Monday, March 10, 2014

Power Politics

A few days of no electricity restores the ability to think in complete sentences ... dare I suggest - even paragraphs?
My street - a mile-long cut-in near Camp New Hope- suffered a downed power line across the road. Very dangerous. Not only was the line down, the pole from whence it came was jutting out at about 45 degrees, as though it wanted to fall but lacked the nerve. It was falling not from ice, but from mud. The ground it sits on just off the road and up a few feet in elevation was giving way. Nerve wracking to drive under and scary to imagine it coming down. From Friday morning until yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, we watched and waited. Though Piedmont trucks were often nearby, we didn't see them in the neighborhood until yesterday afternoon. Not even to evaluate. No cones - nothing.
A couple of our neighbors (I don't know who, but they SHOULDN'T HAVE) freed the lines somewhat by cutting away trees that were laying on them. With the nice weather on Saturday and Sunday, we were outside here and their and encountering many of our neighbors, comparing notes.
Indeed, we had ALL called Piedmont Electric and reported the downed lines. I posted pictures on WTVD's website and then linked to that via Piedmont's Facebook page --- expressing my unhappiness. I can understand that we have to wait out turn and, compared to post-Fran, these were NOT the worst of times. What bothered me was Piedmont's lack of information systems both for managing incoming reports of outages and for updating the public on status. Their "outage viewer" online is a piece of crap on a smart phone - which is all many of us have (with gratitude) for getting information. I called at least twice and it seemed each time that the person I spoke to had no idea there was a pole about to fall onto the street.
And, of course, I saw no sign of good old Governor McNugget during any of this storm. Perhaps he was working on the coal ash problem, but I thought that even if I saw him on TV or heard him on the radio, what would he say that would help me in any way? Nothing. He, like Piedmont Electric at this point, doesn't have much credibility with many of us. That's an enormous problem during an emergency. I need to feel confident that my governor is on top of things on a simple human level -- looking out for us, whether we voted for him or not. Perhaps I'm sentimental, but that's the standard I look to and nearly never like what I see.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Women's History Month

The downside of observing under-appreciated achievements with Black and Women’s History month-long observances is they invariably miss something that was (for someone) very important. That makes something that was under-appreciated seem UNappreciated, which is probably not the case.

Here’s an example of that problem. Last February (at month’s end), there was a documentary called “Makers: Women Who Make America” on PBS, kicking off Women’s History Month. It was about the evolving image of working women and their roles within families. The film was narrated by Meryl Streep, an indisputable giant in film and champion of strong women being portrayed in three dimensions. Imperfect. Struggling. Growing.

The film featured various iconic milestones and talked a fair amount about how the image of women in television and films can help us imagine ourselves differently. We saw Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore as independent professionals on “That Girl” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” We saw “Maude” talk about abortion on television for the first time. Not mentioned on the program was “The West Wing”, where we saw Glenn Close portray a judge being vetted for the Supreme Court disclosing that she’d had an abortion. In that episode (admittedly on a program that is a liberal fantasy) she becomes Chief Justice of the United States.

That omission didn’t bother me. Here’s the one that did – in this program that was narrated by Streep, there was no mention at all of one of her first films, Kramer vs. Kramer. In the movie, thought to be quite a breakthrough at the time, Ted and Joanna Kramer are fighting over custody of their son and the court rules, wrongly, that Joanna Kramer will get full custody. It’s Hollywood, though, so the Kramers work it out in the end (as they never could in the beginning) and they informally arrange to share custody.

Presumably the filmmakers didn’t want to distract from the focus on women – women being great, courageous leaders. I get that. Sometimes, and especially in complicated situations, being a leader is mostly about seeing more than one possible right answer and (in rare occurrences) it’s about letting go of some power to get the best solution for everyone involved.  “Joanna Kramer” was a leader of women, ahead of her time. She taught the hard lesson of humility, the need for partnership and the integrity of objectively seeing and admitting when you’ve been wrong. If America’s investment banks had taken that lesson, our economy would be in much better shape right now.

So, to look at women’s history with some integrity and through today’s perspective, it’s not a good time to take a victory lap. To wit:
    • We still have an embarrassing level of representation in the Congress (both houses).
    • We are still fighting for reproductive rights.
    • We carry most of the load in caring for our aging parents (and in-laws).
    • We comprise the bulk of minimum wage workers.
    • We are most of the population living in poverty.
For all the attention that an openly gay defensive lineman gets for possible “distractions” to his NFL team, there is almost no possibility that a professional football, basketball or baseball player would be “distracted by” a player raping or beating the shit out of a woman.

As I watch Wendy Davis running for governor in Texas, I am hopeful that we might be getting to the next level of our struggle, largely because she is providing clear evidence that we are in a struggle. It’s not up to her to carry this burden, though, it is up to each and every one of US.

Happy Women’s History Month. Now, let’s get back to work.