Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clubbing the Baby Seal

I was probably about ten years old when it happened, but I, who retain few memories from my childhood, remember this one event indelibly. Growing up on West End Avenue in an old Manhattan highrise meant there were no playgrounds or back yards around, so kids in the neighborhood played outside on the sidewalk. I roller skated all by myself with great verve, and jumped rope with the others to the tune of "Down the Mississippi where the Boats Go Push." On the word "push" you leaped in under the rope at the same time that you shoved the previous kid out. All was in the timing. (Does this maybe remind you of Hillary? The image is instructive.)

One Easter morning, I proudly went downstairs to the street, bearing the little Easter basket my mother had just given me, filled with bright green plastic grass, small multicolored eggs, and a fuzzy, yellow baby chick. Nobody was around when suddenly I was approached by the local teen bully who lived somewhere around the block, in what was dubbed the "Puerto Rican section." He grabbed my precious basket and slammed it down into the gutter where it all fell apart. I gasped with disbelief and horror as he ran off--a witness, perhaps for the first time in my life, to gratuitous cruelty. He hadn't tried to steal my basket, he just trashed it, for no apparent reason.

Sobbing desperately, I escaped into the lobby and took the elevator back up to our apartment on the fifth floor. I was crying so hard I couldn't even speak when my frightened mother tried to find out what was wrong with me. Finally I was able to blurt out my terrible story. When she finally realized I wasn't physically hurt, my mother did not bother to comfort me. What she failed to understand in that crucial moment was that what I had lost was not just a cheap little Easter basket, but my primal trust in the world as an okay and safe place to be. This is sort of the point of an otherwise pointless story, at least as it lives in my psyche now.

Something about this memory resonates as Hillary Clinton tries to leap in under the rope and push the other kid out--as I watch her being the nasty neighborhood bully, first trashing Obama himself, then smashing his emblematic Easter basket, spilling its contents of hope all over the street. I find my sense of the world as a decent place being jeopardized all over again.

The other night a regular commentator on the PBS program, the McLaughlin Group, referred to Hillary's behavior as "clubbing the baby seal to death." Now, having duly bloodied him, she jauntily offers him up as bait to get herself the presidency. "There may be a way you can have us both," she declares, "that is, by voting for me." This is when, in my eyes, Hillary Clinton's Chippendale claw crossed over the line.

Now take a look at what Jane Smiley wrote about her in the HuffPost:

"It's become clear over the last week that the more Hillary Clinton is pressed, the more she reveals her true self. The fact that this self is unscrupulous is bad enough, but the fact that her whole campaign for the last year has been predicated on positioning, spin, and other varieties of public relations is worse. In fact, it is not only worse, it is Bushian, and that is the worst....Hillary Clinton seems to have learned the wrong lesson from her Senatorial success. The lesson she has learned is that Republicans such as McCain are more her friends than Senators with progressive principles. As a result, it now appears that Clinton and McCain stand together on one side of a divide, and Barack Obama stands on the other side of that divide. The divide is between the inside-the-beltway ruling class, who can see no reason of any kind that they should give up the power they have accumulated and the avenue to wealth that it represents, and the citizenry of the country, who in every poll insist that the country is headed in the wrong direction. In the last week, Clinton has put herself on McCain's ticket, attacking the change that Obama promises and seems poised to deliver (whether or not he can remains an open question), and promising more more more of the same of what we have had for the last thirty years. More of the same is exactly what almost everyone does not want, but Clinton tells us everyday in every way that that is what we will get -- what we have had is what she touts as her "experience"....Obama is not a known quantity. I have seen him one time and listened to one speech, and I was reasonably impressed by that speech. But Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. If you like the world that the Bushes and Clintons have made in the last twenty years, then you should by all means vote for her. But as of this week, I don't see her as the person I want answering the red phone."

Virgil informs me that he has decided to cancel his membership in the Alligator League of Women Voters. We are both hiding out in the bushes, it seems, wanting to keep as far away as possible from Hillary's decapitating axe. Whatever happens, we don't want a Cro-Magnon for president, even if she does happen to be female.

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