Dear Uptight Seattleite,So we won. Now what?Stunned Samudra
Dear Samudra,Before we surrender to the media-driven "What's next?" mindset, let us first take a moment to soak in the joy. We've become so accustomed to shame, fear, and anger these past eight years that joy may be an unfamiliar sensation. Do not be alarmed. On the contrary, sink into it like a healing bath after a long, cold day. Let it wash over you, the feeling that your country is a place where you belong after all. The relief that your fellow citizens have turned out to be not bigots crouching in the caves of ignorance, but patriots standing tall in the bright light of reason.I personally made it a point to soak in a lot of joy at the bar in Fremont where I spent election night. I actually left work at three and got a bit of an early start on my celebrating. I wasn't worried a bit about jinxing anything. By the time Barack came on TV, it was quite a scene. It was like that photo of the nurse and the soldier kissing in Times Square. There were strangers embracing, there was weeping, there was dancing. All three at once in some cases. The sight of Obama at that moment just made everyone lose it. Not that this is about any cult of personality. It's about us, and the kind of country that we still are despite everything. The feeling—and I know this will sound dopey, but I don't care—is hope. The great light of hope is burning bright right now. Whatever storms may be still to come, let us bask with full hearts in the sunshine of this moment.Dear Uptight Seattleite,How should I train my new Yorkshire terrier?Good Doug
Dear Doug,They always tell you to be in charge with your dog, to be the boss of your dog, to "top" your dog, as it were. Haven't you always felt a little bit funny about that? OK, maybe your dog needs some help focusing on a more appropriate agenda for the day. One that doesn't include attacking the phone whenever it rings. But if there must be a hierarchy, let it be one with softer contours. Instead of a tyrant, be a gentle leader. A wise leader. Lead your dog out of the fear of what will happen if he goes on the bamboo flooring and into the audaciously bright world of hope for regular bowel movements outdoors.Dear Uptight Seattleite,I recently needed some Spanish text translated. So I approached a co-worker—a guy with an Hispanic name whom I'd heard trading various Spanish squibs with another co-worker who is also Hispanic. Well, it turned out those squibs were all he knew. But the thing is, everyone in the surrounding cubes who heard this exchange reacted like I'd made some kind of egregious faux pas. But why is it racist to think that an Hispanic guy would know Spanish?Faux Paul
Dear Paul,Your reasoning is compelling. Your co-worker was speaking Spanish, so you assumed he speaks Spanish. But the key word here is "assume." You made an assumption involving someone's ethnicity, and everyone knows it. I think your defensive tone shows that you know it too.So maybe it's too late for this time, but you should start planning for the next time an identical situation occurs. Especially now that we live in a racially transcendent era. Here's what you should do: Pick up a little Spanish yourself. (You may even find it exhilarating to free your mind from the constraints of English. Those of us who have studied other languages do tend to conclude with amused chagrin that our native language is a poor instrument indeed.) Then approach your co-worker with a friendly Spanish phrase or two.But keep fresh in your mind the fires of mortification that seized your flesh once before. Approach cautiously. Enter his squib flow slowly, tenderly. Say something anyone would know, such as "Hola, amigo!" Next, gradually introduce more complex sentences, such as "Que hora es, amigo?"Then start really mixing it up. Intentionally misuse the subjunctive case while peering searchingly into his face to see if he catches it. And when you're sure he actually does have some competence in Spanish, pop the champagne, pull a curtain to reveal the mariachi band you've hired for the occasion, and dance around the room leading everyone in a hysterical chorus of "Viva Obama! Viva! Viva! Viva!"Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.