Friday, November 7, 2014

Happy Travels


American Idiot - Green Day

Maybe the People Have Spoken But Not for Me


I value timeliness and know a post-election post should ideally appear the day after the election but I just couldn’t write anything until now. So sue me.

I just don’t understand it.

I don’t understand why or how Republicans could achieve as many electoral victories as they did three days ago. I don’t understand why Barack Obama is still so reviled by so many – he’s far from perfect but his list of accomplishments is extensive and impressive – and why media coverage up to and on Election Day is so lacking, sophomoric and infuriating. I don’t understand why people either vote against their own self-interests or don’t vote at all. I don’t understand why research and intellect are frowned upon while ignorance and impulse are celebrated. And I don’t understand how my beloved country’s political process could become so impotent, so corrupt and discreditable and contaminated, in less time than it took for the oak tree in my front yard to become mighty and climbable.

Our process of crafting our government and choosing our leaders has been flawed from the beginning, of course, and the rich and ethically-challenged have always enjoyed power and success at others’ expense. Women didn’t even have the right to vote until almost a century and a half after the country was founded; African-Americans were forced to wait until 1965 – just 49 years ago - for the President of the United States to sign a law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Corruption has been part of the process for a long time – who hasn’t heard of “vote early and vote often” and Tammany Hall? – and it will probably remain a part of politics as long as unscrupulous men like Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes and Karl Rove play the game. But it wasn’t until the 2000 presidential election – when a dim-witted faux cowboy chosen by the political appointees of the U.S. Supreme Court was substituted for the candidate who had won the popular vote – that I realized how bad things could get and had gotten.

When Democrat Barack Obama – a person of color, no less – wasn’t prevented from winning the White House in 2008 and another dim-witted politician, this one from Wasilla, was kicked to the curb by voters, I felt my cynicism lifting. Maybe the change I had hoped for had come to pass. Subsequent debt ceiling fights, government shutdowns, the escalation of war and drone attacks further tarnished politics for me but I still had hope that the electorate could come to its senses and democracy could prevail.

Even when the corporate media marginalized, ridiculed and ultimately silenced the Occupy Wall Street movement – a genuine, organic movement intended, I thought, to highlight the growing chasm between rich and poor, the class warfare being waged through public policies that favored the wealthy – and corporate personhood permeated the landscape in the form of Citizens United v. FEC, I still had hope. Even when Mr. Obama proved to have a pliable spine and Congress showed that it was less interested in putting people to work than in putting the president out of work, I still had hope that the system, as flawed as it was, could still work.

Fast forward to three days ago. At that point, due more to the executive than the legislative branch, the deficit had fallen by half, unemployment was now below six percent, the price of gasoline had fallen sharply, more people had health care and the economy was growing at a decent rate. The GOP had cost taxpayers $26 million when they shut down the government last year. Republicans had caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a downgrade in our credit rating. They had blocked long-term unemployment benefits, blocked every jobs bill, blocked equal pay for women, blocked the Violence Against Women Act. Surely the chickens would come home to roost on Election Day for the GOP at all levels, I thought.

I was as wrong as a Ford employee driving a Honda.

Republican gubernatorial candidates beat Democrats in Texas (59 to 39 percent), Wisconsin (52 to 46 percent) and Michigan (50 to 47 percent). Mitch McConnell – the man who had promised at the start of Obama’s first term that Republicans would do everything they could to thwart the president – beat Alison Lundergan Grimes 56 to 41 percent to retain his U.S. Senate seat. Tea Party darling Tom Cotton beat Democrat Mark Pryor 56 to 39 percent in the Arkansas U.S. Senate race. The GOP captured control of the U.S. Senate, in fact, which means McConnell is now Senate Majority Leader as well as one of the most off-putting and insipid individuals ever to grace the political stage. And in my own Congressional district, Republican candidate Mike Bishop beat my friend Eric Schertzing, who belongs in public service, 55 to 42 percent.

Here in Michigan, Republicans control the executive office, both houses of the legislature, the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state’s office and the state supreme court. My Great Lake State – the birthplace of the United Auto Workers in 1935, turned into a right-to-work state by GOP politicians in 2013 – is now officially, disgustingly, distressingly, detestably red.

There was some good news. Democrat Gary Peters, who wanted to succeed Michigan’s Carl Levin in the U.S. Senate, beat GOP challenger Terry Lynn Land – who ran one of the worst campaigns ever – by 54 to 41 percent. (Be careful what you wish for, Senator-elect.) Floridians chose Alan Grayson over his Republican challenger, Carol Platt, to represent their 9th District in Congress. The Ted Cruz faction of the U.S. Senate is expected to butt heads with the Mitch McConnell faction at every turn so it won’t be smooth sailing for the man whose mission was to sink Obama’s ship. Voters in the State of Washington approved a common sense background check/gun control referendum. And Congress now has 100 female members – the most in American history.

My friend Curtis Hertel, Jr. is now my state senator, having beaten his GOP challenger 66 to 34 percent. My state representative, Tom Cochran, beat his Republican challenger 54 to 46 percent. Another friend, State Representative Sam Singh, was re-elected 67 to 32 percent. And Ingham County commissioners Rebecca Bahar-Cook, Kara Hope, Todd Tennis and Brian McGrain, good people all, were re-elected. So there were a few bright spots in an otherwise dark night.

But I still don’t get it.

Although I’ve been in politics for more than three decades, I can’t fathom why Republicans did so well in these midterms. Poor ‘Get Out the Vote’ effort by Democrats? Fewer absentee ballots from left-leaning voters? Low turnout by Detroiters and youth? Too much Koch money? GOP-friendly gerrymandering? Uninspiring progressive candidates? I just can’t get my head around the idea that the electorate is simply so stupid, so ignorant and narrow-minded and foolish, that voters actually want to be represented by today’s Republicans.

Aren’t people paying attention? Don’t people read and think and question and investigate? Can people really be so egocentric, so narcissistic, so shallow and short-sighted and misguided and susceptible to falsehoods and spin that they blithely support whores, liars and masterminders in the voting booth? How many of us believe John Boehner, Chris Christie, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul wake up in the morning and think, “How can I make the world a better place?” How many of us drink urine when we’re told it’s Lemonade?

I don’t even know what else to write. The professional pundits will surely pontificate. Perhaps last Tuesday defies explanation.

My friend Stephanie White, who worked on unsuccessful Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer’s campaign, shared a Facebook status by Congressman John Lewis on November 5 that was at least momentarily comforting:

You cannot become bitter or hostile. You have to keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. This is not a struggle of a week, a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime.

Words to remember.




Click here to read, “President Obama Left Fighting for His Own Relevance.”

Click here to read, “Fewer Voted, Snyder Wins – Here’s How He Did It.”

Click here to read, “Michigan Voters Reject Wolf Hunting Laws.”

Click here to read, “Three Incumbents Lose Seats on Holt School Board.”

Click here to read, “Republicans Didn’t Win as Big As You Think They Did. And Obama Didn’t Lose.”

Click here to read, “The Likes of Mitch McConnell and Joni Ernst Leave America a Bleaker Place This Morning.”

Click here to read, “Chill Out, Liberals! The Republicans Took the Senate and That’s TERRIBLE…for Them.”

Click here to read, “Iowans Elect Hog-Castrating Ammosexual Right-Wing Extremist Tea Partier Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate.”

Click here to read, “Is Michigan Now Officially a Red State?”


Sources: Bridge Magazine, New York Times, MLive.com, Lansing State Journal, The Guardian, Ingham County, Politicususa.com, AddictingInfo.org, AATTP.org, Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why?



Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy (live)


The Pain Never Goes Away



“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

~ Rose Kennedy


We just learned that a woman with whom Anita works, a friend, suffered the loss of her teenaged stepson a few days ago. He died, according to a terse Facebook message, as the result of a “tragic accident.”

For some reason this has hit Anita hard. It’s not because she knew the young man. She didn’t. It’s probably because my partner is extremely sensitive and empathetic and she knows exactly how awful and life-changing it feels to lose someone you love.

Anita and her daddy
Anita’s beloved father was killed by bladder cancer. He died on a Saturday morning at the start of Labor Day weekend in 2007. It was a beautiful day – the sun was warm and bright and the sky was a vivid blue – and yet it remains to her the darkest day ever. She’s still brought to tears by the memory of that day seven years ago.

Anita loved her daddy. He was her hero, her first and best protector, the strong and honest and hard-working man against whom all other men in her life are measured. (We all fall short.) She told me that right after he died, she’d wake up and think, “Is this real? Is he really gone?” She was forced to relive the trauma of his death over and over again during those first days and weeks.

Here’s the thing: the death of someone close to you is at first a nightmare. You’re forced to convince yourself that it’s really happened, again and again, at the start of every day, after every shower and every meal, every oil change and trip to the grocery store, until the part of you that accepts bad news finally lets this in. And if there’s guilt – “I should have done more” or “I should have seen this coming” or “I should have demanded a second opinion” or “I should have been better” – it takes even longer to restart your own life.

(I’ve written about death and loss before. Click here to read, “Happy Birthday, Charles McGlashan,” July 15, 2011; here to read, “Sometimes Saturdays Suck,” July 25, 2011; and especially here to read, “Fragility,” August 30, 2011.)

The incessant drip, drip, drip of horrible news these days that young children and black males and innocent bystanders have fallen victim to gun violence at the hands of the police and the mentally ill and those who’re supposed to love and protect them, not hurt them, guarantees that the empathetic among us find ourselves thinking about death a lot more than we’d like.

The dark, cold, scary fact that it’s inevitable for all of us sooner or later doesn’t make it any easier to accept, in my opinion.

Anita pointed out over lunch one day that you never get over the death of a loved one. You learn to live with the loss and the pain and if you’re lucky, you’re buoyed by love and support from friends and family who try to help you move on. Not to get over it but to move on. Because that’s all we can do.

I hope Anita’s friend can move on at some point.