Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Flashback: President Obama Visits Ghana

I’m feeling sentimental. Or is it that I’ve just agreed to join another group of undergrads travelling to the continent of Africa this summer? As they say, third time’s a charm.

This video is a flashback to President Obama’s trip to Ghana last July. I’d never seen it before. I love the horns that open the video, playing under Obama’s welcoming speech to Ghanians.

“I have come here to Ghana, for a simple reason,” Obama remarks. “The 21st Century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome, or Moscow, or Washington. But by what happens in Accra as well. Africa’s future is up to Africans.”A far cry from the colonial legacy of the past.

One of my most memorable images from my recent visit to Uganda was a thin necklace worn by one of the orphans that we spent time with in Kiwanga. It was made of a series of dark beads, with a small rectangular tile as the centerpiece. Religious jewelry? Actually, a photograph of Barack Obama adorning his neck. A sign of Obama’s impact around the globe.

It’s also a reminder that President Obama–despite occasional stumbles and criticism (including from me, in a recent post criticizing his policies on DADT)–can be a rock star once he hits his stride. He’s certainly been in top form over the past few days; on Friday, he stepped up to the plate and directly addressed the GOP leadership (on their own playing field, nonetheless) at a Republican retreat in Baltimore. Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews had a great recap of Obama’s head-to-head with the Republican leadership that’s worth checking out. I love the moment when Maddow acknowledges the Q&A could be either: a.) disastrous, or b.) worth taking out the popcorn.

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Filed under: africa, obama, politics, , , , ,

Herbert’s Reverent NYT Tribute to Howard Zinn

Matt Damon and Howard Zinn at the NYU premiere of "The People Speak."

…is here. Entitled “A Radical Treasure,” Herbert writes of Zinn’s legacy and impact on American history and culture. Read it, if only for zingers like this one, acknowledging the paltry attention from mainstream media about Zinn:

Our tendency is to give these true American heroes short shrift, just as we gave Howard Zinn short shrift. In the nitwit era that we’re living through now, it’s fashionable, for example, to bad-mouth labor unions and feminists even as workers throughout the land are treated like so much trash and the culture is so riddled with sexism that most people don’t even notice it. (There’s a restaurant chain called “Hooters,” for crying out loud.)

Howard Zinn was fearless in disavowing American heroes such as Andrew Jackson, a “slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.” He was unafraid to challenge what Giroux has aptly theorized about our nation’s master narratives. Zinn was a champion of the oppressed; a war-machine agitator and peace activist; a resolute, unabashed radical–in the best sense of the word.

I’m excited to view the documentary that Zinn recently collaborated on, The People Speak, with narration by Hollywood heavy-hitters like Matt Damon and Benjamin Bratt. Below, a clip from BUTV (full disclosure: I’m a BU grad, and former president of BUTV) about Zinn’s premiere of The People Speak at Boston University.

I believe Zinn would have appreciated this student journalist’s interview/article about Zinn and the latest incarnation of his life work:

Filed under: social justice, united states of america, ,

Obama and the Pentagon: Lip Service on DADT?

The Associated Press reports that “Pentagon starts clock on lifting gay ban“. If I were offering advice to one of my writing students on this phrase, I’d say cut out the extra verbs here. How about revising the headline to read Pentagon “lifts” ban?

Of course, this is wishful thinking. The word choice by AP editors is deliberate and intended to indicate only the Pentagon’s plans for changing its policy on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Several years? How long does it take to repeal a ban on lesbians and gays serving in the military (particularly since lesbians and gays already rank among the military’s personnel)? Do we need years to figure out what’s already been proven by research–for example, that 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays?

President Obama offered a promise to repeal the government’s discriminatory practice in his State of the Union address. Rather than concrete details, however, Obama only included this passing reference:

We must continually renew this promise.  My administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.  (Applause.)  We finally strengthened our laws to protect against crimes driven by hate.  (Applause.)  This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Again, gay and lesbian citizens must ask: When does our great champion of gay rights put some muscle behind his rhetoric? Is the issuing of an Executive Order to immediately stop the dismissal of gay and lesbian soldiers too much to ask? Should President Obama receive more than a C+ for his performance on gay issues?

Filed under: gay rights, military, obama, , , , ,

Why a Marriage Means More than a Civil Union

Dickensen and Sugg, partners for 30 years, were denied spousal benefits from AT&T. (Photo from the Dallas Voice)

Someone recently asked me, “Why isn’t a civil union good enough?”

Besides the fact that legal precedent has thrown out the notion of “separate but equal” decades ago (and despite that fact that racism, prejudice and xenophobia persist–but in more subtle, institutionalized forms), a quick comparison of the concrete rights granted by marriage are extensive. It’s not a religious issue or fodder for the culture wars–it’s about basic human rights like tax breaks, adoption rights, and access to medical decisions for the one that you love.

In the case of Bryan Dickenson and Bill Suggs, partnered but unmarried men in Dallas, the marriage rights afforded to a heterosexual spouse were denied by Dickenson’s employer, AT&T. Under the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, Dickenson requested vacation time to care for his ailing partner of 30 years. Suggs suffered from a stroke last fall.

Let’s hope that AT&T, recently listed as one of the most gay-friendly companies by the Human Rights Campaign, does the right thing.

Filed under: gay rights, , , , ,

Selleck Waterfall Sandwich

Just plain ridiculousness.

But hell, it’s Friday, and the end of a long week in which Salinger died, and Howard Zinn died, and Obama’s State of the Union was received with less than mediocre enthusiasm. Who doesn’t need a little bit of Selleck Waterfall Sandwich ridiculousness? (I love the lo-fi official theme song you can listen to if you scroll halfway down the page.)

Filed under: humor, , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
January 2010
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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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