Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Obama-Holder-Sotomayor Conspiracy Exposed! (Or, how to make American Institutions Resemble America)

Welcome to Amy Alexander Community Forum, an online meeting place for smart, fun and respectfully free-wheeling conversations about our 21st Century American experience.

If "our 21st Century American experience" sounds broad, it is -- by design: Community Forum takes a Socratic approach to ideas, events and movements. I want to know what you are thinking and feeling because I value your opinion. I'm also curious to know how others are envisioning the future, and what (if any) steps they are taking to nurture themselves and the burgeoning American Renaissance.

Here, we will raise many questions, probably many more than are answerable. Politics, especially of the cultural variety, are the topical meat and potatoes in this space. But appetizers and drinks flavored by stories of faith, history, and family are most welcomed, with the goal of encouraging a healthy flow of solutions-oriented ideas.

This column is Vox Americana, with a weather eye on Pax Americana: a location where discussions will bridge the generational, class and race divides that have nearly undone our republic. Community Forum is inclusive, but distinctly American in its origin, since it springs from the brain of an American woman, living in suburban Washington, D.C. I am a content producer by trade, a black San Franciscan by birth , and an American who feels fortunate to have the White House in her backyard at this time.

With that, let's begin in the nation's capitol, where parallel universes are increasingly evident -- dreamy mountaintops of big policy changes that loom larger than ever on the horizon....and deep valleys of human despair that also stretch far and wide.

These days, here in D.C., there is so much going on that keeping your eyes on your own plate can be a challenge. It helps to believe that the psychic pendulum cannot possibly continue its wild swings between shining optimism and pitch dark, but that is what living in Washington, D.C. requires right now, strong beliefs and values, if not necessarily blind faith. Nearly six months after Inauguration Day, many residents in this region are still in a swoony honeymoon with President Barack Obama and his family. Like many others here, I too have had an up close and personal Sighting -- at a kiddie theatrical performance in Montgomery County, Maryland earlier this month. I am happy to report that POTUS and FLOTUS indeed appear to want to bridge the vast gap between "the two Washingtons." You know, the one occupied primarily by poor, under-employed mostly black and brown-skinned residents, and the one occupied by the Establishment people.

On one front in particular -- the extraordinarily high rate of HIV diagnoses in the District, which is tied to poverty and race -- the void seems so wide that closing it sometimes appears to be impossible. And yet.........

On June 9, the Whitman-Walker Clinic is scheduled to host a big fundraiser. The clinic is a leading provider of educational, preventive and outpatient services on HIV/AIDS in the District. Its honoree will be U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. If you are wondering why the nation's chief law enforcement officer is the right person for such an award, listen to what Donald Blanchon, director of the Whitman-Walker, said earlier this month in announcing the choice:

"For three decades, Eric Holder has been a leading advocate for civil rights and justice for minority communities. He has been a tireless defender of the most basic American values of individual dignity, access to justice and safeguards against unchecked government power. While serving as an inspiring national leader, he has remained deeply involved in the needs of his own city, the District of Columbia, which continues to stagger under the burden of the HIV epidemic.”
In a city where at least 3 percent of residents have the virus, according to a report by the District's own HIV/AIDS office March 16, Holder's appearance at the Whitman-Walker fundraiser has the potential to keep the spotlight on a topic that is adept at staying in the shadows.

Such symbolic efforts from top officials, I believe, can have a positive accumulative impact on individual behaviors on the ground, over time. (And so, clearly, can more substantive efforts -- President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, being the best recent example.) Holder, like President Obama, is a "brother" in the eyes of many of us. The images and sound-bites from his appearance at that June 9 dinner may encourage otherwise apathetic folks to pay attention, maybe even put on a Jimmy hat once in a while, or even get an HIV test. At least, that is what I hope happens, should Holder make the event and get some decent publicity.

Your thoughts?