't have the time or patience for.

Because GreenDimes is as much an environmental initiative as it is a business, membership also includes a tree planted for each month of membership - consider it a few rainbow sprinkles topping off the sundae.

I have to admit that when I signed up a little over a month ago, I was skeptical but decided my $36 was worth the test. As they warn, it takes time to get through to all the snail-mail spammers, some of whom print labels as far as a year in advance. Despite that, we've already seen a drop in our junk-mail intake. I suppose it's possible that I will someday wish that Visa would send me yet another credit card application or that I could only get my hands on the latest Pyramid Catalogue but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow bird

We hung some feeders this week in hopes that Rob would get a shot just like this:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marketing in a media savvy world

There are two things that I love about this video:

  1. Breakdancing is just rad. I don't begin to know how they make their bodies move the way they do... I can barely walk with any sort of grace.
  2. It's the new wave of marketing. Pretty early in the clip, it becomes pretty obvious that it's an ad for the music player they're using but it's still pretty subtle - okay, right up until they flash the URL on the screen but still... the new wave of marketing is the YouTube model - homemade videos (or sometimes professional video made to look homemade) with truly entertaining content - not the BS in the Superbowl commercials that we're supposed to find entertaining - in which the ad seems almost secondary. Today's consumer market doesn't want to be hit over the head - we're going to look at the online reviews of the product anyway...

Love letter to (my) Bush

Someone's got a crush on Bush - sadly, it's not a crush on her own bush or any other lucky woman's but, alas, on the president. In her letter to the editor today, Greensboro resident Elizabeth Jones blames dishonest polling (an issue, to be sure) on Bush's dramatically dismal popularity ratings, saying that we the people should, "Appreciate a good man when you have one."

Amen, sister. I appreciate my sweet husband and his hard work and devotion, and I appreciate Dr. King and the sacrifices he made to move America toward it's greatest potential. I appreciate my father and grandfathers, my brother-in-law and younger brothers. Hell, I appreciate Ben & Jerry for the wonderful products they produce.

But can I appreciate a man who believes that the lives of soldiers and Iraqis are a fair trade for a great deal on oil for his buddies? A man who continually spits on the Constitution, even as he pretends to defend it? A man who claims to spread Democracy even as he turns America into a fascist state?

Only if he's sitting at a courtroom table, defending against charges of war crimes.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday laugh

Dr. King

A friend and I recently had an extended debate about the way we (as in people in general) treat uber-icons. Specifically, we were looking at society's tendency to sweep the fallible, i.e. human, aspects of an icon under the rug in favor of focusing on their contributions. For example, when all the Little Johnnys and Little Suzies out there spent last week learning about Martin Luther King, Jr., they were learning about peaceful protest and change through a partnership of people of different colors and socioeconomic backgrounds. But did they learn that Dr. King was a womanizer?

My friend would argue that students should learn that Dr. King was not without sin; otherwise they might come to believe that the good Dr. King did came from some superhuman source of strength or will. She argues that knowing his less savory side would show people that they are capable of big things despite their indiscretions.

I agree that knowing the whole person is useful... to an extent... the outer boundary perhaps being when knowing indiscretions detracts from acknowledging all the good. But Dr. King, to me, is an easy example. While I have no doubt that my husband and I would break up in a heartbeat should one of us cheat, womanizing and sexual indiscretions in icons - that is, people I am not directly involved with - is a forgivable sin to me, especially in a person whose goods were so very good. When it comes to Dr. King, I'm not sure that students should learn about his fallacies along with his amazing accomplishments - I would rather students have time, years of time, to reflect on his contributions to society rather than his failings in marriage.

But other examples prove more troubling. Mother Theresa would turn away people desperate for help if they wouldn't profess acceptance of Jesus. Thomas Jefferson kept slaves. James Brown apparently abused his wife.

My friend and I never resolved our debate... I'm sure to keep thinking about it even as I spend today reflecting on the life of a man who motivated many to be their best selves in the hopes of making America its best self.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Tremors Rockabilly

Daniel McMillan graced the pages of Go Triad with a four star review of Invasion of the Saucermen, the latest release from Greensboro's favorite sons of the Man in Black, The Tremors.

If you haven't heard them, they sound like Buddy Holly on speed, early Roy Orbison (way before Pretty Woman) with a switchblade, Carmen Miranda with extra bananas... okay, maybe not Carmen Miranda... but you get my meaning.

Full disclosure: Slim Perkins, whose girth is matched only by the upright bass he slaps around on stage, is a long-time friend of mine. We met at Somewhere Else Tavern, back in its Freeman Mill location, where we quickly progressed from introductions to a drunken upper-body flash when his officially became the first pair of pierced nipples I had seen.

That's right, you pervs - he was flashing, not me. Anyway, ours has been a charmed friendship ever since... or as charming as anything gets when Slim and I get together and let loose our sailor vocabularies.

Get yourself a CD, get to a show and get rockabilly-fied.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Abuse is everyone's problem

This column was originally published in the News & Record on December 27, 2006.

I was really looking forward to writing a holiday-themed piece this year. I was going to say something quippy about the so-called War on Christmas and then offer some sort of John Lennon-esque plea for giving peace a chance - lay down your candy cane spears and sharpened throwing gelt and come together - something like that.

But I can't because Rebecca Ann Wilson was murdered by her ex-husband, Del Ray Wilson, Jr. - after moving out due to abuse, after receiving a protective order and after Del Ray was charged with violating that order four times.

According to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 59 North Carolina men, women and children were victims of domestic violence homicides between January 1 and December 8, 2006. They were strangled, beaten, shot and stabbed by people they presumably trusted and most likely loved.

Rebecca Ann was shot through the windshield of her car as she pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex. Hopefully she never saw it coming.

Once the children have been placed with responsible adults and Del Ray has been sentenced to however much time the state sees fit, one question remains: did law enforcement fail Rebecca Ann?

I blamed law enforcement for years after I was attacked by my ex-boyfriend. I faulted them for not looking me in my blackened eye when I refused to press charges and I faulted them for never entering my house the morning he broke in to kill me.

But the truth is that police are in a horrible catch 22 when it comes to domestic abuse. By its very nature, domestic abuse happens, or at least begins, in relationships in which there is love, even if the relationship wouldn’t be considered loving. It was out of love and loyalty, and a false belief that my then-boyfriend would be grateful and therefore not violent, that kept me from pressing charges that day. And mine was a moderate case of abuse: mostly psychological and emotional, only occasionally physical and lasting less than a year. In more dramatic cases, abusees, led by their own misguided sense of love and loyalty, have been known to turn on the very police who have come to help them.

Protective orders are also catch 22s in their own right.

It makes sense that in order to prohibit people from going to a location, those prohibited must know where they can’t go. Alternately, it makes sense that people fleeing violent relationships would be secretive about the location of their new home and/or place of business, leaving abusees to chose between anonymity and police protection.

Rebecca Ann chose police protection. When Del Ray violated the protective order, he was arrested, twice. Both times he posted bail through a bail bondsman and returned to Rebecca Ann until that horrible final visit.

The added tragedy of Rebecca Ann’s murder is not that law enforcement was negligent – they weren’t. It was that the system has not yet developed enough to keep her, and those like her, safe.

There are no simple answers in domestic abuse. Most preventative measures address kids in the hopes that teaching them respect for themselves and one another will someday make abuse a disease of a bygone generation.

Until that time, we have to keep the dialogue going, keep searching for answers. We have to take abuse personally.

I never met Rebecca Ann - I don't know what her interests were or if she put sweet notes in her kids' lunch bags. But I take her murder personally - not just because I came so close to her fate, but because though leaving abusive relationships is the responsibility of individuals, ending abuse altogether is up to the whole community.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Congress in session

The 110th Congress has kicked off its session by banning lawmakers from flying on corporate jets and accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists. Of course there's plenty of time for the Dems to screw this one up, too, but I see this is as a very promising start toward a government we can again be proud to call our own.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Swearing to Allah

Where to start on Representative Keith Ellison? I don't know anything about the guy except that he's from Minnesota and he's planning to swear into office on Thomas Jefferson's Koran - of course, that alone tells me one more thing about him - that he's clever. Of course, Thomas Jefferson was enough of a comedian to leave us with enough writing to keep bored people debating forever on what his religious and civil rights beliefs were - as my bro-in-law says, you can find a Jefferson quote to suit absolutely any opinion.

Never the less, Rep. Virgil Goode has his panties in a twist over the whole thing (he of the now infamous warning that America must damper immigration to avoid a second Muslim in Congress) adding comic relief to what really just makes sense.

You Greensborians likely remember that not so long ago, there was a big stir about people wanting to swear on the Koran in our local courts. At its most elementary, the placement of one's hand probably doesn't matter - the Jim Bakkers of the world remind us that swearing on a bible or swearing up and down that one's life is led by the bible, doesn't really make a person more likely to be a good, honest, upstanding person. But just in case placing one's hand on a sacred scripture does make a person more likely to adhere to positive values, then I want those people to swear on whatever is most meaningful - bring in a picture of their moms to swear on if that makes them more likely to be the best person they can.

Ellison certainly has chutzpah, and hopefully a very thick-skin, to be the first Muslim in Congress - I hope that his voting record eventually mirrors the backbone his campaign and inauguration have shown.