Posts Tagged ‘Tea Party’

“Some Dreams Take Work”–because America might be beautiful, but it isn’t always easy. Available at my CafePress Store: http://www.cafepress.com/magicdogpress

I’ve been thinking a lot about patriotism lately. In the 2008 elections Sarah Palin talked a lot about “Ril Amuricans”-who they are, where they live, where they go to church, to whom they pray. She praised the screaming, rage-fulled crowds at her rallies for their american-ness. She spent a lot of time insinuating that then-Candidate Obama wasn’tĀ  a “Ril Amurican,” that “he doesn’t see America like you and I see America.”

Many on the right side of the political spectrum have followed her lead. Patriotism has come to be associated with tight-jawed people in three-cornered hats, carrying guns to political and presidential events, with a set of values that disenfranchises millions, that seeks to impose a narrow set of religious beliefs in the name of “American values.”

I realized the other day that I had conceded patriotism to a political and social group that quite frankly frightens me–that seems to be trying to strip away the very parts of America that I find most important.

It’s the Fourth of July. I went out and sat on my lawn and watched The Boy and his buddy set off our legal fireworks. In between our beautiful, jewel-like little fire fountains I listened to the huge cannons, and oohed and ahhed at the gigantic golden chrysanthemums, the umbrellas of flickering fire, and the shooting stars the scofflaws on both sides of me were setting off. I don’t know where they get the fireworks, but it happens every July Fourth–the skies light up, and I sit out on my thoroughly-watered lawn, swat mosquitoes, and enjoy the show.

Tonight I thought about our town. I don’t know how much truth there is to it, but local legend holds that our skies full of fireworks happen because of our large migrant population–they bring their enormous fireworks, and come Fourth of July it’s like the battle of Fort Sumpter all over again, but with fewer blown-up buildings and burning boats.

The irony of this, of course, is that our most American of holidays is made more American because of the non-citizens in our midst. We have our problems–yesterday I noticed that somebody’s tagging around town, and that makes me sad. We are not perfect. But citizens or not, and despite our differences, we are all real Americans, and we all inhabit real America.

That means that I have to understand that America is big enough to hold the Tea Party and the Progressives, the GOP and the Democrats, ethnic and racial groups of all descriptions, lovers of all or no genders. America isn’t an apple pie–it’s a fruit salad, and some of us are fruitier than others.

And so today, I am a patriot. I love the symbolism of the flag. I choke up at the “National Anthem.” I believe Katherine Lee Bates had my part of America in mind when she wrote the lines,

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

I believe that everyone deserves the tools from which to build success–what you do with them is up to you. I believe that no child should go to bed hungry. I believe that we all deserve healthcare, housing, and education at a fair price. I believe that while success is American, success achieved by harming others isn’t. I believe in good neighbors, vegetable gardens, and keeping religion out of politics. I believe kids need to learn how to think clearly, to play fair, and to put themselves in others’ shoes.

I believe that we don’t have to have the same values, cultures, or traditions to like and respect each other. I believe we all make potato salad and fried chicken a little differently, and it’s okay. I believe we don’t all have to agree, but we do have to listen to each other, and differ respectfully.

And I believe I’ll go outside and watch a few more fireworks, and maybe sing “America the Beautiful,” until my throat tightens. Because America is beautiful, and I am lucky to be here.

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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 financialĀ  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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