Sunday, August 21, 2005

Second media roundtable for August

Ava: It's Sunday and time for another Third Estate Sunday Review media roundtable. I'm Ava, acting moderator, and participants includes Jess, Jim, Dona and Ty of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Betty of Thomas Friedman is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine who's substituting for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and C.I. of The Common Ills. Ty?

Ty: It's The Third Estate Sunday Review roundtable and the way you can tell that is that we have people of color and we have both genders. Far from the Sunday Chat & Chews and their limited right-leaning scope is where you'll find our roundtable.

Jim: So let's start up front with the vigils this week, on Wednesday to show support for Cindy Sheehan. Everyone here attended one in their area.

Elaine: I was surprised by how the mood was "I don't want to leave." There was a coming together and, this probably goes in some way to Cedric's "Connections," I've been to rallies before where you do your part and then you leave. I don't know what everyone else saw but I ended up staying close to three hours after the vigil ended and could have stayed longer because everyone wasn't rushing off after it was over. People wanted to talk and share.

Betty: Before, everyone was very friendly, but I can't talk about after because I had my kids with me and they had school the next day so I was one of the people who says "We're done? Great!" and rush off.

Cedric: Yeah, I had to go to church and knew I'd be late but wanted to take part and show support. But even with needing to leave, I did get involved in two conversations after so I'd agree with Elaine on that.

Jess: I was expecting to see the same faces, friendly faces, and was surprised most by how many new faces were present. I did make a point to speak to some of the new faces. There was a couple present, mid-twenties, white, and they shared that they'd voted for Bully Boy but they were against the war. They told me they didn't regret their vote because they didn't think things would be any different in Iraq with John Kerry in the White House but they were disappointed in Bully Boy and in their party so they were planning to not vote straight ticket in 2006.

Mike: I saw a lot of students because a group of us were pushing it hard on campus. There was a 19 year-old named Stacy that told me she didn't usually get involved in anything and just stayed focused on her classes but that the occupation was immoral and she felt she had to "be present." She said she was sympathetic to Cindy Sheehan when Camp Casey started but when she started hearing some of the attacks on Sheehan, that turned her from sympathetic to supportive.

Ava: Interesting. She used the term "immoral?"

Mike: Yeah. She was basing her opinion on her religion, Methodist, and she said she was not political. But she said everyone knows what's right and what's wrong and there's no way what we're doing is right. I asked her when she decided it was immoral and she said she probably knew that and just didn't deal with it but when she saw Cindy Sheehan on TV it was hard to keep denying it and then when people started attacking her that she felt it was her religious duty to "be present."

Dona: We encountered Quakers, Jim and I, at the vigil we attended. Which isn't surprising but it is something that you don't hear about in the mainstream media.

Jim: Right. The Quakers are very much a part of the peace movement but you don't hear about them. And there are many religious people of all demoninations that are against the war.

Cedric: As a whole, my congregation is against it.

Betty: Mine too. But I go to a black church and, as a race, we've been against the war from the start. And that's something they'll talk about on urban radio but you won't hear about it in the mainstream media unless it's a polling story where it gets tossed in.

Ava: So where does it stand now? Cindy Sheehan's had to leave Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas due to her mother's stroke. What are your feelings?

Mike: Other Gold Star Family moms are there and Democracy Now! did a really great show Friday. But whether the mainstream media will continue the coverage, I don't know.

C.I.: Elisabeth Bumiller filed three reports last week in the New York Times but there's not been one since the story on Sheehan's departure. Steve Earle is there, was there, this goes up Sunday, was there Saturday. Joan Baez will be there on Sunday. People continue to travel to Camp Casey to show their support.

Kat: Yeah but I can hear the derision of them, Earl and Baez, as "anti-war" types and I'm not talking about the right wing. I'm talking about people who play centrists.

C.I.: And you could be right. And maybe the answer is to steal a page from Ms. and make up some t-shirts that say "This is what anti-war looks like." But, for instance, Joan Baez is a Quaker and she's got a long, long history of activism and committment. If someone wants to trash her, someone in the center or left-leaning, they aren't just revealing how quickly they'll draw a line to look "respectable," they're revealing their own ignorance. And those cheap sort of easy jokes, they don't play as well in times like these. So they can do their jokes and maybe appeal to a small group of people but even the people who know little of Joan Baez will likely recoil from them. So possibly, the best thing that they can do, is draw that line so that people know exactly where they stand. Joan Baez was working with Amenesty when most Americans were confusing it with Amway.

Kat: I agree. But we've seen the way this plays out and it's so interesting that while the right will go for our throats, our so-called friends will be pushing past them, with piano wire, to slit our throats.

Jess: Agreed. It's the same type that knocks my parents.

C.I.: Jess wrote a great thing about his parents and he wrote it as a bonus entry for The Common Ills mirror site. I posted it at the main site and I know everyone was scrambling to put the last edition together last weekend but I really think that should get highlighted as a Blog Spotlight this week.

Jim: Concur. I'll say "concur" to avoid saying "agreed." We got an e-mail saying "You guys use 'agreed' too much. There are other words. Buy a thesaurus."

Kat: We'll let me try to tie this in because I know Dona's probably thinking "off topic."

Dona: No, actually not. This is a topic. There's a time when I might have thought that but what we've seen recently makes it a topic and ties it in with attitudes towards Cindy Sheehan.

Elaine: I'd agree with that. Trash Jess' parents, trash Cindy Sheehan, at the root of it is always the desire to be seen as "respectable." They're taking their cues from a crowd they want to fit in with. It's not an attempt to speak on one's own, it's an attempt to prove "Hey guys, I'm just like you! Let's go spit on some peace activists!" It's a white club, mainly male and mainly middle class and people who want to be in it, or more importantly people who fear not being in it, will rush to prove their "respectability." It's very common among middle class, usually the lowest of the middle class. The ones raised with money could care less about fitting in, the ones raised without money usually have a different view of the world, but the lowest rung of the middle class especially knows how close to lower class they were and they're motivated by the fear of slippage. That's one explanation and only one. I could go on but I'm sure its boring.

Ty: Not at all. I grew up dirt poor and I have no problem saying that. On campus, for the most part, if you grew up poor, you aren't pretending to be something you're not. But those kids that are just one rung up work overtime to try to curry favor with the people they see as . . .

Jess: Their economic "betters"?

Ty: Yeah. First week of my first semester here, I met a guy, Dona, Jess, Jim & Ava will know who I'm talking about, that I thought would end up a great friend. We both grew up in similar ways. I don't even recognize him now when I see him. The other day he was in a group of kids, mainly white but not all white, talking about African-Americans and how "dumb" they were. Trying to fit in with the upscale crowd he was with.

C.I.: Queen Bee syndrome. Get in on a pass, as an exception. You'll be kept as the exception.

Ty: So they all get to laugh about African-Americans and put us down as a group because they have a token around who'll say it too.

Betty: That story is sick. I'm lucky because I don't have to be around people like that. I live in a black community. I'm sure it happens in other ways but in terms of someone knocking my race to fit in, I don't have to deal with that. I'm really sorry that others have to.

Cedric: Well I mean, I'll bring up a movie and some people will just think "soap opera" because that's how it plays to the broad audience but I've never met a black person who's seen it that couldn't talk about it at length . . .

Betty: Imitiation of Life!

Cedric: Exactly. The general public, it's just a soap opera movie. Lana what's her name --

Kat: Turner.

Cedric: Turner, right, and her rich life and her problems with her daughter and her love life. But you talk to black people about that movie and, if they've seen it, they don't even mention Turner. They're focusing on the maid and her daughter and how the daughter passes as white.

Ty: That is my grandmother's favorite movie. She will grab some tissues and sit down to watch that and have a long cry. You're right, Cedric, that does have different meaning for black people.
We're caught up in trying to understand the daughter because racism does exist and she can pass for white so is it wrong to try to use the system and if it's wrong, is it wrong from the beginning? And if someone tries to say it's wrong from the beginning, usually an older person will shoot back that racism then isn't what it is today and that if she'd used it to get an education at college or something and then come back to the community to help out, it might be understandble. There are some deep and some loud conversations that go on around that movie.

Betty: And who can watch that and not cry because she's denied everything she is and then her mother dies and she comes back and . . . I'm stopping before I cry right now. But yes, it's about identity and who you are. If you watch it from that perspective, it's not just some soap opera.

Kat: And the basic plot was used in a song recorded by Diana Ross & the Supremes called "I'm Living In Shame."

Betty: One of my favorite songs. I saw the concert where Diana Ross was with the two later Superemes and Diana did that song. She was asking what people wanted to hear and that song got shouted out over and over. We were all clapping like crazy after it was over.

C.I.: Reached number ten on the pop charts in 1969, originally appears on the Diane Ross & the Supremes album Let the Sunshine In but you can find it on various anthologies and 'best of's. Written by Pam Sawyer, R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Berry Gordy and Henry Cosby. Before anyone e-mails.

Betty: It's one of my favorite songs but I can say that about pretty much everyone of the hits Diana Ross sang.

Cedric: You grew up hearing her, right? And the Commodores and Stevie Wonder?

Betty: Yes. You two?

Cedric: Yeah and that's, my opinion, part of why John H. Johnson's passing was a yawn to the mainstream media. They don't realize that are role models growing up, the ones our parents point to, aren't just George Washington or RFK, but they're people like Johnson or Diana Ross or Lena Horne or Stevie Wonder or Jackie Robinson or anyone who broke through the color barrier. Whether the person gives back to the community or not, they're held up as a model of "See, it's possible." I won't be mean and name any, but there are probably a number of people that a group of white people could come up with, a group of names, and their deaths, if it was natural causes death, wouldn't really raise much interest in the black community. There are people that our community lionizes that would fit into the mainstream but there are people that, if you just know white people and just talk to them, that you'd never realize meant so much to so many black people. If you were a pioneer in some field, it doesn't matter if no one heard about you in twenty or thirty years, you still hold an interest. Like Kat mentioned the last two weeks about Martha Reeves running for the city council in Detroit. Nobody I told about that asked what her politics were, they just spoke of her proudly. And with people my age or younger, I might have to say "Heat Wave" or "Dancing in the Streets" but once I did, they were impressed and happy for her.

Ty: Which is really happy for themselves, and I don't mean in a selfish way, because Martha Reeves, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Temptations and others really did break down color barriers in popular music and that's something, something important, that my grandparents drilled into me over and over.

C.I.: By the way, CounterSpin addressed the lack of coverage of John H. Johnson's death on this week's show. CounterSpin is FAIR's weekly radio program.

Ava: So where are we in terms of a national discussion on the invasion/occupation?

Jim: Well Cindy Sheehan says she'll return to Camp Casey but that of course depends upon her mother's health. But there are others remaining at Camp Casey.

Dona: And what started, the attention that she got started, isn't going away.

Cedric: She said she was a spark and she is. I hope her mother recovers and I hope that she's able to go back to Camp Casey but if she's not able to, she's done her part and brought up the issue in a way that made us look at it as a nation.

Mike: I'd agree with that. The conversation wasn't just from people already involved in it. She reached people who'd never thought about it for whatever reason and I think we'll see that it's like a seed that got planted and it will just grow and keep growing.

Jess: Elaine wrote a thing about it and about how Bright Eyes, a few months ago, did "When a President Talks to God" on The Tonight Show. Now we've had Cindy Sheehan and there have been others as well but I think that each time someone's spoken out, they've reached a few more people and that the ball's rolling and it's not stopping.

Kat: Because part of it is that we haven't been talking and we've been silenced. So each time someone comes along and raises the issue it does have an impact and you'll see more people raising the issue. It's not going away. And that was one of the points, I thought, of "Scattered Jottings," the thing C.I. wrote this week. Courage to speak out breeds courage in others.

Ava: And on that note, we'll conclude the media roundtable.

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