Inauguration 2009: A Rant

There was much to be happy about today and I will blog about that in a bit, but I do need to point out something:

Whoever was in charge of the logistics of this day from the Metro and other public transport to safely getting ticketed people into the designated areas IS MADE OF FAIL. I have rarely been so frustrated and annoyed and I have rarely seen a clusterfuck bigger than the one I witnessed today.

Starting with transportation: as I said, we got our tickets yesterday, so we didn’t have to wait in a long line at the start. However, our train took 3 times as long to get into town because there were so many people trying to get on and the cars were full by the fourth stop away from the terminus. As people tried to cram themselves in, they held up trains in front of us, our train, and the trains behind. Though the city claimed to have been ready for the estimated 2 million people showing up for this thing, they were clearly not.

They had to shut down certain stations because too many people were crowding the platforms, then open them as they cleared the folks out. We had to go one stop further than the suggested stop because of one of these closings, and thus had to come to our gate in a roundabout way. I don’t think it would have helped had we come from the intended stop, because for some reason the Blue Gate line was completely useless.

Each ticket had a color, designating your section. Every section had an entry point for security checks and then the actual gate. We passed the Orange line, which had a clearly marked entrance and path. The Blue had no such thing. We kept going to different parts of an ever changing line, no one was ever sure it was the right line, there were no cops, security, line coordinators, or anything to help. Let me repeat: there was no one managing our line, and it was already breaking down into chaos by the time we arrived.

The inauguration ceremony began at 10, the swearing in at 12. They opened the gates at 8 or 9 and closed then at 11:30, officially. What genius thought that they could facilitate getting a quarter of a million people sorted, through security, and into the standing area in 2.5 – 3.5 hours? I don’t know what the other lines were line, but with the Blue line, there was very little movement and, in the end, we didn’t get in and no one told us why. Looking at the footage on television, I have to wonder if they gave out too many tickets and there just wasn’t any more room.

Still, there was so much that could have been done better, including opening the gates at 5am. It may have still resulted in the area filling up completely before everyone got in, but there would have been time to redirect people elsewhere. The lines should have been tightly controlled, because thousands of confused people all together is never, ever a good thing. All traffic through the area where lines crossed streets should have been halted – yes, SUVs broke the line more than once. When the inauguration ended, there should have been controlled egress to the Metro stations instead of letting people mob the entrances, having no other choice.

I want to smack every person involved in coordinating this, because they obviously failed to consider so much and completely fucked my day. However, there were some bright spots – I’ll blog about them later. For now, I sleep… and then get on a bus.

Countdown to the Inauguration: ABW Waits in Line. A Lot.

Today we did not take place in the Day of Service because we planned to go into DC, get our tickets, then go meet up with family in Maryland. We thought this adventure would take a few hours, we did not count on it taking over 6.

In hindsight, it was probably foolish of us not to have anticipated this.

The fun started when we got to the Metro station in Fairfax, VA. It never occurred to us that there would be a long, long line just to get tickets, but there was. We stood in it for about an hour and a half. I don’t know what it was like at other stations, but I think that since ours was a terminus and near enough to several hotels, there was just a glut of people. We wisely bought our tickets for tomorrow when we got up to the machines.

To the Metro’s credit, there were station officers there controlling the lines and helping people buy their tickets on unfamiliar equipment, so the process went smoothly.  Just there were just SO MANY people, it took a while.

Once we got into DC we easily found our way to the congressional office building where our tickets were waiting. However, we encountered even more lines! Something like a quarter million people are receiving tickets from their senators and representatives and today was the first chance for most to pick them up. I saw one woman getting her packet and getting so excited that she was really going to be there and it was all going to happen, I thought she was going to hug the aide to death.

We despaired of ever getting through the line when we spotted staffers from the representative our tickets came from. They were out taking names, getting tickets, and bringing them down so people could get through the process faster. After about 20 minutes we had our passes and instructions and were ready to leave for Maryland. Union Station is only a few blocks away from the Capitol, so we headed that way and stopped for a few tourist shots.

Then Union Station was a complete madhouse. Entrances blocked, bad directions, chaos everywhere. And this isn’t even the day of!

The thing that I found most fascinating was the amount of tacky Obama merchandise people were hawking. Not just t-shirts and pins, but flags, capes, hats, earmuffs, pictures, posters, CAPES. It struck me again how great Obama’s branding is. It also made me wonder if there was this much tacky merchandise for Bush. I don’t remember a 4-day celebration for him, either. Is this the mark of a great 21st century president?

Pictures to come. Tomorrow I’m not sure I’ll be able to do my liveblogging – we’re checking on it tonight. But no matter what, I will be there!

Countdown to the Inauguration: ABW Arrives in DC

I held off on mentioning this until I was sure it would be a reality, but now it can be told: I’m attending the Inauguration of President Obama! Yay!

I just arrived in DC on the Chinatown bus and am waiting in a Starbucks for my cousin to pick me up. More family arrives tomorrow and hooking up with other family will happen Monday. Tuesday we all make the long trek to the Inauguration site, and then sometime late that night I go home. It’ll be an intense few days, but I am very excited.

This morning the bus was packed with young, politically charged people excited for the festivities. And when we arrived in DC, about 4 buses came in short succession, all filled to the brim with people.

Today I plan to chill at my cousin’s and get some work done while waiting for my other family. Tomorrow we have to go into DC proper to get our tickets and I’m sure someone has plans for doing something.

But Tuesday after the swearing in and parades and such, I have a lot of time to kill and must stay in DC as my bus leaves at 11:30pm. (I might try to get on an earlier bus, depending.) If any readers out there are going to be in the city and maybe want to hook up at a party or something, or are hosting a party of your own, let me know! I may not be too tired. :)

More information as it comes (and pictures!). I’ll be liveblogging the ceremony if the weather allows.

What Is Cultural Appropriation?

A few years ago at WisCon (the feminist SF convention) there was a panel about Cultural Appropriation that sparked an online discussion about the topic that is generally referred to as the Great Debate of DOOM. This was partly due to the wide-ranging nature of it (over 20 blogs, I believe) and due to the great abundance of wank, ignorance, and utter fail on the part of some participants.

At every WisCon since, there have been other CA panels that attempted to fix the issues raised by the first. But it was clear to those of us who have these conversations and panels all the time that a 45 minute or 90 minute debate/discussion/whathaveyou was not going to get really deep into the topic. Judging from the stunning amount of ignorance and defensiveness associated with such discussions, obviously a longer, more in-depth treatment of the topic was necessary. Thus, this series of posts on the ABW.

At first I thought that we could contain everything in one post. But this topic has so many facets and aspects that I quickly realized this could never be. That’s fine with me, because it will help us get really deep into the issues in the comments (which are slightly unwieldy due to the lack of threading).

I thought it would be appropriate to first define what we mean when we talk about Cultural Appropriation. What is it? What do you mean when you apply that term? If we can all express that and put up a few loose boundary markers around the subject, that will make discussing its effects and manifestations a little easier.

As a writer of color, I’m used to discussing cultural appropriation in the artistic sphere. Remember, though, that the issue extends beyond art – spirituality, style/fashion, speech, attitudes and more. Let’s bring them all in.

A note on participation:

Everyone is invited to contribute to this discussion. But if this is your first time here, I suggest you read The Rules (linked at the top) before wading in. There are bannable offenses here, and I will not hesitate to bring the hammer down if you bring bullshit to the table.

A note on comments and moderation:

By default, all comments by first-time participants are automatically moderated. This is a measure to keep the drive-by crazies out, not a tool to suppress anyone’s voice. If your comment doesn’t show up by midnight or so, please use the contact form to query about it. It may have ended up as spam. To avoid being put in the first-timer box, please use the same name/email combination every time you post. That way WordPress will recognize you.

We will try our best to keep up with the moderation queue, but remember that we have jobs and lives away from the Internet!

Ignorant Parents In Danger Of Raising Ignorant Children

So here’s the story as I understand it.  Every year at this elementary school they celebrate Thanksgiving by having the kids dress up as pilgrims and “indians”.  Parents, mainly those of Native descent, have begun to object to this for several reasons.  1. It’s a completely inaccurate portrayal of what went on when the pilgrims got here.  (I am also kind of sick of the way we lie to kids about history, only to have to reteach it later.  Columbus discovered America, anyone?  Lincoln fought the war to free the slaves?  But I digress.) 2. The “indian” outfits are stupid and based on racist stereotypes, anyway.  All they were asking is that they have the Thanksgiving stuff without the ignorant dress up time.  The school board agreed and said that the feast should happen without costumes.

And then.

Well, most of you who read this blog can guess what happened.

Condit Elementary School parent Michelle Raheja said she was not prepared for the backlash she got from helping to write an e-mail to a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.

She and her daughter have been harassed as a result, she said Wednesday.

“It was a private message to one kindergarten teacher,” Raheja said. “She did not ask me if she could circulate it to others or circulate it to the principal. I don’t think she was ill-intentioned.”

On Tuesday, numerous parents and their children dressed in American Indian and Pilgrim costumes to protest a Claremont Unified School District decision to have a Thanksgiving feast without the costumes that have been traditional for decades.

Another group of protesters, many younger and of American Indian descent, carried signs that said “Racism,” “No Thanks No Giving,” “Respect” and “Don’t Celebrate Genocide.”

Raheja said she and about 15 to 20 parents in the school helped write the private e-mail message about their concerns with the dress in the Thanksgiving feast to a Condit elementary teacher. She said the e-mail was redistributed without her knowledge.

At the Tuesday feast, Raheja said her 5-year-old daughter was harassed. A parent dressed up as an American Indian, Raheja said, “did a war dance around my daughter.” The parent then told her daughter and others to “go to hell,” she said.

Let’s pause here a moment.  A war dance.  A WAR DANCE, PEOPLE.

What the fuck kind of ass do you have to be to tell a 5 year old to go to hell?  The same kind of ass who would do a “war dance” around one.

I don’t advocate violence, but if I had seen that, I would have just hauled off and hit that person.

Continuing…

On Wednesday, she said she had received more than 250 “hateful and intimidating” e-mails.

“They go from being anxious about political correctness to calling me (an epithet). They don’t know my daughter’s name, but they’ve said hateful and disgusting things about my daughter.” (Classy! –abw)

At Tuesday’s feast, Raheja said she was told “if I had any issue with the school, I need to leave the school, and my daughter would not be welcomed.”

Raheja said, “We love Condit. We love the staff. Overall, we’ve had a very good experience. But the anger and hatred has been unbearable.”

If you have an opinion on this matter, I suggest you express it to the Condit staff and administrators yourself.  Website is here, complete with contact information.  I personally think it’s a little messed up for them to have even allowed parents to act in despicable ways around kids at their school or to distribute that email in the first place.

Google News on the subject here.  Beware clueless people being quoted and yammering on about how horrible political correctness is because it keeps their children from parading around in “headdresses”.  Idiots.

It’s Morning In America

Last night America elected its first black president.  We made history, as everyone still enjoys saying.  And I think we’ve earned the right to bask in the glow for a little bit.

But listen, there’s still a lot to be done.

First and foremost, it should be stated that, although come January we will have a Black president, that does not mean that racism is “over”.  That having a black president does not end the dialogue we have on this blog, on other blogs, and in meatspace about race, prejudice, and the challenges people of color face in this country and the world.  Obama’s win only proves that he specifically had what it took to win this election.  It wasn’t that any black person could have won, just as not any random woman could have won.  McCain made the mistake of thinking that; of looking at people like labels.

So there’s still a lot of anti-racist work to be done.  Racism still needs to be eliminated.  And while I’m hopeful that having a black president is one major step in that direction, it can also cause a setback as people throw “But we have a black president!” in our faces every time we bring up the deep-seated problems in this country.  We can’t let that happen.

Another important thing to remember is that Obama is not perfect and he’s not supernatural.  While we can rejoice in his presidency, we can’t cut him any slack.  And I think we must be willing, as activists and as non-activists, to work hard for change.  He said as much in his speech last night, so let’s hold him to his word.  More than ever we need to hold a president to his word this time around.

Am I wrong to feel, to hope, that doing so will be easier?  That in 4 years I’m going to feel better about my country than I do today?  Obama has never shared all of my values, but I am overwhelmed right now with a good feeling.

Election Day 2008

I voted. Have you? No matter who you’re voting for, it’s important to vote. Exercise your right.

Open Thread on election stuff! In the comments you can post any election news, let us know what it’s like for you locally, or share an election story.

ETA 8:06 Eastern: Looks like there are no surprises thus far. Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennesse, and Oklahoma projected for McCain, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Massachusets, Connecticut, New Jersey, Deleware, Maryland and DC projected for Obama. People in the midwest, mountains, and West coast, keep going!

ETA 10:00 Eastern: Ohio goes to Obama — HOME STATE REPRESENT!!! Ohio had been under a cloud of shame for a long time, but they started to wake up from it recently. For the first time in many years, they elected a Democratic governor two years ago. Mainly because of what happened in 2004 (a travesty overseen by the Republican running for office, J Kenneth Blackwell, thus his tragic loss). And now they’ve made up for their mistakes. Woo!

ETA 11:13 Eastern: Polls just closed on the west coast and everyone is calling it: Obama for the WIN MUTHERFUCKAS!

ETA 11:27 Eastern: At 11 we were watching Comedy Central.  had just turned from CNN.  Jon and Stephen were talking about something, then all the sudden Jon said, “Barack Obama is going to be the president.”  My roomate and I both said “Wait, what?”  then someone in our building screamed out the window: OBAMA!!  A millisecond later our other roommate, who works in Times Square, called and said: “Listen!”  There were people screaming in the background.  It took us a full minute to truly understand what had just happened.

I am… I don’t know what i am.  In 2004 I cried so hard when Kerry conceded and wouldn’t fight.  I cried for me, for my country, for a lot of things.  Right now I am crying again, but for different reasons.  It’s not going to be perfect.  Obama isn’t perfect.  But for the first time since 2001 I really feel like there is hope that things can get better.  We have to work for it.  Hard.  But we won’t be working against a behmouth intent on destroying us.  That’s my dream.

And also: Black President.

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