Bipartisan Disgust


There are quite a few words and phrases that I would like to completely eliminate from the universe.  Or at least the airwaves.

My brain is beginning to short circuit every time I hear “sequester”, “fiscal cliff”, “kick the can down the road” or “deficit”.

And I want to reach out and strangle someone when I hear any politician in Washington use the word “bipartisan”.

Because not one of them, for one single minute, EVER wants to see both parties share in any kind of success.

Ever.

If there was a baby going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and the President and Congress were all within grabbing distance, half of them would try to elbow each other out of the way to prevent the wrong party from reaching him first, and the rest would pontificate about how it was the other party’s fault that barrels even exist in the first place.

And the baby would go over the falls.

At which point, every one of those politicians would rush to get on the Sunday morning talk shows so they could push their party’s agenda for slowing the rush of the Falls, one drop at a time.

If you are feeling the underlying tone of this post, then you understand that their plan for never sharing has failed miserably. As I wake up this morning and scan the headlines, it is clear that not only has the baby gone over the Falls, but the entire country is swept up with a sense of anger and disgust.

And guess what, you bunch of stiff necked jackasses in Washington? You have finally caused a true bipartisan reaction.

We’re pissed off at all of you, on both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania avenue.

Sequester yourselves, why don’t you, before someone pushes you off a fiscal cliff.

Becoming Ma.


Well, for Heaven’s sake.

No wonder I can’t sleep!

Every time I turn on the radio, or watch TV, or pick up the newspaper, or read the Huffington Post, I am reminded of one grim, inevitable, indisputable fact.

I am about to become Ma Joad!

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You remember her, right?  From the movie “The Grapes of Wrath”?She was the long suffering, noble Mother in Steinbeck’s classic story of life during the Great Depression and the terrible Dust Bowl years. She was the strong, enduring symbol of love that kept her family together through economic disaster.

I can picture her right now, sweeping her empty, broken down house as the family packs its belongings onto the back of a truck, abandoning everything familiar to move west in search of jobs.

That is so me. Sweeping the floor of a deserted house…..

Why am I harboring the fantasy that I will turn into Ma Joad, you ask?  Well, I’ll just tell you why!

Because we’re about to go careening off the damn fiscal cliff, that’s why!  Every radio voice, editorial writer and TV pundit says we are, so it must be true!

Boehner and Obama are locked in a deadly battle of “No, you’re  a doody head!” and “Oh, yeah? Well, make me!”  They’re both independently wealthy, so they don’t actually care about the fiscal cliff or the monetary meltdown or the fact that the Dust Bowl years are going to look like a party compared to what’s coming. They just wanna win the chicken fight.

But I care! I do!

I’m just your average overweight, middle aged mother who is trying to hold onto her humble home, and I’m getting scared.  When we go off the cliff, you know, we won’t be wearing seat belts. From what the experts tell me (endlessly….) after January 1st, all the jobs will disappear in a puff of smoke, the stock market will crash, the banks will close, the sewers will back up and Facebook will shut down.  Disaster! The end of days!  All is lost!!

Nice, simple people like you and me will end up scratching and biting just to get the last loaf of bread off the store shelf. We’ll be reduced to hunting squirrels with rubber band slingshots, and pulling up dandelions just to eat the greens.

And when that happens, as it surely will, America will need another chubby old woman in frumpy clothes to symbolize our enduring strength.  Other than the straw hat, I totally fit the bill.  I even have the handsome son to match hers! See?

One of my good looking boys.

One of my good looking boys.

Ma Joad's good looking son.

Ma Joad’s good looking boy. Uncanny…….

So as I lie awake in the dark of night, worrying about the future, there is only one small ray of hope that flickers dimly in the gloom:

Maybe the Mayans were right, and we won’t be around long enough to even reach the fiscal cliff.

Is it all worth it?


I have been watching it all unfold.  The little tents, cramped together in a small space. The people huddled in folding chairs, wrapped in coats and scarves against the frigid night air, or standing in small groups talking.

I have seen the surging crowds, pushing forward, breaking down barriers in frustration and anger.  My heart starts to pound as I watch video of people shouting, pushing, shoving to get through.  And I wonder: is it worth the risk?

The scenes become scarier as people begin to turn against each other, trying to shout each other down, trying to drown each other out.  And then, of course, the police and security people appear on the scene, determined to keep order.

I have seen photos and videos of people screaming from the effects of pepper spray, weeping at the pain and fear.  Videos and photos of a man lying in a pool of blood after being pushed to the ground by police, who surround him and try to keep the crowd at bay.  With all of the passion and frustrated emotion, there have even been shootings and at least one stabbing.

And I have to ask myself: is it worth all this?   Is it worth putting your life and safety on the line?

My answer?

No.

Everything that I have described here came from media coverage of Black Friday Shopping.  So, NO!  Absolutely, positively NO. It is not worth fighting, scratching, screaming, bleeding and hurting other people just to save fifty bucks on the latest electronic gizmo, or the current chintzy toy.

I stayed home yesterday (other than a visit to the vet!) and I will shop locally today.  I plan to make as many Christmas gifts as possible this year.  After watching yesterday’s national horror show, I will never enter a Wallmart store again.  Mass hysteria, mass consumption in an age of want, mass chaos in the aisles of retail stores.  Is this what we have become?

There may be times when it is right to gather under tents, to march together and demand to be heard. There may be times when it is worth the risk to face the police, to refuse to disperse, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others in order to make a statement.

Getting a deal on an X Box surely isn’t one of those times.

 

 

Tension


At the age of fifty five, I have pretty much mastered the art of trying-not-to-offend. I don’t always succeed (in fact, my husband would be laughing out loud if he ever read this blog), but I do try.

I try not to offend. I try not to upset.

As I drive to work, I am thinking of gentle ways to inform parents that their best beloved can’t sit still for 20 seconds in a row.  I don’t want to offend; I want to educate and enlighten!

As I read the news and feel my blood pressure skyrocket, I am thinking of ways to clearly express my outrage without offending anyone.  I want to find a way to express my thoughts and feelings so clearly and crisply that no thinking person could possibly object. I won’t engage in name calling; I don’t want to offend!

I am a middle aged woman. I see most things, most often, sort of from both sides. I can understand and respect those shades of gray.  I really don’t want people to look at me and think “crazy radical”!

But here we are, faced with the “Occupy” movement.  I am conflicted on SO many levels.

One: this is an incredibly naive and simplistic movement. (OK; so what? Naive is innocent, innocent in uncorrupted, uncorrupted is available to hope.)

Two: these people don’t even have any demands.  (OK, when did we decide that you have to be “demanding” to have meaning? What ever happened to civil discourse?)

Three: I don’t have time to march and protest (Well, I am not sure that any demonstrator, protestor, revolutionary ever woke up in the morning and said, “Oh, good. Nothing on the agenda today.” I don’t think that Rosa Parks said that on the key morning of her life. I am not sure that William Dawes was thinking it on on April 18th, 1776. Who am I to feel like my grocery list is more important than the message being delivered here?)

Four: This is going to get messy.   (Yes. Yes it is. Democracy is messy.  It is loud, it is time consuming and it is frustrating. If we could only ask the ancient Athenians about it, I am absolutely certain that they would agree.)

Five: You can’t change the world through a protest. Oh. Yes. You. Can.Ask the Solidarnosh marchers from Poland in the 1990s.  Ask the people of Tunisia or Egypt.  Ask the Boston Tea Party participants from 1776. Oh. Yes. You. Can.

But people will get aggravated with me. They will think me annoying with my repeated political posts.  People I love and respect and want to keep in my “circle” will not know how to respond when I march in favor of increased regulation of banks and investment firms. I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of the snickers. I’m afraid of the rolled eyes. I’m afraid of the “hide” clicks on my FB page.

Then I look at that FB page, and I see the postings from my children and their friends.  I realize that some people are putting their futures on the line. They are risking arrest for the movement. As I watch the videos taken at the various recent marches, I realize that they are risking their bodies, their safety, their freedom. They are willing to march and take those chances and stand up in public.

I’m not young enough to discount public opinion. I’m not innocent enough to believe in a utopian future. I’m not bold enough to believe myself beyond the reach of the ruling class.

But I am naive enough to believe that the sound of a thousand voices can be heard in the halls of power. I am foolish enough to have faith in a system that relies wholly on public choice.  I am innocent enough to believe that the power and strength of an impassioned youth movement can suddenly open the eyes of the power elite.

I will, with some trepidation, march in Boston on Monday, October 10th. I will carry a sign and stand with my children and hold my head up high. I am willing to take on the laughs, and sneers and derision of my peers. I will gulp, and cringe and stand tall.

I am the 99%.

Idealism on Wall Street


In the heat of a passionate and thoughtful political conversation this morning, a friend called me “an idealist, not a realist”.

It kind of made me laugh, because at the ripe old age of 55, seeing many of my dreams in the rear view mirror, I feel more like a cynic than an idealist.  But I’m pleased to hear that I still give off some idealistic energy.

The conversation with my friend, the one that lead to his unintended compliment, was a discussion of the recent “occupations” in various cities around the country.  These small but growing protests are an expression of frustration at the injustice in the current political and economic systems.  They are largely unfocused, very peaceful, and filled with the kind of youthful rhetoric that hasn’t been heard in this country since about 1973.  Cries of “democracy now” and talk of “we the people” resonate through the crowds. There is chanting, drumming, and demands for a new world, a new day, a new democracy.  People are donating food, tarps, raingear, medical supplies. Volunteers are cooking, cleaning up, handing the press.  The marchers are taking care of each other. I hear echoes of the campus demonstrations of the sixties in these voices. I feel a breeze from the age of Woodstock. I see a renewed sense of greater community and a belief in a greater good.

When I became a mother, I embraced my idealism.  To raise a child is to declare our belief in a happy future.  Every New Year when my children were young, I could look ahead to the adventures that awaited us together.

And I teach elementary school.  It’s hard to think of a more idealistic life choice than that!  But I haven’t felt politically idealistic since….well, since Jimmy Carter, I guess!

But the current anger at big banks, corporate lobbyists and Wall Street speculators is a chord that I think crosses party lines, age lines and philosophical lines.  All of us who are members of the bottom 99% of the national economy are fed up with the collusion between the government and the richest corporations in the world. So I for one will join my voice with those hopeful young idealists, including my own three children, who are spending today holding signs and chanting for change on Wall Street.

I am realistic enough to expect that the next President will come from either the Democratic or Republican Party, and that he will have a whole host of corporate owners whose bidding he will do while he is in the White House.  I am realistic enough to understand that the people on Capital Hill, whose seats were largely bought and paid for by business groups and company CEOs, will be slow to change the laws that regulate those businesses and banks.

But I am idealistic enough to believe that a loud enough outcry from the streets can change history. I am idealistic enough to believe that all political and economic systems change and evolve.  And I am idealistic enough to take Abraham Lincoln at his word, spoken at his first inauguration:

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

We, the People….


….the American people,  are a really big group.  There are lots of us.  We tried, but we couldn’t all fit around the table at Dunkin Donuts.  There are so many of us that we can’t even fit in a big conference room. Or Dodgers Stadium.   Or the Grand Canyon.

Do you get it?  We’re a big, big pile of folks.  We come in a whole bunch of colors, shapes and sizes, too.  If you could somehow manage to cram us all into one place, we would hardly recognize each other!  Some of us are chubby middle aged white women with plastic bifocals on.  Some are tall, skinny black men wearing three piece suits. We’re brown, we’re pink, we’re young, we’re old enough to remember when Truman was in charge.

We like baseball, except for those of us who don’t.  We adore country music, except for the huge group of us who hate country music and only listen to metal. We have PhD’s and we dropped out of the eight grade.  We have ten different words for a big cold cut sandwich on a long piece of bread.

We all live within these borders. That part’s true. But we are NOT a club. We aren’t all Democrat or Republican.  We aren’t all liberal or conservative.  We don’t all agree about the best way to solve the debt crisis, how to tax big corporations, how to fix Social Security, who will win the next election or the World Series, or how to grill the perfect steak.  Hell, a lot of us don’t even eat steak!!

So…..American politicians.  Please pay attention.  You really, really, really have to STOP saying “The American people” in sentences like “The American people understand that the Conservative plan put forth by the House is the best way to go forward.” (Yes, I did just hear those precise words on CNN.)  Or, “The American people agree that we need to increase revenues.” (I heard something just like that from the President yesterday).  Stop trying to quote us.  Stop trying to convince us that we agree with you.  We can’t agree on one single thing!!

Wait, that’s not true.  Here is one statement that you can use in any setting, no matter which party you belong to:

“The American people are sick and tired of the sniping, moaning, name calling and finger pointing. The American people, the whole big noisy bunch of them, are overwhelmingly in favor of having government officials act like grown ups who actually know what they are doing. The American people want the government to stop shouting, start listening, make some compromises and get the damn job done.”

Sincerely,

Karen, self appointed spokesperson for the American People.