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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

History Was Made Last Night

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

History Was Made Last Night

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american peace
Bobby and I watch so little TV that we're actually canceling our satellite subscription in a month, but we both stopped to watch Barack Obama's speech last night accepting the Democratic nomination for President. It sounds so cliche to say it, but I could not stop thinking that I was watching history being made and feeling so lucky and giddy, not just about being able to be present for something that future generations will read about in history books but also because Obama gives me such hope and, for once, optimism. I will admit that I have become quite gloomy where American politics are concerned for some years now. In 2000 and 2004, I had my heart broken, watching someone "win" an election that he should not, then watching him drive this country into ruin. Couple that with the fact that I have rather radical viewpoints and rather big mouth, and the sociopolitical climate in the US until only just recently was not very kind to dissidents, and I feel like the last eight years have been spent running uphill on a treadmill: I'm exhausted and have gotten nowhere. For a long while, I could not read the news; it literally depressed me. Which in turn depressed me, because I scorn people like me, who cannot turn off American Idle Idol long enough to face reality. In my case, of course, it was Tolkien and Elves and fantasy. The imaginary plights of imaginary people are much easier to face than my own, even as my writing came to be heavier and heavier with political and social undertones. (To the extent that I think, in some cases, they can't rightfully be called undertones any longer.)

The other day, I was reading Slate and happened to come upon an article with a stock photo of Barack and Michelle Obama, and I paused and imagined seeing the two of them on television as the President and First Lady, and it was like something punched me in the gut, and I realized how much I wanted that--how much that would mean to someone disillusioned like me--and I actually teared up to think of it. I am so tired of running uphill on that treadmill; so tired of the feeling that nothing will get done unless one has the money to buy it and, face it, I'm a government employee and a student: I don't have that. I'm so tired of seeing money at the heart of all things: becoming the excuse of immorality (and by that, of course, I don't mean religious immorality but the sort that lets people mouth information they don't believe that will drown nations or leave millions without healthcare because someone has lined their pocket for it); that, of late, has touched as near as my own family, when I see people I love who taught me the ideals I have and encouraged my activism, even when I was young and shrill and a pain in the ass (which I probably still am, all of those things), and they are hoarding wealth and things and preening, not with the good they do for the world, but for the cars they drive and the size of their house. I'm so tired of this that it makes me literally sick to see McCain not know how many houses he has and then expect to lead a nation of people, many of whom don't even have a place to call home anymore. And this guy's still commanding half of the vote? Why again?

For an hour last night, I forgot those things. I got to remember to hope. I am an optimist, but my optimism has been shredded over the last eight years. It's funny to look back at the devastation I felt when Gore "lost" to Bush in 2000 and how quickly the optimism took over again: Well, it can't be that bad; he lost the popular vote, so surely that is a call for moderation, if nothing else, and if worst comes to worst, it's only four years. Because I think I still believed enough in people to trust that we couldn't be duped twice. Then 9/11 happened, and while I never wholly abandoned my pacifism, I remember crying on the loading dock at The Piece and saying, "I think I can understand now why people use violence. I think I can understand and I would shoot Bin Laden in the face if he was here before me," and I never supported the war--actually argued quite hard against it and had my worth as an American challenged for it--but I did believe the "evidence" and it did make me think that things aren't always as easy as my ethics made them seem. That sometimes, there needed to be trade-offs, and if I argued for pacifism in the wake of such strong evidence that Iraq meant to hurt us, then was I actually achieving the opposite effect? Would my moral triumph be worth the lives that--I was assured, we were all assured--would most certainly be lost by my inaction?

I never said, "I think we need to go to war." But I contemplated it.

Obama didn't. I am stubborn and idealistic, and I questioned those ideals very hard in the months after 9/11, but Obama didn't. I thought, last night, as he spoke about his record on the war, that here is someone with the same ideals as me. Maybe not couched in the same terms--he expresses a willingness to defend our country with violence if the need was great enough, so he is no pacifist--but closer to my ideals than I ever thought a Presidential candidate could be, and he was strong in standing for them. Where I was not.

One of the things that has always frustrated me about Bush is when people fawn over him because "he's a lot like us." Because he mispronounces the names of foreign leaders or says terribly stupid things or makes up words in an attempt to appear intelligent, then he's just like us. I often wondered: Am I alone in wanting the President of a world superpower to be better than me, smarter and more well-spoken and more temperate and wiser and with stronger ethics? I don't want a President who is "just like us"; I want a President who is the absolute best of us in every way.

I don't doubt for a moment that my ethics are stronger than the vast majority of elected representatives. And that bothers me. Because I never feel like I do enough, and I make a lot of mistakes. I lose my temper with Lancelot and swat him on the backside. Or I eat lunch a couple times a week at chain restaurants simply because I like to (and Panera Bread has wi-fi!) I read advice columns when I should be studying. I disappoint myself, every day. I don't think that I'm a great champion of any ideal, although I do try. And, still, I think that I do better than most elected representatives.

Yet Obama is different. I feel like he is better than me in every way and better than most of us in the country. I believe that he pursues the hell that is a Presidential campaign (to say nothing of a Presidential term, if he wins) because he believes he can make a positive difference, not because it will allow him to more easily effect laws that will put money in his cronies' pockets or because of narcissism. I think, as stubborn as I am, I faltered in one of my most important beliefs ... and he did not. To someone as disillusioned as I have become, I can't say what that means.

I cannot lay the blame for my feelings entirely on the Republican party. Yes, I loathe the vast majority of their principles, although I know one or two of them well enough to know that they can be nice people so long as we don't talk politics. But I have to put blame where it is due, and that is also on the shoulders of the Democratic party. Watching them nod like a bunch of bobblehead dolls whenever Bush walked into the room ... it made me ill. I think, more people voted for your ideals than his. Most of the country--even most of his own party--loathes him. Standing up to him should be the easiest thing in the world. And yet ...

I don't watch TV, so I hadn't seen any of Obama's speeches until last night, though I had read transcripts and analyses enough to know what was being said, as well as the criticisms other liberals had for his campaign so far, and there was much unease about the fact that he wasn't coming down hard enough on McCain and McCain's policies. It was just like 2000, when I remember Saturday Night Live--back when Will Ferrell was still around and it was still good (although I nurture a private theory that everyone always thinks the SNL they grew up with is the "good" SNL and anything after is but a pale imitation)--did a spoof on the debates between Bush and Gore with Ferrell as Bush and Darryl Hammond as Gore, and I still remember the two of them rebutting the other primarily with, "I agree with that too." And Ralph Nader waving his arms about and shouting, "They're the same! They're the same! They're the same candidate!!" (Ralph, do you think we'd be in the world of hurt we're in right now if Gore had been elected? Just sayin' ...) And in 2004, when the Republicans sank their teeth into Kerry's throat, and he smiled and took it, and I wanted to shout, "Fight back! They dishonor your military service, well call them out on the fact that their candidate is a draft dodger too rich and lazy to bother with anything like military service!"

Please don't allow another election like that, I thought. Please.

So I was thrilled that Obama threw down the gloves a little bit last night. In fact, it was one of the first things that the analysts said when all was finished: "Wow, he mentioned McCain directly 22 times! That's four times more than Kerry did in 2004!"

Yet it was dignified. He praised McCain's military service. He praised McCain's love for his country. He emphasized that he does believe that McCain cares ... he just doesn't know. He's not in a position to know how much many Americans are hurting. Hey, I could almost hear him saying, don't fault the guy because he's old, rich, and white!

But don't elect him either.

Carroll County, where I live, was recently named something like the Best Republican County in Maryland. Maryland is very much a blue state, but Carroll County won't stand for it. I haven't seen a single sign for Obama, but plenty have popped up for McCain! I love riding high on my way home from work, watching the drivers behind me in the rearview mirror at stoplights as they read the bumperstickers on my car. "Bush's Third Term: McCain" reads the one. I can sometimes see them chewing their lips and seething. I think, my work here is begun.

But this is what I don't understand. Carroll County is not poor--no place in Maryland is poor except perhaps parts of Baltimore; we are the second richest state in the country--but folks here are simple and sure aren't rich. Carroll County residents are farmers and plumbers, not corporate lawyers and biotechnologists. They don't stand to benefit a thing from electing another Republican. The tax breaks they get all giddy over won't reach them ... or else, they won't see nearly what our neighbors in Howard County with their six-figure salaries will see. (And Howard County elects Democrats!) The constant breaks to big corporations and the agribusiness won't benefit them: small family farmers growing a couple of acres of corn in clay soil and selling it under a tent by the roadside. Nor will the conservative tendency to ship jobs overseas; Carroll County has numerous plants, but most have been faced with layoffs because of the economy. One of our SCAdian friends met the axe and has been out of work for months now.

Ah, but they're mostly Christian here in Carroll County. Where there's a corner, there's a church. And the Republicans are full of swagger about how they won't stand for abortion and gay marriage and all those other things that stand to ruin this country.

Pardon? What have the last eight years accomplished except, primarily, to further ease the lives of the rich and fortunate? No, progress hasn't been made on same-sex marriage, and there were a few small "victories" where abortion was concerned, but the people worst robbed--the people who lost their homes and their jobs and their healthcare--are the same who voted for Bush. Can they truly feel triumphant? Can they truly say that they look forward to another four years?

This is what I don't understand. After the hell that we've endured over the last eight years, how does one reconcile electing another rich white guy deep in the lobbyist's pockets and from the same party as the last guy? And who, as Obama pointed out last night, voted with Bush 90% of the time. "I'm not willing to take a 10% chance on change," he said, and I agree. Even if I wasn't a Democrat; even if I didn't stand with Obama on a matter of principle to start, I like to think that I possess the minimal self-interest to realize that I'm about the hand a whopping score to the rich and powerful and myself bend over for another four years' worth. Or, less selfishly, minimal love for my country to realize that driving us to ruin in service of millionaires is not the answer.

I would love to hear from a middle-class person thinking of voting for McCain. I just want to know why. I promise I won't argue with you or try to persuade you (unless you'd like a debate, in which case, I'm game). I just want to know what you haven't learned over the last eight years; I just want to know why you think McCain will be different. What about his seven (or is it eight?) houses, his saber-rattling, and his tired old rhetoric suggests that he has the stuff to not just stop the decline of this country but to reverse it and pull us out of our funk and save us? I just don't understand it.

I want to shout this at Carroll County too, at the top of my voice: "He doesn't care about you! He'll use the strength of your beliefs on some issues to get elected and then use his office to benefit more of the rich and powerful!" Only I don't think they'd listen. They still think that the true risk to this country won't come from economic depression or endless war or terrorism or global warming or sheer ignorance (look at New Orleans) but will come in the form of two men getting married, and how do you argue with someone like that?

I feel a tremendous momentum upon me now. I feel like we're on the brink of something, that moment before gravity grabs hold and we plummet. I'm not sure what the next few months will hold. I am elated and afraid. I have hope, but I fear another heartbreak. I fear the Republicans cheating again. I fear what my view toward my country will be if that happens and what my view toward my fellow citizens will be as they turn back to American Idol and resume drooling on themselves. I feel my optimism rekindling. It's scary; pessimism is like a callus and keeps tender places from being hurt: the worst that can happen is you're not disappointed and the best that can happen is you're wrong. I have my pitchfork ready, come the revolution, but I increasingly have hope that I won't need it.
  • "I have rather radical viewpoints and rather big mouth, and the sociopolitical climate in the US until only just recently was not very kind to dissidents"

    Dawn, honestly, I appreciate your honesty and outspokeness every day, but the only time in my day-to-day life that I actually have a conversation with anyone whose political beliefs are to the right of yours is on-line (and occasionally in a cab--for some reason cabdrivers liked Rudy Guiliani). That is something people forget sometimes depending upon where they live.

    I remember the stolen election well. That cracked me up at the time. Last time I had seen that was in Mexico (where it had been standard for years). It was something I had associated with dictatorship and single-party third-world or semi-third-world countries. Even there, by the 1980s, had been considered going too far, but people here in the U.S. took it pretty well. Didn't cause much more than a ripple in the news and a lot of jokes about hanging chads, dimpled chads, bulging chads or pregnant chads. (Did anyone really believe that people went into a voting booths and thought, "I do not feel that strongly, so I will just not press forcefully enough for the candidate I choose and that way my vote won't really count?") New Orleans caused a little more than a ripple--I guess seeing all those dead bodies on TV was a little chilling. But what if anything has been down to prepare for or change what the response would be to the next New Orleans?

    We wouldn't be in such bad shape if what this country did only mattered in this country. But, unfortunately, that is obviously myopic. It extends beyond our kids not having jobs, their kids not having decent health care or education. We endanger the entire planet. When I worked as a reporter in Mexico, it was always a joke among the foreign-press clubs types when the U.S. sent Monkey-trial yahoos to international environmental conferences and the rest of the world sent scientists. It was so embarrassing to be the American in the group having a drink and hearing about the latest.

    I am old enough to remember when every year newspapers bragged about how more kids graduated from high school. And there was still a choice then when finishing high school of taking a decent job with a living wage or going to the university becoming a professional. I have seen people work harder to have less every year since I have been an adult. I was poor as dirt when I went to school and my student loans equaled the equivalent of two month's pay, when I got out of school from one of the best universities in the country. Chew on that youngsters.

    My daughter has a job which requires a university degree, and she cannot even pay to have her baby included on her health care plan. She had to sign up for government-subsided health insurance. Still at great financial hardship to her and frankly rather appalling--ever single well-baby checkup he has had has been postponed because there were not available appointment times. He got all of his immunizations late. That's standard these days, if they are still lucky enough to get them at all. But there is no shortage of money for Bush to try to take over another country.

    I am not a pacifist and I find what this country does and their justifications for it appalling (nauseating really).

    I have my pitchfork ready, come the revolution,

    I spent my entire life fighting for social justice and I am exhausted, only to see it go downhill. I'm overweight and have a bad knee but I have my pitchfork ready also, but it is pretty pathetic to think that I have to be the one wielding it.



    Edited at 2008-08-30 12:39 am (UTC)
    • Sorry, about the typos. The subject got me agitated. You know me: the typo-queen when I am calm and lucid.
    • the only time in my day-to-day life that I actually have a conversation with anyone whose political beliefs are to the right of yours is on-line

      My first thought was that I really envy you that. I do feel like a radical when I get emails from friends about how Bush had fewer wartime casualties than Clinton and have to honestly explain to Democrat-voting family members why cutting off the hands of thieves is not a direction this country should take. But, then, Maryland (even Carroll County!) is still so far left compared to so much of the country that I feel like it gives me good practice to argue against these people. I worry that I'd become to complicit if everyone was just as liberal as me.

      Didn't cause much more than a ripple in the news and a lot of jokes about hanging chads, dimpled chads, bulging chads or pregnant chads.

      Which is the saddest part of all, imho. Bobby and I were talking about the election last night, and I said that I don't know that I'll be able to recover hope for this country if Obama loses because what that says to me is that the people of this country had the chance to change things and didn't think that was needed. (The exception, of course, is if the Republicans cheat again. Then I'll lose hope of an entirely different sort.) I hope this doesn't sound too terribly melodramatic. :) I think there'd be a greater outcry if someone cheated to win American Idol than when Bush cheated to win President.

      We endanger the entire planet.

      I was getting ready to start on a tangent in that direction but the post was so dreadfully long already ... but this is such grief to me. I was probably in elementary school when I started declaring myself an environmentalist; I think how guilty I feel buying produce at the grocery store and not the local farm or farmers' market and compare that to the lack of guilt felt by American leaders who continue to support industries that pollute and contribute to climate change because it puts money in their pocket.

      I still think, though, that so many Americans (and a good number of our leaders) just don't think that global warming is real. I mean, this a country where a good percentage of the population doesn't "believe" in evolution. They don't "believe" in global warming either for the same reason: because some charlatan wearing the guise of Christianity stood up and told them that it wasn't real. Because, come the rapture, they'll all get sucked up into heaven anyway, and what we do to this planet won't matter! Personally, I hope the rapture comes soon so we can get this world set to rights once they're out of the way. ;)

      And then you have the willful ignorant, like my parents, who drive a fucking Escalade for Eru's sake and are thinking of adding another gas-guzzler, and tell me, oh, they're okay because they recycle. Between the two--the holy and the ignorant (and the holy ignorant ;)--I'm not surprised that this is the country that never makes positive strides in terms of environmentalism.

      I was poor as dirt when I went to school and my student loans equaled the equivalent of two month's pay

      I can't imagine this. Bobby and I are still in debt from university the first time. My scholarship for UMBC granted me $20,000 over four years, and that was not enough to cover my tuition then, in 2003 when I graduated, and tuition rose 13% in Maryland just the next year alone. I think my sister-in-law, who goes to public in-state uni just as I did, pays around $7K per year now.

      My daughter has a job which requires a university degree, and she cannot even pay to have her baby included on her health care plan.

      I can believe this. I could not afford healthcare with my salary either (my job also requires a Bachelor's degree and of a rather specialized nature) and am lucky that Bobby has always been employed in non-contractual government jobs where he can get health insurance for both of us.

      I think the fact that children have to go without healthcare (or inadequate healthcare) is one of the worst shames in this country. How can we claim to be a great nation with that on our conscience?

      I have my pitchfork ready also

      At least I know someone will be there besides me ... ;)
  • Am I alone in wanting the President of a world superpower to be better than me, smarter and more well-spoken and more temperate and wiser and with stronger ethics? I don't want a President who is "just like us"; I want a President who is the absolute best of us in every way.

    Heck no! I boggled four years ago when apparently the big question was "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?"

    ...

    Right, the President was (and for this election, still is) going to be Commander in Chief of our military after 9/11 and after we'd made a mess in Iraq that was only getting bigger and our country was rapidly losing the trust of the rest of the word... and we're worried about whether or not our President would be fun to socialize with? (Have you ever heard Jon Stewart tackle the whole "He's just like us!" issue? His response was more like, "Really? You watch ten hours of TV a day? You thought the Macarena was fun? I don't want the President to be just like me--we're fucking idiots!" ;)) Yeah, I want to know a politician can empathize with other human beings while (s)he's making decisions on domestic policies or whether or not to invade or drop bombs on another country and all, but really now...

    I'll admit I used to like McCain because at the time he seemed like a moderate who was willing to stick to his principles and understand others, but then the more I saw of him, the more he reminded me of why I ended up voting against Joe Lieberman in 2006 (Lieberman having struck me too hard as being too much more concerned with his own career advancement than with actually, you know, doing his job or something).
    • "Really? You watch ten hours of TV a day? You thought the Macarena was fun? I don't want the President to be just like me--we're fucking idiots!"

      My dad was left-of-center Democrat, and a labor leader (not the type who sat in an office and collected a salary, but the type who worked). I once asked him how come he was elected year-after-year when he seemed different from his constituency in so many ways. He said that because he was considered smart, well-spoken and well-read they considered he might be able to stand up for their rights and interests in negotiations with a college-educated management.
      • Yeah, I think the area I live in also prefers the politicians who look more educated. I wonder if it's the positions they get elected to that makes the difference (it's easier to think of a President letting power go to his/her head, for one thing) or just where we live. Apparently my hometown is where successful middle/upper-middle class people who work in Hartford but don't want to live in the city dwell, and those successful parents really push their kids to get good educations and be overachievers, so I can see how voters around here would be much more impressed by someone who was well-spoken, well-dressed, and well-educated than by someone who emphasized how much of a "regular Joe" s/he was--if only because we have an image as a town that values success an education that we want to maintain and take pride in.

        And I have to admit, sometimes people around here do get a "We know better than those uneducated rednecks!" attitude that I'm sure people in the "red states" resent and want to rebel against somehow...
      • Oh, yeah! This is a crazy country.
      • And I have to admit, sometimes people around here do get a "We know better than those uneducated rednecks!" attitude that I'm sure people in the "red states" resent and want to rebel against somehow...

        I think that's the crux of it. I mean, look at the attention Obama got for his unfortunate "clinging" comment. I can understand people resenting that he portrayed them in that way. However. He is the candidate who is going to fight for them. It seems to me that they're the ones without healthcare, losing their jobs and homes, always on the brink of poverty ... and they'd elect a guy who doesn't give a whit about any of that because Obama made a single ill-advised and stereotypical comment?

        I mean, I would not be thrilled to hear a candidate make a misogynist statement. But if that candidate was pro-choice and supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and advocated for family-friendly workplace policies, then that comment alone would not turn me to the pro-life wacko waiting in the wings.
        • Yeah, my thoughts exactly--I remember when my cousins and aunt would talk about how much hope they had for the country now that Bush was in office, and then in the next topic of conversation, they'd talk about how their mom made them lie down on the couch all day after sustaining an injury because they couldn't afford a trip to the emergency room, or about how the economy was so bad that none of them could get so much as a cashiering job... and meanwhile, their President was trying to solve that problem with "Make the rich people spend more and it'll trickle down!"

          Personally, I wouldn't have felt any more valued as an American or as a person to hear of rich people being favored for tax breaks and rewards and then to get what "trickled down" from them as "help" than I would have felt in response to Obama's "elitist" comments, but maybe that's just me...

          (Of course it has to be said that "hope for the country" for my cousins and a lot of people plain and simply means "Turning America onto the road toward becoming a Christian theocracy," with no concern for the economy or people who need more than Christian faith to survive. No exaggeration. :\)
          • "Turning America onto the road toward becoming a Christian theocracy," with no concern for the economy or people who need more than Christian faith to survive. No exaggeration. :\)

            That is chilling and terrifying. It is the position of a lot of people. Don't know how many people actually feel that way. So few people actually vote in elections that the numbers are not at all clear to me. I have heard it said that the conversative/religious-right supporters vote in a much higher percentages, but I don't know the figures.
        • I have read that surveys generally show that 25-33% of Americans identify themselves as evangelical. Of course, not all evangelicals are intolerant nuts--I have a few people on my flist who would probably identify as evangelical but also support GLBT rights and religious tolerance--and there are intolerant nuts who would not identify as evangelical, but I think it's a pretty strong statement that at least a quarter to a third of Americans identify themselves with a religion that tends to preach intolerance and tends to lead efforts to dissolve the separation of church and state.

          Those are scary numbers ...
        • I have heard it said that the conversative/religious-right supporters vote in a much higher percentages, but I don't know the figures.

          I believe it--in some parts of the country, church is literally the center of a town's social life, after all.

          Actually, the way I got registered to vote back in 2004? Focus on the Family sent me (and I imagine everyone who'd ever had a subscription to any of their publications--I used to get Clubhouse and Brio thanks to my grandma) a voter's registration card along with a letter that basically said, "Dear citizen as America, it's important to vote as a Christian this year. It's not about Democrat or Republican--there are lots of issues to worry about this year, like people dying in Iraq, worries about national security, the economy going downhill, and most importantly, the future of the American family."

          What a subtle appeal to homophobia. :P
          • Oh, I'm worried about the American family too. Like mine. Which is currently busted up because my sister can't marry in her own country. Yes, I do worry about that. ;)

            But seriously. Wow. I saw a bumpersticker the other day that you might find amusing:

            Gay marriage doesn't scare me.
            But no healthcare sure does!


            Is it just me, or is that a massive distraction because the Republicans can't possibly win on any of those other issues? (I find it interesting that abortion wasn't mentioned either.)
    • why I ended up voting against Joe Lieberman in 2006

      Aside from the cruel dashing of the raised hopes of many American Jews who thought they saw a frum Orthodox guy rising to the national stage only to turn into a Baptist before our stunned eyes . . . his sudden metamorphosis into a Republican Lite distressed Connecticut resident and Lieberman constituent Mom Pony enough that she (usually quite levelheaded about politics) couldn't keep herself from ranting about what a crook he was.

      Dad Pony pointed out, bemusedly, that, while it was true that Lieberman was a slimy crook, so were the vast majority of politicians, and what made Lieberman the target of Mom Pony's unusually vehement rage?

      Mom Pony turned to him and said, "He may be a slimy crook like all the others, but he's our slimy crook!"
      • Yeah, I hardly thought of Lamont as a Shining Beacon of Truth and Justice or the Democrat party's best hope for anything, but the idea of a Connecticut Senator getting kissed by George W. Bush...!

        Okay, that's a silly oversimplification of things, but still. :P Once I decided to ignore the international attention on that election and get past the "OMG, will the Democrats outnumber the Republicans after this election?!?!?!" stuff, it came down to "How's Lieberman doing with representing Connecticut?" ...at which point I came to agree with my friend who said she'd rather have any new guy's incompetency than Lieberman's competency.
    • Right, the President was (and for this election, still is) going to be Commander in Chief of our military after 9/11 and after we'd made a mess in Iraq that was only getting bigger and our country was rapidly losing the trust of the rest of the word... and we're worried about whether or not our President would be fun to socialize with?

      I know. It shouldn't even be an issue because the President should be so busy, like, running the country that he doesn't have time to socialize! If I don't have time to socialize trying to work and go to school full-time, no fair that he gets to! ;)

      Also, I feel a great sense of local pride when I consider that Bush was watching the Baltimore Ravens on television when he almost killed himself choking on a pretzel that one time. ;)

      But. Seriously. I used to like the fact that Clinton stayed up half the night reading and studying. Bush goes to bed at 10 o'clock and doesn't read newspapers. Slate triumphantly reported about a year ago that Bush had decided he was going to read a book a month! Okay, in the last week, I've read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, More's Utopia, and about a dozen short stories, poems, and short medieval texts. Pardon me if I'm not impressed that he manages a book a month.

      (Oh, but I am one of them ther intellectuals I suppose!)

      But our country has reached a sad point where the fact that a candidate doesn't read actually increases the likelihood of his winning Presidential office.
  • Perhaps it's the U of C elitism showing through, but . . . one of the reasons that I like Barack Obama is precisely because he's "like me." The Shrub isn't like me, except for the passing coincidence that we were born in the same state, which means diddlysquat, considering how densely populated Southern New England is.

    But Obama . . . when I look at Obama, I see someone who's like me. I see a man (okay, he's not like me in every single respect!) who is intelligent and enjoys engaging people, or The People, in serious discussion. I see a man who struggled to figure out who he was in his youth and expressed some of that struggle through overachieving. I see a man who is comfortable visiting other countries and engaging their people as equals. I see a man who has definite aims and views on life, but who knows how to pick his battles. I see a man who does not allow himself to forget his family in the midst of his campaign (even if his attention to his daughters ends up with 57th St. Books clogged with Secret Service persons preventing anyone from actually going in and actually buying an actual book).

    And, not to put too fine a point on it, I see a man who admires Michelle Obama, who is da bomb.

    We've had lots of Presidents who look like Middle America, and see where that's gotten us. It's time for the geeky, elitist, arugula-eating* Hyde Park nerdlings to have a go at the White House!







    *That shit's gooooood. But some of us are geeky enough to prefer its older name, "rocket." Because how cool is it to have a salad with "rocket" and radishes?
    • Perhaps it's the U of C elitism showing through, but . . . one of the reasons that I like Barack Obama is precisely because he's "like me."

      Oh, yes. You're working on a PhD, so you're definitely one of those "intellectuals." I bet you even read books!

      I'm never quite sure how to respond to people who hold Obama's "intellectualism" against him. Okay, he's devoted his life not only to public service but to study and thought on all of the subjects that would allow a person to make sound decisions for a nation ... and that is a bad thing? It would have been preferable for him to have been chopping up timber with his chainsaw on his "ranch"?

      The ironic thing, that has driven me to more than one *headwall*, is that the candidates people claim are "just like them" aren't. Last I checked, Middle America doesn't own seven houses and can't afford to buy a baseball team. (Many of them now probably don't have one house and probably can't afford to go to a baseball game, but I digress.) Obama, who came from a family that was far from rich and did "pull himself up by the bootstraps" as we are told Americans do, is more like them than any Washington politician born with a silver spoon (or a profitable corporation) in his mouth.

      And, not to put too fine a point on it, I see a man who admires Michelle Obama, who is da bomb.

      Yes! I love her!

      Because how cool is it to have a salad with "rocket" and radishes?

      Much cooler than "arugula." :)
      • I bet you even read books!

        Tons of them. I am going to renew my (gasp!) library card today so that I can litter my nice clean apartment with even more of the feelthy things. And . . . I'm going to write them pretty soon. The horror! The horror!*

        It would have been preferable for him to have been chopping up timber with his chainsaw on his "ranch"?

        These are the same people who love that Abe Lincoln split rails, but forget that he also did his homework and became a lawyer. (And most of them don't even know that he was a shape-note singer, but that's neither here nor there.)






        *Or, as the Rhode-Island-accented high-school English teacher of my best friend said: The hora! The hora!
  • A fine post, Dawn.

    Since oshun and I are "of an age" her post speaks to many of my opinions, too.

    I'll note that my mother (in her 90s) and my aunt (her youngest sister -- in her late 70s) who both live in downstate Illinois are avid Obama supporters and have been since he first made the scene in Illinois. He united a very diverse state, from Chicago to Cairo. Frenchpony made cogent comments on "one of us." I'll also point out that this "one of us" fellow (Hyde Parkism and Harvard Law School notwithstanding) is a man who came from a humble, decidedly non-rarified background. He's a classic example of meritocracy. Shrub is not. Shrub is the archetype of the slack-jawed legacy boy.

    I am old enough to remember JFK's campaign speeches; my father took me to the train station to see both JFK and Nixon when the candidates came through our town for whistle-stop campaigning. I have not heard the kind of electricity that Obama's impassioned speech engendered since JFK.

    I have hope, but I fear another heartbreak. I fear the Republicans cheating again.

    I hear you. In a country which blatantly distrusts intellectualism and honors the willfully ignorant, it's difficult to hope too much for fear of that heartbreak.
    • I'll also point out that this "one of us" fellow (Hyde Parkism and Harvard Law School notwithstanding) is a man who came from a humble, decidedly non-rarified background. He's a classic example of meritocracy. Shrub is not. Shrub is the archetype of the slack-jawed legacy boy.

      Which is, as I said to frenchpony too, something I have never understood: why conservatives flock to candidates like that when said candidates (aside from pandering to the religious right) are the most unlike those whom they wish to represent as anyone could be!

      "Bush is like us." Is he? Were you born into a rich family with a political legacy? Did you buy your way into one of the best universities in the world and buy yourself out of military service? Were you given companies to run (and fuck up)? Did you own a baseball team? Do you count as family friends Saudi princes and oil tycoons? Do you know anyone who makes a million--much less a billion!--dollars a year?

      Of course, I guess the catch-22 is that I expect people stupid enough to think that intelligence is a bad thing to "get" the insurmountable differences between themselves and McCain.
      • why conservatives flock to candidates like that when said candidates (aside from pandering to the religious right) are the most unlike those whom they wish to represent as anyone could be!

        Well I can guarantee you, it isn't that easy and not every conservative/repub is happy with McCain being their elected nominee. I've come to know repubs who refuse to vote on him, and actually for very good reasons since McCain hardly can be called a conservative, no matter how he tries to be one. This being said, frequenting a conservative site and following this race from that perspective has taught me a lot about it.
        • not every conservative/repub is happy with McCain being their elected nominee

          Of course not. Not every Democrat is happy with Obama, especially if all this hype about the so-called PUMAs is to be believed! However, I think the past two Presidential elections have show that people who identify strongly one way or the other (liberal or conservative) tend to vote along their party line, when the chips are down.

          I hope to hell that isn't true in this election. I would love if more conservatives jumped ship and came over to Obama (or even an independent candidate ... Nader in 2000, anyone? ;) My hope is that when the candidates debate, the swing voters and maybe even some Republicans will come over to Obama's side. I don't see how McCain can win any debate when he's preaching the same tired rhetoric that we've been hearing for eight years.

          McCain hardly can be called a conservative

          I think that's true of many Republican candidates these days, insofar as one defines "conservative" as fiscal conservatism and small/non-centralized government. Look at how much just the war in Iraq has cost! McCain wants to continue that; that is not fiscal conservatism. Nor is letting the government interfere with all manner of personal rights or attempting to let the federal government trump the states in making decisions about same-sex marriage "small government."

          However, I don't think that a lot of people who identify as "conservative" do so because of economics or government but rather religion and morality. They don't care how much money is spent or how bloated the government becomes just as long as gays don't marry and women can't get abortions.
  • You know I told Trek last night that I really didn't had that Obama vibe. Despite having an excellent coverage of the Democratic convention over here this week, I managed to miss every bit of it, including Obama's speech. Our news cycle became influenced by McCain's announcement of having a woman as a running mate, so I haven't had time to view and read what he actually said. However in the past when I saw something of Obama, it felt like it was dipped into oodles of glamour, so I have a hard time finding that intellectual man. Also because sometimes it felt that what he said wasn't that concrete (I heard that he did that in his speech though).

    Reading this and following the enthusiasm of my friend mysterious ways (who's an Obama volunteer in her home town), I feel a tad more optimistic about Obama. I think the US deserves a strong leader who can heal this wounds nations first. We need a strong US on many things, and not a cowboy person as McCain who I sometimes think is too eager to go to war. Besides healing the nation's wounds, we also need to finish what we (as in us too) what we started in Iraq and Afghanistan (the latter the most), and well, I don't see that happening with 4 years of McCain.

    *keeps her fingers crossed*

    Edited at 2008-08-30 06:10 pm (UTC)
    • However in the past when I saw something of Obama, it felt like it was dipped into oodles of glamour

      Really? How so? I am just curious. I mean, Obama comes from a working class background; McCain is a multi-millionaire.

      One of the things that attracts me most to Obama is the fact that he did not use any money from lobbyists to fund his campaign. I can't emphasize enough how huge this is. Instead of using contributions from interest groups, he has used contributions from his supporters ... so he has not been "bought" as has every candidate to this point.

      Ironically, I once really liked John McCain ... because he was the champion of campaign finance reform that would make it illegal for major interest groups to contribute as they do to campaigns. Of course, this was struck down; what Congressperson financed by Big Oil would cast a vote kicking Big Oil out of the picture? And it seems that, in the end, it doesn't matter all that much to him after all. I haven't heard about it in some time, and he accepted contributions from interest groups where Obama did not.

      I don't expect, for example, someone who was given millions of dollars in campaign contributions by the health insurance industry (as was Hillary Clinton) will make an honest and fair attempt at establishing healthcare policy that is fair to people and not the big companies that financed him/her. I think I knew I would be for Obama the moment that I heard that he wasn't accepting contributions from interest groups. To me, that makes him much more of an honest, sincere, and humble candidate than anyone accepting such contributions--Republican or Democrat or independent--could ever be.
  • Yes. All of this. I parked my butt on the couch at 8:50 sharp on Thursday night. :-) I never watch TV, but this speech was too important to miss.

    And oh, I wasn't disappointed! I love Obama. He brought me to tears during his speech, just because he was so thoughtful and reasoned and it was such a change from the Bush & McCain hawkish aggro politics. I'm volunteering for the Obama campaign, because I honestly think it would break my heart if McCain won this one. :-( I'm going to do my best to make sure that doesn't happen.
    • Yay you! :^D When we get back from England, I'm going to try to get involved with registering young voters in Pennsylvania. This election is too important to spend it sitting around and hoping for change; we need to do something about it! :)

      I've voted in two Presidential elections now and had my heart broken in both. The 2000 election was, of course, devastating because we won that election in but for the fact that we're not as unscrupulous as the Republicans. In 2004, I just couldn't believe that voters fell for the same schtick twice. The saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Well, shame on a lot of people in 2004 ...

      I'm hoping that three's the charm. :) We really need change. I'm honestly afraid of what will happen if we keep going down this same road.
  • As I come from a country where political crises are an art form and surviving them a necessary survival skill (not to mention economic crises), I wish you, my American friends, lots of luck with Obama. I have felt over and over again that feeling that history was being made and that ok, this was it, this time was right, only to be disappointed yet again.
    I sincerely hope that he works for you.
    Incidentally, in 04 people here had trouble understanding how the Shrub (very good!) had won the election, not to mention the previous incident with the stolen votes. Worthy of our peripherical political systems.
    • I figure things can't get any worse with Obama. Yet, if we stay status quo with McCain, things will stay just as bad and maybe get worse. We're in a bad way right now; "staying the course" is not the solution, imo.

      2000 mystifies me not because the Republicans cheated (Republicans? unscrupulous?? naaaaah ...) but because so few people cared. Trash bags of ballots were being thrown away, and very few people cared.

      2004 mystified me because, like I said to vana_tuivana in the comment above yours, the saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I can't believe people got duped twice.

      If they get duped again ... *shrug*
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