Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler's death. Celeste Headlee remembers the impressive works of the world famous composer that still resonate today. The late Romantic Austrian-Bohemian composer, who at the end of his life directed the New York Philharmonic, was famous for an obsession with composing symphonies.
I can easily trace my family line back to the Civil War. I imagine a lot of people can, and I'm sure that there are more than a few whose lives were altered by that conflict. It was slavery that brought my mother's family to the U.S, it was slavery that produced my great-grandmother, a product of a slave named Anne and her Scotch-Irish owner. It was slavery that was at the heart of the rift that caused the Civil War. It was the Civil War that gave Anne her freedom, and allowed her daughter to get an education.
Most Americans have an ancestor that fought on one side of the war or the other. Maybe you had a great-great-great grandfather who fought against "Northern aggression," or a far removed aunt who nursed the boys in blue at an army hospital. Maybe both. The branches of my family tree include both slaves and owners, both the blue and the grey. In 1861, it was brother against brother; in 2011, it's an internal war against ourselves.
I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and start reviling Glenn Beck or Gilbert Gottfried or the shallow UCLA girl on YouTube. Better minds than mine have already articulated why it's wrong to pile insult on top of deep, tragic injury.
Instead, I want to appeal to my countrymen to rise above these nasty comments. Let me begin with Alec Sulkin, a scriptwriter for "Family Guy" who tweeted the following: “If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google “Pearl Harbor death toll.” Let's turn that around and imagine someone had written this ten years ago, "If you want to feel better about 9/11, google "My Lai Massacre." Sure, the first amendment protects that kind of speech, but doesn't your conscience prevent you from saying it?
"I feel like she's black. I'm black and I'm her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory."
- Halle Berry in 2010
“I don't think it should matter what the color of one’s skin is. I think it’s really important to me to be part of movies that reflect the modern society. In modern times we are mixing races and having families and loving each other. I’m of a mixed race family so it's very normal for me.”
- Halle Berry in 2008
You could argue that Halle Berry is not the ideal source for insightful academic discussions of race, identity and multiracial identity. But I would respond by reminding you that Halle Berry has lived as a mixed race woman for 44 years. Her father left when she was four and she was raised by her white mother, and Ms. Berry has often talked about the moment when she was forced to decide how to describe herself, as either black or white, and she says that she didn't "feel white."
Sarah Palin puts what looks like a target on a district in Arizona on her website. Her Tea Party opponent holds "Get on Target" campaign events and invites voters to "Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office — shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly." A disturbed young man in Arizona attends an event with a congresswoman and opens fire with fully automatic Glock. Is there a direct connection between the savage rhetoric and the brutal attack?
This week, as we inch closer to the holidays, we wonder about home. What is it? Where is it? And what are the essentials, the bare minimum to make a place home? It's a complex question for me.
The image of home is a changeable picture for me. I lived in the same home through my 18th birthday, and the smells and textures of my childhood home are still familiar. I can imagine the bumpy green carpet of the hallway; imagine sliding down that long staircase without hitting the banister and relaxing on the fuzzy orange bean bag while watching “The Love Boat.”
As we continue our week long series of what "home" means, Celeste Headlee, joins in on the fun. She and her kids share their idea of what "home" is, especially after having moved so many times.
The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States sheds light on a large, vibrant, yet oddly invisible community in the United States: people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Sparky Anderson, beloved longtime manager for the Detroit Tigers, died yesterday. Celeste Headlee had the privilege of interviewing Anderson many times, as did Ron Cameron, long time host of the Detroit sports radio show Sports Talk.
Over the weekend, Takeaway host Celeste Headlee and Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich talked to people at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear to find out why they came and what they hoped would be the new Congress's legislative agenda.
(Check out a slideshow of some of our favorite signs after the jump.)
What struck me most about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear?" The attendees were not the people that Washington thinks they are. Yes, there were plenty of college students, pot smokers, and 20-somethings who rarely vote. But of the 20 people that I spoke to as they passed by me on the National Mall, not one of them fit that description. In fact, only two were younger than 40.
Many politicians (on both sides of the aisle) are comfortable dismissing the Daily Show and Colbert crowd as not serious, and non-voting. I think that's a mistake. The majority of the people I saw were middle-aged or retired, politically active, and fed up with politics.
When the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United, there were all kinds of doomsday predictions about the impact of the ruling. Most famously was Barack Obama's comments during his State of the Union address:
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections," Obama said. "Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
I read newspapers, blogs and books all day. I spend four hours live on the air, but much longer than that reading material from all over the world. While absorbing all that information, it's inevitable that I will make connections between seemingly unconnected data points.
And today, my mind is building a bridge between the Frito-Lay headquarters in Plano, Texas, voters in Arizona, and the now-demolished home of Gene Cranick in Obion County, Tennessee. In case you haven't seen this unbelievably story, let me recap: Gene Cranick lives outside the city limits of South Fulton and he's required to pay a $75 annual fee for fire protection. Cranick did not pay that fee. So when a small trash fire that his grandson started grew out of control and Cranick called 911, the fire department refused to help. And here's the worst part of the story: they came to the property to save his neighbor's home. From the MSNBC article: "Firefighters did eventually show up, but only to fight the fire on the neighboring property, whose owner had paid the fee. 'They put water out on the fence line out here. They never said nothing to me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn,' Cranick said. (continued ...)
Mark Zuckerberg gets a feature film made about his life and he's not happy with it. I'm not surprised. Apart from his incredible success with Facebook, I'm sure the guy is dealing with all the same issues that most people in their 20s do — conflicting ideas about identity and morality, struggles for true independence, bad dating experiences. Clearly, he's not worried about bounced checks, credit card debt or student loan payments, but I imagine that the rest is the same.
Not long ago, we asked what it means to be rich in the United States today. Now we're asking what it means to be middle class, and the two definitions depend on each other. The boundaries of one abut the other. I think my favorite definition of wealthy came from one of our listeners. She said that when you're rich, everything works. You don't worry about incoming bills, flat tires, broken appliances or emergency room visits because you never have to wonder if you have the money to cover the cost.
Why don't we talk more about the Great Migration, a time that saw six million African Americans leave the South in search of work and freedom? Our own Celeste Headlee is, herself, a product of this slow, leaderless shift that occurred over the course of six decades. She shares her family's story.
My grandfather didn't tell me the story of his childhood, of his birth in Mississippi and his school years in Arkansas. The story of my family (at least one side of it) is the story of adversity and triumph, but I didn't know that growing up. My great grandmother was the child of a black slave and a Scotch-Irish plantation overseer, the product of years of a rape that produced six children. But out of violence came one unlikely stroke of luck. Her Mississippi father developed such a strong affection for his mixed-race children that he provided them with small plots of land and advanced educations. And that's the environment into which my grandfather was born in 1895. So my family has been stable financially and well educated since the days of Reconstruction.
"If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."
John F. Kennedy
As Americans, as humans, we seem to be incapable of learning from history. Slavery is still a black mark on the history of our country that was founded as a place of liberty where all men are created equal. We fought a war against each other to end slavery, we killed our brothers and fathers and husbands over an idea of freedom. It was one of our finest and most tragic hours. We transformed our national shame into an example of ultimate sacrifice for principles.
"If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves." —Winston Churchill
We talked yesterday about how the income gap may have caused, at least in part, the financial collapse. Today we get two new studies that shed even more light on the cataclysmic forces currently moving our nation. Here's the first headline: The Institute of Policy Studies says that executives at the 50 firms with the most layoffs during the economic crisis took home nearly $4 Million more than a typical CEO. The worst offenders include the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Hewlett-Packard. And here's the second: The National Employment Law Project says the jobs that were lost in 2008-2009 were in higher wage industries, but job growth in 2010 has been disproportionately by industries with lower wages.
I spent the weekend mulling over coverage of Glenn Beck's rally in Washington. I had an immediate, almost visceral, reaction to the announcement that he was planning to "take back the civil rights movement," and that Beck had scheduled his rally for the same date as MLK's March on Washington, in the same location. For me, the inevitable question, "How dare he?" eventually became, "Why?"