It's a new year, a new decade, and this is my very first (and quite belated) blog of 2010. I confess I've been waiting for my personal operating principle of writing to finally kick in--the sudden catch in consciousness which lights me up and says, "Time to go! This is what you've been waiting for!" Instead, all I seem to have collected over the holidays are things I'd much rather NOT write about. I am reminded of that big ball of plasticine the Mexican multi-media artist Gabriel Orozco once rolled through the streets of New York, accumulating velvety filth along the way.
I did not really want, for instance, to write about the 23-year-old son of a Nigerian banker who tricked out everyone's Christmas by getting on a plane in Amsterdam, headed for Detroit, with no luggage--except for that tiny bundle of explosives stashed in his underpants. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had managed to elude every national-security code-cracker and then, just as the plane was preparing to land, "undie-fundie" proceeded--no doubt with exquisite pleasure--to blow up his groin and, hopefully, the plane as well. All too predictably, the failed terror attack became the basis for several fundraising appeals by Republican members of Congress. The whole episode was yet another addition to my already long list of Many Things About Human Nature That I Find Impossible To Believe.
We are always interpreting whatever happens (another ongoing theme of my blog), but perhaps interpretation only becomes interesting when it is extreme. (Moderate interpretation is not interesting.) Enter Dick Cheney, like Elsa Maxwell shot out of a cannon ball, saying that the failed attack was caused by Obama "trying to pretend we are not at war." The Dick has shown himself over and over again, whenever it comes to matters Obama, congenitally given to compulsive negative interpretations. It's a kind of political autism. Declaring the president to be "fuzzy on terrorism" (as if he, Cheney, had just personally discovered the fuzziness of peaches), and declaring Obama's approach to be "fundamentally flawed," Zarathustra spoke thusly: "He doesn't understand the country is at war."
On hearing these comments, even Cheney's most devoted customers were overwhelmed and covered their noses with monogrammed napkins when he landed close to their tables.
Meanwhile, Obama's personal counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, made the rounds on the talk shows, and when asked specifically about Cheney's remarks, countered that the former VP is "either ignorant or willfully mischaracterizing this President's position." (You choose.) He said he found the partisan finger-pointing "very disappointing." As for me, I hate having to offer up yet another political lamention, but how can one just ignore Dick Cheney whistling his wild tunes at night? (We were never close friends at boarding school.)
Brennan's fairly effective attempt to put the lid on Dick galvanized Cheney's daughter, Liz, to suit up and lead the retaliatory charge by posting a video created by her group, Keep America Safe. I haven't actually seen the video--supposedly an homage to the Right's political TV show called "24"--but it sequences unflattering moments with WH Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Defense Secretary Janet Napolitano intoning that "the system worked," with overlapping images of President Obama golfing, and accompanying sounds of explosive music and a clock ticking. (Like I said, we were never friends at boarding school, and these are not my people.)
Often, when I write here, I don't impose a conclusion, because there is no conclusion. I prefer to merely stage the play of contradictions, because that is the more true and sorry plight of our human condition. We all fit anything that comes along into whatever our particular obsession happens to be. "Did you see that golf swing? What an effeminate sissy-boy Marxist...." writes a reader on Ben Smith's Politico blog. "Is Liz sleeping with her sick papa? Just asking," writes another. "She seems to be the only one in love with that blood-thirsty lizard."
Well, I'd rather be writing gorgeous operatic arias here, instead of being that big plasticine ball rolling along and collecting filth. However, the ball did run into something quite else during the holiday that heartened instead of horrified me, and it spoke the words of what I am personally feeling. These comments were part of a winsome note by an anonymous blogger from Ashland, OR, who offered them in gratitude to the President. And so do I offer them here to you:
"Anyhow, President Obama, thank you for
1. Running for President and getting elected against great odds
2. Hiring smart people to advise you
3. Keeping us out of a depression (so far)
4. Getting us national health care, however incomplete
5. Ramping up efforts to defeat those who actually attacked us at the same time you envision a goal and have an exit strategy
6. Putting up with a vindictive opposition intent on not compromising on anything that could possibly benefit your reelection chances no matter how much it benefits the country
7. Being patient with an uninformed electorate, many of whom are afraid both of losing their often unearned entitlements and of any change that benefits other people
8. Going to Copenhagen and trying to save some sort of global warming agreement against, again, an entrenched opposition intent on saying no
9. Not resigning to write a book
10. Putting the American people first"
(I'm not exactly sure, but whoever you are out there in Ashland, I think we might have been friends at boarding school...)