Saturday, September 29, 2012

Out-Holying One Another

As we ease toward November 6, the flame-wars between liberals and those on the Left over voting for Pres. Obama is heating up.  Before it was Tbogg who was telling us that we're living in fairy land looking for ponies.  Now, it's the folks at Crooked Timber.  There are two posts, but the comment section on this one is a goldmine.  All of them create fantasy interlocutors over whose corpses they gleefully dance.  At the end, all of them come out looking kind of silly.

My favorite "comeback" boils down to, "What have you done to make the world better?!?  Huh?!?  HUH?!!?"

It's really simple.  I've been trying, without any success whatsoever, to make it clear our whole political dialogue is so out of whack with what's actually going on in the world, sitting around playing which candidate is better or worse in our current state of affairs is worse than meaningless.  Quite apart from the many, already named flaws in Obama's record, there's the fact that he didn't begin his term not only trying to pass an undersized stimulus, but he also refused to go after the folks who brought about the catastrophe in which we were living.  After the previous Congress gave them billions of dollars in "bailout" money they turned around and used in the dog races on Wall Street.

Rahm Emmanuel was his first Chief of Staff.  Most folks who've followed his career know that's all that needs to be said.

The counter-argument - we're stuck with the terms of debate as they stand - kinda sorta misses the point if the previous question and answer are accepted.  Since the current terms of debate ignore overwhelming realities that are at the heart of so many of our troubles, does it matter is Barack Obama might be slightly less bad than Mitt Romney on the economy?  Does it matter that Mitt Romney might try to have the Affordable Care Act repealed?

From the never-ending wars in Asia to the threat of new war with Iran to the economy, we are in these messes because we have been pretending for far too long that none of them have anything to do with one another.  We've acted as if we are a country at peace while tens of thousands of our service personnel are in harms way.  We have been, in the words of David Halbertam's book title, like  there is War in a Time of Peace.

Since 2001, we have been at war.  Congress was too afraid to pass a formal resolution.  Pres. Bush was too cowardly to ask for one.  All the same, hundreds of thousands of Americans have seen combat over the past decade.  All the while, we've carried on with our lives as if this were not the case.  When Pres. Obama was elected, the Nobel Committee gave him the Peace Prize and for what, exactly?  Promising to end our wars at some point?

Other than on Facebook, where some folks list the names of the dead and wounded, do we hear and read the names of our casualties in our invisible wars?  Have we heard any member of either party in a position of authority say it might be a good idea to make fighting and winning these wars a national priority?  Have we heard any candidate say anything about what it might take to "win" in Afghanistan?  In Pakistan?  Yemen?

Of course not.  We haven't heard these things because for ten years we've thought it possible to act as if "fighting over there so we're not fighting them here" meant something.  We've thought it possible to keep trillion-dollar wars off the books, as if the personnel and materiel didn't cost any money or emotional or political energy.  We've thought it possible to continue the unConstitutional charade that Presidents have this magic power to send troops wherever they want to send them, whenever, under whatever pretext.  We've thought it possible we could have tens of thousands of physically and psychically scarred veterans just re-enter society and it wasn't our problem.

So, yeah, I've been doing something.  And no one listens.  Instead, people say we're privileged utopians who want flying unicorns for lunch instead of the meat-and-potatoes in front of us.  I'm told that because Romney is so obviously bad for the country, it is necessary to vote for Obama.  I'm told that these aren't important issues because that's not how most people vote.  Worst of all, I'm told these are straw arguments that don't deal with the real world.

Meanwhile, our troops are dying, our Treasury bleeding, the economy faltering because no one anywhere in a position of authority, or running for such a position, has the balls to stand up and say, "It's about time we acted like we were a nation at war."  To act as if these are things that can be taken care of . . . someday . . . by a bunch of people working real hard is almost as likely as seeing Dick Cheney shipped off to The Hague where he belongs.

Thank you if I'm unimpressed with people arguing about how awful Mitt Romney is.  As if, somehow, I missed that.  Thank you if I'm unimpressed with "ZOMG!!!11!! The Supreme COURT!!! ABORTION!!!111!!1" because the Court already has an acting conservative majority, thanks in no small part to Senate Democrats during the Bush years, who decided to get all bi-partisan and vote for Sam Alito.

Finally, forgive me for thinking you might not be all right in the head if the constant badgering about how horrible our country and world would be if Mitt Romney were elected were news.  Will things be bad in a purported Romney Administration?  Judging by his campaign, it would be so inept it probably would spend most of its time trying to explain to the world why it only looks inept.  Things will continue to be slightly less bad as they have been under Pres. Obama.  Admitting that, somehow, makes so many folks feel superior, as if it weren't beside the point.

I have no interest in being a moral purist; that has nothing to do with the position I'm taking.  Rather, it might be nice if we could back up a few paces and talk about the way things really are and what our politicians can and could do to change them for the better.  Instead, we have airplane windows and Muslim Marxists, neither of which has anything to do with the current major party candidates.

Excuse me, in other words, for thinking that electing the next President of the United States actually involved important stuff.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Swaying To The Music

Dancing is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. - Dorothy Parker
And we danced/On the wave of the Ocean Romance - The Hooters
 So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; nd when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord.I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’ And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.- 2 Sam 6:12b-16, 20-23
The best thing I did the past week was DJ the Homecoming Dance at my daughter's high school.  As an occasional professional disc jockey, there are few experiences guaranteed to make one know whether or not one is doing a good job than playing music for teenagers.  They will either pack the floor and scream at each new song, or stand around and mope.  There are always a few who insist the music isn't any good, or that no one is having a good time, or that because their request wasn't played, the whole dance was a waste of time and money.  You learn quickly you just can't please everyone, and that it's OK.  If you have a crowd of nearly five hundred, and over three hundred are dancing, with another 75-100 either on the way to or from the bathroom or getting a drink and someone comes up and says, "If you play this, you'll get people dancing," what else can you say but, "Sure.  OK."

At my daughter's school, the Administration isn't too pleased with the actions of some of the kids dancing.  It's called "grinding" and it is exactly as it sounds.  It sounds horrible, a bunch of teenagers for all intents and purposes dry-humping on the dance floor.  Except, of course, a moment's reflection should make people realize "kids today" aren't doing anything different from young people at any other time or place.  They're trying things out.  They're showing their disdain for the imposition of rules from above by flouting them in public.  They're expressing their joy at being physical creatures, sexual creatures who revel in the close proximity of another.

The principal used my microphone to announce that the grinding had to stop.  Before the dance began, however, he came up to me and told me that even if there was grinding going on, he wasn't going to stop the dance.  So, I wondered, why say anything at all?  If no punishment is going to flow, if there are no consequences for what the Administration insists are wrong actions, how, precisely, are they wrong?

Dancing is something we human beings enjoy.  Even if we don't do it well, the reality of translating sound in to movement, of celebrating our embodiedness is something that allows us the privilege to declare to the world, "Look at us!"  Part of being physical creatures is being sexual.  There has always been a sexual element to our physical existence.  There's no reason either to deny or denigrate it.  When it comes to young people, celebrating this particular aspect of life rises to the fore, as it were, when there's darkness and loud music and huge crowds and members of the opposite gender nearby.  Trying to stop it, or even curb it a little, is a bit like being King Canute demanding the tides move at his command.

As a Christian, it's a blessing to see and experience in all of life the moments when Divine Grace enters our world, even in the midst of sin.  We can no more separate sin from virtue than we can hydrogen from oxygen and still have water.  God created us as physical creatures and called it very good.  We live and celebrate that physical embodiment in any number of ways.  Including dancing in ways that announce our interest in and enjoyment of our sexuality.  Not only is there nothing wrong with this, it makes perfect sense.  Like David dancing before the parading Ark Of The Covenant, embarrassing Saul's daughter Michal, we should all take the time to act the fool, to offend propriety, because that just means we're human beings celebrating being human.

And that, my friends, is indeed a good gift from a good God.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Miss A Week, Meh

When our internet ended as we awaited the installation of AT&T U-verse, we watched in embarrassed awe as Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign eviscerated itself in a moment of honesty.  As reader Alan says elsewhere, "I mean, does it actually surprise anyone that Marie Antoinette Mongomery Burns Thurston Howell Romney III is contemptuous of the working poor? How could anyone alive be surprised by that? Didn't everyone already know that?"  Now, it's windows on airplanes.  More fluff for the late-night TV hosts.

Even before Romney's feckless disregard for political sensitivity, his campaign had, for all intents and purposes, pulled out of Pennsylvania and Michigan, both of which were, until the Democratic National Convention, "in play".  Recognizing that pouring money down particular rat-holes was not a good idea, his campaign had decided that two states will decide this election - Ohio and Florida.  That is where the action is.  That's where the candidates will concentrate their money, time, TV ad buying, and personal appearances.  History is invoked - "No Republican has won without Ohio!" - without a thought that this is a meaningless statistical artifact rather than careful political calculation.

And the real things - war and rage in the Middle East; a stagnant economy and tone-deaf monetary managers; the self-immolation of many on the right as the day they feared most, Barack Obama's re-election as President, draws closer and closer - get lost in the shuffle.  Our military faces the prospect of sequestration, putting at risk everything from service contracts to the prospect of how many planes we buy.  Congress refuses to do anything, as has been their want, taking a two month vacation, putting off required votes on how we the people are to allocate our resources to operate.

These latter aren't small things.  They aren't irrelevant.  All the same, in many ways this election reminds me very much of the election of 1988, when Michael Dukakis lost the Presidency because he rode around in a tank, told Bernie Shaw he wouldn't want to kill the person who raped and murdered his wife, and was a card-carrying member of the ACLU.  In the light of the events of the ensuing four years, it might have been nice to talk about more than burning the American flag and who was and was not Jack Kennedy.  Yet these latter are what we remember from that election, rather than the fact that the person who won that autumn faced the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the coup attempt and demise of the Soviet Union, and, yes, a recession.  Rather than history teaching us about the importance of Ohio in electoral calculus, it might be nice to remember that elections have consequences.  Real things that impact millions of lives are at stake.  Things far more important than whether or not windows on airplanes roll down.

While I do think the 47% comment was both unimportant and an enormous blunder, the pattern of election coverage has been atrocious.  We focus on minutiae, all the while American service personnel are dying in Afghanistan.  We laugh at Romney's gaffes, yet neither candidate - not really - is making clear what, precisely, each will do to bring down the unemployment rate (unless you count, "More of the same!" from the President and "What W did only bigger!" from Romney as "precise").

Finally, it is Congress more than the Presidency that will determine what happens for the next couple years.  Our divided government, by and large, works well during flush times.  When we don't need a whole lot of action, people smacking one another around verbally while moving behind the scenes to ensure stasis are good things.  When things need to get done, however - real things for real people, real laws with real consequences for jobs and housing and national defense - we need people who can say, "OK, we disagree about a whole lot of stuff, but we also need to do what we were elected to do.  Pass laws."

Elections matter.  We have to do with real, serious matters that impact the lives of millions of people.  It would be nice if we had an actual discussion about these things rather than the political equivalent of LOLCat pictures.

Virtual Tin Cup

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