Thursday, September 25, 2008

Qualifications To Be Vice President

After receiving various emails from friends asking me to weigh in on whether I feel Sarah Palin is qualified to be Vice President of the United States, I took a quick peek at Wikipedia to see what the actual qualifications are. They are:

1. You must be a natural born US citizen.

2. You must be at least 35 years old.

3. You must have resided in the U.S. for the past 14 years.

There are no other legal barriers or guidelines.

These 3 criteria are not exactly open to debate; either Sarah Palin meets them or she doesn't. If she does, then legally she is qualified to run for the Presidency or Vice Presidency. If we are unhappy with these criteria, then perhaps we should change them; however, I don't know if we want to do that. Having these very loose guidelines allows inexperienced people to run but it also allows for a fresh point of view. If we institute too many requirements, we effectively limit our choices to career politicians.

The question of whether Palin is qualified to be VP is not really a question about her qualifications. It is a question about her beliefs. I don't agree with her beliefs, so I'm not going to vote for her. It's that simple. I refuse to participate in Palin bashing because she has openly stated what she stands for. It is the voters who are responsible for knowing what they stand for and voting in accordance with their beliefs, not simply choosing a candidate based on that candidate's personality or his or her portrayal in the media.

We are a nation where name recognition, financial backing and the ability to woo the media are much more important to winning an election than experience, knowledge or wisdom. We are a nation where movie stars, pop singers and wrestlers can and are elected to public office, why then is Sarah Palin being singled out as unqualified? Is it because she is a mother, because she is a fundamentalist, or simply because she is a woman who will make history if elected? Perhaps it's a little of all these things.

I would suggest that we move beyond discussing Sarah Palin's qualifications and focus on the candidates' voting records and what they stand for. We don't need to pull another woman down to feel superior. It isn't necessary and it distracts from the real issues. I applaud Sarah Palin's desire to break through the glass ceiling but I will not vote for her because I disagree with her, not because she is less qualified.

For the first time in my life, I intend to vote for the Green Party candidate. Her name is Cynthia McKinney. I've decided to vote for the candidate I like best regardless of her viability because this election year, I've learned that the Democratic party is too big to be responsive to me. I want to take steps towards correcting this situation by helping the Green Party take at least 5% of the vote and help legitimize it's goals. I think diversity in people as well as in political parties is a good thing. Perhaps some of you will feel like I am helping the Republicans win by voting Green. I have used the same argument in the past to convince others to join me in preventing the Republican party from winning but all that did was make the Democrats complacent. Once assured of my vote, they promptly sought to win the votes of centrists by pleasing them instead of me. My relationship with the Democratic party is over. I don't want to be in a relationship where I do all the vote giving and I get taken for granted in return. I understand why people feel that we have to choose between the two major parties; I believed that myself for many years but if we never change the way we vote, we'll keep getting the same results. This time I'm voting for long term change because that is change I can believe in.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Golden - An Excerpt from Violence Girl

I normally like to separate my Violence Girl stories and post them on my True Life Adventures of Violence Girl blog, but I realized that we have just marked the 35th anniversary of a famous tennis match known as The Battle of the Sexes. If you were old enough to be watching TV on September 20, 1973, then you already know what I'm talking about. If you aren't that old, then I invite you to read this excerpt from my autobiography-in-progress, Violence Girl.



The television ad promised golden, sun-kissed locks if I used their product. All I had to do was spray my hair with Sun-In and go outside. I followed the directions, saturating my coal black hair with the spray and then letting it air dry in the sun, but my hair was so dark that the sun had no power over it. This gentle method was not designed for people like me with coarse, jet black hair but those ads had worked their influence on me and now I had my heart set on those golden streaks. I'd have to call in the big artillery.

I bought a package of hair dye at the drugstore and lightened my hair with it. Hair dye must be different nowadays than it was when I was growing up because my hairdressers always repeat the same refrain: "Color cannot lift color," they say to me and I do understand that, but what about the peroxide they mix it with? In the old days, hair color was mixed with peroxide and you could buy a light blonde color at the drugstore that would lift your hair several shades. I know - because that's exactly what I did. Of course it was a gamble, you didn't get the color on the box right away. With black hair you'd get a brassy, deep red the first time, then a copper penny color and if you kept at it and didn't burn your hair off, after multiple treatments you could end up with a lovely dye job just like mine.

I've always had a problem knowing my limitations. When I was very little, my father made me believe that I could be anything: President, brain surgeon - I just added blonde to the list. When I looked in the mirror, I didn't see what others saw: the cheap dye job, the broken, crooked teeth and braces, the bulging midsection. I saw myself through my father's eyes. I was a beautiful blonde and if the world thought it could limit me or beat me down, then it had another thing coming. I would never be a beaten woman.

That summer of '72 I was golden and I wasn't the only one. My world expanded beyond the everyday concerns of East LA when Munich, Germany hosted the summer Olympics. Making history was a sexy American swimmer named Mark Spitz who captivated the attention of people all over the world by winning seven gold medals, a record which stood unbroken until this year. I became a fan of his and of the Soviet gold medal gymnast Olga Korbut, but not for the same reasons. Olga made athletics look graceful. She would later receive a Star Magazine "groupie" makeover.

Olga Korbut gets the Star groupie look.

At that time in my life, I looked up to groupies. I thought they had style, sex appeal and chutzpah and I imagined their lifestyle was quite glamorous. I wondered if Olga Korbut knew what she was in for when she agreed to let the makeover team at Star dress her up. I for one wholeheartedly approved of her new look and my appreciation for her increased.

Tragedy struck at the Olympics that year when a group of Israeli athletes were murdered . Because he was Jewish, Mark Spitz was perceived as a potential target and left the Olympics early. That Fall, I started 9th grade and I drew a huge, poster sized charcoal portrait of Mark Spitz for art class. It won me a summer scholarship to the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.

The following Spring, a loudmouth, braggart tennis player started making news with his sexist statements about women in tennis. I had absolutely no interest in tennis but I found myself getting angry. Later that year, that loudmouth named Bobby Riggs would challenge Billie Jean King to a tennis match which would become known as the Battle of the Sexes. It was at that point that I realized for the first time in my life that there was a name for what I was and still am - a feminist.

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs

The Battle of the Sexes was like no other tennis match I've ever seen. It was more like a Lucha Libre bout: the amount of theater that went into it and the things that the athletes stood for was every bit as important as (and perhaps even more important than) the athleticism. Billie Jean was carried in on a golden litter, trimmed with bright pink feathers. She looked like an Egyptian queen and handed Bobby a live baby pig for his male chauvinistic pig statements.

Billie Jean King didn't just defeat Bobby Riggs that September day 35 years ago, she triumphed over sexism and male chauvinism and men and women who championed equality of the sexes all over the world celebrated with her. News of Billie Jean's victory reached all the way into East LA, where a bottle-blonde teenage girl whose world had been rather small up until this point suddenly realized that a woman who refused to play by the rules could change everything.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Deleted Scenes - Caliente!

Here's another "deleted scene" from my autoblogography in progress, Violence Girl.

Caliente means hot in Spanish but it was also the name of a racetrack in Tijuana. Well, Agua Caliente was the complete name but everyone just called it Caliente. I guess the abbreviated name better conveyed the postcard image of sunny Mexico whereas Agua Caliente (hot water) only made you think of a bathroom faucet.

With my dad, it was always feast or famine. If he was working we felt rich and if he wasn't we had to scramble for food and shelter. In times of plenty we'd make the two hour car drive south from Los Angeles to the international border crossing and then on to Tijuana. My mom liked to visit the doctors in Tijuana; she claimed they were more attentive than American doctors and that the medicine was much less expensive. My father, despite being diabetic, rarely went to the doctor if he could help it; instead, he liked to go bet the ponies.

Going to the horse races at Caliente was a real treat for me. As soon as we walked in, we were swept up in the excitement. There was an aura of old time glamour and shadiness to it. It was the sort of place where one could find a wide variety of people from all walks of life, from the well-to-do who looked like Italian movie stars to American tourists in casual shorts, straw hats and newly purchased huaraches to regular working class Mexican men in groups of two, three or four. The local women were never there alone or in groups unless they were accompanied by a man. They were usually well-dressed within their means.

Double exposure of me at Agua Caliente.

The first thing we'd do was to get a program and a copy of The Racing Form. I'd take the program, look at the upcoming races and circle the names of the horses with the most interesting sounding names. If my mom and sister were with us they'd go for the snacks. Food at racetracks is traditionally cheap, so we'd stuff ourselves but sometimes if we had cold leftover bean burritos from the drive down my mother would make us eat them instead.

My dad liked to bet Quinellas so he'd pick two horses and I'd pick one and we'd box them. If you're unfamiliar with horse racing, a Quinella bet is one where you pick the horses that will come in first and second in any order. To box a Quinella, you pay triple the amount for your bet but your three favorite horses are covered if they should come in first and second in any combination. I knew way too much about horse racing for a little kid because my father was an avid gambler. He didn't make foolish bets, except where I was concerned. Oddly, my methods for choosing horses seemed to be just as effective as my dad's. We often won when we went to Caliente - not a lot, just enough to make it fun and keep us going back.

Me astride the burro with my family in the cart.

Sometimes we'd be so busy during the day in Tijuana visiting the doctor, taking pictures with goofy hats or sitting on donkeys painted to look like zebras that we wouldn't make it in time for the horse races but that only made things even better because the one thing that I enjoyed more than an afternoon at the ponies was a night at the dog races. The dog races seemed to move at a faster pace. They were easy to watch without binoculars and being out at a race track late at night just felt a little bit naughty. It was very rare to see other children at the racetrack at night except for the little kids who were sometimes forced to sell four packs of "Chiclet" gum (3 four packs for a nickel); most of the other tourist children were tucked safely in a hotel bed or back in San Diego.

Caliente all lit up at night was like an opulent palace. Surrounded by so much poverty, it was an oasis where locals and foreigners alike could escape to a place that was worlds away from everyday life. Over the years and to this day one of my favorite things to do is to play hooky from work and spend an afternoon at the racetrack, making bets on horses with crazy names, eating racetrack junk food and drinking beer or a nice glass of scotch in the middle of the afternoon.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Violence Girl - In Progress

The True Life Adventures of Violence Girl - my online autoblogography project - continues at with tales of masked wrestlers, fighting heroes and a little girl named Alicia.

"Santo" by Gary Panter.