Thursday, November 4, 2010

in my america

There once was a time when I kept my politics close to the vest.

In the pre-Bush days, I described myself (especially in school) as an Independent and strove--each time I accidentally made a liberal argument in any discussion--to take on a devil's advocate counter argument as well. Most of my students in those days probably would have been hard pressed to know exactly which side I favored, and in fact I did vote for many GOP candidates, even for Governor--though I must say that I was always let down after the elections. I have never voted for a GOP presidential or senatorial candidate, though--not that I wouldn't if the right one ever came up, but the GOP simply never nominates anyone who is any good whatsoever. Even when the Dems nominate people who are absurd (think Dukakis), the GOP goes and nominates Bush, Sr, just so I won't feel bad voting for the liberal. (Not that Bush, Sr. was that bad, but honestly: who could really actively and enthusiastically support the guy?)

When W. stole the election (and nothing, any time, as long as I live, will ever convince me that Florida was anything other than a set-up in 2000, or that the Supreme Court had more than zero right to insert itself into a presidential race) and then systematically went about assuring that computerized guarantees were in place for his re-election (a thing I knew as soon as I read, some time in 2002, about Diebold getting no-bid contracts for election machines nationwide, but a thing W. nearly managed to blow anyway against yet another Dem absurdity because he was just that incompetent) and gaming the economy to benefit his Wall St. and Big Oil pals, not to mention driving us inexorably into an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation, I could no longer even pretend to be "fair and balanced." It was easy to see the fallacy of Fox's motto: there is NOTHING fair or balanced about giving even weight to a side that is simply WRONG. So I stopped trying and declared myself to be what I had evolved into being: an unabashed liberal.

Hell, I'm more than an unabashed liberal; I'm a fricking socialist. In case you couldn't tell from everything I write. And I am damned proud of it. In my humble opinion, social liberalism is the most noble political persuasion one can have. I believe in the cause of humanity. I believe that it is my job--and thus my government's job, as my representatives--to assure that every soul living in this country is cared for. This is not the Puritan ethic that America was founded upon back on Plymouth Rock but I have a whole lot of bones to pick with Puritans. (I have never forgiven them for that whole Witch Hunt thing, for starters.)  In my America, there are laws in place assuring that 100%--not merely 95%--of all citizens have health care. In my America, social welfare provides a meager but livable wage in exchange for working for the common good in jobs that the government may administrate but that private business creates and oversees. The incentive to find better, higher paying jobs remains, but these people are working, not simply on the public dole, and the government instead of paying them handouts kicks in with benefits like day care (providing yet more jobs) etc. 

In my America, by the way, the jobs that they are working on are part of a great initiative that has everyone in the country performing some kind of national service before going to college.  It might be military, but it does not need to be, and in fact it is not for most people.  Most people take advantage of the myriad job opportunities that are created by private industry (and, yes, subsidized by the government) that are helping to rebuild the country, to teach and care for the children of this great nation, to provide emergency relief to devastated areas of America, etc.  It's Americorps on steroids, and everyone becomes a part of it after high school, delaying the entry into the work force by a year or two and earning money that will help pay for college.

In my America, everyone can afford to go to college without leaving in debt for life.

In my America, the gap between executives and workers is more like what it was before ReaganBushCo altered the entire scheme in the last thirty years. A 10-1 differential makes some sense. A 208-1 differential is completely ridiculous. In my America, no one lives so far removed from real life that they simply "don't get it."

In my America, no one is allowed to work as a lobbyist in Washington if he or she has ever worked in government. And no one is allowed to work in government if he or she has ever worked as a lobbyist. And corporations are NOT people and have NO rights as if they were.

In my America, human rights are sacrosanct. The law of the land says that everyone is equal and that means everyone. Discrimination, hate crimes, and anything else that smacks of a violation of anyone's rights due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else, are punishable by stiff fines--and these fines grow stiffer with the ability of the offended to pay them, so that corporate offenders are punished far more strongly than individuals.

And the government does NOT go into the business of torture.


In my America, tax rates are reasonable and people understand them and pay them willingly--if grudgingly--because they know what they are getting for their dollars.  (They know this because each year the government, in its commitment to real transparency, publishes a comprehensive and clear listing of what tax dollars are spent on.)  And the wealthy pay considerably more than the poor, who pay very little, and the impoverished, who pay nothing at all. But it is fair: everyone understands in my America that hoarding money does not make one richer; it just makes the numbers on some computer screen higher. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have figured that out even in the Bizarro America we live in today.

In my America, every political ad is paid for by public funds and must satisfy an objective truth test: no longer is is enough for the candidate merely to "approve this message." Now the message itself is screened for content by a third party whose job is simply to fact-check it. (Thousands of jobs are created in this new media watchdog group, which is paid for by the parties themselves.) Any ad that airs must bear the stamp of the watchdog. Further, the watchdog is empowered by its charter to quantify the objective truth in newscasts and radio and television punditry, the result being even more jobs and far more responsible journalism, for even Fox News dislikes being labeled "Flagrantly Untrue" over and over again by what everyone agrees is an unbiased arbitrator.

In my America, presidential campaigns run for one year. By law. Presidents are elected to a single 8-year term with no re-election. Senators and Congressmen are elected to four year terms. There are no mid-term elections unless leaders are recalled, which by law they can be. Fewer elections equals less expense. It also equals more governing, since the leaders will be concentrating on their jobs instead of election campaigns.

In my America, the Supreme Court serves 20-year appointments, not life terms. 20 years is enough time, I think, for anyone to sit on the nation's highest court and affect the country's course.

In my America, there is no War on Drugs. Abuse of drugs is viewed not as a crime to be prosecuted but as a health problem to be handled with treatment. Most formerly illegal drugs are legally available with prescriptions (the worst of them only from treatment centers) and thus have been brought under the control of the government. Many of them have been carefully, slowly redesigned so that the users gradually have less craving and find themselves needing the drug less. The lesser drugs, like marijuana, have long since been made legal and are sold like tobacco over the counter with huge taxes attached, a new source of revenue for the Fed. The prisons of the nation stand half-empty.

In my America, there is no such entity as a for-profit prison.

In my America, the military continues its worldwide philanthropic missions to build peaceful connections between America and other nations by providing help where it is needed. But we stop wasting our money on unnecessary arms that might have been useful fighting the Soviets in an imaginary war back in the 80's. And we most definitely do not get ourselves involved in wars of choice in countries that have never done us any harm.

Sadly, my America lives only in my dreams.  I wake from them and I find myself firmly ensconced on Bizarro America, where corporations have been invested with personhood by a Supreme Court that long ago publicly declared its politic
al partisanship, where oil companies, Big Pharma and Wall Street pay for ads that elect government and then exact strong measures of control over legislation, where people are marginalized still because of skin color or sexual orientation, where candidates for US Congress can openly declare that they will deny a woman the right to an abortion even if she is raped by her father and still manage to get elected, where a large number of relatively uninformed people are manipulated by a media monsoon into voting against their core interests for people who will, if they are left unchecked, turn this country even more into an oligarchy, where those same people are encouraged to call their President Hitler and obliquely threaten him with assault rifles, and where the fight for equal rights for Orange Americans has left reality television and entered the world of the US House of Representatives.

I fought for Barack Obama in 2008 because he was the best hope to move Bizarro America in the direction of my America.  He still is.  We have moved incrementally in the right direction, though not at all as far as we need to or as far as I'd like.  I know that, unlike me, he is no liberal socialist, but that's OK: Bizarro America would never elect a liberal socialist.  I feel fortunate that we managed to elect a left of center moderate.  Obama is someone who bleeds purple, which he told us all in his 2004 Democratic Convention Speech.  Why then should it surprise any of us that his Highest Principle is compromise and bipartisanship?  Why should it shock us that he has and does fight for it again and again like Charlie Brown against a tidal wave of Lucy Van Pelts pulling their Republican footballs out from under him?  It is who he is.  And do you know what?  It is why I like him.

You'll argue that it is the very definition of insanity to expect a different result from the same action, but I don't think so in this case.  Here the variable is not an absolute; it is a human being.  Obama keeps giving his opponents the chance to act according to their better angels.  And they keep failing him and us.  Many of us here on the left want him to stop already, to withdraw from the game, to tell the army of Lucys with their footballs to go home because he is no longer playing.  I cannot deny that I have been among those voices, that I am among them right now.  But I admire Obama still when he does not give in to this chorus, when he lets Lucy play, when he takes that running start.

Of course, just once, I do sort of wish he'd veer off a bit and kick her in the teeth...

But in my America, she'd have full dental.

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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • 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)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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