A Sweet Profile



Lynn Sweet “Surprised” Obama Said Cambridge Cops “Acted Stupidly”

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was not the first time.  Many individuals fear it will not be the last.  Last evening, during a Presidential press conference, millions witnessed the characteristic wonderment that is Lynn Sweet.  Whilst citizens in this country anxiously awaited more words from the President on what, for most is truly a tangible issue, Health Care coverage, Ms Sweet decided to move the conversation in her own memorable manner.  Provocateur , otherwise known as Chicago Sun Times Columnist Lynn Sweet did as she often does.  She changed the subject.  

For her, it seems entertainment, or that which might expand her now illustrious career is far more pleasurable than the tedious text that has the potential to improve life for every American.  Sweet might justify her stance by saying; “racial profiling” affects us all, or does it.  Perchance, her personal profile is the priority.

As she had done in the past, on the evening of July 22, 2009, this previously little known Journalist diverted attention.  Lynn Sweets said it was not a plot.  She had no intention of inciting the American people.  It was merely a matter of “timing.”  The White House Press Correspondent thought it “appropriate” to speak of what no one had throughout the night.  “Noted Harvard African-American studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Junior,” and his arrest at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts was, in her mind, the more meaningful matter.

For a long while, Lynn Sweet has defined what her readers must think of as imperative.  Her personal desires and chutzpah drive her.  “I do come from a place where people are not shy about mixing it up a little bit.” If Ms Sweet is not interested in a subject or a soul she will ignore what she thinks irrelevant.

In 1999, a  virtually unknown Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced himself to the Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief.  The author handed the Chicago tabloid Writer his autobiographical account, “Dreams From My Father.”  Five years later, in June, she belatedly began to leaf through the pages of the tome.  It was not until late in 2004, after United States Senator Obama  delivered his address at the Democratic National Convention, and the book was re-released that Sweet thought of the read as other than a bothersome endeavor.  

Once read, the Columnist offered quite a critical review of what had become a widely praised publication..   Perhaps, in 2004 and in July 2009, Sweet preferred to deviate from the norm, if only to distinguish herself as different.   No one can know with certainty.  Nonetheless, Americans were able to observe the Chicago Sun Times Correspondent created this distraction much in the way she had previously done.  Perchance, her style has helped advance her personal prominence.

Surely, she would later say, people have a right to know what the President thinks about issues other than Health Care reform.  Indeed, in her own blog post Lynn Sweet reminds Americans that two other reporters spoke on themes not related to Health care.  However, each of these asked what the Administration might do as it pertains to policy.  

The Sun Times Bureau Chief however, chose to ask the President for a personal perspective.  Intentionally, she presented a problem that evokes much passion. She stated, “What does that incident say to you and what does it say about race relations in America?” Certainly, Lynn Sweet defends; she did not consider how much the public loves to engage in divisive discussions.  The innocent bearer of information did not ponder the known veracity.  Conflict sells papers.  Assuredly, it never occurred to Ms Sweet she would garner greater visibility if her question were emotionally charged.  

However, history gives us pause.  We have seen in the past, when Lynn Sweet does what she does best; create a scene, her pocketbook and professional status profits.  A sensational story will cause her numbers to soar.   And so it was.

Damn the proposed reforms.  Forget what Americans think vital, possible alternatives that would improve medical practices.  Lynn Sweet wants to talk about race, racism, police, anything but policies that could benefit average Americans, Black, white, and every shade in between.

Friends, fellow reporters, readers of her articles, and of her blog understand.  Barack Obama was not able to charm Lynn Sweet.  she is not characterized as one who has an axe to grind.  Ms Sweet is sincerely on a mission.  She has her own plan.  The Correspondent’s mission began but a short time ago.  The Washington Bureau Chief said of herself.

“I started looking at a lot of blogs and I realized you need a sensibility!” she said. “Why am I here? What can I give you? I suppose I could make a blog on ‘Lynn Sweet’s thoughts about … whatever!'” . . .

“If I had choice between writing about something Bush did, or a congressman did, or Obama, why wouldn’t I go to something I saw people were backing? I just knew from the enormous amount of coverage Obama was getting that oooh, I knew I should be all things Obama. I never had a meeting; no one ever told me to do it. It was just like, I, I just smelled the coffee. I just understood that’s what I could be about.”

Thus, Ms Sweet became the news writer most closely associated with anything Obama.  Frequently, on radio, she speaks on the subject she claims to know best, Obama. The go-getter from the President’s hometown, Chicago, appears on most every television network.  The ascent of the man who now resides in the White House helped boost Sweet’s visibility.  Today, she is considered as she designed herself to be, an acknowledged expert on the President. As reported in The New York Observer,

When Andrea Mitchell introduced Lynn Sweet for her mid-afternoon show on MSNBC on May 16, she said, “Lynn Sweet is with the Chicago Sun-Times and has been covering him for years.”

That’s partially true. She has covered him for less than two [now near here] years. She has spent the majority of her other three decades covering any other number of political stories in Chicago.

Yet, the depth of her knowledge matters not.  Lynn Sweet has realized her dream.  She is the media and the message.  Since Barack Obama entered the scene, Sweet’s inquires have become the dominant news of the day.  

It matters not to Ms Sweet that each day, “If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance.”    She does not seem to think it exceedingly significant that “These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.”  What the President might wish to say seems meaningless to someone such as her.  She rather know what Barack Obama thinks about topics that might propel her career. It appears, fame and fortune is her mission..

Americans might assume that this Reporter is not interested in what affects the electorate most.  She made no reference to a reality that affects all Americans.  Near fifty million citizens have no health care coverage.   2.3 million more people lose health coverage each year.  The tale that might titillate, was Sweet’s temptation.  What was the President’s reaction to a story on race.

She did not address the disparate treatment whites receive. Nor did she find her way to  studies that show the ranks of the underinsured are on the rise.  The invincible Lynn Sweet had other ideas.  While countless worry that the cost of such a climb could be disastrous, the Columnist with a stated singular focus acted as though this might be superfluous.

For Ms Sweet it would appear that a moment of personal fame, or public fury, is her preference.  Health Care reform will not be a concern for her as long as she remains popular.  Perchance, the better word for what Lynn Sweet hopes to achieve is the term that currently defines her calling.  She is without doubt a provocative and profitable professional.

References for the raiser of public rancor . . .

Tortured

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Never for a moment in my life have I been “in love.”  I do not believe in the notion.  Fireworks have not filled my heart.  Flames of a fiery passion do not burn within me.  Indeed, my soul has not been ablaze.  Thoughts of a hot-blooded devotion seem illogical to me.  Such sentiments always have.  Fondness too fertile is but torture for me.  I admire many, and adore none.  For me, the affection I feel for another is born out of sincere and profound appreciation.  To like another means more to me than to love or be loved.  Excitement, an emotional reaction to another, rises up within me when I experience an empathetic exchange with someone who has glorious gray matter.

Today, it happened.  I felt an a twinge that startled me.  I stood still as he entered the room.  I expected nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing other than what has become his recently adopted, more avoidant, routine.  Although long ago, I had become accustomed to his face, his voice, and his demeanor, for I have known the man for more than a few years.  In the last few weeks, while essentially he is who he always was, some of his stances have changed.  Possibly, Barry has felt a need to compromise his positions, but I wonder; what of his principles.

Early on, I knew that he and I differed in some respects.  While we each loathe drama, I was never certain if he felt as I do; love need not be a tortuous trauma.  Barry spoke of the need to work together.  Yet, not necessarily in aspect of life.  At times, he advocated aggressive actions I could not consider.  This, for me, caused much confusion.  Nonetheless, I liked the man I saw before me.

I recall the day we first met, face-to-face.  We shook hands.  He smiled.  Barry was polite, not pushy.  Amiable is the way I would describe him.  Then, the second time we saw each other, we had a more extensive conversation.  He took my hand in his.  We each spoke with greater sincerity.  As Barry and I chatted, he looked me straight in the eye.  He listened to my personal tale.  Visibly, he pondered the story I shared.  Barry responded so genuinely to my inquiry, albeit an unconventional concern, I was surprised.  Indeed, I was impressed, although less than I was when I read what he had written.

His books moved me.  The more autobiographical tome endeared him to me.  His notes on hope did not lack the spirit to inspire me.  As one who “loves” to learn, which differs from the impulsive idea that I might be “in love,” a person that can kindle my earnest thirst for knowledge truly electrifies me.  I recall the moment I read the text that, all these years later, still resonates within me.  Barry humbly offered, in a discussion of empathy . . .

It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule – not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.

Barry told tales of his mother, his grandfather, and how through his interactions with each he realized there is reason to think “about the struggles and disappointments” others have seen in their lives.  Reflection helped the younger Barry understand, every individual is not solely right or wrong.  If he were to insist that, his way was the only approach that worked, “without regard to his [or her] feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.”  Such awareness, such a superior soul; Barry showed what I believe to be a human’s greatest strength, vulnerability.  Were I to have a heart to win, the words of this gentle-man could have surely swept me off my feet.

Even his calm demeanor is as I desire and live.  Those close to me wonder of my own emotional tranquility.  From his manner and manuscript, it would seem Barry believes as I do.  Empathy elicits equilibrium.  Today, he seemed to embrace this notion once again.  We can choose to love our neighbors.  We need not torture “those who are different from us.”

Near noon, on April 23, 2009, at the Holocaust days of Remembrance Ceremony, Barry, the now President of the United States, Barack Obama spoke of this belief again.  Once more, I felt a pang for the person who oft-expressed a profound connection to the feelings of another.  The sweet soul who can bring me to tears, did so once again.  On this historic occasion, Barry shared a profound realization through a personal story.  The subject; the Holocaust and the torture our forebears felt or beheld.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.  My own great uncle returned from his service in World War II in a state of shock, saying little, alone with painful memories that would not leave his head.  He went up into the attic, according to the stories that I’ve heard, and wouldn’t come down for six months.  He was one of the liberators — someone who at a very tender age had seen the unimaginable.  And so some of the liberators who are here today honor us with their presence — all of whom we honor for their extraordinary service.  My great uncle was part of the 89th Infantry Division — the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp.  And they liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, where tens of thousands had perished.

Stunned, by the saga, and the words that preceded the legend, I began to believe again.  Perhaps the Barry I admire had a change of heart.  Policies he never fully embraced, might not seem reasonable to him now.

During the campaign, Barry, Senator Barack Obama only promised to investigate, not to prosecute.  Many months ago, before the August 2008 declaration, and thereafter, I had thought his stance reflected his vast ability to empathize.  Yet, in the light of the ample evidence, most if not all of which affirms the Bush Administration engaged in extreme methods of interrogation, President Obama still supports or chooses to sustain a position that negates empathy for the victims.  I shudder to think of how the Seventh Generation might be affected.

Hence, I am left to question what I thought was truth.  Was the empathy I envisioned not as sincere as I hoped it to be?  Perchance that is why, for me, love is as torture.  I have faith no one has the power to disappoint me.  Only my choices can be a source of much concern.  For as long as I can recall, I have observed, once infatuation fades, we learn as I had before Barry entered the Oval Office.  He is but another human.  He embraces and then forgets, the power of empathy and the force of our past?

When, in homage to Holocaust victims, and survivors of a heinous hostility that forever stains world history, I sensed he knew.  As I looked on, I forgot the setting.  Intent on the torrent of news on torture techniques I read and heard throughout the day, I made an erroneous connection.  As Barry, President Obama spoke of the deeds done in decades past, and those crimes committed by the previous Administration, I imagined the man I thought I knew meant to express empathy for those who suffered at the hands of Americans.  The Chief Executive, on behalf of the United States avowed.

Their legacy is our inheritance.  And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it?  How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?

I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator.

In the face of horrors that defy comprehension, the impulse to silence is understandable.

I cried.  Tremendously thankful for the oratory, indeed, I must say, for a second, I was elated.  I wondered.  Had the person many think beloved, the individual I at least treasure, decided to rescind his prior position?

Might he have rejected the thought offered recently; “nothing will be gained by our time and energy laying blame for the past,”  

Could it be the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony helped the President to renew his faith in his earlier expression;  “(H)istory returns “with a vengeance . . . “(A)s Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried — it isn’t even past.”  I hoped.

Perchance, he had worked through a struggle I too experience.  As one who has no desire to hurt others, even those who have physically and psychologically harmed individuals, and our country’s image, how might I think prosecution is just?  

I truly embrace such an honorable ability to seek no retribution.  Indeed, I may not fall “in love”; nonetheless, I would hope to live love.  

I feel harsh reprisals are never wise.  I also accept the enduring wisdom of a finer balance.  I have experienced the need to empathize and the conflict of what I might do if one I treasure intentionally injures another.  I have come to discover, if deleterious deeds are allowed to stand, sooner or later the other, I, and perchance, society will be subjected to adulterations that individuals or a culture cannot endure.

Awful actions we accept, avoid, or merely do not acknowledge become a foundation for the future.  Humans inure.  Lest we forget the Milgram shock experiment of decades ago, or the knowledge that when repeated in the present, proves again, as a Psychologist, Thomas Blass, espoused in  “The Man Who Shocked the World.” Milgram extrapolated, to larger events like the Holocaust, or Abu Ghraib.  “people can act destructively without coercion.”  “In things like interrogations, we don’t know the complexities involved.  People are under enormous pressure to produce results.”  

I wonder how many Americans came to accept violence as a necessity on September 11, 2001.  On that dreadful day, a date that now lives in infamy, all Americans were placed in a precarious position.  With the threat of terror etched into our every cell, each of us had to ask, what were we to do.  In the 2004 edition of Dreams From My Father, the Barry, who I trusted to be so thoughtful whispered his woe for what might occur once the “world fractured.” He penned . . .

This collective history, this past, directly touches my own . . .

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair.  I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task.  I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

Those are the words of the Barry I was inspired to meet, the person I was reminded of when he stood with an audience of individuals who never forget the agony of torture.  Today, as that empathetic soul, the President referred to the future, the generations to come, he stated, “We find cause for hope” when “people of every age and faith and background and race (are) united in common cause with suffering brothers and sisters halfway around the world.”  I thought of the detainees at Guantánamo Bay prison, and the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and the need to empathize with victims of “extreme duress.”

Oblivious to the purpose of this particular speech, in my moment of stupor, I surmised Mister Obama had not only accepted the association, but perhaps had realized what could occur if the transgressions of the previous Administration were allowed to stand as if all was in the past.

“Barry,” Barack, the Commander-In-Chief, further elucidated; “Those [persons] can be our future . . . (D)uring this season when we celebrate liberation, resurrection, and the possibility of redemption, may each of us renew our resolve to do what must be done. And may we strive each day, both individually and as a nation, to be among the righteous.

I imagined the reference was to empathy, to the paradigms I too embrace. Punishment offers no benefits for people.  Yet, there is a need to prosecute the culpable, to ensure that people are answerable for the most atrocious aggressions.  It is vital, if we wish to prevent the numbness that humans so easily adopt, we must bring torture to the full light of day.  Torment executed in our names, I think Barry would agree, hurts us.  Surely, General and President Eisenhower did.  Mister Obama acknowledged this only hours ago .

Eisenhower understood the danger of silence.  He understood that if no one knew what had happened, that would be yet another atrocity — and it would be the perpetrators’ ultimate triumph.

What Eisenhower did to record these crimes for history is what we are doing here today.  That’s what Elie Wiesel and the survivors we honor here do by fighting to make their memories part of our collective memory.  That’s what the Holocaust Museum does every day on our National Mall, the place where we display for the world our triumphs and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from our history.  It’s the very opposite of silence.

But we must also remember that bearing witness is not the end of our obligation — it’s just the beginning.  We know that evil has yet to run its course on Earth.  We’ve seen it in this century in the mass graves and the ashes of villages burned to the ground, and children used as soldiers and rape used as a weapon of war.

Barry knows what President Obama. spoke of in his address at the Holocaust Day of Remembrance Ceremony  Love needed not be tortured.  Expressions of fondness are found in empathy, not extreme duress.

President Eisenhower understood as I had hoped, on this day, Barry Obama had.  What occurs far from view is never truly unseen.  Nor can avoidance erase the scars left on a heart. While as a country, or as individuals we may prefer to retreat to the attic as President Obama’s great uncle did, in truth, it is impossible to forget.

People who participated know this to be so. A belatedly brave Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, Ali Soufan, tell his tales of sorrowful love in My Tortured Decision.  The mediator recalls how for seven years he has remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.  Mister Soufan, as General Eisenhower did before him saw the need to “shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.”

I inquire; what will Barry do, and what of President Obama.  Will the man who once held my hand and professed a need to be empathetic do as he declares his commitment? “(W)e have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to confront these scourges.”  Might he instead do as he hopes we will not, “wrap ourselves in the false comfort that others’ sufferings are not our own,”

I can only hope Barry will encourage the President to heed his own call. “(W)e have the opportunity to make a habit of empathy; to recognize ourselves in each other; to commit ourselves to resisting injustice and intolerance and indifference in whatever forms they may take — whether confronting those who tell lies about history, or doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities like those that took place . . .”

Let us never forget Guantanamo Bay prison, Abu Ghraib, or any America penitentiary camp, need not be our holocaust.   Tales of tortured love need not be an American truth.

References for tortured love . . .

Madelyn Dunham; American Mentor



Obama Discusses Visiting His Sick Grandmother

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

She gave him life through her wit, wisdom, work, and commitment to family.  Madelyn Dunham helped to teach her grandson the importance of sincerity and service.  Ms Dunham, Barack Obama’s grandmother, physically gave birth to the woman who conceived the potential President, Stanley Ann Dunham.  Her being, who she was as a person, created more than a daughter, or the baby her offspring later brought into the world.  Grandma Dunham, “Toot,” mentored the man who now makes history.

Madelyn Dunham walked a path her grandson embraces.  She was the precursor, the predecessor, and a pioneer prior to Barack Obama’s thought to pursue the Presidency.  

The 86 year-old, who passed on the eve before the child she raised would, perchance, win a bid for the White House, traveled a feminist trail. In Hawaii, in the late 1960s, this petite and proper woman entered the business world.  She began her career as a humble bank teller.  However, with grit and gumption, this courageous lady climbed in banking circles. Madelyn Dunham’s professional journey began before other daughters of Eve, even on the mainland, sought to survive in a “man’s work world.”  By the early 1970s, she had become one of Bank of Hawaii’s first female Vice Presidents.

A young Barack Obama watched his grandmother do as he hopes to do today.  She overcame odds and broke through barriers, real and, those while palpable, invisible.

In earlier decades, in Hawaii, the way of a white woman was not easy.  Discrimination was direct.  Discretion was not the better part of valor.  Indeed, valor was not found in vicious cries of condemnation.  Native Hawaiians were brash in their bigotry.

Sam Slom, a Bank of Hawaii economist then, who is now a Republican state senator in Hawaii, recalls that as a part of the white – or “haole” – minority in Hawaii, he would regularly see housing ads that made no effort to hide racial preferences. He says he remembers ads that read, “No haoles” or “AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry) Only” or “No Japanese.”

“That’s the way it was,” Slom said. “Did people talk about race? We had local jokes … like that ‘pake’ (Chinese) guy or the ‘yobo’ (Korean) who did this or that.

Madelyn Dunham however, did not let such racist rants intimidate her.  As mentioned in her grandson’s autobiography, Dreams From My Father,” “Toot” as he called her [short for tutu, Hawaiian for grandmother] befriended a Black custodial worker.  She sympathized with her daughter who at a young age was harassed for her friendship with a dark-skinned classmate.  The “Grande Dame” Dunham did not dare be as intolerant as society might have taught her to be.  

As her grandson, Barack Obama, reminded Americans when race became an issue in the Presidential campaign, on rare occasions, Madelyn Dunham might have slipped.  She may have allowed words that expressed her apprehension of strangers to surface.  At times, the gracious grandmother stated what she wished she had not.  When she did, she was struck hard.  For in her heart, she had faith, humans are all honorable, no matter their color, creed, or country of origin.   Madelyn Dunham, the mentor of the highest magnitude, learned from her errors and taught as she embodied.  Empathy is our essence; it is the greatest educator.

If fear caused her to fall from grace, Ms Dunham would remember that persons she loved, ones who were pure of heart and soul, principled beings, Black and Yellow, Brown and Pink, were her darlings.  Indeed, in truth, she never forgot.  The woman who gave her home and her self to her grandchildren, Soetoro-Ng of Indonesian descent and Barack Obama, an African American ancestry embraced the beauty that enveloped her.  

Ms Dunham understood as too many Americans do not.  Momentary fear of those unfamiliar to us may evoke what need not be more than a temporary trepidation. The woman who would teach a man who might become President of the United States was aware, each and every day.  Intolerance is born of ignorance.  When we ignore the possibility that others are similar to us, we are scared by the strangeness that we believe we see.  

Madelyn Dunham lived with this wisdom.  Barack Obama learned to.  Now, the Presidential hopeful teaches the American people to ponder.  Differences need not divide us.  

Through her temperament, Toot taught.  We are all equal.  Every man, woman and child is a person of this planet, until they pass.  Then, they are with us all universally.

Madelyn Dunham, today, and everyday, we will mourn your passing.  We will also rejoice and remember what you have given us through your family.  May you rest in peace, comfortable in the knowledge, that your grandchildren and we know, “(Madelyn Dunham) She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength and humility.”  Madelyn Dunham has mentored America well.

America’s Teacher Toot Transitions . . .