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Posts Tagged ‘Republican’


When I was a little girl, my dad used to talk about a poem he loved. It was called “The First Settler’s Story,” and it was written by Will Carleton, an American poet who often took the plight of the disadvantaged as his subjects. Much of his poetry was time-specific–his poem “Over the Hill to the Poorhouse,” for example, has largely faded from public knowledge. Likewise his poem about divorce, “Betsy and I Are Out.” Even “The First Settler’s Story,” has largely become a casualty of changing times, values, and worlds.

Will Carleton wasn’t one of our finer poets, but he did manage to produce four lines of text that have been quoted over and over–even if few remember where they came from. Here are the lines:

Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds.
You can’t do that when you’re flying words.
Once spoken, though you wish them left unsaid,
God Himself can’t kill them, make them dead.

Words have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are  unintended. In  “The First Settler’s Story” the husband offers them to us as the lesson he learns in the wake of his wife’s tragic death–that his cruel, angry words to her drove her to dangerous behavior that ultimately cost her life.

Words matter. That’s why we have laws against verbal abuse. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

Verbal abuse includes the following: countering, withholding, discounting, verbal abuse disguised as a joke, blocking & diverting, accusing & blaming, judging & criticizing, trivializing, undermining, threatening, name calling, chronic forgetting, ordering, denial of anger or abuse, and abusive anger.”[1]

What prompted all this? The onset of our political season. I watched a clip in which a woman at a GOP Town Hall meeting asserted that President Obama should be tried for treason. It doesn’t take a genius to track this back to the overheated rhetoric during the last political campaign, where various spokespeople asserted all sorts of untrue things–and, even when those things were proven false, continued to assert them.

A virtue was made of knowing nothing. Sophomoric behavior became what passed for public discourse. And, as verbal abuse does, the rhetoric and claims became more and more vile and less and less veiled as time when on.

And now we are starting all over again–but we’re starting at a point higher on the abuse curve than we did last time. We are starting with phrases like “Don’t retreat, reload” an established (and hotly defended, even in the wake of shootings that cost lives) part of our political lexicon. We are starting with GOP operatives considering allowing rally participants to attend political events–with loaded guns. We are starting with a mass of swirling falsehoods, all of which have been “flown” not inadvertently, but as part of a concerted plan to defeat a President who “is not like us” by destroying the nation and laying the blame at his feet.

That’s not to say that the Democratic Party has been blameless–there are falsehoods there, too. But a simple look at any of the reputable, non-partisan fact check sites (and I’m defining those as sites funded by non-partisan organizations and not affiliated with any candidate’s election or defeat)–heck, even a look at the email smears reported on Snopes.com–reveals that there is a serious credibility problem in the Republican party and its conservative base today. Count the smears. Do the math.

But it’s not just the number of smears in question–it’s the violent rhetoric at issue here. The right to keep and bear arms has been translated into the right to carry loaded guns into highly charged, heavily-frequented areas. The right to “political imagery” has been cited in defense of the crosshairs marketing congressional districts that are “targeted” for takedowns. Town halls as a means of conveying information have been compromised by concerted plans to shout down speakers–to prevent the exchange of information.

I teach writing. I’m a writer by trade. It breaks my heart to see words, a unique human invention that has allowed us to develop a sense of history, a concept of past and future, a body of literature unmatched in the animal kingdom, and  even a system of jurisprudence and ethics, misused to circumvent their intended purpose.

Words have become the weapons of those who take pride in their ignorance, who maintain that those who value studying the issues and weighing their merits are somehow the enemy. Words have become the servants of rage, the tools of racism, and the weapons of a group of businessmen who use them to turn the rage of the less successful against the very systems and ideas that might better their lot.

Words matter. The kites are flying again, and many of them are dark and drenched with blood. It is time that we took back our words, that we drew clear lines between spirited debate and verbal abuse, between legitimate discussion and incitements to riot, between the sorts of words that provoke us to think, and the sorts of words that can provoke some of us to pick up weapons and start shooting, or stabbing.

And so, to those most guilting (and we and you all know who they–and we–are) I would say, “We’re starting a new campaign. Let’s not make it an escalation of the last campaign. Let’s not turn what should be a uniquely American system of transferring power into a mockery of itself, and an excuse for encouraging the ugliest parts of our national heritage. Let’s not make this election be about how close we can come to actually advocating that someone kill the President.

Before we send up our kites, let’s think about who all is looking at them, and what they are seeing. Above all, let’s remember that while we might not bear physical responsibility for the actions that grow out of our words, we absolutely bear responsibility for the atmosphere our words help to create.

Will Carleton had it right. Words said cannot be unsaid, and like stones, they send out ripples. The time to recognize that–and to change the ripples we are creating–is now.

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I just paid a visit to Gryphen at The Immoral Minority, one of my favorite blogs. He’s one of the Alaskan bloggers I stumbled upon back during the 2008 presidential campaign, and though my faithfulness has waned a bit in the years since the election the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself curious to see what’s up by him. He’s an unabashed liberal, and I lean that way, so I often find him entertaining, even if sometimes he does make me wince a bit.

Anyhow, today’s post was a response a response someone made to a post earlier today (Gryphen is clearly more devoted to his blog than I am to this one; as far as I can remember, this is the first time ever I’ve posted twice in one day). It was a little confusing, but basically here’s what I’ve pieced together. Gryphen came across a picture of President Obama with a crowd. In the foreground is a little African American girl. Her face bears tribal paint. She is saluting.

It’s a lovely picture, and Gryphen says so under the heading, “Leaders Should Inspire. Clearly This One Does.” He speaks of pride, and inspiration, and how this picture expresses those feelings for him, and invites readers to comment on their own response to the photo. Go read his post; you really should.

As I noted, Gryphen is an unabashed liberal blogger from Alaska who achieved a certain level of name recognition in the last election. Along with that recognition he also acquired a number of followers who are clearly Not Admirers of President Obama or his good pal Gryphen, but of Sarah Palin. And one of those followers was apparently up and angry at 3am this morning. Gryphen’s post went up at 3. By five minutes after three there was an scorching response informing Gryphen that if he were more open-minded it would remind him of Ms. Palin–I believe the word “adore” was thrown around. Apparently there was a picture attached, because in his follow-up post Gryphen posts a response to the angry blogger, along with the picture he or she provided. Here it is:

To me, both pictures show a politician interacting with a crowd. The Obama crowd seems happy. The girl who is saluting sums up something important for many of us.

To me, the Palin photo also shows a happy, perhaps somewhat raucous, crowd. The little girl seems a bit shy, but overall the subject matter seems more similar than different.

So while I don’t necessarily see the same thing in this photo that the folks at The Immoral Minority seem to see, I am left with Gryphen’s headline: “Leaders Should Inspire…”

And I find myself thinking of the post I wrote on Inauguration Day in 2009, on my now-pretty-much-defunct political blog. I posted it just before I wrote this one, so it’s right here. It’s sort of long, mostly about how I spent the day fighting with an abusive collection agency on behalf of my neighbor lady, but here’s the guts of it:

… there is something incredibly beautiful and moving about a nation devoted to equality, to respect, to dreams. There is something powerful about the sweep and bounty of it, the scope of a vision that spans a continent, and a hodgepodge of peoples who when it comes down to it all want the same things: to realize their dreams, to feed their families, and to live with some degree of dignity and freedom.  There is something about the phrase, “…amber waves of grain…”

That lump in my throat has been an embarrassment to me not because I thought the idea of America was foolish, but because I came of age in an era marred by a series of unjust wars, corrupt governance, and cynical, avaricious, money-grubbing politics. I was embarrassed because the gap between what we could be, and what we were as a nation was so great. We had lost our vision. The man I see smiling down at his wife has given it back.

Gryphen’s headline, and the reader’s angry response, brings something into focus for me. Leaders inspire. Like Candidate Obama, Vice-Presidential Candidate Palin also inspired. The difference lies in what they inspire. President Obama inspired hope, inclusivity, civility, and a dream of a better America. Sarah Palin inspired angry mobs.

Three battered years later, President Obama still inspires me to believe that an America where everyone has a fighting chance to succeed is still possible, where the prosperous among us understand that prosperity is a gift to be both accepted with gratitude and shared, where we can express our differences respectfully, where we are all necessary, all valued–and all responsible for each other. He inspires me to believe that the American Dream is for all of us, for me, for you, and for the strangers within our gates. He inspires me to believe that America’s best self is still worth fighting for.  President Obama inspires me to be my best self–and to share that best self with the people in my home and community.

But the issue is broader than that. After all, President Obama is, well, the President. Sarah Palin has chosen not to run for office. A fairer comparison these days might be between what the two parties seem to be offering at the moment. Who inspires conversation? Who inspires their followers to listen? Who inspires compromise? Who reminds America that we truly do succeed or fail as a nation, and that as Americans we have taken pride in the fact that we are all created equal, and that every child born in America is entitled to tools to carve out his or her own success? And who is dedicated to dividing us, into perpetuating their power by rendering us powerless? At their most fundamental level, they are pursuing a policy of division–Democrats vs. Republicans, union vs. non-union, rich vs. poor, men vs. women, conservatives vs. liberals, Wall Street vs. Main Street, country vs. city, Christian vs. everyone else, those who “belong” vs. immigrants.

Who is willing to compromise? And who is holding the nation hostage, hoping for national failure to improve their chances of seizing power? And who is not even taking the trouble to conceal their basic priority? Does that inspire you? If so, how?

What it comes down to for me is simple. It’s not just a matter of which leader inspires me–what’s more important is what a leader inspires me to do. I will vote for President Obama again not because I have profited financially from his administration–hamstrung as Congress has been by Republican intransigence I have come to believe that simply limiting the harm they have been able to inflict is a worthy achievement. It’s not even because I think he believes like I do on policy. I will vote for him because he inspires me to be a better person.

 

 

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I spent a fair amount of time mulling over what I wanted to blog about today. I had this time because I got up at oh dark thirty (7:30a.m., actually, but it felt like oh dark thirty) and got shanghaied into helping the House Leroy harvest, clean and braid the garlic, harvest our pathetic crop of adolescent onions (they’re not ready, but we’re tired of waiting), and identify the herbs (note to self: plant ONE kind of herb per pot, and keep a record of what is where). After a heated argument about whether or not we had lemon balm on the pot on the porch, we repaired to the garage, where the House Leroy was able to demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the pot on the porch holds lemon basil, not lemon balm. On the way into the house, in between ill-considered gloats about who knows what’s where when it comes to the yard, the House Leroy also pointed out the first of what promises to be many zucchinis. I mentioned the Zuccone, by Donatello. My remarks were not well received.

So now my hands smell like garlic and onions, with a light topnote of lemon basil, spicy hot thyme, and oregano, and I’ve got a sad little pile of onions on the cupboard right next to two fat braids of some of the most beautiful garlic I’ve ever seen, and beside that is a flat pan filled with lemon balm, which I’m planning on putting into some extra virgin olive oil along with some lavender (it’s supposed to make a nice marinade for your hands). I’m very proud.

This afternoon I’m planning to go down to my mom’s house and photograph my son, my niece, my nephew, and their Great Dane Delilah going down my mother’s gigantic slip-n-slide, if all goes well. This slip-n-slide is a remnant from my parents’ second career as ag-baggers. Ag Bags are gigantic tubes about ten feet in diameter and 120 feet long. They are made out of a sooper-dooper heavy multi-layered, multi-colored plastic. At some point my parents ended up with about fifty feet of plastic tube left, and nothing to put into it. Since they had grandchildren in the house at the time, Dad took his pocket knife and slit that tube open, laid it on the hill beside my parents’ house, rounded up every hose he could find and enough concrete blocks to anchor the plastic and hoses in place, started up the water, and rounded up the grandkids.

Since the slip-n-slide is close to thirty feet wide and fifty feet long, and since the last time we used it there were five hoses shooting water over the whole thing, there is none of this nonsense about taking turns, or waiting in line. If you want to go, you go. And if somebody else wants to go, they go too, several feet over.

So why am I writing about herbs, garlic braids, and slip-n-slides? Because that’s what I can control. After watching the debacle in our nation’s capitol, after watching the people who are supposed to be our leaders happily sacrificing the well-being of people like me for the benefit of the companies who have robbed us blind, who are experiencing record profits, and who have bought and paid for said leaders, and watching the president who swore he would look out for people like me sign a bill that makes things worse, not better, I have realized once again that the big things are out of my hands. I have called my Congressmen. I have blogged. I have voted. And I have watched a tiny minority completely hamstring the process. And I have watched the majority let them do it.

When I think about it it makes me angry. I should be. Anger is appropriate when you have been betrayed. It might be appropriate, but it’s not constructive in this case. So I will call my senator (Senator Widen, are you listening?) and I will call my representative (yes, you, Mr. Walden) and I will express my anger, my frustration, my sense of betrayal, and what their actions have cost me politely and firmly. And it will do exactly nothing.

The hard truth that the last few years have taught us is that, contrary to what every politician claims to be doing, they are not working for our benefit. Nor are they doing the will of the people. If they were, things would look very different right now. At the very least, we would have had more principled congressmen like freshman senator Jeff Merkley, who had the courage to shame the devil and vote “no” on the “compromise” that came out of the Senate, a “compromise” that, in House Speaker Boehner’s words, gave the Republicans “98% of what they asked for.” That is not compromise. That is not “working together.” That “compromise” is predicted to cost millions of jobs. But hey, at least the rich folks get to keep their historically low taxes on their jets! We can all celebrate that.

Or not.

In my case, the anger and the disappointment are there, sitting inside. I’m not going to be watching the news for the forseeable future. I won’t see anything that I can remedy. Instead, I will watch my tomatoes ripen. I will experiment with herbed oils. I will make pesto. I will buy peaches and eat them until my chin and arms are sticky. I will watch my son play with his cousins on a piece of plastic that’s older than they are (Ag Bag makes its products sturdy, with a capital “urdy”). I will play with the cats. I will drink coffee on the porch with the House Leroy, and argue with him about what herbs are where. I will try to ignore the fact that, though on a small scale my life is very good, our national life is dying. Greed is like a cancer, and it’s sucking vital nutrients from our national body.

Yesterday I heard our nation’s leaders–not the crazy lunatic fringes or the cynical politicos who drove us to the edge of the abyss for money and for power, but the leaders who actually have been trying to find a way out of this mess–saying that at this point our most attractive option seems to be a complete breakdown. And they were predicting it would happen because now we have a Super-Congress (as if the Regular-Congress wasn’t bad enough), and Mr. McConnell and Mr. Boehner are planning to appoint their half not from congressmen who are able and willing to compromise for the good of all, but from the ranks of their most intransigent, ideologically-driven lunatic fringe. Not only are the crazy people running the asylum, but if the Republicans have their way they will be running the rest of the world as well.

When our best hope lies in the breakdown of government we’re in trouble. And it’s been abundantly proven over the past few years–and particularly over the past few months–that there’s not a thing that public opinion can do about it. We write, we call. We protest. And in the end the very people who said if we made our voices heard we could make a difference caved. Folded. Walked away and left us standing with our mouths open. We are powerless, and it sucks.

So I’m giving up, at least for now. I’m going to do my best to keep my house. I’m going to pay my bills. I’m going to try to see to it that my kid gets some kind of education. I’m going to try to not get sick. I’m going to do my best to enjoy my life. I will continue to contribute where I can, when I can, to my community. I’m going to vote–not the Democratic or the Independent parties, but for anybody who’s not a Republican or, god forbid, a Tea-Bagger. Not that I’m going to expect anything good, but maybe if we can get the rational body count in Congress high enough they might accidentally do something that benefits somebody other than the richest and most corrupt organizations going. And I’m going to do everything I can to get the hell as far off the grid as I possibly can.

But all that’s for later. For today, I’m going to comb my hair, grab my camera, and go take pictures of my kid sliding down a gigantic sheet of plastic with his cousins.

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I voted yesterday. The Magic Dog and I sat down and considered the ballot carefully, but it really wasn’t necessary; we already pretty much knew how we were going to vote on the various races happening in our neck of the woods.

Voting’s supposed to be private, like sex and pooping. For years I didn’t do it at all. I reasoned that there was little real difference between candidates; I believed–and I still believe–that it is impossible to win national office without making some pretty unsavory compromises. So I opted out.

The last election changed that for me. Maybe I was swayed by rhetoric. Maybe I had just matured. Maybe, like many, I was seduced by the idea that broken things might be fixable. At any rate, I registered as an independent, because I believe good ideas and people are possible in either party, I did my homework, and I voted.

I voted for the Democratic ticket, but I voted less for the party than for the ideas it represented. I voted for the idea that middle classes are important, that giving money to rich people and expecting them to give it away is too much to expect. I voted for the idea that we needed to get out of the business of war. I voted for the idea of affordable healthcare–even for people like me–for the idea that what I pay for my house should to some degree reflect its value, and for the idea that our financial  and healthcare institutions need to factor in the good of their customers as well as bonuses.

I still believe in all of those things. And two years later, I still don’t have healthcare. I just got word–via a foreclosure letter–that my application for mortgage modification has been denied (I’ve been in the system for nearly two years now), and my credit card interest rates are through the roof. To say I am disappointed in the pace of change is putting it mildly, and being told by the President that I need to suck it up and stop whining, that we all knew this was going to be hard, isn’t a lot of comfort. Nor is it really helpful; I can’t offer that to my bank in lieu of a mortgage payment. I know. I tried. I’m starting to wonder if President Obama as disconnected from what’s happening in the lives of people like me as all the presidents I didn’t bother voting for. I hope not, because I still believe in the ideas he expresses.

Doubts and alll, I voted again–and this time I went farther than I did last time; I voted for the straight Democratic ticket. Here’s why.

1. The Party of “No.” If I had to name the one thing that has caused me more fear and anger than anything else in the last two years, it would be the Republican party’s single-minded determination to bring down the current administration. The policy has resulted in ineffective legislation in many cases, crippled policies and discarded ideas in others, and a climate in which it is virtually impossible to accomplish anything. And now, at the end of two long years in which we have been floundering while the banks, aided and abetted by their pals in office get obscenely rich, we have the Mitch McConnell’s of the world stating that the thing they’re really worried about is making sure President Obama is a one-term President.

I don’t know how you want to spend your time for the next two years, but personally, I’d like to see the folks in Washington doing something besides indulging in something that, at best, is a personality clash, and at worst, is the kind of xenophobia that brought us hoods, nooses, and crosses burning on lawns. If the GOP is so out of touch with the nation that they consider such dangerous, puerile behavior tolerable, they shouldn’t be running an iron-wheeled wheel barrow, let alone the nation.

It’s more than just racism, though–increasingly the GOP candidates are espousing positions that deny basic rights to women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT community. The standard for qualifying for equality has become very very high in the GOP tent. I don’t want that standard applied in my life.

2. Jonathan Swift once said, “A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.” This election, I voted for the only people who seemed to have any ideas at all. Over and over, when asked for their agendas, the Republicans have offered up The Plan: Undo This Administration. This is not an idea. This is not constructive. This is not even possible. This is delusional thinking. For me, the vote came down to a simple question: Do I want to move forward, or backward? Voting for the Democratic candidates is no guarantee that things will get better; voting for the Republican Tea Party candidates–is a guarantee that they will get worse.

3. Crazy is as crazy talks. This is probably the biggest reason I found for voting, if not for the Democratic candidates, certainly voting against the Republican candidates. Any sort of examination of the Republican party at this point in time reveals one overwhelming fact: The lunatics have escaped, and they are now running the asylum. Opinions expressed are bizarre, outlandish, and held only by a tiny, but incredibly noisy minority so far to the right they’ve almost fallen off the cliff. And yet, for reasons of political expediency, much of the Republican party has, if not embraced the ideas, done their very best to appear as if they do. That means that we still have the ridiculous “birther” nonsense floating around, as well as the equally idiotic idea that gumption, a perky smile, and the ability to say fifty impossible things before breakfast make up for education, reason, and experience. If you just believe in the Lord, he’ll take care of the deficits. It means that we have bizarre tales spun about legislation, and guns being carried to presidential appearances–and the gun-toter claiming he is simply exercising his constitutional rights.

I voted against the Republican party because I believe in reasoned debate, not in shouting down opposition. I believe in the rule of law, rather than “second-amendment remedies” if the other guy wins. I believe that it is important to have accurate, clear information available about the laws under consideration, and that it is not helpful to invent boogeymen like “death panels.” I believe that once a person has proven a point beyond reasonable doubt, and has gone to the trouble of posting a validated birth certificate on the internet, that it’s time to stop saying that there are “lingering questions” about his citizenship. I may not agree with his policies, but I can no longer claim that he is unfit because of his birth. And like him or not, he is still the President, and given the world in which we live people who show up with guns at his public appearances are seeking to intimidate or worse, and should ejected from the event and certainly questioned about their choice of accessory.

I voted for the Democratic candidates because the Republican candidates seem to have a universal inability to grasp the realities of our situation. We are in the midst of a financial crisis. It is becoming all too apparent that all too many of our elected leaders have been bought and sold by the mortgage, financial, and energy conglomerates. We do not have the luxury of behaving like children throwing tantrums at having to take turns. I voted the Democratic ticket not because I liked all of candidates, but because this time around, the the few adults in the room who aren’t scary, scary people seem to be in the Democratic party. I voted because like it or not, we are in a tug-of-war, and our economy, homes, civil government, and maybe our souls are on the line, and I wanted more people pulling us forward than holding us back.

If you agree, vote with me. If you disagree, vote against me. Just don’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does. It matters terribly.

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