The Rant 

Where is Shirley Chisholm when we need her? Unfortunately, she is no longer with us, having passed away in 2005. But I think we need her back. For those of you who were just a twinkle in your father's eye back in 1968, Shirley Chisholm was elected that year as the first African-American female congress- woman in the United States. And she was a first-class soldier working in the trenches for — count them — seven consecutive terms in office for the state of New York. She earned her master's degree while working as a teacher in the public school system. She had class and she was tough as nails. She was not a rock star. And she wasn't full of shit. That was 40 years ago. Now look at things. We finally have a woman and an African-American running for president, each with a good chance of winning, and they are acting like a couple of spoiled brats in a high school popularity contest. And if they don't watch out, they are going to alienate voters to the point that we might be looking at another four years of picking and choosing which country to attack next. I had a good friend, who is also no longer with us, who refused to vote the rest of his entire adult life after Shirley Chisholm lost the presidential primary in 1972. I took this with something of a grain of salt because he also carried a bowling ball named Darlene around with him everywhere he went and turned his apartment into a dead tree-limb museum. But now I'm beginning to believe he had something there. He should have been a delegate to the Electoral College — although he would probably have been a "faithless delegate," because he might have given his vote to the person who won the most popular votes. And now we still have that Electoral College crap to deal with. I'm beginning to wonder if it even matters if I vote anymore. But I will. At this point, I would rather have Britney Speers as president than what we have now. She couldn't possibly look any more stupid dancing around with swords on a "peace" mission to the Middle East than George W. Bush, whose visit, of course, was preceded by that drummed-up near-attack on the United States Navy ship by the Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz, with the fake voice coming over the waves threatening to blow up the ship. That had secret administration maneuvering written all over it, serving as just one more step for George to get his hands on another war. But I digress. It's kind of difficult for me to embrace Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as people who really care about anything other than getting into the Oval Office, crocodile tears and rolled up sleeves, or not. It's not that I don't think either of them would be a vast improvement over what we have now or that they wouldn't do a decent job. But all this bickering like kids and arguing about each other's records (how can you argue about something that has already happened and is fact?) is a waste of time, and it is ridiculous in this day and age, when it's all anyone can do to keep his or her home from being foreclosed on and sold at auction. I was with a man yesterday who should be running for president. He was the first African-American chairman of the Memphis City Council and was in the thick of the sanitation workers strike here, which ultimately led to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Ask HIM if he thinks James Earl Ray acted alone.) He was describing to a group of journalists from Europe the reasons why the sanitation workers were on strike. They were being forced to go into the backyards of Memphis and collect the garbage from the cans and put it into containers that they had to then carry on their heads to the garbage trucks. The city wouldn't replace the containers when they got worn out and had cracks in them, and when they carried the garbage, the filth and liquid from the garbage ran down their heads and onto their clothes. When they returned to the "barn" at the end of the day, they weren't allowed to shower as the white workers were and were forced to ride the buses home covered in vile filth. They were making 90 cents an hour, and they wanted not only a raise but also the right to clean up before getting on those public buses and being made to sit in the back. And this former Memphis city councilman fought tooth and nail — sometimes in hiding — to win these basic human rights. If he was any more passionate about this then than he is now, I would be surprised. I also think it would be a good idea for senators Clinton and Obama to sit down with him for an hour or two. He didn't have a rock-star husband or, God forbid, Oprah Winfrey helping him out. But he damn sure cared about the people he was representing. Now, tell me again what they were bickering about during that debate in South Carolina last week? John Edwards is looking mighty good, in my humble opinion. And Shirley Chisholm is bound to be turning over in her grave.

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