Thursday, January 22, 2009

The End of White America (?)

“The End of White America” by Hua Hsu
The Atlantic

(This is my personal Cliff’s Notes version in which I summarize Hsu's excellent article. My personal comments or material I add will be indicated by a double bracket [[ ]].)

Sometime between 2040 and 2060 “white” will no longer be the majority racial group in the US. No one racial group will dominate.

What does this mean?

Pres. Bill Clinton, speaking at Portland State University in 1998, said that, “In a little more than 50, years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time…[these immigrants] are energizing out culture and broadening our vision of the world.”

Pat Buchanan has said, “Well, those students [at Portland State] are going to find out, for they will spend their golden years in a Third World America.”

[[These two comments pretty much bookend the discussions of the future of racial politics/attitudes in America. You either agree with one of the positions, or fall somewhere in between.]]

In any event, one thing is certain: White America is losing its control of affairs.

In response to the “loss of control” by white America, we see two responses. The first is more-educated, liberal youth moving to establish an identity other than whiteness. They are, in essence, trying hard to not be white. We also have seen the rise of Larry the Plumber Guy, Jeff Foxworthy, NASCAR, and a Vice-President choice of Sarah Palin. (The choice of Palin was a vain attempt to draw upon a class that is increasingly becoming isolated as it becomes smaller.)

In the 1993 movie “Falling Down” Michael Douglas played a typical “white guy” stereotype who raged against racial stereotypes and the fading of white America as he knew it. He says, when confronted by the police, “I’m the bad guy?” His is a frustration we can all identify with. [[A new take on this theme is “Gran Torino,” in which racial stereotypes are depicted and then thrashed.]]

[[Interestingly, in the movie “8 Mile” we see a white rapper, Eminen, working against the stereotype that only a black can be a rapper. Eminen finally shows how hip-hop/rap is not really about race, but about culture. Yes, the two can be separately identified.]]

[[In doing so, Eminen points toward a new direction that America is taking, which is many young people cutting across racial lines to establish social connections. Marketers less and less try to market to their “core group” (read that as “white consumers”) and try to market to specific cultural groups: skateboarders, cyclists, “green” consumers, and the like.]]

[[Barack Obama knew that he needed to overcome the objections of white people who, other than for their oft-submerged animus against blacks, would support him. The poor economy gave him a lever to use to pry these voters from their racially fixed position and to move them to consider their economic, best interests.]]

Having said that, we do see a segment of white people who are circling their wagons in an attempt to preserve all that they feel is good, right, and “white” about America. This group has its home in a belt from Arkansas, through the south, and into West Virginia and southern Virginia. Clearly, the last election shows that this group is becoming smaller.

[[The numbers show what is going on…how you feel about it and what you do about it is your choice.]]

Mike Sledge

Monday, January 19, 2009



I think it all started with the little emoticons in email. You know, the little smiley, non-smiley symbols facing sideways in your message, an innovation—if you want to call it that—by a university professor.

Well, actually, while Professor Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University may have been one of the first to use the little horizontal buggers in his intranet emails to symbolize emotions—because, as some would argue, it’s hard to adequately convey feeling in written words, something I’m sure Shakespeare would disagree with—he was hardly the first to use such abbreviations.

But, seriously, such communication shortcuts have gotten totally out of hand, and here’s the latest example: the other day I was texting a friend about a task we were working on, and her final, sign-off response was, “k”.

Huh? “k”? I mean, not even “K”? Just little letter “k”.

So, I’m not a Neanderthal (not totally anyway), so I got it: my friend had used an abbreviation for an abbreviation…“k” for “OK”.

Now, “xoxoxo” is okay in my book—“XOXOXO” is even better—but “k”? What? It takes too long to make one more keystroke?

It doesn’t take much imagination to see where this horrible social abbreviation will lead. Soon, we’ll be seeing “p k 2” (hint: it’s not a lottery ticket) for “Pick the kids up at 2.” Or, “me at s” (no, a meat market is not the message) for “Meet at Superior” (then again, maybe “meat market” is more appropriate).

And, “t” for “thank you” to someone for doing a favor. I don’t even like “thanks” in place of “thank you”.

And, “e”. That is the short version of etc, which, of course, is short for etcetera.

While I’m sure that there are many who wish their text messages had been more cryptic—Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick comes to mind—I know I can’t be the only one who is “pd” about this trend to hyper-abbreviate.

Mike Sledge

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Yeah, you’ve done it. Sure you have, at one time or another. The Drive By. It may have been an afterthought or planned with the precision of a military maneuver; it probably occurred late at night or early in the morning. We’re talking about the quick, mostly surreptitious trip down a road to view his/her driveway. Of course the driveway’s there—you wanted to see what was (or was not) parked in it.

When did it happen? Probably at the beginning or end of a relationship. At first, you two were budding, but there had been no official handshake to close the deal and on those days (night really) when you weren’t seeing each other there was the question, that question. Or, sadly, when facing the dregs at the bottom of the bottle, it was really over, mostly in your head, but not in your heart. And again there was the question, that question.

Either way, you wanted information, the evil fruit, and you drove by the address of the possible-to-be or of the once-was.

Head down, eyes averted, hoping to see but praying to not be seen (what a blow to pride that would be!), you made the pass…sometimes more than once. The tightness of your chest, the flutter of your pulse, the seasickness in your stomach, all served to say, “Enough of doubt! Set me free!” But what bitter information it was, for there was no way to know for sure, for if a car was there, whose? If not, did was one there last night or would be there tomorrow night?

Sweaty hands on the steering wheel. Or, if you had a friend who drove, the grit on the floor mat in your knees as you ducked out of sight. The hope for darkness to hide, but not conceal.

You were young, you were middle-aged, you were senior—in all cases you were old enough to know better yet young enough to care—nothing changed except the car you drove, the clothes your wore, or the dollar signs of the address.

And, finally, you hated stooping to such lows. You hated yourself and were ashamed. No matter what you saw or didn’t see, The Bard’s words ring true: “It is not nor it cannot come to good.” But you did it again anyway.

Mike Sledge

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Dad, Me, Abbott and Costello

Dad, Me, and All Those Pills

My elderly father, God rest his soul, had moved to an independent retirement center and was trying to cope with the inevitable difficulties that aging brings. Of course, “independent” is somewhat relative, so let’s just say that he was able to accomplish most of the daily living activities required for a person to be self sufficient. Most, but certainly not all.

Feeding himself was never really a problem for Dad: he ate like Michael Phelps. He could don his daily attire, albeit clothes that were at least ten years dated and the fronts of his shirt were often misaligned like two tectonic plates that had shifted sideways. He could, thankfully, use the bathroom without assistance, and his largely hit-or-miss swipes with a wash cloth while standing in front of the sink (a “spit bath”) took the edge off the old man smell that clung close to him like an aura. And, given his spinal stenosis, he was as mobile as we could wish for, although his days of west coast swing were merely a forlorn memory.

But there was one activity, though not listed as necessary for independence, that Dad had trouble with: taking his medication. He always got his pills and days mixed up.

I can easily understand Dad’s problem. I was lost amid the maze of pharmacological products and could only keep them straight by listing them in my Palm Pilot. So, to bring a little order to chaos, I got Dad a pill organizer…one of the little plastic devices with a separate compartment for each day.

This worked for, maybe, two days.

The problem was that, because Dad had so many prescriptions (to name a few, for: pain, restless legs, heart arrhythmia, and, no surprise here, depression) they wouldn’t all fit in “Monday” and “Tuesday” and so on. Also, some pills were supposed to be taken two or three times a day, creating even more confusion.

So, we graduated to an organizer that was divided into the days of the week and which had separate compartments for “morning” “noon” “evening” and “bed”. Of course, this meant buying a huge amount of meds to fill one whole week AND most of the next so I could just swap the full for the empty on Friday night. (Kind of like exchanging propane tanks for your outdoor barbeque.) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Or so I thought.

One Monday morning I called Dad to see how he was doing with our new and improved system for keeping up with his medications. What ensued was like the old Abbott and Costello "Who's on first" skit. Our version went like this:

Me: Hi, Dad how's it going?

Dad. Oh, well, I'm here.

Me: Well, how are you doing with your medicine?

Dad: Mike, I don't know how I've done it, but I've messed it up.

Me: Well, look at Saturday. Are all the compartments open? (After he opens up a
compartment and takes the pills he's supposed to leave it open. That way he knows
he needs to go to the next closed compartment.)

Dad: No, they're closed.

Me: Well, open them and tell me what you see.

Dad: (Clicks of compartments opening). There's nothing in them.

Me: Ok, now look at Sunday and tell me what you see.

Dad: (Clicking and snapping sounds). Well, there’s nothing in them. (Then, more clicking sounds.)

Me: Dad, what was that sound?

Dad: Well, I was closing the compartments since there was nothing in them.

Me: No, Dad, you’ve got to leave them OPEN. Remember? That way you can tell where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Dad: I’m not going anywhere am I?

Me: No, Dad, that was just a figure of speech. Leave the compartments open once you take the pills.

Dad: But I don’t think I’ve taken any today.

Me: Dad, I’m talking about Saturday and Sunday. You just opened them and said they were empty.

Dad: Oh! You want me to open them?

Me: Yes, Dad.

Dad: Ok, wait a minute. (More clicking and snapping sounds) What do I do with the pills in them?

Me: Dad! You just told me there were NO pills in Saturday and Sunday.

Dad: You mean you wanted me to open only Saturday and Sunday?
Keep in mind that this is Monday morning and I’ve got employees, faxes going off, client emails coming in; my office looks and sounds like the control room of a reactor during a meltdown; PLUS, Dad is hard of hearing and I have to often repeat what I say to him several times.

Me: OK, Dad, let’s start over, now don’t do anything unless I specifically tell you to do it.

Dad: OK.

Me: Now, open ALL the compartments for Saturday and Sunday.

Dad: OK. (Clicking sounds).

Me: Now, do any of the compartment have pills?

Dad: No, I took those today.

Me: You took them when?

Dad: I took some pills today.

Me: Dad, now open Monday morning compartment. OK?

Dad: OK.

Me: Are there any pills in it?

Dad: No.

Me: OK, those must be the ones you took this morning.

Dad: But how could I, it’s Sunday.

Me: No, Dad, look at the clocks I bought you. They tell you the day of the week. It’s Monday. (I had previously bought him a clock that showed AM and PM time and the days of the week.)

Dad: Ok, then I need to find some pills to take?

Me: No, Dad, you’ve already taken them. (By this time I want some pills!) Now, look at the next compartment for Monday, it should say “noon”.

Dad: OK.

Me: Well, does it have any pills in it?’

Dad: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know? Do you see any?

Dad: No, you told me to look at the compartment that says “noon.” You didn’t say open it.

Me: OK, Dad, OPEN the damn compartment.

Dad: Ok, now what?

Me: Are there any pills in it?

Dad: No.

Me: When did you take them?

Dad: Jesus, I don’t know.

Me: OK, Dad, your therapist will be there at lunch. Tell her to call me. (Clicking sounds everywhere.) Dad! What are all those sounds?

Dad: I’m closing the compartments.

Me: Which ones?

Dad: All of them.

Me: Dad, leave ALL the compartments open. Don’t TOUCH the organizer until Kathy (the therapist) gives it back to you.

Dad: OK, I’m sorry, Mike. I just don’t know how I could fuck this thing up so bad. It looks so easy but I don’t know how, I just messed it up.

Within an hour or two, Kathy and I got it straight. I went back out Monday night to check on Dad. The pill organizer was in good form. All the previous times for the week were open and empty. All the pills yet to be taken were safely ensconced behind closed plastic lids. The rest of that week went just fine. Or, it went as fine as could be expected.

Dad is no longer grasping with the mortal coils of trying to stay healthy and alive, and I wish I had saved those damn pill organizes with some of his other things I kept.

Mike Sledge

Falling On My Facebook

Falling On My Facebook

One day I received an email "invitation" from someone quite close to me with a request to be her “friend”. It was from my lovely, favorite, and only daughter. All I had to do was to sign up on Facebook. No biggie, right? I figured it would just be another way to keep up with her…I mean, we were already friends, right?

Well, two months, twenty friends, and ten games of Wordscraper (a Facebook version of Scrabble) later, I’ve found yet another way to be embarrassed, or to embarrass myself.

For example, do I REALLY want to see pictures of my daughter’s friends (now young women) in all sorts of scanty attire of which they are so fond when I used to change their diapers in the daycare at church? That’s the “be embarrassed” part.

Should I have gotten into an Obama vs. McCain (with each on the side of the candidate you might least expect) debate with one of my daughter’s friends (even though SHE posted her negative comments first)? That’s the “embarrass myself” part.

Oh, but there is so much more.

How about having your butt spanked and otherwise being thoroughly humiliated at Wordscraper by a dominatrix who doesn’t reveal her predilection until “chatting” and playing words that can’t be repeated for genteel readers? That’s BOTH “be embarrassed” and “embarrass myself” all wrapped up in one.

But, alas, the bug has bit and now I’m trying to hook my friends across the country to also join up so we can more easily keep tabs on what we are all doing. A junkie is most happy in the company of other junkies.

Mike Sledge