Sunday, June 29, 2008

Flip-flopping or Tacking?

I have a friend (who shall go unnamed) who loves cats and Palestinians--but not Israel. Recently she was plunged into disillusionment with Barack Obama after hearing him offer wholehearted support to the Israeli lobby in a prominent speech after he claimed the nomination. Right on the heels of that came his change of heart regarding the public financing for his campaign--Obama rejected the flat amount of $86 million that would have put him and John McCain on an equal footing, which reportedly he had previously agreed to. Instead, Obama opted to let his supporters finance his campaign. NB: his supporters, but not lobbyists or corporate interests.

McCain and the media immediately went on the attack, wanting to brand Obama with that most dreaded of labels: flip-flopper. See, he's just another politician, they're quick to say; a panderer and an opportunist like all the others, not different.

I say, I think he's very different.

Okay, so when is a flip-flopper not a flip-flopper? Indeed, what is the difference between flip-flopping and changing your mind? I've been thinking a lot about this lately, trying to sort it out, because honestly, when I see John McCain flip-flopping all over the place--being wildly inconsistent, reversing positions-- I'm revolted. It comes off (to me) as tergiversation--that is to say, as back pedaling, untrustworthiness, opportunism, double-dealing, and an all-too-easy change of allegiance. Ideologues, however, have only two possible directions they can move in: forward and reverse. It's a style of thinking that does not allow for diagonals or subtler modes of gradation.

What I have concluded is that where McCain tergiversates, Obama navigates; like a good sailor, the man knows how to TACK. Tacking, it should be noted--a little to the left here, over a bit to the right there, in response to prevailing winds--is not at all the same as flip-flopping, or reversing a position. As I see it, Obama's various maneuvers are a skillful form of multi-directional steering; he is able to zigzag, bend, move sideways, scud, skim, swerve, deflect, or deviate in a roundabout way, in order to keep his boat from capsizing in choppy waters. Tacking is not recanting or switching allegiance. Rather, it is a well-pitched way of achieving passage through a (political) maze in which the adept must concentrate on the essence of everything he has learned in order to survive his ordeal--and win the presidency. And he does so with the same unerring spirit of integrity that has accompanied him on his wizardly journey thus far. Personally, I am more than pleasantly surprised at Obama's deftness in steering, and his ability never to project his shadow onto others. Imagine the metaphysical alembic being established when he tells the world, referring to his former rival Hillary Clinton, "She rocks!" Obama knows exactly what he is doing. I haven't seen him make a botch of anything yet. P.S. I'll be taking a break from blogging over the next month or two.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Disdain for McCain

For some time now, "Meet the Press" has been a landmark event of my Sunday mornings; I have looked forward every week to my hour spent with Tim Russert relentlessly grilling somebody politically savvy and important, followed by those lively round table discussions with all manner of media journalists and pundits. Two Sunday mornings ago, when I turned on the TV at two minutes to nine, I heard Russert say, "See you next week at the regular time." The program had already aired, unbeknownst to me, an hour early, and I had just missed it. (The bump was in order to make way for the French open tennis championship finale). "See you next week at the regular time" was what I heard him say, but then it didn't happen. Tim Russert died suddenly last Friday from a lethal heart attack at age 58.

When it comes to media skills in the political arena, this was definitely the man of the hour, a talk show with with an incomparable edge, moderated by someone who, now that we have to think about it, is quite simply irreplaceable. The multiple litanies of tribute that continue to follow upon his death have been as passionate and adoring as if it were the Pope who died--only more so. Russert has been gorgeously remembered and will be sorely missed by his many colleagues and fans, including me.

Everybody who is anybody (which includes George Bush, Barack Obama, and John McCain) have paid their two minutes of heartfelt tribute on NBC. I couldn't help but notice how McCain seemed quite personable when he talked about Tim, in what must actually be his normal way of speaking. Usually when I hear him campaigning, I want to bolt out of the room; I can't bear his condescending, singsong way of addressing an audience as if they were fifth-graders needing to be pacified. I cringe every time he says "my friends." But I am not the only one who feels this way, attested to by the following not-quite-literate and rather crude response to McCain from a random blogger:

"During McCain's speech this morning he said more MY FRIENDS that I was about to puke.... Please take this guy away from TV.....Arms flailing and bottom yellow teeth gritting and the snow white face scaring children."

I am horrified to learn that McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his class, that is, 894th in a class of 899. Haven't we had enough of cretinous presidents and stupid men masquerading as tough guys? I am embarrassed to learn that McCain has never used a computer. In the raw world of today's internet age, someone who has shown that degree of incuriosity and played hooky throughout such a vital, emerging aspect of our culture, is simply not qualified, in my humble opinion, for the highest-ranking office of our country. It does not stop there, however. As the self-designated braggart of "straight-talk," McCain has flip-flopped on nearly every issue (two examples being torture and immigration) until nobody really knows where he stands on anything. Except, of course, the "surge."

So, I did my thing and consulted the Thesaurus. What more, if anything, should be added to this portrait of John McCain? I asked. The answer came back: "malcontent, grumbler, grouch, someone with a chip on his shoulder; dissident, noncooperative, obstructive; spleenful, peevish, testy, petulant, fault-finding, hard to please; nauseating, sickening, tedious, upsetting, get one down; make trouble." That was enough to spook me even more. I now know too much, and it is every bit as bad as I thought. I won't promise, however, like Susan Sarandon, to move to Italy or Canada if McCain gets elected, but it's not because I wouldn't want to.

Yet a leader I just read in The Economist claims that, despite their respective flaws, we have two good candidates who offer "the most impressive choice America has had for a long time." Sorry kids, you got it wrong. There is only one choice, as far as I am concerned, and it has to be for the candidate who understands that ambitions of empire and being top dog through world domination are dangerous games to play. I will vote for the only candidate who understands, admits to, and will seek to rectify, the reversals of fortune America has undergone in pursuit of these creepy goals--the only candidate who will not be promoting more of the same while everything else rots in real time.

"The Republicans have a problem," writes Lincoln Mitchell on the HuffPost today. "America is not ready for another white male president." Now that's a proposition I can agree with, hands down, no questions asked.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That Extra Kick

For me, blogging has become much more than a once-or-twice-a-week activity of observing, ruminating, and commenting on events as they unfold. Mostly I have no idea in advance what I will write, so a certain feeling of precariousness hangs over the whole enterprise, because of the possibility of nothing dropping, as it were, out of the sky at the requisite moment. Trusting that by leaving myself in the hands of infinity something will inevitably catch fire, can be a nerve-wracking experience at times. When it works out well, though, it can also be a wildly exhilarating, even ecstatic experience, giving the act of writing a special radiance.

The truth is, I use the blog as my "spiritual helicopter," by which I mean that I am always looking at events through the lens of synchronicity, scrying everywhere for signs, hoping the tide will bring me in. What I find is that certain things seem to cluster meaningfully in space and time, as if held together mysteriously by a hidden magnet of meaning, even while appearing to be random. The trick is in being able to notice and highlight the connections.

When things intersect like this in small but inspiring ways, they often have a numinous charge. Sometimes this can have the feel of messages coming in from the universe. However, writing from the principle of synchronicity presents a real challenge, because synchronicities cannot be consciously created. They take you utterly by surprise. It is the feeling of utter surprise that adds that "extra kick."

There is another "extra kick" about blogging, however: it's when someone you don't actually know posts a comment to what you've written. One such comment arrived a couple of days ago:


As a long time fan of yours (I've read all of your books and articles) I can tell you that I was not only delighted to come upon your blog, but to know that you are an Obama person. I have not read all your blog entries...and somewhere you talk about Obama exuding an aura of a Zen master. It goes much deeper than that.

I wasn't old enough to vote when JFK ran, but I can tell you that when I would listen to him, I would get goose-bumps and just know that this was something different. (I am an empath) Of course I could not voice this in a staunch Republican family (Queens, NY). Needless to say I was severely traumatized when he was killed. My feeling about Obama goes much further, and maybe it started when I read his book, Dreams of My Father...he's right there in that book. To me he is so obviously REAL in a world of so many fakes..."

Many thanks,
Lee Mamunes,
Suffern, NY

This commentary intersected on my email (where all blog comments are automatically delivered) along with the following forwarded essay, also about Obama. I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to whether there is any meaningful coincidence occurring here, and if there is, what to make of it. All I know is that it passed the test for me, because as I read them both, I felt the prickling zing of a "dancing universe" collapsing in on itself for one fleeting but poignant moment.

"Friday, June 6, 2008 (SF Gate)
Is Obama an enlightened being?/Spiritual wise ones say: This sure ain't no ordinary politician. You buying it?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

I find I'm having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and
more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and
miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of
all shapes and stripes and I'm having it in particular with those who seem
confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the
same thing: What the hell's the big deal about Obama?

I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.

Warning: If you are a rigid pragmatist/literalist, itchingly evangelical,
a scowler, a doubter, a burned-out former '60s radical with no hope left,
or are otherwise unable or unwilling to parse alternative New Age speak,
click away right now, because you ain't gonna like this one little bit.

Ready? It goes likes this:

Barack Obama isn't really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.

This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the
whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional
karmic antennae - or no antennae at all - to all those who just don't
understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about
Obama's aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.

To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the
pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of
people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new
channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?

No, it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring
rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black
president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different
ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless,
winking charm, didn't have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful
luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.

Dismiss it all you like, but I've heard from far too many enormously
smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who've been intuitively blown away
by Obama's presence - not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence - to
say it's just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully
orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into
office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking
lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

Here's where it gets gooey. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not
coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a
Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead
us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but
who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of
relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment.
These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and
peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or
emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a
brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why
Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and
Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring
vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.

Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me. But you gotta wonder,
why has, say, the JFK legacy lasted so long, is so vital to our national
identity? Yes, the assassination canonized his legend. The Kennedy family
is our version of royalty. But there's something more. Those attuned to
energies beyond the literal meanings of things, these people say JFK
wasn't assassinated for any typical reason you can name. It's because he
was just this kind of high-vibration being, a peacemaker, at odds with the
war machine, the CIA, the dark side. And it killed him.

Now, Obama. The next step. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to
the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into
disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage
for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally
truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.

Let me be completely clear: I'm not arguing some sort of utopian
revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie
camp counselor. I'm not saying the man's going to swoop in like a
superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds
sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren.

Please. I'm also certainly not saying he's perfect, that his presidency
will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of
politics-as-usual. While Obama's certainly an entire universe away from
George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall
inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn't hard to stand
far above and beyond the worst president in American history.

But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to
me, in a way, it's not even about Obama, per se. There's a vast amount of
positive energy swirling about that's been held back by the armies of
BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod,
is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama's candidacy. People and
emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically drawn
to him. It's exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational
energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know,
completely reversed. And different. And far, far better.

Don't buy any of it? Think that's all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey
bulls-- and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose
inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you're
talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I
get it. I often believe it myself.

Not this time."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Bad Bargain

"I know somebody who must be happy this morning!" The words issued from my weight trainer, Jocy, also an Obama fan. "Yes and no," I answered. "I have this knot in the pit of my stomach. As I see it, she is still throwing chicken wire under his tires. She didn't concede, endorse, or close ranks behind him. Instead, now she's holding his feet to the fire to get the Vice Presidency. And that's got to be a lose-lose situation for him; the devil you do and the devil you don't."

"Oh, don't be so negative," said Jocy. "Give her a few days to settle." Was she right? I wondered, was I (once again) being "too negative"? All I could think of was the New Yorker cartoon I'd cut out and put into my diary. A doctor and his patient are conferring in the doctor's office. The medic says to the patient: "Your prognosis is tied to the outcome of the election." So, now that we had finally won, why wasn't I happy?

In what should have been her concession speech, Clinton conceded nothing. Instead, she seemed like she was still campaigning--continuing to delegitimize Obama, saying yet again that she was the better candidate who had won the popular vote--and implying that he couldn't win without her. This was her moment to unify, show loyalty to the party, to him, and to the country, but she had notably let it pass without doing any of it. I was shocked, appalled, and very worried. I was also still shaken by a reading I had done with the Thesaurus only a few days before, when I asked for an overview of where Clinton was headed:

Under the word "Disrepute" this was the information given to me:

"disreputable, shifty, shady, bad, doubtful, not thought much of, held in contempt, despised, petty, pitiful, degraded, odious, hateful, discredited, disgraced, unpopular, disliked, ignoble, unworthy, dishonest, blameworthy, disgusting, too bad, not nice, demeaning, wounding one's honor, hurting one's dignity, tarnished, stripped of reputation, out of favor."

I went to Starbucks after my workout and had a java chip frappuccino. Bought the New York Times there and discovered Maureen Dowd had already written a column, savaging Clinton's behavior of the night before: for stealing Obama's moment of historic glory and making it be about herself, acting as though the campaign was not over yet. Maybe I wasn't crazy, I thought. At least now we were a chorus of two. Her comments were even more scathing than anything I could have put together. I intended to quote her when I wrote my blog. But then, after I got home, I realized I had put the parts of the paper I wanted to keep in the trash with my Starbucks cup, and taken the useless sections home with me. I felt alone again with my negative thoughts, and even more frustrated and dejected.

Then I turned on the computer and read the HuffingtonPost--and discovered I was hardly alone in my feelings and forebodings. Even Hilary Rosen, a commentator who for weeks and weeks had been hammering out support for Hilary (almost a lone voice on this primarily pro-Obama site), had totally turned against her:

I Am Not a Bargaining Chip, I Am a Democrat

"Senator Clinton's speech last night was a justifiably proud recitation of her accomplishments over the course of this campaign, but it did not end right. She didn't do what she should have done. As hard and as painful as it might have been, she should have conceded, congratulated, endorsed and committed to Barack Obama. Therefore the next 48 hours are now as important to the future reputation of Hillary Clinton as the last year and a half have been.

I am disappointed. As a long time Hillary Clinton supporter and more importantly, an admirer, I am sad that this historic effort has ended with such a narrow loss for her. There will be the appropriate "if onlys" for a long time to come. If only the staff shakeup happened earlier; if only the planning in caucus states had more focus; if only Hillary had let loose with the authentic human and connecting voice she found in the last three months of the campaign. If only. If only. I have written many times on this site about the talents of Hillary Clinton and why I thought she'd make a great President....

So, I am also so very disappointed at how she has handled this last week. I know she is exhausted and she had pledged to finish the primaries and let every state vote before any final action. But by the time she got on that podium last night, she knew it was over and that she had lost. I am sure I was not alone in privately urging the campaign over the last two weeks to use the moment to take her due, pass the torch and cement her grace. She had an opportunity to soar and unite. She had a chance to surprise her party and the nation after the day-long denials about expecting any concession and send Obama off on the campaign trail of the general election with the best possible platform. I wrote before how she had a chance for her "Al Gore moment." And if she had done so, the whole country ALL would be talking today about how great she is and give her her due.

Instead she left her supporters empty, Obama's angry, and party leaders trashing her. She said she was stepping back to think about her options. She is waiting to figure out how she would "use" her 18 million voters.

But not my vote. I will enthusiastically support Barack Obama's campaign. Because I am not a bargaining chip. I am a Democrat."

I am also adding here a single example of a response that was almost universal in Rosen's vast "comments" box:

Thank you Hillary Rosen, I agree.
Senators Clinton and McCain were both out-classed last night by Senator Obama. Senator Clinton's continued resistance to acknowledge him as the presumptive nominee even as late as her speech this morning to AIPAC, has convinced me she has no "grace under fire" and would not have been the best choice for president anyway, and even though it is only academic at this point, she has lost my admiration and nascent support. This is not her victory and how dare she try to steal his thunder by using her 18 million votes as leverage. This is a victory for Obama and for those of us who believe in decency. It is a momentous time in our history. Sorry, Hillary. You lost!
I hope you will learn from this (we are never too old) and take a lesson from Obama: Be gracious in defeat. It leaves a bad taste for everyone for you to remain so combative and angry.

Here is Beverly Davis, with another, similar post on HuffPost yesterday:

Hillary: It Ain't Over Yet!

"In a defiant speech ignoring Barack Obama's historic win as the first African-American to become a presidential nominee -- a giant step toward righting our horrific racist past, precisely 200 years since the slave trade was abolished in 1808 -- Hillary Clinton delivered a Valedictory speech initiating a 'write in' campaign to force Obama into offering her the Veep spot or to redeem her and her husband's legacy.

Of course, for Mrs. Clinton, her decision not to concede was all for the 'good' of those "invisible voices" she claims to represent -- Latinos, women, and working class voters. She didn't mention black voters.

The tone of her speech was so laden with self-preservation and self-aggrandizement that one wonders what Kool-Aid she's been drinking these past three months that has brought her to the end of her run for the presidency but not the end of her self-deluded power plays.

Instead of taking her loss like (dare I say it?) a man, she told her basement audience at Baruch College in Manhattan, "I will be making no decisions tonight....The question is where to go from here?"

She ended by asking her supporters to write in to tell her what to do: and we know they'll tell her to fight on to Denver.

Led by Lanny Davis, there will also be a campaign by her supporters to pressure Obama to make Hillary his running mate. If he does give in to this latest 'Clinton campaign' they will weaken him. If he can't stand up to Hillary Clinton and her creepy cohorts, he can't stand up to the tough guys around the world.

Clinton supporters were blasting emails to the talking heads on television during Tuesday night's campaign coverage protesting: "Give her time. Tonight should be her night." They're deluded too....

She's had months to get ready to concede, but instead kept firing at Obama with her Gatling-gun surrogates, most especially former President Bill Clinton, who just yesterday blamed Obama for the recent unflattering Vanity Fair article and all the other 'unfair' press she's received since the Iowa caucuses.

Clinton expressed no desire to disband or bring her army of supporters under the party tent, insisting on preserving her powerbase and forcing Obama into offering her the Vice Presidential spot or some other position she wants.

The Obama campaign has to be displeased as Hillary was introduced as the "Next president of the United States" before she took the stage in New York and delivered one of the least gracious speeches on record, completely ignoring the historicism of the moment when the first black man becomes his party's nominee.

It's doubtful this tough and unreasonable position will yield the results Mrs. Clinton desires."

The Thesaurus, it would seem, was a bull's-eye hit on HRC: "not thought much of, held in contempt, despised, petty, pitiful, degraded, odious, hateful, discredited, disgraced, unpopular, disliked, ignoble, unworthy, dishonest, blameworthy, disgusting, too bad, not nice, demeaning, wounding one's honor, hurting one's dignity, tarnished, stripped of reputation, out of favor."