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Caged Bird —

October 25, 2012

Warning: This post reflects the views of Atchka/Shannon and not Fierce, Freethinking Fatties. The subject of this post is vaguely political, inspired by a political email.

If you gave financial support to President Obama in 2008, then you most likely have a mailbox full of spam right now. If not, then The Daily Show did a great segment called “Spamalot” a few weeks ago that sums it up nicely.

And since 2008, I haven’t opened any of them. Not one.

That’s because, as I said in my previous political post, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core liberal now, so nobody needs to sell me on voting or donating, let alone keep me apprised of political situation, since I prefer to stay ahead of the story.

But last night when I received an email from Dr. Maya Angelou, the prolific, award-winning and widely-respected author, I had to click on it.

First off, to answer your most pressing question, yes, I do still have an AOL email account. You gotta problem with that?

More importantly, do you see what I see?

Two of the dichotomies presented aren’t overtly political. Gay rights and class warfare? Absolutely near the top of ideological discussions now. But there’s nothing in the current political dialogue about ugly people or fat people. These are “personal” issues that don’t have political ramifications… yet.

Honestly, I’m surprised Ms. Angelou didn’t address some of the other more political dichotomies (false as they may be) that could have been exploited: man or woman, young or old, black or white, Muslim or Jew. Instead, Ms. Angelou focused on two groups that aren’t typically represented in politics at all.

To put that header in perspective, here are the first few lines from her email:

Dear Shannon,

I am not writing to you as a black voter, or a woman voter, or as a voter who is over 70 years old and six feet tall. I am writing to you as a representative of this great country — as an American.

It is your job to vote. It is your responsibility, your right, and your privilege. You may be pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich.

But remember this: In an election, every voice is equally powerful — don’t underestimate your vote. Voting is the great equalizer.

As a fat man, this caught my eye more than the typical references to diversity. Will it resonate with other fatties who aren’t running a blog on this subject and thinking about these issues 24×7? Probably not. But it intrigues me that when constructing this email for Obama’s mailing list, she deliberately chose to give a shout out to two groups that are discriminated for their physical appearance: people who aren’t attractive or aren’t thin.

But Angelou’s thoughtfulness shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, it was Maya Angelous who said the following:

When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.

And in an interview last month with Melissa Harris-Perry, when asked if we lack courage in our current world, Angelou gave a characteristically fierce and compassionate response:

We lack courage, particularly because we`re not wise enough to try to educate ourselves so that we really can develop courage.

So we act like cowards.  We sit in rooms where people use pejoratives, racial pejoratives or sexual pejoratives.  There are people assaulting and beleaguering other people, Mexican, or Arab, or Jewish. We just sit there like numb skulls instead of taking up because whoever is being assailed, that’s you nit wit.

So you should say excuse me, just a minute, I won’t sit in this room when people are being assailed.  Those are human beings and I’m a human being. And so, I have to take up, for I must support this person.

You say he’s too skinny, fat, thin, stupid, bad teeth.  I mean, wait a minute.  The statement is I am a human being.  Nothing human can be alien to me.

And if you know that, then you have enough — develop enough courage so that you can stand up for somebody and without — maybe you don’t know it at the time, but you’re really standing up for yourself.  It’s the human in you.  It’s the kindness in you which allows you to be courageous.

You develop courage in small ways.  You say I will not be called this because I’m a woman.  I’m not a B.  Because I’m black, I’m not an N.

Because I’m an American, I’m not a fool or a murderer.  I’m not that.

You have to develop ways so that you can take up for yourself and then you take up for someone else.  And so sooner or later, you have enough courage to really stand up for the human race and say I’m a representative. [emphasis mine]

I am glad that in these final weeks of the election, President Obama has turned to one of our most compassionate and understanding poets to encourage us all to use our voices, use our votes, to participate in this election, however you vote.

Pretty or plain, heavy or thin, gay or straight, poor or rich, we all have the right to take part in this process and to have our voices heard and our votes counted.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Leila Haddad permalink
    October 26, 2012 12:21 am

    Beautiful post. thank you Shannon

  2. October 26, 2012 12:25 am

    I get tons of emails too, but I won’t contribute a penny, I won’t make a single phone call and I won’t knock on single door until Michelle Obama changes the focus of Let’s Move. I have already voted for a straight Democratic ticket though.

  3. October 26, 2012 9:11 am

    I’m almost…ALMOST tempted to vote for Romney over the health care and Let’s Move issues, but I’m not nearly suicidal enough to do that.

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