The Real Housewives of Miami have been called a lot of things: dramatic, flashy, volatile (those are among the printable descriptions) but not politically active... until now. Ok, you're probably wondering: "What does a 'Real Housewife' know about politics?" Plenty!
While I have always been politically conscious, I didn't become politically active until the early '90s after I served as a juror on the William Kennedy Smith trial and saw all the tactics that go into putting on a trial. It was a high profile case that offered a host of complicated motives and points of view to consider.
A year after the trial ended, I had a chance encounter in a restaurant with my now husband Roy Black, who was Kennedy Smith's defense attorney (in a foreshadowing moment, around that same time I was interviewed by Real Housewives of Miami's Executive Producer Andy Cohen). We struck up a conversation and haven't stopped since. With the experience on the jury and now with a new family to think about, I was starting to consider politics in a new way. I looked at ways to make a difference. Years and countless hours of work for charitable and political causes later, here we are.
If you've ever served (or been sequestered) on a high-profile jury, it should inspire you to consider various perspectives. So here are a few of mine. Let's start with domestic politics.
We should all be grateful that we have a calm and pragmatic leader as president instead of a hardheaded cowboy with a not-so-sharpshooting sidekick (just ask Cheney's hunting victim, um, partner Harry Whittington). Yet, the GOP and, by extension, the Tea Party consistently try to undermine him with angry and sometimes dangerous rhetoric. Look at last month's non-response of Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) at a town hall when asked by a constituent who was going to shoot President Obama (the PR sculpted statement he later issued was too little, too late) or the quick defense by Tea Partiers of Sarah Palin's infamous crosshairs over Democratic Congressional districts.
Speaking of former Governor Palin, I have some friendly advice, from one reality star to another: Save the "domestic" drama for your reality show!
While many on the right act as though patriotism is strictly the domain of Republicans, I'd say there's nothing more anti-American than trying to turn our country against its leader by re-voicing myths that have long since been debunked. Mike Huckabee recently took heat for incorrectly stating that President Obama was raised in Kenya. While he "clarified" the statement to say he meant Indonesia (where Obama spent some of his childhood), Huckabee didn't back off his claim that some of Obama's views are "very different than the average American." Huckabee's furthering the same xenophobic logic that our president is not "one of us."
How about House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH)? Just last month on Meet The Press he again said he takes Pres. Obama "at his word" that he was born in America, instead of firmly denouncing the birthers. Well, I take Rep. Boehner "at his word" that he's not playing politics, just like I take the word of one of my fellow Housewives when she says she paid to attend my annual gala.
I am also dismayed over the partisanship shown over desperately needed reforms. Millions of Americans, myself included, have excellent medical coverage. How can some of our leaders possibly argue that all Americans shouldn't get that same level of care? The well-known bill became a law after a long and hard-fought compromise. Now, Republicans are trying to defund the government's ability to put it into effect. Doesn't it merit at least some discussion when people around the world can purchase drugs at a lower rate than us and when people are denied health care here based on preexisting conditions? And don't get me started on freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) who campaigned on an anti-health care reform platform then famously complained when he entered Congress that his free government health care didn't kick in for *gasp* 28 days! Oh, the hypocrisy!
Now, I obviously love The Real Housewives, but the best dose of Reality is coming from overseas. Gil Scott-Heron's premise is wrong. These revolutions have been televised and Facebook, Twitter and YouTube opened up far more possibilities than any cowboy chatter of "mission accomplished," "Axis of Evil" and "wanted dead or alive" ever could. They've shown us that democracy must rise up from the people, not be imposed upon them by a foreign invader.
Pres. Obama is sensitive to cries of American interference in other countries and acted accordingly. He called upon Muammar Gaddafi to step down, citing his loss of legitimacy to rule once he used violence against his own people. He's started to unilaterally freeze $30 billion in Libyan assets and gained international consensus to impose unprecedented sanctions. He's heeded the concerns of his military advisers. Witness his cautious approach to intervention after Defense Sec. Robert Gates expressed doubt about establishing a no-fly zone and until he can build a broad international coalition. Obama is taking a measured approach and allowing the Libyan people to chart their own course. Timing is everything and I'm glad that George W. Bush and the gang that literally couldn't shoot straight are on the sidelines.
Some of you may question my motives for doing The Real Housewives of Miami (despite my reservations and my husband's objections) and for taking my politics so public. The answers are connected. I'm the mother of a nine-year-old boy who deserves a world of peace and prosperity. That concern has led me to commit to vocal action over silence to help in some small way, and the power of television amplifies that voice.
I fear the day when we look at war more like a Wii game starring "Bots" named Bin Laden and W than the harsh reality of death, destruction and deception. In this game, players are cheered on by corporate execs that are more interested in profit margins than the common good.
Thomas Jefferson once said, "I have seen enough of one war never to wish to see another." With two conflicts abroad, we clearly haven't taken his words to heart and our children will suffer the consequences in the world we leave them. And that's a Reality check.
Lea Black is an entrepreneurial powerhouse, a philanthropist, an author, a television personality and a mom. Respected, outspoken, dynamic and uncompromising in her beliefs, the Texas native is leaving an indelible mark on Miami and the country as a Real Housewife of Miami (Bravo Network). Black's philanthropic efforts, chronicled in the 2008 documentary that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival market "The Fundraiser," also reach far into the political arena. She has hosted fundraisers for: President Obama, who personally called her to host his first fundraiser in Florida, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), 24-term Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), former U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL) and many more.