Blessed Are the Brief

This past week, Pope St. Francis conducted a not-so-brief interview with La Civilta Cattolica, an Italian Jesuit journal. Ranging over 11,000 words in length, the Pope divulged his preference in music and film as well as his real thoughts on where to take the Catholic church. He stated, “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”  He went on to say, "We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible … We have to talk about them in a context." For progressive young religious people like me, hearing the Pope say that religion should be about compassion, and mercy, and creative connection is falls on welcome ears. But judging from the (very brief) sermon I heard this morning at mass, I'm not sure the rest of the U.S. clergy thinks so. It's as if they gave the "Blessed are the meek" idea a taciturn spin: blessed are the brief.

The sermon was not more than five minutes long, and consisted of the rhetorically stunning offering that - get ready -  the Pope's comments were in line with the Church's long-held positions on sexual politics.

That was the beginning. And the end.

I was stunned. These are some of the most interesting statements, any major religious leader has made in decades, yet many priests kept it inaudible. According to the Boston Globe, the US bishops and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, Boston’s archbishop declined to comment about the statements the Pope made in his interview.

If the Catholic church is going to at least try to give the semblance that it is a hierarchical, matrixed, top-down institution, it has to act like one. When a CEO of a major corporation releases a statement, his or her PR people fall in line. That didn't happen today in the Catholic church, and it looked horrible. The sort of silent mutiny said droves in itself, and it was disappointing.

In today's hypervocal world, the brief are blessed on Twitter. Or Tumblr.

Not the pulpit.

Accident, or the Ecstacy of Ascent

November 6th, 9:45pm

Yoga typically isn't where I spend Election Night. Having been involved with politics in some capacity for most of my adult life, on Election Night I'm usually either doing GOTV (calling voters and knocking on doors) or glued to the tube, waiting for election results.

But on Election Night 2012, I did something a little different. I did my volunteer GOTV work leading up the campaign, and now just wanted to relax and see what happened. I took a kundalini yoga class, and executed moves I wasn't able to do before. I felt particularly strong and centered. While in the blissful torpor of an endocrine-induced haze, I had flashbacks to the last four elections prior to this one, and in the process realized a few things about the nature of ascent:

Election Night 2004: I'm just out of college.  I'm volunteering at the Kerry headquarters in Alhambra, in LA County. I'm very passionate about delivering the Kerry talking points, but what really stood out to me were the Wahoo's fish tacos around the corner.

Election Night 2006: I was in a ballroom in the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. (Movin' up! From the Eastside to Downtown!) There was some DNC party there, and Hilda Solis gleefully announced, "Nancy Pelosi is now the speaker of the House!"

I thought, "Oh cool, there's a female Speaker." Then I blinked. I didn't think much else; I was 23.

Election Night 2008: I was on a bar on U Street in Washington, DC. I had two friends visiting from California, and we stopped into a bar to watch the results with what I thought was good anticipation. The announcement came quickly and we, like Barack, were caught off guard. Michelle held him together on stage, and we held tightly to the railing off the bar's balcony as I watched U Street flood with cheering people.

"He won!!!!" everyone was screaming. Surprise - the underdog won. Surprise, history happened to be made. Another surprise - our friend, the dope transgender performance artist D'Lo, happened to also be visiting from LA, and was cheering on top of a newspaper stand at the corner of 14th and U. It was like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's friends and family pass by her house; but this was more wizard of Wonder, with 41 degree weather.

Election Night 2010: All efforts were made to generate the least amount of political surprise possible, and those efforts fell on their face. At the time, I worked at a civic engagement organization trying to turn out the young vote, and young voters nationwide just couldn't motivate for mid-terms. I canvassed Philadelphia, along with other lefties who made the trek from DC.  The day was cold, and pretty bleak: on the way back, we got the news that the Dems had lost the House. To boot, some macabre weirdos wanted to watch the City of God on the bus ride back. As the film's bullet noises blinked off the bus windows, I curled up in my seat and decided that the best thing to do was just to go to sleep.

Election Night 2012: At the risk of calling a box a square, it seems that O might just win tonight. I have emerged from an intentional physical practice to laud what was one hell of an intentional campaign, despite everyone's very best bullshitting. An Obama win would be another win against all odds; although it might be a bit of a surprise, it sure wouldn't be an accident.

While on that yoga mat, I thought of me and my Dad's recent tour of the White House with my friend, who works for the administration. The White House felt so cozy and welcoming, even at 9pm at night. There was a pumpkin carved with the presidential seal on it. The Obama White House felt like a home - and I was there with my father, nonetheless!

I am now almost 30, and Obama is almost winning. This time, it's not an accident - it's intentional. And as a matter of fact, it's bad-ass.

November 8th, 6:30pm

322 vs. 206 :) 

Liberate the Libertine

French lush Dominique Strauss-Kahn has abjectly asked the French courts not to “criminalize lust.” Re-branding himself as a "libertine", Strauss-Kahn has gone on the record saying, “I long thought that I could lead my life as I wanted...And that includes free behavior between consenting adults." 

A lot of women think the same way, but they don't get to be called libertines

They're simply called sluts.

The paradigm in which a voracious sexual appetite signals liberation for men and promiscuity for women is framed and named by politics. During this 2012 presidential election cycle, the legislation of the vagina (not if, but how) is one of the key "issues" of both campaigns.

Women don't want the government in their vaginas, but whoever else they have there is their business and theirs alone. Women should be able to say to the US body politik, as DSK did to the French one:

"Nous sommes libertines - liberez-nous!"

Photo art by Favianna Rodriguez: http://www.favianna.com/

The Vargas Story

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas' My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant essay in the New York Times has shocked just about everyone. I was shocked to learn that Vargas, whom I met briefly through Georgetown's Journalism program, built his Pulitzer-winning career entirely without papers. (Wow!) Other, more conservative Americans were shocked to learn that smart, accomplished people like Vargas are among the ranks of the undocumented in this country.

That's a great thing, but here's the not-so-good thing: not every illegal immigrant has the privilege to be able to publicly declare their status. If most undocumented immigrants did what Vargas did, they wouldn’t be cooed over, they’d be deported.

Although the larger, Open Society Institute-funded goal behind Vargas’ Define American project is to increase support for the passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) and the DREAM Act, it is, in actuality, a career boost for Vargas and a clear reinforcement of the power line between the haves and the have-nots. What is supposed to be a story about lack of privilege is, inadvertently, a story showcasing privilege.

This high-profile essay will act as a shield for Vargas against the actual legal ramifications of declaring his status, illuminating the sharp class divides that, ironically enough, make immigrants out of people tired of the fact that legal and economic exceptions will never be made for them in their home countries.Vargas will probably get a book deal from this essay, but millions of undocumented workers need something else from its publication. They need the passage of CIR and the DREAM Act. As a testament to all those people that can't wedge the the New York Times between themselves and Immigration Customs Enforcement agents, let's celebrate Vargas' story and lobby to change the laws that shaped it.

Beyonce Bzzz

Who runs the world? According to Beyonce, girls.

In her new video, the Queen Bee of pop runs a post-apocalyptic country in which cabaret-clad women dance Fosse with chained hyenas. While it might be weird, it’s timely for a week in which the former head of the IMF took a break from "investing" in Africa to assault an African hotel maid, and the former governor of California considered it okay to sleep with his wife and his maid at the same time.

These are times in which we need new visions of the future. Okay so this future is dusty and metallic, but it's good food for thought:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U&w=560&h=349]

Castizo Closets

It's confirmed: Arnold Schwarzenegger's "love child" is half Mexican. Given that he slept with a member of his domestic household staff, I figured that the woman was Latina, and turns out she is. Mildred Patricia Baena, to be exact. Somewhere in Southern California a certain Chicano kid has been smirking on the couch while his friends unknowingly joked, "I'll be back!".
While it's disappointing, a high-level politician cheating on his wife is too normal to really be newsworthy. (After all, nearly all high-level politicos from DC to CA - Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa - have checked that box.) What is newsworthy is how old-school this is.
Schwarzenegger having a love-child with his Mexican maid is straight 19th century. It's casta California, a color-based caste and power system in which European landowners often had children with indigenous women who worked in or around their homes. That's the mission system every California 3rd grader has to re-create with styrofoam as a class project. While Anglo settlers rejected this loose, Latin American social system that allowed for racial mixing, it's a deeply ingrained idea in California's subconscious.
And is perhaps even more so now, because NAFTA has turned the best intentions of both the Minute Men and the reconquista (reconquest) activists on their heads: American corporations have rendered Mexico economically uninhabitable, pushing hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals back into what was Northern Mexico just 150 years ago.
Who knew that of all people, Republicans would make the reconquista real. California is half Mexican now, and its "centrist" governor has sealed the deal.
In californio California, people wouldn't have blinked if a blond governor had a dark-haired son in the figurative closets of his large estate. Maybe Arnold's most famous line is really the voice of casta California: I'll be back!