I told myself I was going to write on this blog every day. I made a pledge, in fact. A solemn vow. Which I have hereby broken, and none of you will be surprised to learn it was all my mother’s fault. Well. And my brother’s.
You see, he had the audacity to graduate today. Yes, I KNOW. Most inconsiderate of him. And mom’s a sucker for ceremonies, so my sister and I flew out, and my family and I have been sitting all morning on the National Mall (which, by the by, is the most idiotic name for the center of the DC monuments that I personally can conceive of. I realize all other malls took their cues from the National Mall, and I don’t care. Now that the word ‘mall’ generally connotes Forever 21 and those really nasty and yet somehow irresistible cinnamon rolls, I feel that perhaps the plaza in which you are flanked by the White House and the Washington Monument should have a better name. ‘Plaza’ would, in fact, do nicely.
Actually, considering the current occupant of the White House, perhaps ‘Mall’ is in fact appropriate.
Never mind. Forget what I just said.
Anyway. My brother had his convocation on the National Mall this morning, and I couldn’t see him at all because the gardeners who tend the stretch of grassy lawn in the middle of the National Mall did not see fit to equip it with stadium seating. Also, it was raining, so umbrellas sort of obscured the view. But if the ‘visual’ people were on strike that day, the ‘audio’ people were in fine fettle. Those microphones expanded above and beyond their prefix. I could hear everything in slightly more volume than I generally use on my iPod while listening to a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy‘. I could not, in fact, focus on the book I brought, foreseeing the problem of lawn = no stadium seating in advance. Which is how I came to be listening to the current President of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
Julian Bond gave one of the best speeches I personally have ever heard.
I say this as an avid follower of the current election (yes, I too have a crush on Obama). I used to be a theater geek, and theater geeks hear a lot of excellent speeches, because oratory is what we do. This guy was amazing. He was powerfully compelling, he dropped a couple of well-placed unexpected jokes, which are the best kind. Stealth funny is perfect for speeches.
He clearly had an agenda that had driven him for most of his life (when he was first elected to the Senate, they wouldn’t let him come serve, to which I say BOO to the 1965 Georgia legislators). He has an amazing history of civil rights advocacy, including being a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and work in the Senate for the state of Georgia. His grandfather was a slave, and his great-grandmother was a slaveowner’s mistress. This man stood up in front of an immense crowd of people and declared his grandfather’s bastard status, and for that I commend him, particularly since he had a point.
He called upon the generations of his family and the years of the civil rights movement to say that many people fought hard for the opportunities that were in front of the graduates, and (there was subtext here, he didn’t actually say this precise thing) if we waste the opportunities for which thousands upon thousands of people risked their lives, their welfare, and their safety, we are, as a nation, ungrateful punks.
I thought, ‘much as I hate being a punk, he has a serious point.’
He’s right. No ancestor of yours, whatever your heritage, ever worked or struggled or starved or fought for you to sit on your butt and play Halo 3 all day. I’m pretty sure they had other things in mind. The freedom to play Halo, most certainly. They fought for that. But I think they’d be a little irritated to find out that with all the time you spend on it, your ten-year-old nephew keeps killing you.
I’m a woman, and I own my business, and that would not have been possible a hundred years ago. Screwing around with that business is not cool. It will bring Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a whole slew of angry feminists down upon my head. Simone de Beauvoir will be pissed, and I don’t know about you, but I am not so cocky as to think I can contend with the vengeful ghost of Simone de Beauvoir. I have seen enough episodes of Scooby-Doo to know that they have used up all the benevolent ghosts.
So well played, Julian Bond.
You also told a really awesome anecdote whose segueway made sense at the time but which I cannot currently duplicate, but which I found so amusing that I will relate it now, and you all can take it however you will.
Two men are standing by a river (let’s say they’re fishing, just so they’re not standing there in this anecdote like dufuses). They see a baby floating in the river, a la Moses, in a basket. They wade into the current and rescue the baby, pulled him to shore. Just as they reach the bank, they see another baby come down the current, so they wade in again, catch the basket, and bring her to shore. The third baby comes swooshing along a moment later, and one of the men, instead of wading into the river to rescue it, starts running along the bank upstream as fast as he can, making little skoosh noises with his shoes because they’re pretty damp now.
The other man yells after him, “Where the hell are you going? We have to save that baby!”
“You can save that baby!” says his friend. “I’m going to go find out who’s throwing babies in the river and beat the hell out of him.”
Actually, what Bond said was ‘make him stop’ but I like to think it would be a semi-violent sort of stopping. Throwing babies in rivers ain’t cool. You can quote me on that.
Anyway. Don’t throw away your babies, your legacy, or the rind of your Parmesan cheese. I know an Italian lady in Firenze says you can throw that in your next pot of soup, and it will be tasty, and then you can invite me over for dinner. Because I am about to confront airline food for the second time in five days, and I could do with rescuing.
And Well Played to my brother, too.
My brother graduated George Washington University today with a double major in History and Geography. He’s going to make the best goddamn eccentric professor-scholar ever, and I’m very proud of him.
Subscribe. More race-gender relations tomorrow, because Crystal of Big Bright Bulb and I had a discussion.