Friday, December 26, 2008
life with brian 1: monologues (fiction)
It’s not that I like speaking in monologues, but when the other party in the conversation abdicates his responsibility to come up with anything responsive, it’s either that or shut the heck up. And I like the things I have to say too much to shut the heck up, so I monologue. Besides, after two years being married to Brian, I’ve pretty much gotten used to it. Entire weeks have gone by when I have not even heard his voice. He sits, he nods, he smiles sometimes, he makes odd little sounds in his throat that seem to signify cognitive responses that I pretend to understand, and he sits some more. Every once in while some pearl of wisdom will escape his encapsulated mind:
“Do we really have enough money?” or “We don’t have any room.”
Mostly he just lets me talk for both of us, and I am perfectly capable of it. Days come and go, problems come and go, money comes and goes (and goes more than it comes): there is always something to say.
I don’t want to give the impression that Brian is just some great lump who sits around and does nothing. That would not be the truth. Not at all. Oh, he’s not working right now, but he does other things that have value. He does all the cooking for one thing, and he’s very, very good at it. I can hardly believe what that man can whip together from a bunch of nondescript ingredients, and that is a good thing considering the sorry state of our larder these days. The most words that come out of his mouth each day often come right around the time he says something like “There’s food,” to whoever is listening, and the various denizens of the household migrate toward the dining area to discover what culinary bit of whimsy he has brought out of his imagination this time.
We might eat alone, Brian and I, or maybe with the girls, Allie and Marie, if they aren’t with my ex. Or maybe the Subterraneans will surface for a dinnertime visit. We do see them from time to time, though less so than you’d imagine considering that they live just down a flight of stairs from us. If they come, though, at least there will be someone else willing to carry on a normal conversation at the dinner table. If anything about the Subterraneans can be called normal.
Besides his expertise in the kitchen, Brian is also an artist. I mean that literally: he paints. His work adorns almost every wall in our cluttered, messy, overstuffed, chaotic, utterly packed little townhouse. When he moved in, he turned the already ridiculous front room of the house (then already full with my desk, computer, filing cabinets, bookshelves, and about a dozen other things in a 7x8 space) into a studio.
“Good light,” he said, elaborating as always on his reasoning for cramming even more crap into the first room people see when they walk through the front door. And now his easels and paints and brushes and half-finished canvases are pretty much everywhere that the other stuff wasn’t, and the effect is sort of like living in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, if the walls could sort of stay up. I try not to look left when I walk in the front door. My orange tabby, Shakespeare, usually greets me, and that helps, because he curls around my feet and makes me bend to pet him, stopping me long enough in whatever I’m doing that I will remember the clutter and avert my eyes.
Brian insists that Shakespeare is yellow. No one knows why.
At this moment, Brian is depressed. I ask him why he is depressed and he won’t tell me; this of course is not a tremendous shock. If he had told me, had actually articulated something that significant when invited to, I might have had to call the New York Times or Newsweek or something. But of course he didn’t; he mumbled something about needing to figure it out for himself and rolled over on the couch. He does this a lot too: sleeps on the couch. I don’t actually understand it; we do not have a particularly comfortable couch. Still, he falls asleep on it frequently, and he often even sleeps the whole night on it. Actually I suspect that he is not sleeping right now because he is not snoring. When he sleeps, he snores, and his snoring can scare trains out of tunnels. So the silence from the couch makes me believe that he is simply lying there thinking.
He thinks a lot.
Today’s bout of thinking stems from Christmas. Christmas was yesterday, and it was a fairly low-key event as far as such days have been in my life. Allie and Marie are away, so we decided not to celebrate the holiday until next week when they return. And finances are such that we really had little to spend on presents. I think what is bothering Brian is that we spent anything at all. I can’t seem to convince him that a little deficit spending around the holiday is a good thing, that it does the soul a world of good. He just sees that it does the wallet a world of bad. And he’s right of course about that, but it’s Christmas and I don’t care. So he’s depressed. And so he’s thinking.
He should be painting; it would take his mind to better places. When he paints, something within him is freed. I think his soul lives in the brushes and canvases and waits for him to release it; if he doesn’t paint it remains trapped there, unable to breathe, unable to fly. He said this morning that his dreams had died. How? With canvases unfinished and others yet unimagined? But he’s like a shark: if he stops moving forward he starts to die. And now, as Shakespeare sits on the windowsill above him looking at a fresh December snow, he is not moving.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
worried? don't be.
I'm talking with a friend, and we're chatting about whatever topic of the day happens to be on our minds, when the conversation–because it's late October and this is an election year–turns political. My friend will get this look on his or her face, a suddenly drawn, dazed, faraway look, and I know what is coming. The words vary, but the sentiment does not.
"I'm so worried that we'll blow it again."
Or a frequent variation:
"I'm so worried that the Republicans will steal it again."
It amounts to the same thing, I suppose. Either way, Sarah Palin is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and the guy there ahead of her has sworn to appoint more "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court. Oh, and he has this nasty temper, makes kneejerk decisions, seems to think that the solution to any international crisis is the use of force, and supported Wall Street deregulation with more fervor than just about anyone else...until it crashed. Yeah, and he hates everything Bush stands now for even though he bragged again and again about doing everything in his power to get the guy elected and re-elected...and voted with him well over 90% of the time.
Nothing to be concerned about there.
So my friends look at me, shadows forming around their eyes and their skin turning pale from lack of sleep, and utter their deepest, darkest fears. Like Cubs fans, they see their side looking like champions, but know deep down inside that something, somehow, is going to go terribly, unavoidably, heartbreakingly wrong.
And I look back at them and smile.
"Not gonna happen," I tell them. I know all of the arguments. Heard 'em all a thousand times. And I do believe that the last two elections were stolen by Rovian machinations. And I do believe that eight years is plenty of time to put mechanisms in place to secure the outcome of this one as well. Yet I say loudly that I am not worried. I'm not complacent--not at all: I still believe we need to do everything possible to get out the vote, everything possible to prevent fraud, everything possible to call attention to the problems some people are already having at the polls, everything possible to counter the hate-filled campaign that McCain and the RNC are running. I'm just not worried.
I have many reasons for this, I tell them. First, there is the simple matter of scope. No one, not Rove or anyone else, could have predicted that the extreme swing of voter registration numbers combined with the dismal Bush approval ratings and the tanking economy would put so many "safe" red states in play and, not only that, but turn many of them quite solidly blue. If no one predicted it, no one would have needed to do anything to cheat to prevent it: this is just logical.
Then there is the magnitude of Obama's reach. Polls have him ahead by so much in some so-called "swing" states that unleashing an organized election day attack--even one involving paperless voting machines--would leave a stench that could hardly go unrecognized. Too many attacks would need to be unleashed simultaneously; someone would be caught, and Rove may be a scoundrel but he is a smart scoundrel: he knows this. He would never risk having the whole vote fraud operation found out in this way. I do not believe the "OK" will ever be given.
And even if it is: by Election Day, as many as 1/3 of the total number of votes cast in 2004 will already have been cast via early balloting. And a hugely disproportionate number of these early voters are the very ones that the GOP would love to disenfranchise come November 4.
Besides, there are several states sliding even now from solidly red to frustratingly (for the GOP) purple. I had a friend up from Georgia today who told me that, like Bob Barr, she actually believes that her state will vote for Obama on November 4. Whodathunk we'd even be talking about a thing like that?
Finally, and most importantly, I have two words that assure me any time I begin to have the same doubts that cause my friends' sleepless nights:
I have been supporting his candidacy since Kerry lost, believing even then that the freshman senator from my home state of Illinois would throw his hat into the ring this year. In the winter of '07, when he announced, my husband said "So what?" because it was of course going to be Hillary. I just said: Wait. When this is over, Barack Obama will not only be the nominee, but he will win the Presidency. His strategy has been letter perfect. The enthusiasm of his supporters has been incredible. His ability to harness the youth vote has added a dimension to the American political scene that has never before been witnessed. His campaign has been, to put it as simply as I can, among the very best of all time.
In June, I went on record as saying that this election would not even be close. I predicted a 15-20% popular win and an electoral blowout. Again, everyone said I was nuts. Sarah Palin's nomination has caused me to reassess the popular vote prediction, which is by far the less important of the two numbers, but nothing has caused me to doubt at any time that the national press would eventually get over its initial infatuation with the newcomer and get on with its vital task of vetting the candidate that McCain did not bother to vet.
Why would I give the press that much credit? Two reasons: bloggers, whose rise to prominence has been, again, something that the Rovian strategists have not foreseen (and McCain has not quite figured out even today), and who continued to beat the drums against the liars until someone in the traditional news media had to take notice of the rising noise; and (again) Barack Obama, whose campaign never met a smear, a lie, or a problem it could not face eye to eye and beat backward home. Palin, who started her national rise already under the shadow of Troopergate, was in retrospect pretty easy pickings, but the Obama campaign and its surrogates forced the vetting of this would-be VP to take place under the public microscope, and every disclosure looked that much worse for John McCain.
So my friends look all worried, but I smile. I point to fivethirtyeight.com, show them the latest polls and Nate Silver's insightful and comprehensive interpretations, and I ask what they are doing to assure an Obama victory. And every day I wear a different Obama pin. Today was "Unicorns for Obama." It makes me smile.
I have a costume I am going to wear to school on Halloween, the scariest one I have come up with in years. It consists of a blue wig, a red top, and red slacks. On the wig, I will affix a cardboard puzzle piece of Illinois. Elsewhere, on the top and slacks, I will affix the other 49 states. I'm calling this costume: Karl Rove's Final One-Finger Salute to America, or "It's the Voting Machines, Stupid." Undoubtedly it will give my friends more nightmares.
But isn't that what Halloween is for?
Monday, October 6, 2008
2008: The Year the American Voter Grew Up
Michael Tomasky of The Guardian discusses this very matter in an article posted today. He says:
Superficialities and attacks...usually dominate. We understand this. In fact, more than a few liberals have spent the last four years trying to persuade Democrats to be every bit as superficial and nasty as the Republicans are at election time. But this year, something feels different. Voters are actually paying closer attention to issues.
Tomasky says that it is the Wall Street crisis and the ensuing economic breakdown that has brought this about, with a huge assist from America's declining standing in the eyes of the world. I agree that this is the filter through which it has found its most recent focus, but I do not think that our current crisis alone explains everything. In fact, I think this has been coming for quite a while.
Take a look back at the primaries. As Obama's forward-thinking campaign kept pushing Americans to use their brains, to consider issues and ideas and substance instead of platitudes and sound bites, his momentum increased, at first slowly, then like a steamroller wiping out everyone in his path until the only one left was the formidable Hillary Clinton. And what did Hillary, by then in a desperate condition, do? She went negative. She played by the Republican playbook, the old rules.
Arianna Huffington, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer last May, said that Clinton "has really taken a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook," and cited most specifically her successful, at the time, "3 AM" ad.
Huffington compared Clinton’s “3 a.m.” ad to advertising against Sen. John Kerry orchestrated by Rove during President Bush’s 2004 re-election bid. “The assumption was that if people elected Obama they would not be as safe as if they elected her.” “Their children would not be as safe,” added Huffington.
At first, the "kitchen sink" strategy improved her standing, but only at the cost of increasing her already high negatives. And the Obama campaign ultimately succeeded in countering all of the negatives effectively in the most unbelievable of ways: by presenting facts to the electorate. Yes, it took awhile for facts to sink in through all of the hubbub created by the right wing punditry (and the hillaryis44 folks), but it did sink in. Obama won the nomination.
Now this in no way is meant as a condemnation of Clinton's strategy or of her followers. She did what she felt she needed to do, and they supported the candidate of their choice with gusto, as indeed they had every right to do. But the negative attacks that have worked in other years--and indeed worked in the short term at times this year--actually redounded on the attacker, and the public chose the candidate who (though he can attack in response as fiercely as anyone) appeals to their intelligence, not their base animal instincts.
We've seen all of this playing out again with McCain's campaign. With absolutely no issues to run on, with America's economy in tatters after eight years of Bush policies (which he supported), with Bush's foreign policy, as evinced most especially by the war in Iraq, (which he also supported) a shambles, he pretended to run an honorable campaign while actually running a filthy one that fooled absolutely no one. He gained no traction at all until just before the conventions, when his "Celebrity" attack ad found an audience, but given the vicissitudes of the voters in this election year that traction soon slipped away.
As the "Palin bounce" dwindles into the Palin pit, it's only natural that McCain will try again, full force, with an attack strategy he has never paused (or even "suspended") since August. As Aiden Maconachy said last February about the Clinton campaign, "People who are losing tend to cry foul and shout louder." And indeed, the Huffington Post is now reporting that
The McCain campaign has now shifted virtually 100 percent of his national ad spending into negative ads attacking Obama, a detailed breakdown of his ad buys reveals.
And his surrogates, including the recently "freed" Sarah Palin, are attacking as well. Virtually all unbiased opinions (when you could find any) of the VP debate focused on the fact that her "answers" (which were rarely in fact answers at all but mini-stump speeches and talking points that often were completely off topic, as even she acknowledged) almost completely lacked any specificity. Instead, she spent roughly half of the time praising herself and McCain for being "mavericks" and the rest attacking Obama and Biden. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who managed quite a few attacks himself against McCain, did so by at all times derogating the Republican's ideas and programs, not the man himself. And Biden's specificity and detail has never been questioned by anyone. He is a walking encyclopedia of Senate information.
And even as Palin talks about Ayers and Wrights, trying to resurrect old "scandals" that bubbled and popped last spring, the economy continues to tank. Today's Dow fell another 800 points, breaking last week's all time record for a one-day drop-off. And McCain's camp continues to smear and attack and lie and distract. And Obama? As reported by Mike Baker,
Obama said he would keep talking about the economy and didn't answer questions about the associations McCain's campaign has questioned.
"The notion that we would want to brush that aside and engage in the usual political shenanigans and smear tactics that have come to characterize too many political campaigns is not what the American people are looking for.
Barack Obama is not the candidate who would allow Rovian smears and swiftboating to derail him anyway, but the reality is that 2008 is not the year of politics as usual. We have entered a new political arena. Whether it is for now or forever remains to be seen, but right now the shift is evident: though a lot of folks remain easily swayed, the majority of American voters have grown up. And frankly, it's about damn time.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Faith Forum: Obama Played This Beautifully
Wow, the TH's raved, Obama may have come off fine, but his nuanced approach was blown off the planet by McCain's poignant stories and powerful, direct remarks.
Well, sorry, talking heads, but I didn't see it that way. First of all, I had to begin with the fact that McCain had a HUGE home field advantage here, so Obama's goal of necessity had to be different from that of his GOP rival. Given that simple reality, which the TH's all simply ignored, the results of this evening cannot be seen in any direct light. My nuanced interpretation is this: Barack Obama played the Traditional Media like a violin tonight.
It was remarked in other places tonight that Obama does not do things haphazardly; he always knows exactly what he is doing and plans things carefully. I believe that to be true and submit the entire campaign as evidence. This night is no exception.
Obama did not agree to this forum lightly. He understood that this audience would be, at best, polite to him. He knew the kinds of questions he would be asked. He knew that his answers would not be entirely pleasing to the evangelicals. And he knew also, or anyway could guess with a strong probability of being correct, exactly what John McCain would do: pander to his base with stump speeches and POW stories. McCain, of course, did not disappoint. And he was very, very comfortable there in his element, a fact that was oh, so surprising to the TH's.
But why shouldn't he have been? Warren allowed him practically free reign, letting him rove wherever he wanted, ramble through as many POW stories as he wished without interruption, and even fail to answer the question entirely several times. With Obama, Warren seemed to be rushing him a lot, pushing him onto the next question. This could have been a result of Obama's slow, nuanced answers, I suppose, and perhaps I should give Warren the benefit of the doubt. Whatever the reason, though, the result was that McCain was able to tell his stump stories and lurch as far right as he's ever lurched and receive cheer after cheer. All of which is fine, because, as I said before, it is exactly what Obama expected.
The early results of such an event? All of the TH's do their predictable Love Affair With McCain dance: Oh my, he really came across well; he's going to be a much more formidable opponent that anyone thought, etc. Good publicity, at least initially, for the wrinkled silver haired dude. But--and it's a very large but--John McCain did himself no favors with independents and center-right leaning Democrats tonight. Not with his "I wouldn't have picked Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens and Breyer" and "human rights begin at conception" comments. In addition, Obama, who looked sincere and human and honest all night, came across as looking maybe not appealing to these evangelicals, but certainly not scary, and definitely, definitely Christian.
And then there is that violin: Obama must have known two other simple facts. First, that the media would eat McCain's act up, especially after the way Senator Goofup has spent the last month making one mistake after another in practically every forum he has been given. Assuming that McCain did not screw up tonight (a stretch, to be sure, but it turned out that way), the media would have to see it as astonishing, right? And they'd sing that tune loudly, which leads to point two.
The debates are coming up. Given Obama's performance of late vs. McCain's, the media would expect him to wipe the floor with his opponent. (They clearly expected that tonight.) Now, after this forum, expectations will be, if not reversed, certainly lessened on Obama's side and heightened on McCain's. And the best part of it all is this: Obama played this melody on a night when not all that many people, aside from the media and the junkies like us, are paying attention. The Olympics are on. It's August. The conventions have not yet occurred. People don't pay attention until after Labor Day.
So Obama has just succeeded in a trifecta: he has made himself less scary to a volatile segment of the opposition, he has allowed his opponent (the erstwhile "maverick") to completely redefine himself as a fundamentalist conservative, and he has allowed the media to begin shifting the expectations game.
All in all, a nice little concerto for the junior senator from Illinois.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
REVEALED: McCain's Campaign Strategy
John McCain campaign spokesperson Bill Ingdapour said today that the Arizona Senator's campaign strategy is working perfectly.
Asked at an impromptu press conference about media attention being focused on Illinois senator and presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama during his trip to Europe and the Middle East, Ingdapour responded, "We knew that would happen. The press is fawning over him right now. That's what Senator McCain desired."
When it was pointed out to him that Senator McCain, as well as other campaign surrogates, have spent considerable time this week complaining about unbalanced coverage, Ingdapour said, "Duh! We need to lay the groundwork, don't we? Senator McCain will get his due attention when the world realizes just how much the media is favoring Obama."
Ingdapour went on to say that McCain's entire general election strategy hinges on the "historic" nature of Obama's campaign and the press's infatuation with it.
"They are playing right into his hands," he said. "Come October, Senator Obama won't know what hit him."
Ingdapour and his associate Rich Engready discussed the McCain strategy in detail for the assembled five members of the press.
"It's simple," Engready explained. "Obama gets all the attention and goes around looking all Presidential and talking to foreign dignitaries, yada yada yada. Meanwhile McCain spends all of his time doing things that, if they get reported in the media at all, make him look like a complete ass."
"Right," Ingdapour said. "Like the cheese aisle thing. Great locale, that. I wanted the beer aisle, but we all know he's against beer."
"He's going to veto it!" Engready laughed.
"Just after Cindy sells it to Belgium," Ingdapour added. "And that absolutely hilarious CBS interview boner: God, the guy is a pure genius!"
"But the best part," Engready said, "is the Surge. God, I love the Surge! And now he's going around defining and redefining the Surge so often that, hey, it might have started before he was even born!"
"And don't forget Phil!" Ingdapour said. "Talk about genius! 'Nation of whiners!' Oh my God. I never laughed so hard in my life! And the Senator absolutely surrounds himself with people like that."
Asked how any of this amounts to a "strategy," both spokesmen laughed.
"Can't you see what's right in front of your face?" Ingdapour asked. "Everything McCain is doing is so utterly stupid that only a complete moron or someone trying to lose would do and say these things."
Engready continued. "The press reports it all, making McCain look really bad. But we all know they are fawning over Obama, and we all know that McCain is not a doddering old fool, so it's clearly the press who are slanting the coverage to make him seem like one!"
"So," Ingdapour said, "in October, we move into Florida, where the only people left after the summer sunbathers have gone home are all of the old folks, and we start rolling out our Florida geezer support league. The whole nation sees these old folks with their walkers and their 4:30 early bird dinners next to strong, virile ex-POW McCain, and Voila! Bye bye, Barack. Hello, sympathy vote!"
Engready got in the final word. "We can't convince anyone that he's not old. The guy is older than Moses. But he's a fighter. Look at my left ear: he tore a chunk right out of it last week when I didn't want him to do the German restaurant thing. He doesn't back down to anyone! Besides, you can't go around picking on geriatrics, you know. People don't like it."
Sunday, July 6, 2008
full body reboot
OK, I'm not really going to write that. But it is a beautiful day, sun shining, light breezes, temps in the low eighties, pretty much the epitome of a summer Sunday. And, though I was indeed outdoors for an hour or so and will be again, I actually missed half of it! Yes, I somehow managed to sleep a full twelve hours last night, utterly shocking my senses when I came to grips with it.
Twelve hours. Half a day. And half of such a beautiful day!
This began on the Fourth of July. My husband and I had been thinking about going up to Wisconsin for the day, but decided against it, and the weather was so perfect that I thought: this is the time we finally ought to get around to staining the deck! Temperatures in the low 70's, sunny: how could it be more perfect to work outside? Actually, I thought originally that I would do it, as my husband was not thrilled with the idea and he has all sorts of physical limitations anyway, but it needed to be done and I was up for it, so on with the show!
The deck is cedar and wraps around the back of our townhome. It's nicely sized but not huge; how difficult could this be? Two hours or so into it, I knew the answer: hard. Maybe it was due to the fact that I am dieting and might not have as much energy as I usually do. Maybe it was just the sun. Maybe it was all of the bending and reaching and brushing. Maybe it was just that the whole thing was such a pain in the...well, actually in just about everything! And it did not help that I was suffering horrendous acid reflux, the pain so awful that I had to stop every few minutes just to let it pass. I was aching and exhausted, and it was going to be a very, very long day.
I called in to my husband. "Dirk, I need your help."
He replied, "I wondered when you were going to ask," and within minutes was by my side. Together we tackled the project for the rest of the day, and after six long hours had the first coat finished. Shocked at how tired we both were at what seemed such an innocuous little job, we were more surprised to find ourselves falling asleep for an hour on the couch in the living room, where we had collapsed after the job was complete.
That little sleep revived us, and the fireworks were lovely. I watched them from my balcony, as I usually do--the view is perfect, as the lake that the town uses is a direct line from there--and Dirk, as always, pretended that he could not even hear the loud kabooms and bangs and whistles. He does not like fireworks. "They're all the same," he says. I can never talk him into coming out to watch with me, though our town has fireworks three times a year.
I got to bed late and was up pretty early--I am a night person and often find myself up until the wee hours but I have been determined this summer not to allow myself to sleep later than 8:30 for a variety of reasons--so we were able to get an early start to the second coat. The second coat, it turned out, was a lot easier than the first one, but it still required about four hours to do, and once more I was completely wiped out when I was finished. (I had told Dirk to pack it in an hour or so before the end because quarters were getting cramped on the deck.) Once again I found myself dozing on the couch, but this time my nap was quickly interrupted by the arrival of my children, who had been with my ex for the holiday.
Watch Twilight Zone with us; watch Howl's Moving Castle with us; watch this; watch that...I convinced them that this was not a good night for me and, fortunately, they decided to watch things on their own. I actually ended up collapsing into bed far earlier than they did, far earlier than is my norm: 11:30.
Which brings me to this morning.
I know that the alarm went off as usual to awaken me at 8:30. I remember Beatles tunes--Breakfast with the Beatles was playing--in some vague recess of my mind. But I did not process them, did not process the time, did not process the whole notion of waking up. And the next thing I knew, my cat was nuzzling my toes and it was 11:30...again. But it was twelve hours later.
There is a simple pleasure in accomplishing something like staining your deck. People do it all the time. But in this hectic world, it is so darned easy to pick up a phone and call someone, pay him a few hundred dollars, and voila! the deck is all stained! You didn't have to lift a finger after you put the phone down until you sign the check. Hell, it probably looks better, too, given that these guys are professionals and all. But where in that equation is the sense that you actually did something yourself? Where is the feeling that you took the brush into your own hands and, with your own effort, did this work?
There are lots of things I pay others to do. My townhouse association hires people to cut the grass, to plow the snow, to trim the trees. I have a cleaning service come on every couple of weeks to make sure that my house doesn't go completely to seed. Today, enjoying the beautiful weather, I took my car to a car wash; it needed a very thorough cleaning and vacuuming. I pay professional people to do these things, as I pay plumbers and electricians, as I paid people to paint my walls and ceilings two years ago because the job was simply too overwhelming. I really don't think of these things as luxuries; in a rushed life you need to prioritize things.
But once in a while it is important to slow down and take the time to do something yourself, even if you do it imperfectly. So what that there will be places on that deck where the excess stain is noticeable or where drips did not get wiped away? So what if it is a bit uneven? We did it ourselves, and frankly I think it looks damned good.
And if the price I paid for that was a full body reboot, so be it. I suppose that, after several weeks of late, late nights and (relatively) early mornings, it was bound to happen eventually.
And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where the deck is now red and the birds still are not coming to the feeders...
Monday, June 23, 2008
cultivating my garden
That's it, bottom line, no fancy excuses, just that: I've been wiped out. At first I think it was simply physical; the end of the school year this time around took quite a toll. Not only did I have my annual Oh my God I have all of this to grade still?!!? moment sometime the week before finals, but on top of that I was told that I had to pack everything in my room into boxes by the last day of school so it could be moved to a new room over the summer.
Now let me put that in perspective for you:
I've been in the same room for about eight years. Before that I was in the same room for ten years. When I last moved, they just took everything from one room to the other. And let me tell you: I've accumulated a whole lot of stuff over eighteen years in those two rooms (not to mention the other twelve bopping around elsewhere). A month before school ended, we were having a department meeting in my room and the superintendent came in.
"Whoa," he said, looking around. "This is the best classroom I've been in." He meant that it seemed to be comfortable, to be lived in, to be real as opposed to some clinical shared space. And I am proud of that, but this was the price I was about to pay: pack those years into boxes. At the same time I was supposed to be grading my finals and getting everything else done.
After eight consecutive school days of desperately working in my room until at least 6 PM (much of it physical labor, too...while I had those grades hanging over my head), I finally got it all done, but the stress was getting to me, and when it was all through I basically came home and crashed. This is not the right way to begin a summer vacation.
Ah, but I do have one of those. And in that I am indeed fortunate: the ultra-mega-perk of being a teacher. Summer vacation. I spend mine with my kids and writing. Some less cash-bereft folks travel. But it's great to have the time to regain some equilibrium after the chaos of the end of the year. It's taken me two weeks to begin to reclaim some sense of my own but it's coming back; I can feel it. Instead of worrying about everyone else in the universe, I get to spend a little bit of time concentrating on this little patch of ground around me: my home, my "garden."
In Candide, Voltaire's characters, having come to the recognition (through horrific experience) that this is not indeed the "best of all possible worlds," decide that what they must do is the one thing they have control over: "We must cultivate our garden." It's a short-sighted world view, I guess, but for a lazy summer day it is just what I need sometimes. My garden was wilting; it was overstuffed with grades and deadlines and room-packing and politics and so many kinds of insanity that I think the flowers were simply choking from want of air. There are still plenty of things to be done and there is still plenty of world to worry about, but the deck is comfortable and there is a nice breeze, and maybe a hummingbird will visit the feeder.
My mental garden needs to be tended; I'm going to lie here and help it to bloom.
Monday, June 9, 2008
intuition: why obama will win in a landslide
“I feel there are two people inside me - me and my intuition. If I go against her, she'll screw me every time, and if I follow her, we get along quite nicely.” --Kim BasingerI have always been a huge devotee of the value of intuition. All of my life I have had a powerful inner voice, a strong and focused something within me helping me to understand and react to my world. I have--almost always--respected it. On those occasions when I have failed to listen, I usually have found myself wishing that I had.
Intuition is, I think, at times simply a wonderful moment of clarity when we sense something beyond that which is possible in any physical way to sense. Sometimes, my intuition has worked that way. More often, though, I think intuition is simply the ability that many of us possess to look at the realities around us with clear and unambiguous eyes and see what is happening, and then to make the kind of creative leaps that unfettered imaginations make when confronted by blank canvasses.
It's this kind of intuition that makes me know that Barack Obama's victory in November will not be close, no matter what the pundits say. It will be a landslide.
The first kind of intuition is a rare one. Call it clairvoyance, but I don't know if I truly believe in that, and in any case it's only occurred a few times in my life and has never been something I control; it is a thing unto itself. And it has, on occasion, not been entirely accurate, so clairvoyant would be a difficult word to apply.
In May 1985, expecting my first child, I had a run of incredible intuitive power. A radio station was giving away what then were the just-released new Apple Macintoshes. Call in if your name is called and win. I sent in my post card and I knew they would call me. They did...but I was (sadly) not listening at the time. A second wave of intuition hit me: they would call again! They did, and I got the computer. That summer, so convinced was I that the child would be a girl that we never chose a boy's name; it was a girl.
These are small things, I know. But I think they are the first kind of intuition: the purer kind, the kind that some could call chance or serendipity and, hey, who could argue with them?
Regarding this election, though, I am talking about a very different kind of intuition. It is the kind that comes from clear observation. This intuition too kicks in, as I say, randomly. I do not get these absolute convictions all that often. In the late 80's I was in Seattle and had some coffee at a tiny kiosk. I had never had anything so great. I told myself that when this company went public I wanted in; it was going to be huge. There was no doubt in my mind that it would happen. Of course Starbucks did, but alas I had no money to invest, so I am still in debt up to my ears.
I have been a strong supporter of Senator Obama since he began his US Senate run here in Illinois in the winter of '03/'04. In a crowd of political hacks and wannabe's, he was something clearly different. He stood out for his honesty, for his message, for his clarity of vision, and for, among other things, the simple fact that he refused to talk down to the voters. Back then I was unsure he had a chance: he was a "skinny black guy with a funny name" fighting against a whole lot of more connected and better financed candidates (including a millionaire or two trying to buy their way into office). But there were a couple of scandals to eliminate a couple of the better known names, and suddenly he was more viable. And when he won the primary, it was not a great shock: he had earned it.
After Kerry's "defeat" by Diebold, it seemed a foregone conclusion to everyone that Senator Clinton would be the next Democratic candidate. But I was watching the skinny kid with the funny name. I note in recent "historical" diaries that I was not alone: Kos on DailyKos apparently had an eye on him too: evidence that this kind of "intuition" is the product of observation and imagination.
I began telling all of my friends in mid-2005 that the next President of the United States would be Barack Obama. The pundits, as Jon Stewart made abundantly clear on the day after Obama clinched the nomination, were saying something rather different. See this blog by kos as DailyKos to witness the fun.)
My friends thought I was nuts. Though there was always speculation that he might run, absolutely nothing pointed at the time to an '08 run by the freshman Senator. But he was hungry; that was clear. And he was smart; that was clear. And his ideas and enthusiasm and honesty and, quite simply, his freshness, would make him a very appealing candidate. I knew this, and (obviously) so did he. So I kept telling them he would win: Hillary, I said, would suffer the problem of the oversell: she is too familiar, she is too much associated with the past, she is too disliked by the GOP and even by some Democrats. Though she could be a potentially strong President, no one would ever allow her the chance to be. A new voice in the mix, a strong, idealistic new voice, would energize the base and would be exactly what this moment in time needs.
And Obama is smart enough, I said, to know one other fact: Senators historically don't win the White House. The longer he stays there, the more of an Insider he becomes. He will no longer be able to run, as he can right now, as someone who is out to change Washington. He will be too much a part of Washington.
So, I said, he'll run. And he'll win. When I saw his 50-state strategy, an extension of Dean's brilliant Democratic strategy that was at least as responsible for regaining control of the congress as anything Rahm Emmanuel did (though somehow Emmanuel managed to get all the credit), and I saw how he was using the internet, there was no doubt in my mind.
"Intuition comes very close to clairvoyance; it appears to be the extrasensory perception of reality --Alexis Carrell
Which brings us to now: why will he win in a landslide when all of the pundits keep telling us how tight this is?
Look at the trendlines. Not just now, in the polls, though the latest ones, and every new one every single day, continue to be pro-Obama. I'm talking about trendlines over a much longer period of time. We have an economy that is so deeply in the mire that you couldn't drag it out with a fleet of haulers, and even the staunchest Bushies have begun to worry out loud about it. We have an ongoing war that is costing America trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, a war that is nose-diving in support and threatens to rival Viet Nam in more than merely the waste and ineptitude, but the anger of the masses as well. We have an Administration that lies and obfuscates so readily that they cannot even see anymore that they are doing it, and how transparent their lies have become. We have congressmen openly talking about impeachment and novelists advocating for murder trials and generals accusing the President of war crimes. A President who once boasted of the highest approval rating in history now possesses the lowest one, and he has managed to drag international respect for America from its highest point to its lowest as well.
Look at the trendlines.
This is not the time for any Republican, let alone one who cannot seem to make up his mind whether he is or is not Bush III, to be elected President. But then examine Senator McCain, whose popularity peaked, apparently, eight years ago. In 2000, heck, I might have considered voting for the guy. In 2000, he was what he still claims to be: a true maverick. Since then, he has sold his soul. I don't need to sit here and list all of the ways he has done that; this diary is getting long already and we all know the many ways Senator McCain has pandered to the right wing in order to secure this nomination.
(BTW: his nomination itself was another example of my crazy random intuition. During a debate before Iowa, listening to the GOP idiots beating up on each other, I started wondering which of them could actually manage to win this thing and oppose Obama. I knew it couldn't be Giuliani with his stupid Florida strategy. Huckabee played well in the Bible Belt but even the GOP is more than the Bible Belt. Romney is too slick and too smarmy even for the GOP. And I started looking at how they were beating each other up and who was eliminating whom and I suddenly realized: no one was hitting McCain! They were just letting him play the statesman! His campaign had been deemed dead for so long that they had utterly forgotten about him. It was at that point that I knew he was going to win, and I have to say it shocked me to realize it. I told my husband, and he agreed with my reasoning, which was nice: he never agreed with me about Obama beating Clinton.)
McCain continues to make foolish mistake after foolish mistake, and I am reminded of Bush at this stage of the 2000 campaign. If you will recall, he sounded like a complete idiot at times as well. But there is a difference: Bush was a neophyte in the national and international spotlight. He had a long learning curve, and--though we often deride him as being stupid--he did at least know enough to know that he needed to learn a thing or two and listen to those folks who could teach him. Senator McCain, who never seems to be able to open his mouth without saying something that is either completely false, completely ridiculous, or completely contradictory to something he said a year ago, a month ago, or yesterday, is no neophyte. He does not learn. (Note that he repeated his "Al Qaeda in Iran" error only moments after Leiberman corrected him.) And something in his formerly maverick nature still exists: the part that makes him go his own way and do and say his own thing, which, given his decreasing ability to keep his thoughts straight, is a recipe for disaster.
I have no doubt that Senator McCain will have some excellent moments between now and November, but I cannot see him cutting into Senator Obama's base. Nor can I see him slowing Obama's momentum as the Illinoisan edges deeper and deeper into what has recently been "safe" GOP territory. So do not worry when you see Obama spending time and money in states he "cannot" win. I am not certain that there are any states he cannot win. (Yep, that includes Arizona.) And even if he loses a bunch of them, his presence will aid down-ticket candidates.
I take all of these early polls for what they are: early polls. They could say Obama by 25 or McCain by 25, and I'd say the same thing: it's June. Remember what the polls and pundits said about how hard it would be to unite the Democrats a scant two weeks ago? Uh huh. It's June. Nothing means anything. But...
Put this in the bank: Barack Obama will be our next President. And it is not even going to be close.
“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” --Albert Einstein
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
this time i know why i'm crying
This morning, on my way to work, listening to radio excerpts (again) of Senator Obama's victory speech, the Speech Heard Round the World, and thinking of how far all of this has come as the news folks talked about it, the tears came again. (And, as before, I am not being metaphorical here.) I felt, as Michelle Obama said months ago, "proud to be an American," perhaps moreso than I have ever been in my life. I felt, as she did, proud to be a part of a country that could put its history of racial divide behind it and, despite an occasionally rancorous campaign, nominate an African-American (and for that matter one for whom that appellation actually means something very literal) for President.
And after the last seven years of lies and deceit and evil in our nation's capital, I listened to the beautiful words of hope coming from this nam...and the tears came.
All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren’t the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn’t do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – we cannot afford to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say – let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America
This is the culmination of a year and a half of brilliant campaigning. I am willing to bet that, in the future, pilitical science students will study Barack Obama's 2008 campaign vs. Hillary Clinton as one of the most perfectly devised of all time. How anyone--especially the Senator from New York or the Senator from Arizona who, presented with a gift of a bunch of knuckleheads to run against in the first place and then in the second place months of bitter infighting within the opposition practically designed so that he could gift-wrap himself as an elder statesman--could claim this guy is too raw to succeed is surely a sign of their own inability to grasp reality.
But it is the beginning of a new battle, one that goes on not only for the next several months against Senator McCain but for the next several years: the battle to undo all of the damage that Buch/Cheney have done to the United States of America within our own borders and in the eyes of the world community.
On WXRT Chicago this morning (home of "the best political team in rock radio"), Mike Flannery of CBS Chicago News, sleepy after a long night in St. Paul, spoke of sitting next to a Brazilian reporter last night during Obama's speech. The Brazilian woman told him of a friend of hers--back home--a woman who was so taken by Senator Obama and what he stand for that she had plastered pictures and articles about him all over her room. In Sao Paulo! Look at the incredible array of international headline posted on Huffington's front page (while they are still there), a mere sampling of what is out there. What we fail to appreciate sometimes is the sheer magnitude of this race: this is not merely about the United States Presidency (and I use the word "merely" advisedly). It is about nothing less than the revival of faith and hope in the entire world. Despite Bush/Cheney, the world still believes in what this country has always stood for. The world wants us back again.
In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.
It is indeed time for this country to become great again. The world wnats it and we all want it. Somewhere deep inside, even those 27% of us who, for some reason only they can come close to explaining, believe that Bush/Cheney are doing a good job probably want it. And when they see an America once again respected by the world instead of reviled, when they witness what might have been after 9/11 when almost the entire community of world nations was behind us and our leaders thumbed their collective noses at it and tossed its support aside, they will know then that they wanted it all along.
It will be a fight. It will be a battle. We will not, of course, get everything we want, nor will we get anything easily. There are entrenched powers that do not wish to be unseated so easily. But this battle has been waged before, as Barack Obama intoned, and under much more severe circumstances.
So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.
So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.
So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom’s cause.
So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that’s better, and kinder, and more just.
And so it must be for us.
So I was driving to school this morning to grade my exams and pack my boxes so my classroom can be moved over the summer and I found myself crying. But unlike the tears of two weeks ago, these were not inexplicable tears, tears I would have to spend hours wondering about, poring over, analyzing in order to understand. No, these were much, much simpler.
These were tears of joy.
America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.
The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
visiting dickens: PRISON SHIPS?
We have bloody prison ships? Prison ships?
Actually, the truth--the very, very sad truth, is this: I am not at all surprised.
Nothing that W and his Constitution-shredding cronies could do or conceive of doing would surprise me. This is a man whose Presidency began with a concerted vote-stealing effort orchestrated by his brother and ratified by the allegedly apolitical Supreme Court.
It is a man who coldly and callously used bigotry and hate in a successful tactic to mobilize Christian Right voters after the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision authorizing gay marriage in 2004. BTW: Have you noticed how the institution of marriage in that state has completely broken down?
It is a man who, halfway through his first term of office, bought the 2004 electoral votes of the state of Ohio through his connections to Diebold Corporation, whose CEO pledged to do whatever it took to get him re-elected and then managed to get his paperless machines installed in key precincts throughout a key state.
It is a man who, having utterly wasted his first nine months in office (most people seem to forget that he had already been consigned to the historical scrap-heap by pundits after his--what? five hundred or so?--excessive vacations that year), ignored the direct warnings of his intelligence community that (what was that memo called again, Secretary Rice?) Osama Bin Laden was planning to attack inside the US and then, after he did so, managed to squander worldwide sympathy for our country in an amazingly short period of time.
It is a man whose response to such a catastrophe as 9/11 was to become emboldened to break down Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and international accords.
It is a man whose appointees to important positions have been almost uniformly incompetent or just plain bad, starting with his string of "Bush first, country and law a distant second" Attorney General appointees. (And the image of Ashcroft covering up that pornographic Lady Liberty remains one of the distilling images of the Bush years in my mind.)
It is a man whose first actions in office were to allow his Vice-President to hold secret meetings with oil executives to set energy policies, policies that have worked so well for America that gas prices have tripled at the pump since he took office while oil company profits have soared.
It is a man who has ordered his cronies to ignore direct subpoenaes from Congress.
It is a man...
Oh I'm making myself ill.
G. W. Bush is a man guilty of criminal activity, large and small, national and international, from staging two non-violent coups to take over and retain the Presidency of the US to the absolutely impeachable offenses that led us into Iraq, which had done nothing to us, while ignoring the enemy who bombed our country.
No, I am not surprised at prison ships. I would not be surprised if he had secret prisons on the moon, built and maintained by Haliburton.
I am all in favor of trying to reconcile the political enmity that has permeated American culture for the last two decades, but I pray that President Obama finds a way to bring this treasonous and vulgar man and all of his cronies to justice for what they have done to our country and to the world for the last eight years.
Sorry. Next time I won't hold back so much. :-)
Monday, May 26, 2008
I did not really "know" anyone who went to Viet Nam, but I had met several. My grandmother had remarried and had a second family, the result of which was that I had an uncle, Carl, who was only a few years older than I. Carl was a musician, a really cool guy who used to let me hang out to listen to his band practice in my grandmother's basement. They were an incredibly talented group of kids, working class all, and ready to take on the world. I remember so many joyful days in that dank space listening to them play, sipping a Coke and convinced that I was hearing the next Beatles.
And I remember most vividly a day--it must have been in 1971 or 1972, when Carl would have turned 18--when I sat in my grandmother's house with those talented musicians and some of Carl's other friends as they watched the draft lottery.
I was fifteen. Had I been draftable, I know I would have moved to Canada: this war, like Iraq, was unconscionable. Carl was of the same opinion, but I could see the tension in his eyes and everywhere else as they began the drawing. It was so hard to watch: a young man's life at stake with a random sequence of balls drawn like a carnival game. The relief on his face, the incredible release in his entire body, when his birthday was somewhere in the 300's--meaning he would not be called--stays with me to this day. But even more vivid in my memory is the soul-wrenching cry from the living room, a few minutes later as I went to get a coke, of one of his bandmates whose birthday was pulled into the first twenty numbers. It is not a sound one easily forgets: the agony of someone's entire future being violently torn apart, ripped not at the seams but irreparably sundered, shredded, riven at its very core.
He knew he would have to go. He knew, he said, as someone consoled him, that he would never come back.
That young man did not ever come back from Viet Nam. His name is among the 58195 names engraved on the Wall in Washington, DC. When I made my first visit to the Wall, years ago, I felt a sadness well up in me that I could not fathom, having never fought in a war or even lost someone I knew in one. I actually felt out of place there among the artifacts of love and memory--the photographs, the flowers, the teddy bears, the letters, etc, that were left at the base of the granite slab bearing the only physical connection that remained to a husband, a son, a father, a brother. Their sadness became mine, and I began to understand the magnitude of what it means to sacrifice a life for a country, even in a war you do not believe in.
It is not only about the soldiers. It is about the dreams of young men and women and their families, dreams that have been lost to the lunacy of war, the ugliest of human activities. Men and women have fought for what they have believed in or for what they have simply been told was right, and they have paid with their blood. The people they have left behind, too, have lost everything: this is a day to remember them as well, to hold them in our thoughts and prayers.
Some day, some future generation of whatever has evolved from humanity might look back on these millennia of death and devastation as the obscene blight on the world that it so clearly is: a species so bent on its own self-destruction that it justifies genocide by invoking a God it otherwise pretends is loving? A species so bent on its own annihilation that it sacrifices its young repeatedly and indiscriminately, even inventing reasons to fight wars when none exist? Some day that post-evolutionary humanity will wonder how it ever managed to survive at all.
Today, though, we have to keep in mind the power of the sacrifices that these young people make every day. The fact that we may hate this war, may even hate the very idea of war, is utterly immaterial. Archibald MacLeish, just after returning from WWII, a war most agree was justified and important, nonetheless wrote a poem that reminded us what a horrible, horrible sacrifice it is:
The Young Dead Soldiers....
The young dead soldiers do not speak. Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses.....who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say.....We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say.....We have done what we could. But until it is finished, it is not done.
They say.....We have given our lives. But until it is finished, no one can tell what our lives gave.
They say.....Our deaths are not ours. They are yours. They will mean what you make them.
They say..... Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope, or for nothing, we cannot say. It is you that must say this.
They say.....We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning. Give them an end to the war and a true peace. Give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.
Indeed, on this Memorial Day, remember them. And remember their families and their loved ones and all who have ever known them. My Uncle Carl, never a soldier himself, may well have had his own life altered that day in my grandmother's living room in ways he could not foresee. When his friends (three of them were drafted) went to war, his life was never the same. When one of his bandmates died, something within him died as well. I don't know how much of Carl's unfulfilled life was due to that loss, but he became a drifter and an alcoholic and, though always an amazingly talented musician, never able to make it work. He died five years ago of alcohol-related liver damage, not even fifty years old.
No one will ever list him as a war victim, and they should not: he did it to himself. But the tentacles of war reach wider than we ever imagine and ensnare us all. On this Memorial Day, remember that, too.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
why am i crying?
As I watched Keith, I found myself having an odd and overwhelming reaction. The longer he spoke, the more powerful it got, until I could no longer control it. By the time he stopped, by the time he uttered "Good night and good luck" in such a way that you could tell there was nothing at all good he could find in either, I had completely given in to the tears that were falling down my face.
Since I am from Illinois, I have been an Obama supporter probably for longer than many here had even heard of him. Not being from his district, I was unaware of him while he was merely another state senator, but as soon as he announced his bid for the US Senate, he began to interest me. He stood out, this self defined "skinny guy with the funny name," in a field that consisted mostly of the usual political hacks and millionaires trying to buy a seat.
Obama seemed different. He seemed real. I celebrated the night he won the primary, and when he gave The Speech at the 2004 Convention, I knew I was looking at the next Democratic President (after President Kerry, of course). I assumed that would be 2012. Circumstances changed when Kerry lost (or, if you please, when the chairman of Diebold fulfilled his pledge to do everything possible to re-elect Bush).
I started telling people it would be this year some time in '05. I've been a strong supporter ever since. I say all that because I want you to know that I was not crying out of misplaced love for Clinton or her failed candidacy. I have been in Obama's corner since well before he decided to make this run. But something nonetheless caused the tears to well in my eyes. Something that has been searing behind them for months, some quiet pain, finally burned free and opened wide the gates to let emotion out. Something inside that has been holding on finally broke tonight.
Honestly, I wanted to like Hillary Clinton. I really did. I liked her enough when Bill was President. I defended both of them time and again from my right wing brothers and friends. I laid into anyone who played the Lady Macbeth card or use the B-word when describing her: Can't a woman be strong without being defined in the negative? I'd ask. Can't she have the same strengths that would earn her honor if she were a man? But this campaign has brought out the worst in both Hillary and Bill; if it has not utterly destroyed their legacy, it has left such gaping holes in it that I'm not even sure what remains.
Maybe that's why I'm crying: the tragic fall of someone who might have been great. It's classic, right? And I am an English teacher; I should be appreciative of the richness of hubris and the additional Clintonian tragic flaw: their pathological fear of the truth. And the possibilities that Hillary engendered, the ideal of the First Woman President, her very real and very needed passionate support for universal health care, all slip away with her as she sinks into a quagmire of her own creation. A perfect tragic ending. Cue these tears.
But now I'm being cynical. Now I'm dissecting it and I don't believe it anymore. Maybe it has nothing at all to do with Hillary. Maybe it has everything to do with the legions of people, like my mother, who believe--or believed--in her. When this race began, I said we had two outstanding candidates. Gradually, I changed that opinion into the idea that we had one great candidate and one who, though she clearly was capable of some political ugliness, nonetheless was worthy of support in the fall. Tonight...
Tonight, I know that, were Hillary somehow to become our nominee, I would have to walk into the voting booth, hold my nose, and repeat the mantra "Justice Stevens is 88 years old" in order to vote for her.
Don't the people who have believed in her deserve better than this? Doesn't my mother deserve the candidate she thought she had, the one who cared about something other than herself? I don't blame her or these people for failing to see Hillary as she is: it is very difficult to let go of a well-crafted illusion, and Hillary has honed and reinforced this image so perfectly that it is easy to imagine supporters desperate to believe in her allowing themselves to be continually deluded. But damn it; these people have given their hearts, their souls, their time, and their money to her. They deserve so much more than the hideously ugly campaign she has run, so much more than the self-serving succubus she has revealed herself to be.
I think the day the tears began to well was the day Keith gave his first "Special Comment" on Hillary. Maybe you remember? It was after the detestable Geraldine Ferraro incident, when Hillary did not denounce the remarks. That and other things she had been doing caused him a lot of concern about the direction of her campaign (concern that has since been more than justified). What I recall most from that Comment was the incredible and honest pain on Keith's face as he denounced a leader he obviously respected. It seemed to hurt him physically. And every time anything ugly has happened since then, it seems to be another twist of the knife embedded in his soul.
I watched Keith tonight and I knew that all of his former respect for her had gone. And I knew also that the Hillary Clinton I too thought I could respect was a figment of my imagination. This is a woman who has come closer than any other woman has ever come to being nominated for President, someone who has done good for her country in a long public life. This is a woman who has earned the heartfelt respect and love of her only daughter, a bright woman in her own account, and has been twice elected to the US Senate. But this is a woman also who has fallen victim to her own painfully obvious delusions of inevitability, and whose ugly underbelly seeped through when that inevitability proved false.
You can respond to her now inevitable exit from the campaign with glee, with expletives, with vitriol, with the kind of exaggerated rancor we usually see associated with the worst atrocities of Bush and Cheney...but I cannot join you. All I feel right now is an overwhelming sadness. A powerful and important woman has fallen, sunk by her own overarching greed. A leader in the Democratic Party has failed us and herself, and she has taken with her the memory of the only two-term Democratic Presidency of the last half of the 20th Century. Yet another Democrat has learned to act like a Republican, begging the question of whether the GOP may well simply rise again from the ranks of its foes. And this country, which has seen so much darkness lately and so much darkness in its history, has to endure a stark and politically motivated reminder of one of the ugliest examples of that darkness.
I watched Keith tonight and I cried. We all should be crying.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
First, for those who might be worried about the (inevitable) backlash from the right, here is something from Billy Idol.
Hey California, what have you done?
Hey California, have you jumped the gun?
With Massachusetts we saw ill response
With Massachusetts Bush played politics
Hey California, watch out
Is it time yet for a gay wedding?
Is it time yet to find the dream?
Hey California, why you in a rush?
Hey California, what about backlash?
Sixty percent were leaning anyway
Soon it would come without your judgment day
Hey, California, look out!
Is it time yet for a gay wedding?
Are we too quick to force the dream?
There is nothing fair in this land
And the DOMA's there in this land
And the bigots don't understand
So why risk it all being banned
By overplaying your hand?
Is it time yet for a gay wedding?
It it time yet to reach the dream?
Is it time yet to grab the dream?
Is it time yet to build the dream?
Is it time yet to live the dream?
Of course, you might really like that particular song but not fear the backlash at all. For you, I offer this version:
Hey little sister time to come out
Hey little sister no more hiding out
Hey little sister who's the lucky one?
Hey little sister who's the one you want?
Hey little sister time now
It's a nice day for a gay wedding.
It's a nice day to find your dream.
Hey little brother do they laugh at you?
Hey little brother what's the worse they do?
Hey little brother time now live the dream
Hey little brother who's the guy for you?
Hey little brother time now
It's a nice day for a gay wedding
It's a nice day to find your dream.
There is nothin' fair in this land
But you take your love by his hand
And together freely you stand
To proclaim the rights you demand
And to force them to understand...
Find the dream!
It's a nice day for a gay wedding
It's a nice day to find your dream
It's a nice day to build your dream
It's a nice day to live your dream
And for those who are Percy Sledge fans (and who isn't?), we have a sweet little thing to the tune of When a Man Loves a Woman:
When a man's found his true love
Doesn't matter what the sex
He'll trade the world
For the good thing he's found
If she's a woman he will love her
And society will smile
Believing that's the way things
should go down
But if his love should be his gender
Everybody turns away
Though he's only living what he feels
They want him in the closet
Want them both to go away
They can't believe this love is real
Well, this man loves his boyfriend
He wants to hold him in his arms
He wants to buy a ring and say his vows
He wants to keep him safe from harm
It's damn time to believe it
Time to make the bigots see
All we want is just equality
It's not hurting your marriage
Adding ours into the rolls
Loving hearts in jubilee
When a man loves a man he
Wants to dedicate his life
Commit 'til death do make them part
Yes when a man loves a man he
Only wants to prove his love
Only wants to offer him his heart.
And one final little gift, with love, from Ah-nuld:
MARIA: They say it's time but I don't know,
My husband won't be happy, that's fo' sho'
ARNOLD: I said da cohhts would have deir say
And I would never stand here in da way
Gays are due, Babe
Gays are due, Babe
MARIA: They wonder why I married him,
And wonder if our bed is in the gym
ARNOLD: My wife was born a Kennedy
Doze girlie men can't measure up to me
MARIA: He's my man; I'll believe
Though there are times he makes me heave
ARNOLD: If there's a fight, I'll attack
And if it is gay, I will be back....
MARIA: So, trust the court; let it decide
You said you would; your conscience is your guide
ARNOLD: I never thought they'd find that way
Who knew they'd let you marry if you're gay?
Gays are due de cohhts declayud
Homophobes are running scared
Gays are due it's license time
Gays are due this is sublime!
No path to the White House now
You can't get there anyhow
I could go act in films galore
You call that acting? Now I'm bored!
Gays are due, Babe.
Gays are due, Babe.
Gays are due, Babe.
Gays Are Due, Babe.
(Hasta la vista, Cahleefohnya!)
Saturday, May 17, 2008
lessons from this morning; reaction to Kennedy
Saturday, 2 PM
Senator Kennedy's condition, which appeared from early indications to be doubtful, seems much more promising as of several hours later. Reports that he himself made a phone call canceling a luncheon event are encouraging as is the report that he suffered "seizures" that may or may not have actually been stroke-related. Clearly, whatever the events of this morning were, they do not at this moment appear to be life-threatening.
It is in this more positive moment that I wish to reflect on an aspect of this morning that truly saddened me even as my heart was warmed by news that suggested recovery. I was heartened by the response of even some of the conservative media, as people like Pat Buchanan spent time praising the Senator for his decades of service to this country. Unfortunately, this positive aspect was more than overbalanced by the outpouring of hatred on the part of the FReepers who, on their own website, expelled such atrocious levels of bile into cyberspace that their own moderators had to shut down and expunge entire threads.
What makes people act this way?
I noticed this trend immediately this morning when a link to the initial "breaking news" was posted on DK to the Cape Cod Times. The commentary in "Reader Reactions" began with someone who offered that it was time for people to plan excursions to defecate on the Senator's grave, and grew more disgusting from there. The comments have now been removed.
On another site, Bare Naked Pundits, a FReeper who goes by the highly appropriate nom de plume "Philo T. Phlegm" launched into an attack on Senator Kennedy last week, apropos of absolutely nothing. In his hate-filled diary, he repeated an accusation that I have since discovered is a typical one among such people, that Kennedy killed Mary Jo Kopechne intentionally:
Teddy is a man whose idea of quality post coitus is grabbing his partner by the hair and holding her head under water until she expires.
I could quote more extensively from this jackass's post, but I do not wish to be responsible for making some of you ill. What possesses people like this to hang out on liberal websites is beyond me. I, of course, excoriated him for his libelous post, and was joined by several others. But this kind of obscene, malign language goes beyond mere politics, I think. It borders of something sociopathic. And it is not, I am afraid, limited to FReepers.
A Unitarian on Democratic Underground this morning noted that liberals acted in much the same way when Jerry Falwell died. I have not been hanging around on the blogs long enough to know, my husband has and he verifies the remark, at least as far as DU is concerned. My own reaction when he died was sort of a null set: I had no emotions for the man, and that was sadness enough. He was a man who made a living spouting hatred and evil. I'd have been lying if I said I was not glad that he would no longer be doing that, but I am loath to be happy at anyone's death. Even Strom Thurmond, a man who, like Kennedy, stood firmly for everything the other side detested (and who, like Kennedy, had a few skeletons in his closet, even if none had led directly to anyone's death), deserved some amount of respect and dignity at the time of his death.
You can hate the man and everything he stands for, and you can say so, even in a passionate way, without being insulting, disgusting, and bilious, and without stooping to the lowest of locker room epithets. And when a man has died, when there is pain and sadness all around, when those who knew him are suffering, that is not the time to act like yahoos and throw steaming piles of dung at the corpse.
It appears that Senator Kennedy will make a full recovery, and for that I and a large part of the United States will be very grateful. Those who are not, those who actually--and this is so hard to digest--would wish a man dead (and those who might have felt that way about Falwell): it might really be time to examine yourselves and ask, truly, who the heck you are. What has happened to you that has stripped you so of your own humanity? What has made you so hateful? Where is your soul?
And if you believe in God, you might begin to wonder also what He would think of all of this. Somehow, given what I've heard from believers about Him or Her, I don't really think He or She would be happy.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Many people claim to have had good luck come their way. Some truly have. There are some who have won lotteries, some who have gained fame and world-renown, some whose words influence countless millions. There are some who, being in the right place at the right time, narrowly escaped some fate that could have ended their lives. Others have been very fortunate in their choice of friends, careers, or even roommates, finding connections that later redouble to their benefit.
My good fortune did not come in these packages. I did nothing to deserve it, made no move to bring it about, and had, in fact, absolutely nothing at all to do with its existence. It was there from the earliest instants of my life, though for many, many years I did not truly recognize it as the amazing boon that it was. My good fortune has been that I have known a saint. Not, perhaps, a canonizable saint––I have no knowledge of any miracles she has brought about––but a saint nonetheless. This is what I have called her for years: my mother, Saint Marilyn.
As a child, my mother's presence ranged from Giver of Needed Comfort to Sheer and Utter Annoyance; in other words, she was pretty much what any mother is to any child. And as the oldest of six, not to mention as one possessed of several emotional issues I did not feel like sharing, I simply slipped away on my own very quickly, so I did not take the time to notice her as I should have.
I did not, for example, recognize the fact that this mother of six was willing, more than once, to take in cousins and friends whose parents were having difficult times, kids who sometimes lived with us for months. I did not know that a young cousin coming into our home was deeply troubled, but that my mother took him in anyway. I could not see the strength she gave to our family as my father grew more and more involved in his own (quite literal) affairs, indiscretions of which my mother was unaware. I did not see the internal struggle and pain she felt when I and other siblings grew apart from the Catholic Church she loved, and how difficult it must have been for her to let us find our own ways.
One thing I did see, though I did not truly comprehend it until facing a similar moment with my own child decades later, was the way tears filled her eyes every time she said goodbye to me at an airport so I could head out to another semester at college. Even then, though, I missed the stark pain of knowing she would likely face arguments with her husband about their declining marriage during the long drive home.
After her divorce, my mother, who had spent most of my life as a maternity nurse, found herself a victim of the economy. Her hospital cut from the top to save money, and she was among the highest salaried employees, so she was suddenly unemployed. This did not last long, but something had shifted in her, and it resulted in dramatic life changes. Together with a friend, she bought an old farmhouse and converted it into a Christian hospice, taking in end-of-life patients and easing their passage. Among her first patients was one of my cousins, an AIDS victim from his youthful drug-abuse days, now a hard-working carpet-layer, who held on long enough to die in his own home.
When the funds ran out and the farm was no longer sustainable, they reluctantly sold it and my mother left her work at the hospital and went to work as a hospice nurse, where she has remained ever since. Having started her career bringing babies into the world, she has finished it helping the dying to leave it peacefully. It takes a special woman to handle all of this with the dignity and love that she has always exhibited.
Somewhere in there, my own emotional issues bled out, and my meltdown was a source of much panic and angst in our family. My mother was the one left to keep everything and everyone together, and her patience and love sustained me through the darkest times. But even more, her calm acceptance and understanding of difficult realities set the stage for others to accept and understand as well, and (once again) her difficult--and I am sure painful--insistence that everyone must find his or her own way allowed us all to grow together again.
I am sure that there are other mothers whose love and lives rival this. I am sure I am not the only daughter who sees her mother as someone to emulate, someone she wishes desperately she could be like. I am sure there are mothers whose struggles on behalf of their children and others are far greater than those of my mother. But I have not know them. I have had the privilege of knowing, loving, and being loved by Saint Marilyn. And on this Mother's Day, that is the most wonderful thing in the world.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
courting jenna bush
So Jenna Bush said on Larry King that she might not vote for John McCain. And you're thinking: so what? After seven years of basically making fun of the Bush girls for their teenage rebellious antics, their drinking, their partying, and their frenetic attempts to emulate Daddy-as-he-was rather than Daddy-as-he-is, why should we even care what Jenna Bush does or does not do?
And the answer is, of course, that we shouldn't. She's just one person. One Republican person. One very young, not particularly important or influential Republican person.
She is also the daughter of the sitting GOP President, and she says she could consider voting against his GOP successor. Another GOP Presidential daughter, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, endorsed Barack Obama this week. What if anything does any of this mean?
But like so many of her generation, Jenna Bush, the daughter of the President, does not seem to feel the need to perpetuate his policies. If she did, she would obviously support McCain, since he is on record as willing to continue most of them. And perhaps she will end up doing so. Clearly, though, she is hesitant.
I wish I could have been there when Laura and Jenna got home from the King show...
LAURA (entering): Is it too much to ask that you support him? That's all I'm saying.
JENNA (right behind her): As if Dad needs my support. He already has, like, 25% of the country behind him.
LAURA: You and your sister have had pretty darned good lives, young lady, and it's mostly been due to your father. I think you owe him.
JENNA: Right, Mom. I owe him. He's paying for the wedding. And I didn't say I wouldn't vote for McCain anyway. I said I've been too busy to think about politics.
LAURA: And I suppose you expect everyone to believe that.
JENNA: Why not? They believed Dad when he said he was a compassionate conservative.
LAURA: What's that supposed to mean?
JENNA: Let's just say I've seen him when the cameras aren't running. He's not so compassionate. And I don't think he's ever conserved a thing in his whole life.
LAURA: How dare you say things like that? After I just got through telling Larry King how upsetting it is to have those Democrats criticizing him, his own daughter---
GEORGE (entering): What about my daughter? Oh, there she is. Daddy's little girl. Heh heh heh.
JENNA: Not so little, Dad. (flashes ring) Getting married soon, remember?
GEORGE: I'll decide that. I'm the decider.
LAURA: It's a bit late, George.
GEORGE: I know. I'm joshing you. I'm the joshinator. So how was the King show? That little weasel do anything smarmy? Heh heh heh.
LAURA: Larry was a perfect gentleman as always, George. He just asked some questions and we talked about the election.
GEORGE: The election? He was politicating? I thought you wanted to talk about your book.
LAURA: Well, we just talked briefly about John McCain--
GEORGE: That old jackass. I have no idea how he ever got the nomination. But I guess we're stuck voting for him.
LAURA: Most of us are.
GEORGE: Whaddaya mean?
LAURA: Ask your daughter.
JENNA: Dad, I didn't say I wouldn't vote for him. I just--
GEORGE: You just didn't say you would.
GEORGE: Do you know how the bloggers will play that? Huffington and Kos will have a freaking field day. Drudge is going to go nuts. Jenna won't vote for Dad's Party. I can see it now. Not that I blame you. If the best we can come up with is McCain.
LAURA: George, John is not that bad.
GEORGE: He's an old fart and you know it. If he hadn't been tortured in Viet Nam he would never have had a chance. (a thought occurs to him) Hey, you don't think I'm setting up those Al Kaydas to be President someday, do you? By waterboarding them and all?
LAURA: No, George. I don't think so.
GEORGE: Good. Because I wouldn't want that. That wouldn't be good. It would be bad.
JENNA: May I go now, Dad?
GEORGE: Wait one minute, young lady. Who are you going to vote for? Please don't say Obama.
JENNA (hesitates): I refuse to answer on the grounds that you might waterboard me.
LAURA: Obama? Oh, for crying out loud, Jenna! I thought Hillary, at least. I mean we can beat her.
JENNA: I said I don't know yet! But Obama's message is appealing. I like the idea of hope and stuff.
GEORGE: I have hope. I have lots of hope. I hope that my approval rating doesn't end up in single digits. I hope that history shows I was right about Iraq. I hope that no one ever finds any evidence that we colluded with the oil companies on prices. Not that we did that. We didn't. But I hope they don't ever find evidence. I hope that Cheney stays healthy because he's the only reason they haven't impeached me. I hope I haven't totally blown Jeb's chances or he'll be so pissed!
JENNA: (shakes her head) I'm going upstairs. Good night, Dad. Good night, Mom. (leaves)
LAURA: She'll come to her senses, George. It's just youthful idealism. Remember how we were at her age?
GEORGE: Not really. I don't have a lot of memory of those years. I spent most of them wasted. (They laugh.) Laura?
LAURA: Yes, Dear?
GEORGE: Did I make a mistake in not replacing Dick? I know he protects me from the Democrat witch-hunters, but with him we ended up without a clear favorite and now we're stuck with McCain. I should have had him resign last year and replaced him with someone who shares my view on most things, someone in favor of the war but less arrogant than McCain. Someone who understands the Democratic party and could use their own rhetoric against them. Someone I could groom as a worthy successor.
GEORGE: Maybe it's not too late. I could still do it. McCain isn't actually nominated yet.
LAURA: Who are you talking about?
GEORGE (picks up phone): Hello? Get me Dick Cheney...I don't really care what time it is...no, I'll take responsibility if he has a heart attack...I'm the Responsibilitor...oh, and when you get him on the line, find me Joe Lieberman.
Maybe Jenna's generation--whether or not she comes around--will be the backbone of the Democratic Party for decades to come, as one diarist wrote earlier today. Maybe not. But I doubt they will vote lockstep with their parents, and that's at least something.
- The Wizard Of Oz
- The Princess Bride
- Annie Hall
- The Lord of the Rings
- All That Jazz
- Citizen Kane
- Love Actually
- Moulin Rouge
- Big Fish
- When Harry Met Sally
- Almost Famous
- Bull Durham
- Notting Hill
- Apocalypse Now (Redux)
All-Time Favorite TV Shows
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Gilmore Girls
- The West Wing
- The X-Files
- The Daily Show
- Ally McBeal
- Picket Fences
- All In The Family
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show
- Star Trek
- Northern Exposure
- Get Smart
- The Dick Van Dyke Show
- Twin Peaks
- The Larry Sanders Show
- St. Elsewhere
Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)
- Major Crimes
- American Horror Story
- The Newsroom
- Falling Skies
- Franklin and Bash
- Fairly Legal
- Don't Trust the B---
- The Middle
- Person of Interest
- Happy Endings
- Hart of Dixie
- Real Time with Bill Maher
- Raising Hope
- Drop Dead Diva
- Covert Affairs
- Rizzoli and Isles
- The Last Resort
- New Girl
- Once Upon a Time
- Downton Abbey
- Warehouse 13
- Modern Family
- Vampire Diaries
- The Daily Show
- How I Met Your Mother
- The Colbert Report
- Parks and Recreation
- Rachel Maddow Show