Since this is my first blog, I'd like to introduce the tag line that I will be using for each entry: Blind Anger.
It is more than a pun. When I first lost my eyesight, my primary reaction was anger. But what good is anger if you can't use it to change things. I have used that extra energy to listen instead of just hearing people talk. Sometimes the things that I discover by listening surprise, shock and sadden me.
In our busy, 24-hour news cycle, garbage-in-garbage-out, rants, tirades and temper tantrum filled days, I feel that it is important to listen to what people are actually saying. I am no longer burdened with the distractions of eyesight. and yet, in a way, I have found that I can "see" even more.
The other day, I had the privilege of receiving a phone call to invite me to a "Tele-Town Hall" for the Ohio Senatorial candidate, Mr. Rob Portman. Even though my current voting district is in Florida, having moved out of Ohio in 2007, I was still quite interested in participating. I was torn between hanging up the phone, since I am no longer a resident of Ohio, and listening to the voices of my fellow countrymen and woman in an important political discussion. What I heard absolutely sickened me and I felt myself turning quite pale as I listened to the blatant racism of several callers and Mr. Portman's casual and almost jovial response.
Caller Rita Smith of Norwood, a mostly blue collar Cincinnati neighborhood, was given the opportunity to speak to the candidate. She identified herself as a loyal constituent, and wanted to know how she could best serve the interest of her candidate. She then proceeded to mention that she used to be active in local politics, but that she felt that she could no longer participate in her neighborhood because it had become, in her words, " An Obamanation, if you know what I mean," referring to the current integration of the area. Having lived in the nearby enclave of College Hill, I recognized the meaning behind her racist terminology. But what really set me back was the light-hearted response and agreeable acknowledgment of her comment by Mr. Portman. He laughed in agreement with her, and then espoused his recommendation of 10-10-10 (meaning that she should speak to 10 of her friends, 10 of her co-workers and 10 of her relatives, instead of just speaking to her neighbors).
Not once did he denounce her racist attitude toward her neighbors, so one can only assume that he wanted her to contact 30 like-minded people to support his campaign.
In running for the seat soon to be vacated by George Voinavich, his future constituents would be black, white, rich, poor, Christian, Jewish, young, middle-aged and seniors. Doesn't he realize, that by agreeing with the racist comments of one part of his support base, he could potentially alienate others? Didn't any Republicans learn from McCain's 2008 campaign that it is potentially dangerous to embolden and encourage the racist right fringe that are out of control? (Remember the crazy-looking lady in the red shirt at his town hall, claiming that she couldn't trust Obama because he was an Arab? McCain's response was one of shock, and "oh, what have I done?")
Mr. Portman went on to answer more questions and tow the Republican lie about how the tax cuts for the wealthiest can help this country grow, when they have been a part of the problem for he last decade. Trickle-down, voodoo economics were proved to be wrong in the Reagan administration.
But what really put a sour taste in my mouth was the dismissive attitude, if not encouraging demeanor of Mr. Portman toward his racist caller.
I called in to one of his staffers to challenge Mr. Portman to show proof that tax breaks for the wealthy create jobs and restore our economy, but I also challenged him to show how perpetuation of racist attitudes was not dangerous and irresponsible, and tearing our nation apart.
I'm still waiting for your response, Mr. Portman... Really.