Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why I Want to Vote for Michelle


       You know how it is: your friends work on you. They say, “You can’t not vote for Obama. Not voting for Obama is a vote for Mitt Romney. Ouch. I saw Ann Romney on Jay Leno a few nights ago. I think she raided Adele’s closet. I know that shiny black outfit was not Mrs. Romney’s personal outfit, which is a lot like lying. (Someone has already compared it to David Spade’s Members Only jacket. Ann also made #1 on the "What Were They Thinking?" slide show on Yahoo’s OMG.) I know the dark Goth nail polish on her fingertips was not her own choice for nail polish. The fact that she was wearing such a trying-to-be-hip outfit says to me that she thinks Leno is the place to reach the young, hip crowd. Once again, out of touch. Seth MacFarlane, who is hip anywhere, was on Leno too. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in the Green Room! (read with the voice of Stewie Griffin)
         I have nothing against Mitt and Ann – oh, wait, yes I do. Bush-era policies, that’s what. Everywhere you go, from veterans suffering from Agent Orange or Haliburton-supplied water to supermarkets where shoppers can purchase their cancer; from being dropped from your health insurance for pre-existing conditions to higher taxes for the 99%; from no jobs to being let go just before your pension. No one will believe me, but I think we live in a Republican monarchy. It’s all beginning to sound a lot like Versailles. There’s even been some talk about certain banks contributing to both campaigns. Reminds me of Al Gore saying, “Do you still think both candidates are the same?” Hmm. Just a minute, no matter which side, aren’t both Presidential candidates potentially working for the same boss – the American people?
         That’s why I want to vote for Michelle Obama. 
         Unlike Barack, Michelle is free to operate. Her hands are not tied by politics. Initially, Michelle took up the cause of caring for our veterans’ needs with her “Joining Forces” movement. It was a daunting struggle already being undertaken by several overwhelmed government agencies. 
        Ironically, the only true way to help veterans is to end war, a task tantamount to ending bullying or greed. Michelle is not a miracle worker. However, she does have clout. She can go out and ask people to respond to her requests, which currently are elimination of food deserts, organic gardening and freedom to vote for all Americans. 
Let’s talk about food deserts. In a previous blog post, I complained about lack of any real action on this front. I was wrong and I posted that correction. Click here to read more. When I was a young macro in my twenties, just starting to look around me, I noticed that convenience stores that dispensed junk food were mostly located in the poorest and most desperate parts of cities. (Now, of course, these fake food dispensers are also located in the suburbs where rich kids as well as poor can be unhealthy anytime they want.) I recalled President Lyndon Johnson weeping about the riots in Watts, in despair over poor people’s reaction to the poverty program, which was working. I couldn’t help thinking there might have been a conspiracy to start those riots to end the poverty program. I don’t know. But, food deserts and deserts of other kinds – education, safety, cleanliness, beauty, hope - are the result. 
A business article in the Bloomberg News recently stated some of the reasons why food stores fail in poor neighborhoods. Here area few of the things stores in poor neighborhoods are up against: people will only spend a few dollars each visit; people will shoplift; security costs will be too high; people will scam you with fake “fall down” insurance scams and lastly, the store will be burned to the ground.
This last reason struck me as ironic, since our local store was burned down by an arsonist in 1994 and rebuilt overnight as a “Pantry,” a tiny hole-in-the-wall outlet of groceries, fresh produce and household necessities to serve the community until another store could be constructed. 
A food store doesn’t have to be elaborate.
Apparently, Walgreen and Walmart have responded to Michelle’s challenge. Here’s an excerpt from the same Bloomberg article – 
Food Oasis: Last July, Walgreen pledged to open or convert at least 1,000 so-called food oasis stores over the next five years in the U.S. It has so far opened nearly two dozen, according to Robert Elfinger, a company spokesman, who added that Walgreen is “on pace” to meets its goal. The Deerfield, Illinois-based company’s “urban oasis” project includes stores that carry about 750 more food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Customers now see Walgreen stores as a “destination for meal solutions,” said John Grant, market vice president for Chicago and Northwest Indiana. In food oasis locations, submarine sandwiches and fruit are selling well…Walmart, in June, 2010, vowed to open “several dozen stores” to “help eradicate food deserts and stimulate local economic development.” Since then, Wal-Mart has opened four Chicago stores. It has three more in the works, according to Steve Restivo, a company spokesman. “We will continue to identify sites where residents need jobs and better access to fresh food, while also looking for opportunities to help all Chicagoans save,” Restivo said in an e-mail. This year Wal-Mart will open between 50 and 60 stores in food deserts nationwide, he said. 

      Progress is slow. Michelle needs at least four more years to get these guys moving – Let’s Move! I remember Michelle taking Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner food shopping. Vilsack did great; he bought some organic yogurt. But Geithner looked at the lettuce as if to say, “So, this is where it comes from!”

            Michelle, we need you now.

            Organic food proponents see the White House organic garden as a decoy to divert our attention away from Bush era agri-business policies and the de-regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms still in operation. I agree. But that little wooden duck is going to bite Monsanto in the ass when all the school children who are learning about organics grow up. Sure, a few of them might be traumatized by the hard work of farming, but most are going to have lots of “a-ha moment” memories of growing their own organic carrots and scallions, watching tiny sprouts turn into sustaining food, not to mention the liberating act of harvesting, cooking and eating for themselves. Everyone should learn to cook, boys and girls. Everyone should know where food comes from and the difference between real food and artificial. Thank you, Michelle. Thanks to you – and folks like Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters, two other proponents of good quality food in schools and schoolyard gardens – not to forget all the forward thinking educators out there who went ahead and did the work and dug their own schoolhouse gardens - hundreds of school children are growing gardens, and in effect, learning how to be healthy and independent.
            Learning how to feed one’s self is not a small thing. Cooking and eating have become lost skills. Also, choosing food in the market. How many times have I been at the checkout where the cashier does not know what green vegetable is in his/her hands? Again, thank you, Michelle. I hope a new generation is coming with more knowledge about simple and basic, life and health sustaining food.
            Recently, there has been a backlash about the government-mandated decrease of calories in school lunches – or, in effect, the decrease in satisfying food in school lunches.  Students are complaining about being hungry soon after eating their school lunches. This video created by Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs, Kansas “We Are Hungry” has gone viral. In order for there to be such a video, and in order for such a video to go viral, there has to be many very hungry students. Why shouldn’t school lunches be healthy and satisfying? Limiting calories isn’t necessarily healthy. Maybe these schools are trying to save money along with saving calories. I am reminded of the movie Diabolique in which the murderer’s first act after killing the evil headmaster was to feed the children hefty portions of fried chicken, corn bread, gravy and greens. What’s wrong with a meal like that? Children are growing and they should never be hungry except for their meals. Remember, school lunches used to be generous and they used to be cooked at school with real food ingredients. In the early 70’s, schools nationwide opted for industrially portioned and pre-prepared meals for school children – hence the cold, dry pizza slice. One of the best tasting of these pre-prepared meals. Gruesome. 
       Now, let’s talk about the vote.  We are in America. The country where the Statue of Liberty stands at the harbor for those who are disenfranchised in their native countries, for those who come here for a better life, to be able to make a living and to be able to vote and have a say in their future. I don’t really need to tell you. But, obviously, I need to tell some people - people who are willing to take the right and ability to vote away from Americans. They are at road blocks asking for picture IDs reminiscent of Nazis asking for papers. Remember the 2008 election when actor and activist Tim Robbins was NOT on the voter list when he went to his polling place?  Robbins was quoted by TMZ as saying, "This is what you have to do to vote... I had to go down to see a judge... My name was not on the roll, and I'm not the only one. According to workers, 30 people in 5 hours had been taking off the rolls. You can do the math on that. 6 per hour, per district across America..."  
       And, how about the 93-year-old lady, Vivienne Applewhite who was intimidated about not having a picture ID? Vivienne Applewhite filed a lawsuit with the ACLU and NAACP challenging the new law in Pennsylvania requiring a picture ID. Applewhite marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, but this might be the first election since 1960 in which she won’t be able to vote.    
       Voting restrictions usually target students, poor people, black people and activists, anyone who is likely to vote Democrat. In Florida, early voting on Sunday morning before the election was eliminated. Called “Souls to polls” this movement made it possible for up to 30% of black voters in Florida to cast their vote after church services. New Voter Photo ID laws in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, to name a few states, caused many people who are on the voter list to be turned away from voting in the primaries; many of these people are poor and elderly, they do not drive cars, have never driven a car and do not have drivers’ licenses or any other photo ID.  
       In her remarks last week at the Congressional Black Caucus, Michelle Obama has called this fight against voter restrictions "the march or our time" and "the sit in of our day." So far, she has only made a speech making people aware that she is aware, which now-a-days is more honesty than most of our leaders are willing to stand up and claim about anything. That’s why I want to vote for Michelle Obama. 
       Okay, I get it. No one person can be all things. For example, organic proponents have started a new campaign to get Michelle to convince the President to keep his campaign promise to support GMO labeling. They say, “If she has an organic garden, she should be for labeling because Americans have the right to know what’s in their food.” But asking Mrs. Obama to approach her husband is a pathetic approach to the problem. Organic proponents should police organic quality and promote organics in their natural state – bulk and produce. This clinging to packaged and prepared foods with GMOs already in them is a waste of time and a diversion. Obama is simply carrying out Bush-era agri-business. Michelle is working against agri-business by going straight over her husband’s head to his boss – us. Wake up, America! If it’s in a box, it’s probably GMO. Organics are already labeled. Organic produce has a PLU# that begins with a 9. Stop asking Michelle to do all the work for you!
I’m still thinking about it, but I want to vote for Michelle. Hey, at least she knows how to dress herself. There’s something re-assuring about someone who can put clothes on her body in a way that makes sense and looks stylish. And, in contrast, there’s something very frightening about someone who wants to be a leader but can’t even dress herself. Not everyone who votes for Obama can afford J. Crew, the Gap or even Target, but Michelle has shown the world that you can think outside the traditional box and put it together in an awesome new way. Let’s Move! has potential. With the Obamas, there’s still hope. And, I’d love to be a fly on the wall if Michelle were ever in the Green Room with Seth MacFarlane! 

Patricia Goodwin is the author of When Two Women Die, a thriller about two women who died and became legends in an historic New England seacoast town.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Praise of the Local Market – Crosby’s

         When the terms at bookstores were impractical for me to place my book, I looked around for other options. I asked two local venues who gladly picked up my Indie novella, When Two Women Die, about legends and true crime in the historic seacoast town of Marblehead, Massachusetts – a fine art gallery, Arnould Gallery and the local market, Crosby’s. I want to thank them both for their generosity and ability to think outside the traditional box.
            Who wouldn’t love Arnould Gallery’s amazing collection of art? I was truly honored to be amongst those artists.
            However, there’s more to tell about why I love Crosby’s. I love Crosby’s because I can live organically, and without a car if I had to, simply by patronizing this elegant small market. Without Crosby’s, I and many other people who walk there, would be in a food and household item desert. I know there are other places in town to get food and household necessities; for me, the basics are all at Crosby’s.
            I’ve had a few struggles trying to get that bastion of whole foods, Whole Foods to actually live up to their name. I’ve been macrobiotic for nearly 40 years now, and brown rice with roasted unhulled sesame seeds is the basis of most of our meals. I worked for months to get unhulled sesame seeds, rich in Vitamin B1, calcium, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper and many other nutrients and minerals, back into our local Whole Foods. For some reason, Whole Foods had taken this valuable whole food out of the store in favor of refined, hulled sesame seeds, which are stripped of their nutrients and quite frankly, taste like candy. Refined, I reminded them, is NOT the title of your store, NOR your mission. I had to order a case of unhulled seeds in packages from Arrowhead Mills for a while, until miraculously, someone heard my prayers and returned this simple and marvelous food to the Whole Foods’ shelf.
            That struggle didn’t happen in Crosby’s. One day, I asked a young man if Crosby’s would possibly get organic broccoli. He said he’d ask. I expected him to forget he ever talked to me. The next time I went in, there was a stack of lovely, deep green organic broccoli! I gratefully put this precious food into my cart and kept a lookout for the young man.
            I found him and asked, incredulously, “Did you remember our conversation about organic broccoli?”
            “Yes, I did.”
            “Did the store get organic broccoli for me?”
            “Yes, they did.”
            Of course, I thanked him, but I was still rattled.
            I can’t tell you what a miracle this kind of immediate and responsible action is from a store.
            I started looking around.
            In Crosby’s you can find organic milk, organic yogurt, organic strawberries, organic blueberries, organic apples, organic cherry tomatoes, organic green peppers, organic carrots, organic oranges, organic lemons, organic coffee, organic eggs, and traveling down the aisles, organic mustard, organic pasta (more than one variety), organic brown rice, organic chicken, organic cooking oil, and I’m sure there’s much more and I’m not doing justice to the many kinds of organics in the store.
            In short, Crosby’s makes it possible for me to live simply and well, and organically. Obviously, I’m not the only customer who wants organics, and Crosby’s has responded. *
            I’m really proud to have had my book in this store. When Two Women Die sold out, and now, I’d like to move ahead. I’m working on the sequel. I felt such a strong sense of responsibility to several of my characters who were left in bad situations, that I wanted to continue their stories. Soon, the sequel will be released.
            Till then, I want to say thanks, Gene Arnould and thanks, Crosby’s.

*I highly recommend that anyone interested in eating more organic foods - or, as I like to call it - food - since everything else is some deviation from the original - ask, just ask, and keeping asking, your local market for them. Smaller local markets are freer to choose what goes on their shelves; they don’t have the kind of corporate restraints that large supermarket chains have. In fact, if more people ask for organics, more and more, even large chains will realize the potential for profit. And, if you think organics are expensive, think about medical procedures – how many medical procedures cost $4-$20? It’s possible organic foods could keep you out of the hospital.

©Patricia Goodwin, 2012