Monday, December 29, 2008

A Muscular Holiday

From where I sit here on Deer Run Road, it's been a fabulous Christmas. But I'm not a local shop owner worried if I can stay in business, and I'm not living in Gaza. None of my friends or neighbors have had their children killed this week. And this is probably not my last blog.

In my little corner, the pleasures of the season were many. Santa was not shot down over Alaska by Sarah Palin, and so he managed to drop off lots of loot. The weather has been all but perfect--unlike that in Chicago, where my best friend's ceiling collapsed in her bedroom after an excess of melting snow leaked into some miscreant drain spout causing mayhem and a night-long bucket vigil. Unfortunately the same thing happened once before, requiring the purchase of a new bed and a makeover for the ceiling.

By contrast, my own holiday cruised leisurely across four agreeable days spent happily with different friends, eating, drinking, celebrating, and opening presents, that included some vintage napkins embossed with one of Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, and an electric tea pot with automatic switch-off, obviously meant to foil my repeated, absent-minded attempts at burning the house down. Virgil, king of his alligator tribe, received some delicious prezzies too: not one, but TWO solid milk "chocogators," over fourteen inches long and one pound each in weight (total fat 14%). He also received a spectacular Christmas ornament for his collection: a green alligator, wearing a hula grass skirt and playing a drum. "Watch me now," Virgil says. "We are tricksters in the blood, and we practice drumming on the run as our way of surviving in the modern world." He is wearing his beaded necklace, and wants to know if "Evelybody happy?"

Not quite, I tell him. The Wall Street Journal today had an article on the front page about Igor Panarin, a Russian academic and expert on U.S.-Russia relations, who has been predicting for some years now that the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. Economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war that will lead to geographical disintegration, with richer states seceding from the union and others falling under foreign influence. If you want to check this out further, cut and paste this reference into Google:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Throwing Shoes

At fifteen, I'd never heard of D.H. Lawrence, but he instantly became my favorite witer once I'd read "Sons and Lovers." I had grabbed it, entirely by chance, from a shelf at the public library library on Amsterdam Avenue and 81st Streeet (where I trudged each week from my home in Manhattan, going back and forth with an armload of books), simply because of its intriguing title--which to my fifteen-year-old mind sounded quite enticingly juicy. It wasn't long before reading Lawrence became my downfall. His writing hypnotized me, and I became addicted. I couldn't get enough of him and went on to read everything he wrote.

I also became weirdly fascinated by Lawrence's relationship with his German wife, Frieda, who had abandoned her husband and two children to be with him. They were both very passionate and adored each other, but they had legendary fights, in which all hell would break loose and Frieda would throw handfuls of crockery at Lawrence. I was, I confess, in awe of a woman who could fearlessly throw things at the man she presumably loved, whenever he pissed her off or triggered a bout of rage. Sometimes, in fantasy, I would imagine myself, in the heat of a fight, defiantly throwing a shoe across the room at someone I loved, wondering how my life might have been very different had I had that skill. But I didn't, and even if I had, I lacked aim. Rather, I was the type of female who would burst into tears at any perceived hurt--not glow in the dark with rage. I wasn't any good at playing softball with shoes, except in blurred fantasies about a power I didn't possess.

All of this reentered my consciousness after hearing about the Iraqi TV reporter, a 28-year-old Shi'ite who has come to hate the U.S. military occupation, spontaneously hurling his shoes at President Bush, while Bush was making a final "victory" speech at a press conference in Baghdad. "This is a gift from the Iraqis, this is the farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled as he tossed, first one shoe, and then a split second later, the other. The guy had amazing aim: those shoes were headed, with the speed of missiles, straight for the President, but he deftly managed to duck them both.

The reporter, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, has been taken into custody and may be indicted. But in Iraq, he has become a national hero. Crowds have been demonstrating all week for his release. I append some of the responses in this country to the event (from the Huffington Post of December 16th):

"Mr. al-Saidi was not assigned to this particular event by his paper. He went because he had a message for the Decider/Liberator, who liberated millions from their homes, families, lives and country - a country now destroyed. No, don't fire this man, he is courageous enough to make news for all of us. He should be spared and hailed a hero. No, he would not have thrown shoes at Saddam. Only the U.S. was ignorant enough to do that. Under Saddam, he had a country, he had all his relatives, he had a home, a job and a life. ..Thank you, Mr. al-Saidi. Call me if you need more shoes."

"When does ANYONE have the right to physically assault another human being who is being non-confrontational? What would happen if I threw a pie at Obama? I would be arrested. That is what should happen to this so called 'journalist', and he should never be able to work for that news source again."

"Illegally invading a sovereign nation, leveling it, torturing Iraqi prisoners and leaving thousands and thousands of its citizens dead is pretty darn confrontational in my book."

" You are absolutely correct, the only question that remains is: should he be arrested for throwing the shoes . . . or for missing his target?"

"For those who haven't received the email from a friend, there's a Send Your Shoes to Bush campaign on, and now's the time to do it! Show support for the Iraqi journalist by sending a pair of your old shoes to GWB at the White House now. (Since they will probably end up being donated to charity, you'll get to express your opinion AND help a good cause!) The journalist, btw, was kidnapped in Iraq so he definitely experienced the effects of the war more than Goerge Bush did."

As for Bush, he has blithely brushed off the whole episode. "I didn't know what the guy said, but I saw his sole," he commented recently, wryly alluding to his now-infamous remark of some years ago, after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And then there was Imelda Marcos, and her 3,000 pairs of shoes, which also became a politically radioactive cause celebre. I can't help wondering if she ever threw any of them at her husband, Ferdinand? Meanwhile, I just took some of my old shoes to the Good Will. Utterly boring!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Virgil Claus

Among alligators, Virgil informs me, Santa is King.

"I'm going to be really busy this Christmas," he tells me, "crawling through snow and muck in my universal terrain vehicle, the Microlight Muskeg Rover, delivering cardboard boxes, cloth bundles, and other mystery parcels, making sure I get to all those wigwams in the Nick o' Time. Ritually speaking, Christmas Eve's the night when we turn the mood, liberate chickens, autistic colonists, and generally overthrow the world that you remember. I'll be trimming my nails for the occasion, mending any broken zippers, and smearing rouge and other cosmetic hues on my cheeks. This is big!"

"Maybe I should pin a star on your hat?" I offer.

"Right, that's the ticket," Virgil winks at me. Then he quickly looks down at his lotus toes, which are even more erotic than he had imagined. Once or twice a week, when Virgil is lonesome, he draws silk ribbons between his toes, an unusual method of meditation. Virgil needs his meditation, because like any true warrior clown, he is prone to worrying about demons in the blood and insects near his ears. Besides, there are those moments when he will suddenly lose his connection with tribal alligator time. This can be difficult, because, for instance, when Virgil comes to see me, he believes he is an alligator, but I would lay it down cautiously, as if with tongs, that in truth, he is really a mind monkey. Or maybe one of those legendary lamas who used to climb mountains but still knows how to make things clear. Sometimes, though, he'll fake it, pretending to be one of those students at the Nankai Middle School with Zhou Enlai, speaking a rather formal and footsore language. Mostly, however, when you scrutinize the plots more closely in this hero's career, Virgil really thinks of himself as a stunt pilot, waving his arms in the air all day and all night while thinking up mad projects, such as becoming a friend of that millionaire alumnus, God.

During the solstice season, however ("It brings out the artist in me"), Virgil avows his real name is Santa, and so he'll be traveling over the silk roads with reindeer shamans, back to the golden ruins, the peaches and the lapis lazuli, roving the borders and doing the late-night shows, appearing at holiday parties dressed in bone bits, ribbons, and braids, while reciting to himself over and over agaim:

"A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Walking Across Borneo

If you are the kind of reader who wants to make the world around you disappear, this is the book for you: travel writer Eric Hansen's "Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo." It's high on my Christmas list this year--at least ten friends will find copies in their Christmas stocking. It belongs to my favorite genre of writing: tales of extreme experiences, recounted by people who have survived them, and who have emerged from impossibly grueling situations with a heightened sense of life and of their own physical and spiritual powers. For some years now, I have been collecting and reading such books. Of all the wonderful things I own, they are perhaps my most prized possessions, offering inspiration and sustenance in the matter of what is humanly possible, at times when the sky is falling and the lions are charging.

In "Stranger in the Forest," Hansen describes how his extraordinarily low tolerance for boredom and routine, combined with his craving for unique experiences, made him seek "something so far beyond my comprehension that I would have to step completely out of my skin to understand and become a part of my surroundings." It led him to leave his familiar routines in San Francisco and set himself the task of walking across the island of Borneo. "The challenge," he writes, "was to do it alone, to make myself completely vulnerable, and to be changed by the environment." The narrative that results from this endeavor does not disappoint. I promise you it will race all your engines.

Hansen does end up with two Penan guides--decorated with blue-black tattoos of flowers and leaves on their legs--whom he paid to hunt, cook, cut a path through the jungle, build nightly shelters, and accompany him on what proves to be nothing less than a journey back into the Stone Age. It took only a week spent in their company to realize how helpless and dependent he was. "I had no jungle skills," he writes. Like a fish out of water, he didn't know how to blend in. But for his guides, he undoubtedly would have perished.

"Despite total concentration," he declares early on, "I managed to stumble and fall heavily on my face and backside at least ten times each day. My shins, knees, elbows, and shoulders soon became battered from many falls...I slid down muddy trails, hands grabbing the air, as long trailing vines reached out to trip and choke me as well as to rip my clothing and skin with one-way barbs that acted like fish hooks." The lack of sun (which barely penetrated the rain-forest canopy) and any distant views, were completely disorienting, and made printed maps useless, so he was forced to surrender all control to his guides, and after a while, he no longer minded being lost. "It was a relief to unburden myself from the problems of destination, time, and direction," and just surrender to the experience of being in such alien and intense circumstances, with people to whom he was "a slightly amusing stranger who had some shotgun shells that they needed....I spent much of my time thinking; they spent theirs looking for food and a place to sleep."

Then there were the fuzzy red caterpillars that, if stepped on, would bore a hole through your foot. And the soup, made from bee larvae, which gripped him with longing for English afternoon tea and scones, laced with whipped cream and thick strawberry jam. And the excruciating, incessant hum of insects, like "a deranged orchestra [that] played on without need for a conductor or audience," drowning out any possibility of conversation.

"I was hearing courtship calls, declarations of feeding territories, threats, warnings, and startled shrieks of terror as unseen prey was torn to pieces by silent predators." One day they happened on a giant red-rock python, coiled on a river rock, iridescent and shimmering. One of the guides hacked the creature's head off during its midday nap and fastened the writhing, headless, ten-foot-long snake to his rattan backpack.

Four months later, on the journey back, Hansen sums up what he what he is feeling: "Apart from my feet, I was in excellent health. My stomach had flattened, and I had developed an acute sense of smell and hearing...More significantly, I had shed my Western concepts of time, comfort, and privacy.
When I first entered the jungle and let go of my margins of safety to become vulnerable to a place I didn't understand, it was terrifying. I had slowly learned, however, to live with fear and uncertainty...My day dream of crossing the Borneo rain forest was going to come true; that knowledge gave me an incredible sense of power and self-assurance...Behind me lay four months and one thousand five hundred miles of jungle travel." When he finally does get home, he has a hard time readjusting.

This is a wonderful book, and I hope that anyone who reads it because of me will find it as invigorating as I did.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reading Books

In my last blog I was intending to write about reading--and the pleasure it gives me--but then Virgil unexpectedly intervened and my thoughts got suspended. So now it's back to business. Coincidentally, I happened to read this morning, in the New Yorker, that Hitler was a voracious reader (for whatever that's worth), finishing a book every night (!), either at his desk or in his armchair, always with a cup of tea. Timothy Ryback is the purveyor of these exotic tidbits, to be found in his recently published book called "Hitler's Private Library." Unfortunately the short review of it that I read offers no clues as to the titles on Hitler's list, so I cannot share any actual information about Hitler's reading--only about my own.

In his book, Ryback, it seems, relies heavily on Walter Benjamin's idea of the private library as a map of its owner's character; so make of this (to-be-continued) list of mine whatever you will, knowing in advance that it will in all likelihood need to advance through several more blogs.

The first book I recommend highly is one I recently ordered for a friend as a Christmas present. After unpacking it from its Amazon box, I couldn't resist a tiny sneak-preview, and once I'd stuck my snout inside those pages, I couldn't put the book down. I ended up having to read it from cover to cover. That particular thrill, of utter absorption and abandoned delight, is precisely the aphrodisiac every reader craves, but not all books provide. This one really does deliver the goods.

Entitled "Seven Days in the Art World," it offers a complete, immersive experience into the inner workings of the art world, a universe of ineffable gaudiness and theatrical excitement, which the author, Sarah Thornton, who has a B.A, in art history and a PhD in cultural sociology, manages to probe deeply, in an engaging narrative that is enlivening more than it is sobering. Although there is poison in this chalice, Thornton (whose writing reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert's, the author of the fabulous "Eat Pray Love," ) manages to capture the soul of this extravagant, ambitious world without the remotest taste of iron in her mouth.

So what, besides glyphic hierarchies of status and reputation, makes the art world the art world? Most certainly, it is it's power to define art. But besides that, the art world is where the professionals hang out.

Hanging out, interacting, socializing around the globe, and interviewing high-profile artists, dealers, curators, critics, collectors, and auction-house experts for several years from 2004-2007, Thornton filled a total of forty-seven blue notebooks during her five years of participatory research. Each of the book's chapters is an iconic study in how the great pinball game of the art world works, the "seven days" being a temporal structure for seven subcultures that she separately enters and examines--as a "participant observer"--and then weaves together: an auction sale at Christie's in Manhattan; an art "crit" class (that lasts all-day and half-the-night at CalArts in Los Angeles, with the crit's straight man, Michael Asher, presiding with quiet precision over his students); the Basel Art Fair; the art prize (a gala awarding of the prestigious Turner Prize in the UK); the magazine (Artforum); a Studio Visit (with Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami); and the Venice Biennale. Each of these subcultures is a world in its own right, and Thornton's narrative puts you right there.

Meanwhile, I am now reading another book about art, which I was sent to me for review by Resurgence magazine in England; it's called "Art and Upheaval: Artists on the World's Frontiers," written by William Cleveland. It's the polar opposite of Thornton's, being all about artists responding to scenes of tragedy and challenge in the world's dangerous "hot spots," often in the face of "vicious politics."

Cleveland's focus is on exploring the creative powers called up by extreme crises and trauma--six narratives from six communities on five continents: Northern Ireland, Cambodia, South Africa, Watts, CA, Maralinga, Australia, and the former Yugoslavia. His eight years of journeying have lead him to a very different picture of the human potential of art--its ability to heal human grief and bring people back to life again. This book is not so much a survey of artists working in places in turmoil, but a study in how and why the creative impulse rises up in situations of upheaval and tragedy. At times that can mean poetry readings conducted at the barrel of a gun, artists helping homeless children in Rio's favelas tell their story, or responding to trauma victims in the aftermath of the Columbine school shootings. Cleveland likes to say: "Imagine knowing that your art making could get you killed, but doing it anyway."

In his book, somehow the moral demands of the moment seem more pressing than the pull of that "umbilical cord of gold"--a phrase coined by the critic Clement Greenberg to describe entrepreneurship, affiliated buzz, and meritocracy in the art world. For Cleveland's artists, art has to have a purpose beyond the purely aesthetic, whether political, spiritual, or environmental. Otherwise its risks seem meaningless. On the other hand, you are not likely to compare anything these artists have done with the work of Rembrandt or Picasso, or even Andy Warhol. That I should find myself reading these two books back-to-back seems one of postmodernism's more radical acts: today we no longer aspire to a totalizing view of art. It can arise in different contexts that bear no causal relationship to one another. Art is no longer like some enormous room with a stable and knowable center.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Candles and Moths

"He said, and I quote exactly: 'Is that the candle the moth flew into, and his abdomen got stuck, and his head caught fire?'"

The line is from "The Writing Life" by one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard. I want to say that I am currently acting out the moth, as I try to put out the fire in my head and slowly retrieve my thoughts, after so many months of obsession with poll numbers and campaign kerfuffles. (Valiantly she tries to unstick her abdomen from the candle of the computer where it has been trapped, and move on to Other Things.) But it's not that easy, because it turns out that although we may have won the election, our country is still out on the ice, slipping ever more deeply into economic collapse. Every columnist I read is sounding the alarm: we cannot wait to turn this around until January 20th. By then, it will be too late.

So the moth flies into a different candle--this time, her love of reading books. The ones that have fallen by the wayside, been abandoned, and sprouted into piles during this historic campaign when there was nothing else to do but follow the news, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, online, on television, in magazines, newspapers, whatever. Talk about alligator wrestling! Whew!

At the mere mention of alligator wrestling, my old alligator mentor, blogging partner, and adept protege, Virgil, suddenly appears out of nowhere, unapologetic for his long absence. He's been hanging out with his tribe, it seems--a multiracial, multiethnic group of alligators who spend a good part of their time processing algae into a protein supplement for Third World nations-- and writing his autobiography. He shows me a photograph (see above).

To my astonishment, Virgil is sucking on a chipotle and drinking a bottle of Virgil's cherry-flavored cream soda, a company in which he now owns stock, enticed into buying by its exemplary name. He is dressed in gray overalls but is carrying no baggage, except the old navy-blue beach bag in which he likes to keep a copy his favored book of the moment, "The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meergeren," and his beat-up, red diary.

"It's sooo wonderful to see you," I say. "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing great, Yaar (Virgil's longtime nickname for me), except for this nasty cramp in my groin," he replies. Then Virgil tells me how he has thought about this moment many times, imagining the day we would finally see each other again, not in a photograph, not in a blog, not in cyberspace at all, but in reality. Pausing, heron-like, for a long moment, he then does a handstand on one paw, all his muscles tensed as if for flight. The chipotle falls out of his mouth.

"I'm relieved the huge saga of twisty deceit and exorbitant spending of those scads of dollars is finally over," he says. "And that we now have a national treasure for our new president. His work is so sprightly and steeped in the history of the period, I predict he will continue to reap favorable reviews
from the populous ranks, who are just beginning to shed their anxiety and depression accrued over the past eight years. Perhaps our new political titan will do something the likes of which the world has never seen before, like rubbing our social ills with alcohol, or becoming the champion of bipartisan connoisseurship. Something about the current state of the world seems to have been created with him in mind, so ready-made for the job is he turning out to be. Surely our sincere and scrupulous new angel will put an end to all the crapulence, fraud, worm holes, quislings, and political soilage with his smooth management skills, genius calibre, and personal greatness. This is someone who can read the public mood perfectly!"

After these meaty comments, Virgil announces that he needs to go: "back to my thought experiments, pungent eau-de-cologne, and a universe of endless, banging-and-bursting motion. With that, he shoots me a last toothy grin--and then, like a weather vane that turns both to the north and to the south, Virgil vanishes. I try my damndest to watch where he goes, leaning over the desk to see better, but he just disappears into the crack between the worlds again, and I am staring into a blank wall.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Terrorist Pal Speaks Out

I've been away in Asheville for a few days, where I gave a lecture on the University of North Carolina campus that was sponsored by the Black Mountain College Art Museum. They are featuring the work of women alumnae, and that is how I was invited to speak, having spent a summer session at BMC when I was a mere slip of a girl, just out of high school. However brief, those two months, as I expressed it to the audience there, were a "defining moment" in my life: my official entry into the world of artistic bohemia. I never looked back.

But the trip did cause me to fall behind in my blogging. Also I have to confess, there is some post-election paralysis. How to find thrilling topics now that the most vivid experience of our lifetimes has come to a wildly successful conclusion? Can you top this? Well, today there was an interview on Salon, the online Newsletter, with that notorious terrorist gridded into countless stanzas of the Republican campaign, William Ayers--O ye of the former Weather Underground. I'd often wondered why Ayers never came forward with his own version of the story. But now, it seems, he has, including the reasons for his silence during the campaign. He has come forward at this point because his memoir, which describes the whole period of that era 40 years ago, with all the projected the rage and helplessness about the Vietnam war, has just been published.

The interview, of which I am posting select excerpts below, is by Walter Shapiro, who also knew Ayers casually, from living in the same Chicago neighborhood as Obama. The full interview can be found at:

I think John McCain and Sarah Palin owe Ayers a public apology. See if you agree after reading this.

From the Salon interview with Bill Ayers by Walter Shapiro:

"Were you there in Grant Park for Obama?

I was there for hours and I couldn't leave and I'll tell you why. I've been in larger crowds of people before, but I've never been in a crowd that large where there was no edge of anger, there was nothing that people were trying to push against, no one was drunk, there was no gluttony. It was simply a gathering of pure joy. Something that would have seemed unimaginable just a couple of years before was now inevitable and unforgettable. Everyone wanted to be there. And the sense of unity and the sense of hope was really palpable and lovely.

So I take it you voted for Barack Obama?

Of course, what were the choices? I voted for Obama and I was delighted that he's been elected. And, of course, we have to embrace the moment. It was a moment when the American people overwhelmingly rejected the politics of fear, the politics of war and militarization, paranoia and the acceptance of the shredding of our constitutional rights. It was a sense of "let's move beyond that." And so, of course, I wanted to be a part of that, and we need to embrace that. I also think -- and this is where we need to move in the future -- that we cannot believe that presidents save us. They cannot save our lives. We have to do for ourselves the important work of transformation, the important work of reframing the last eight years, the last several decades, into something more hopeful.


But I e-mailed you during the campaign and asked, "Do you want to talk about this?" And you said, "Thanks, great to hear from you, but not at this time."

Well, what I didn't want to comment on was the political campaign. I didn't want to enter into that. The reason is simple: I thought that I was being used as a prop in a very dishonest narrative -- and I didn't want to be part of the narrative and I couldn't find a way to interrupt it. Anything that I said was going to feed that narrative. So I felt that part of this was the demonization of me -- certainly that I'm some kind of toxic agent that has to be feared.

The second thing, and perhaps more important, is that I was being used to try to bring down this promising new leader by the old tactic of guilt by association. The idea that somehow -- and this is deep in the American political culture -- that if two people share a bus downtown, have a cup of coffee, have several conversations, that somehow means that they share an outlook, a perspective, responsibility for one another's behavior. And I reject that. That guilt by association is wrong and we shouldn't buy into it.

Do you feel diminished by Obama repeatedly referring to you throughout the campaign as just some "guy from the neighborhood"?

Not in the least; I am a guy from the neighborhood. And I'm proud of it ... And the neighborhood being Hyde Park, which is a very close-knit, very friendly, very politically diverse, very racially diverse. You have all kinds of poles there. You have [conservative] Judge Richard Posner on one pole and Louis Farrakhan on the other. And everything in between. It's an interesting neighborhood, a college town [the University of Chicago]. It's close-knit. It's kind of like Wasilla, Alaska, except that it's different.

What have your impressions been of Obama over the years?

I met him sometime in the mid-1990s and, as I said, I know him about as well as thousands and thousands of other people do. And like millions of other people, I wish I knew him a lot better now. My impression of him from the start was that this was the smartest person who walks into any room he walks into. An incredibly bright, an incredibly quick person. A compassionate, kind person. And everyone who knew him thought that he was politically ambitious. For the first two years, I thought, his ambition is so huge that he wants to be mayor of Chicago. And that's where my imagination ran out of steam, apparently, because clearly he had his sights on something else and I'm delighted for him and for the country and the world that he was able to accomplish this.


During the campaign, how many clips did you see of people like Sarah Palin denouncing Bill Ayers, "the terrorist pal" of Barack Obama?

I'm not a big consumer of television, so I didn't see a lot. I also felt from the beginning that this is a cartoon character that's been cast up on the screen and I didn't feel personally implicated in that character. One of the delicious ironies of a campaign filled with ironies was that the McCain campaign tried to use me to bring Obama down -- and every time that he mentioned my name his poll numbers dropped. Again, I think that's a big credit to the American people. But I did see a few clips. I saw the clip where she [Palin] first talked about Barack Obama palling around with terrorists and the crowd shouted, "Kill him, kill him." That was sent to me by my kids.

I don't know if you remember the Two Minutes Hate in George Orwell's "1984"? In Two Minutes Hate, the party faithful gather in front of a television screen and the image of Emmanuel Goldstein is cast up on the screen and they work themselves into a frenzy of hatred and they begin to chant, "Kill him." That's how I felt. I felt a little bit like I was this character cast on the screen. It bore no relation to me. And yet it had a serious purpose and potentially serious consequences.

I was in New York when this was shown and my alderman from Chicago called -- worried -- and wanted to know how I was taking care of my safety. I was touched that she would do that.


What's your biggest hope for an Obama presidency?

Most of all, what I really hope is that we put an end to the era of 9/11, the era of fear and war -- and that's what I think most people hope. That spirit in Grant Park was that spirit of hope and that spirit of "yes, we can." "Yes, we can put an end to this." "Yes, we can reimagine the future." I think it's a time when we could redefine what are we basing our foreign policy on, what are we basing our education policy on. I think this election is automatically a historic moment. It automatically restores a certain amount of goodwill in the world. I hope he uses it. I hope he closes Guantánamo immediately. I hope he withdraws from Iraq immediately. But those hopes aren't idle. They are built on building an irresistible social movement to see that those things happen...

One of the delicious ironies of being in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, was that I was weeping for a lot of reasons. But one of them was that I couldn't help remembering 40 years earlier I was beaten bloody in that same park. And there's something sweet about 40 years later, something unimaginable happening...

We [Ayers and Dohrn] got there around 10:00. We were so glad that we had because it was a moment that we wanted to share. We didn't want to be by ourselves. It was just too sweet. It felt like a page of history was being turned. And, of course, there are going to be challenges, obstacles, setbacks, disappointments, reversals up ahead. But who doesn't want to savor that? Who doesn't want to wish this young man and his beautiful young family all the best in the world because it's their moment. We invest a lot of hope in them. Let's not lose hope in ourselves. But let's wish them all the best."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Monsters Are Toast

We always knew this election was crucial, but nobody could have foreseen the lightning speed with which America would be instantly transformed and redeemed--no longer scorned and despised around the globe but celebrated once again as a source of hope and promise for the world. Nobody could have imagined the sight of so many people staying up all night, dancing in the streets, of giddy tribesmen in Africa shaking gourds at each other, of everyone, everywhere, cheering and weeping uncontrollably.

Even if you voted for John McCain, according to New York Times columnist Gail Collins, you should be happy--in the realization that there are billions of people around the planet who loathed our country last week but are now in awe of it again. We will have a president the world wants to follow. This is huge. The Lincoln Memorial might be getting its gleam back, says Maureen Dowd. "I may have to celebrate by going over there and climbing up into Abe's lap. It's a $50 fine. But it'd be worth it."

After two years of grueling campaigns, race-baiting, underhanded tricks, and an interminable gestation period, the baby was born on Tuesday night--healthy, beautiful, and wearing those special gravity boots that allow you to hang in a doorway upside down. All of which means that everything looks different now--and the monsters are finally toast. (A hat tip for the monster reference to Paul Krugman, who declared in the New York Times that this was the end of an era of being "governed by monsters.") This is no small matter, as one blogger commented, "It's like being dug up after being buried alive for 8 years." And another who said, "we've finally arrived at a moment when America feels like it is supposed to feel."

When things were at their bleakest, after the Republican convention and the acme of Palin's pitt-bull, lipsticked performance on the stage there, I did a three-part divination using the Thesaurus (which I blogged about in my post of September 9th, called "Beating the Blues"). Like most everyone else I know, I was spooked at the time, scared that Obama might never get to sit down on that chair in the White House and look over the desk top after all. Flipping back to reread the third answer I got--to the question of whether Obama could still succeed against this new, nervy, mettlesome barracuda--it seems even more preternatural now to read what the Thesaurus offered me back then in response:

"Transcend, rise above, surmount, tower over, outreach, exceed, carry off the laurels, bear the palm, wear the crown, surpass, reach a new high, go one better, trump, show quality, shine, excel, assert one's superiority, be too much for, steal the show, outshine, eclipse, overshadow, ridicule, outclass, outwit, get the better of, trounce, rise to the occasion, defeat, tip the scale, change the balance, be up on, be one up."

We, the American people, would be hard-pressed to find a more lucid, sensitive, or elegant new president than "the One" who has just been elected. Each of us, of course, will be attracted to different bright parts of him. For me, it is the graciousness with which he deals with the people who have done their best to cut off his balls. There is even talk now of the new administration linking up with and incorporating John McCain. All I know is that if it were me, I would find it hard to be so forgiving. And that is why I am so excited to have Obama for my president. Most probably I'll never get to have beer with him, but this man will definitely be able to teach me a thing or two about spiritual greatness.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Agony & the Ecstasy

It's crunch time, and the agony of this moment is in not knowing if our candidate will make it over the finish line before the other guy. The ecstasy is when your mind successfully wraps itself around the thought of winning and it thinks: Yes, we can! Actually. Win this thing.

The ecstasy is imagining a time when we no longer live with serial liars any more: all these false warriors, malicious Darth Vaders, puritanical caribou Barbies, and dumbed-down females with pony-tails posturing as Joe the Plumber. Imagine instead not having to grapple on a daily basis with egotism, misogyny, and dangerous, jeering, lunatic crowds. Imagine, and really feel the ecstasy, of all this being moved to the sidelines--waking up instead to an exquisite human being, not another ratfucker, as president of the United States of America.

I am trying hard to picture the rat-eat-rat, dog-eat-dog days being over, to imagine the end of winking, blinking, and hoodwinking, in one fell swoop, the orgy of moral bankruptcy finally ending. I ponder a mass exit from the twilight zone of conspiracy theories, stoked paranoia, and vengeful death threats. "Hitler too built his movement on the backs of an angry, disenfranchised working class," writes Matthew Fox in "The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine," a book I bought after experiencing the violently different arcs of masculinity displayed in the two political conventions. "Fascism will come to America," Sinclair Lewis wrote many years ago, "wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." The agony is realizing just how close we have come to this happening, and still not knowing for sure that we are out of the woods yet.

With any luck, by next week I might be able to let go of my compulsive, insatiable, computer surfing and resist the drag of endless blog rants by everyone under the sun, including my own. I might just get to stop the hand-wringing and redistribute my day outside of cyberspace, returning perhaps to my old humble standby of reading ordinary books again.

A friend of mine just called to say the post-election Obama rally will be held one block from her house in midtown Chicago. Nearby streets will be blocked off by the afternoon, because projected attendance is a very opulent one million people. I have to imagine the ecstasy of that crowd--held together by the spell of glowing tribute to the skinny, know-nothing, do-nothing ("nada, zilch") community organizer who has made community organizing a new model of politics for our age. To imagine anything else, from where I sit, is unfathomable agony--and will probably bring this great world crashing down, its glory ruined, in ways so grotesque as to be not even imaginable.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ratfuckery & the Fog of Lies

This is a picture of Barack Obama with his white grandpa, the man who was married to the woman he is visiting today on what could be her deathbed: his beloved grandma. You see him here, cavorting on the beach in Hawaii with the man who raised him, at about the age when he was supposedly "working closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers to bomb the US Capitol." This blog is my personal flyer to the Republican National Committee and its endless wash of lies: Barack Obama is not, never has been, and never will be, a terrorist. You guys need to stop your brazen lying before you totally destroy my country.

The last lies told by the Republican Party gave us the Iraq War, whose consequences have been "of high moment," as Jonathan Schell writes in this week's issue of The Nation: "thousands of American deaths, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, one country smashed, another dishonored. Now in the last weeks of the presidential campaign, 'the gloves are off' again, fantasy and brutality are mixing in another context, and new streams of lies are being pumped into the public bloodstream from the campaign trail. What will the price be this time?"

I've received more of these ideologically offensive, invasive robocalls again this week. But it was the postal flyer that finally put me over the top. It came without a wrapper, and repeated the same brazen lie about Obama and terrorism. Deftly I put it into a brown envelope and today, while Barack sits at his grandmother's bedside, I mailed it back to the RNC. There was a message written on it from me. "I am returning this latest example of your ratfuckery (political sabotage or dirty tricks, as defined by Wikipedia). Please remove me from your mailing list. I do not want to receive this garbage."

Meanwhile McCain now claims, out on the campaign trail as he tries to salvage his moribund candidacy, referring to Barack Obama, "He'll say anything to get elected." A TV reporter in Missouri asked McCain about the flyer, and whether he was proud of it, to which McCain responded: "Totally." Many of McCain's supporters now believe Obama is a terrorist, and some of them at rallies have been seen to yell "Kill him."

Obama has said assassination is something he can't worry about, that there are too many serious problems he needs to focus on. He claims that what keeps him awake at night is not his personal safety, and it's not even the thought of losing the election. It is the idea of winning the election and then not being able to follow through with his promises.

Jonathan Schell calls Obama "a kind of Mozart of politics," and refers to him as a man of stature, even of greatness--a man who inhabits a degraded public realm with grace. But placed, as he now is, "at the center of the swamp that our political life has become, he has breathed deeply of the narcotic fumes that pervade it." I agree with Schell, however, that even if many of Obama's campaign promises should prove unrealizable in the compromised times he will inherit, his election is a necessity for any decent future for the United States.

People all over the globe are following this election closely, with their hearts in their mouths. As one anonymous blogger wrote from Australia, "The choice you Americans make this time will be felt around the world. Please make a good choice for the sake of all of us!" He clearly felt the best choice was Barack Obama!

Monday, October 20, 2008


I was the recipient last Monday of one of those yuckky GOP robocalls, "alerting" me that Barack Obama had terrorist affiliations with William Ayers and was a danger to this country, and besides, he would raise my taxes. It came the morning after the final debate, in which Obama had squarely refuted both assertions publicly to John McCain, in front of millions of viewers. What's it gonna take, I wondered while I seethed, to get these liars off my back, hopefully forever? A big dose of truth serum laced with a jigger of Milk of Magnesia, maybe?

So you can imagine how pleased I was, having waited on the edge of my seat for "Meet the Press" on Sunday morning, to hear Colin Powell wholeheartedly and passionately endorse Barack Obama. He was blistering about the reasons he felt he had to abandon his old friend John McCain and, in less than seven minutes, managed to lay waste to the Republican Party and it's campaign tactics of fear-mongering and divisiveness. About McCain's negative ads, he said: "It troubled me. Those kind of images going out on Al-Jazeera are killing us around the world." Yow!

Powell never used the word "vile," but I will. About McCain's choice of Sarah Palin for his running mate, Powell left no doubt that she was not exactly presidential material. And he soundly reprimanded both McCain and Palin for their Muslim-bashing: "Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is no. That's not America. Is there something wrong with a seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he is a Muslim and might have an association with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America." Bravo, Colin!

Sarah Palin, however, doesn't agree. When asked in an interview this weekend with CBN Senior National Correspondent David Brody, if she was still "okay with the 'pal around with terrorist line' or wanted to reign that back a little?" Palin responded: "No I would say it again, I would say it again because again it, it, according to the information that we have, the association that he's had with Bill Ayers wasn't just one or two time sitting on a board together where, No, there's been quite a few associations and events and meetings and discussion and emails and calls and to not disavow that too, I think is troubling." Whoever said Sarah Palin makes George W. Bush sound like Cicero was on the money--Sarah's syntax is iffy, to put it mildly. No wonder she needs fencing.

Another conservative, David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times who has praised Obama lavishly at times, and not long ago declared Sarah Palin a cancer on the Republican Party, continues to play cat and mouse instead of offering his unequivocal endorsement of Obama. Brooks just can't seem to bring himself to go whole hog, like Powell did. After praising Obama's calmness under pressure, his current reservation is that Obama lacks fire and seems averse to risk.

Averse to risk? What about running as a relative unknown against the most powerful female candidate in the US, and winning against all the odds? What about that risky trip to Europe and the Middle East to meet with world leaders, with so many people watching and waiting for him to fall flat on his face? What about his decision to give a (history-making) speech on race, instead of throwing his pastor under the bus? What about the decision to rely exclusively on donations from his supporters instead accepting public funding for his campaign? Not risky enough? What about the choice never to attack Sarah Palin, and forbidding his staff to do so, no matter how vicious or sneering she became? It seems like maybe it is David Brooks who is averse to risk, not daring to leave the safety of his Republican Party niche and take the plunge into full endorsement.

But perhaps his reluctance has some good reason--given the avalanche of venom that came raining down on poor Christopher Buckley, a columnist for the National Review (conservative magazine founded by his late father, William S. Buckley), who got sacked from the magazine because of his wholehearted endorsement of Obama. "I haven't left the Republican Party," Buckley said. "It left me." What Buckley meant by that remark was that the party to which he has had a lifelong alliance was no longer recognizable to him. In good conscience he could no longer give its candidates his support.

Last week 20 national newspapers endorsed Obama. So did The New Yorker, whose editors should get the last word here: "The election of Obama--a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first century America--would, at a stroke, reverse our country's image abroad and refresh its spirit at home."

Now that's an endorsement which, together with Colin Powell's of yesterday, that I, because of their truth and goodness, can wholeheartedly endorse!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Week of Stink Bombs and High-Wire Acts

The polls are climbing in Obama's favor, the economy is sinking at shocking speed, and John McCain's beloved sidekick continues throwing one stink bomb after another, to the point of inciting potential anti-Obama race riots. (Palin's cultivated malice almost makes the KKK look untutored.)

Article of the week goes to one of our local columnists, Rick Horowitz, for his great opening line:

"Let me see if I've got this straight: Sarah Palin is saying we don't know enough about Barack Obama?" THAT Sarah Palin, he queries, "who six weeks ago did not yet exist for 99 percent of the American people, and who made it through one vice presidential debate without spontaneously combusting right there on the stage, now [dares] to question Obama's background, character, honesty, and patriotism?"

Well, yeah. You betcha.

"Palin has been pressing the line that people don’t really know 'the real Barack 'Obama," echoed Gail Collins in the New York Times, "and who could make the argument better than a woman who we’ve already known for almost six weeks? Really, she’s like one of the family."

When someone, somewhere, asked Barack how he manages to deal with it all, especially the personal attacks and slurs that keep on spreading like an infectious disease, his response was mind-blowingly simple: "I don't mind having to work harder than anybody else." For all of Obama's touted eloquence, this is the comment, above all others, that makes me love him the most. When the following ruminations arrived on my email (written by a friend of a friend's sister, who sent it to me), my favorite comment, "I don't mind having to work harder than anybody else," took on new meaning:

"What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review?
What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?
What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said 'I do' to?
What if Obama were the candidate who left his first wife
after she no longer measured up to his standards?
What if Michelle Obama were a wife who not only became addicted to pain killers,
but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?
What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?
What if Obama were a member of the 'Keating 5'?
What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?"

"If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election
numbers would be as close as they are?
This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities
in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.
Don't forget: What if Barack Obama had an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter....."

This week I also saw the film "Man on Wire," about a French high-wire artist, Philippe Petit, whose dream was to string a cable between the two towers of the World Trade Center and walk across it, from one building to the other. Since he knew he would never get official permission, the artist took it upon himself to carry out this feat as an undercover job, somewhat in the manner of a bank heist.

It took a year of secret maneuvers and phony passes to get his equipment up to a storage room on the roof and figure out how to attach the cable. After a night-long operation to attach the cable with the help of a few compatriots in crime, slightly after dawn, the artist proceeded to walk out onto it, some 1,350 feet above the ground.

Seeing Petit out there doing knee-bends, even at one point lying down on the wire, and then poised on one leg in mid-air so high against the sky, is not to believe your eyes. But it did remind me of Barack Obama, and I realized how a similar kind of courage, sure-footededness, and equanimity of being has characterized his own extraordinary tight-rope walk through this election. No litany of disgraceful epithets issued by GOP pit bulls can ever rival either of these men's remarkable accomplishments.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Another Round oF "Holiday with McCain"

The story about the "Holiday with McCain" letter that has been circulating on the Internet and has been the topic of my previous two blogs, took another turn when Mary-Kay Gamel, the UC Santa Cruz professor whose name is on the letter but who, as it turns out, is not its author, wrote me yet again stating that although she did not write it, the letter itself may not be inauthentic:

"Dear Ms. Gablik: I appreciate your sending around my disclaimer, but you don't need to take yourself so much to task. There is no proof yet that the story is false; has it under investigation.
But the main point is that there are many much more solid reasons to reject McCain, including, on the personal side, his shameful abandonment of his first wife, which is unquestionably true.

Thinking about this some more, I believe on further consideration that the experiences described in the letter ring true, and probably ARE an authentic account of SOMEBODY"S actual experiences with McCain. There is a telling article which describes McCain's personal history along similar lines in some detail, which you can find in Rolling Stone, at this site:

And now that McCain & his winking, lipsticked Barracuda have dedicated themselves to trying to establish Obama's credentials as a bonafide terrorist by association, you might want to check out this site as well:

The following is a very short excerpt of a huge documentation of outright lies about Obama, making the case for his being a Muslim. We've all heard about this kind of thing, but coming face to face with its despicableness is really quite shocking:

"Barack Hussein Obama, II (allegedly born in Honolulu,[1][2] August 4, 1961) is the 2008 nominee of the Democratic Party for president.[3] Obama has served as a freshman Democratic Senator from Illinois since 2004. On August 23 he chose Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate. In 2007, Obama was rated the most liberal Senator by the National Journal, who had rated Senator John Kerry the most liberal senator during his presidential run as well.[4] If elected, Obama may become the first Muslim President of the United States...

Obama and Islam

Obama is likely to be Muslim because:
Obama's background and education are Muslim
Obama's middle name remains Muslim, meaning "descendant of Muhammad," which most Christians would not retain[8]
Obama recently referred to his "Muslim faith"[9]
Obama uses the Muslim Pakistani pronunciation for "Pakistan" rather than the common American one[10]
Obama, in his autobiography "Dreams from My Father" (1995), descibes Muslim Malcolm X as his favorite black leader
Obama's claims of conversion to Christianity arose after he became politically ambitious, lacking a date of conversion or baptism.[11]
The odds of Obama being truthful in his claim that he converted to Christianity are less than 100 to 1 against it, as fewer than 1% of Muslims convert to Christianity.[12]
Obama claimed to have visited 57 states while campaigning for president of the United States, which of course has only 50 states.[13] He could never explain where the false number of 57 came from, but it has been observed that there are 57 Islamic states and Obama was educated at an Islamic grade school while he lived in an Islamic country.[14]
Obama downplays his Islamic background by claiming that his Kenyan Muslim father was a "confirmed atheist" before Obama was born, but in fact less than 1% of Kenyans are atheists, agnostics or non-religious.[15] There is apparently no evidence of any Christian activities or local church participation by Obama while he was in Massachusetts from 1988 to 1991. Finally, Obama abruptly left his church in Chicago in 2008 when it became politically controversial, without first finding another church to join."

But I wouldn't want you to leave this blog today with a rotten taste in your mouth, so now cheer yourself up with this nice story, from an anonymous blogger on

"The Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story about a newlywed trying to get to Norway to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her that she wouldn't be able to check her luggage without paying a 100 surcharge:

When it was finally Mary’s turn, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.

-You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said. Mary had no money. Her new husband had traveled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call. I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.

As tears streamed down her face, she heard a "gentle and friendly voice" behind her saying, "That's okay, I'll pay for her." Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before. He had a gentle and kind voice that was firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?

Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man. He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.

She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

Who was the man?

Barack Obama.

Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next President and has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:

He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Virgil's Boss Takes a Hit

I stand duly corrected and humiliated for my previous post "Holiday with McCain." It is a phony, an Internet decoy and like a sitting duck I fell for it and got my butt kicked. Rather than simply deleting the post, however (it's only been up for less than 24 hours), I am appending the rest of the story here as an object lesson, and as my public whupping for being caught out with my pants down. I ask for readers' forgiveness. From the alleged author of the essay came this email:

"Apologies for this general statement, but it's the best I can do. I have received thousands of emails and phone calls about the Turtle Island account. I spend many hours every day replying but still can't keep up.

I did NOT write that account, forward it under my name, or ask for it to be widely distributed. Nor did I make public an account by my "friend Ana Dubey." I don't know Ms. Dubey, or even if she exists.

I have never been to Turtle Island (which costs $2000/day), have never met Senator McCain, was a classics major, not an English Literature major, and never eat pancakes.
I have no way of knowing whether this story is true or false, and unless/until the real author comes forward we won't know. I regret any misinformation which is circulating. This is NOT an organized effort on the part of any political candidate.

How I think this happened: on 16 September I received this account fourth-hand and forwarded it, with full email trail information and the name of the purported author Ms. Dubey, to several friends with whom I discuss politics. It was further forwarded, and at some point I was identified as the author or as making the story public on behalf of Ms. Dubey. I suspect whoever did this thought that my name and contact information would make the story more credible. is investigating the account; current status "undetermined." They have posted my disclaimer.

I hope you will pass this information on to anyone interested in this story."


p.s. see the article "Make-Believe Maverick" in the current ROLLING STONE
Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064
831-459-2381 (office); 831-429-8803 (home)

And to the commentator who wrote me directly on the blog in the Comments column to point this out, if somewhat less kindly, my profound apologies. I have learned a forever lesson. You are absolutely right in what you said, and I am also appending that blog comment here:

"As usual, your hate blinds your judgment. This letter on which you have placed your imprimatur is a farce. Sadly, so are you.

You have no shame in surrendering reason for a dime-bag's worth of Turkish Delight - the sweet satisfaction of any vitriolic ranting against “the other side.” Truth be damned.

I don’t suppose you considered fact checking before proving you are no longer worthy of anyone’s trust.

You have moved from the comic relief to a pathetic Iago wanna be.

You really need to turn your heart away from such debilitating hatred. Even your crocodilian confidant will tell you that."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Holiday with McCain

It seems that the McCain campaign has already announced its plans for a(nother) carpet-bombing month of attack ads against Obama. So get your barf bags ready. This guy is such a stinker--all I can think about is burying him in Yucca Mountain. But anyone reading this who still thinks he is an otherwise honorable, decent man stuck in the jungle of a tough campaign, doing whatever it takes to win at all cost--and merely playing politics-as-usual hardball--needs to check this out. It's a testimony written by a woman Professor of Literature and Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and I presume it will circulate profusely on the Internet over the next few weeks. McCain's scuzzy behavior goes way back, and is hardly confined to the political arena. My nightmare scenario is not just McCain and Palin at the helm of this country, but the prospect of the other limbo men--Lindsay Graham, Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giulliani--all of whom will certainly be on board in key positions to assist them. Just think about it, and then read this:


It was just before John McCain's last run at the
presidential nomination in
2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island
in Fiji with John
Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their
adopted Bangladeshi

It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune,
to be in close quarters
with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle
Island has a small number of
bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all
vacationers who are
at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading
quotes from a pile of
William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its
sticking out of them. As an
English Literature major myself, my first thought was
"if he likes this so
much, why hasn't he memorized any of this

I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had
come on vacation to be a
volunteer audience for his "readings" which
then became a regular part
of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the
vacationers initially protested
this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but
people's buttons definitely
got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to
our mealtime
He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine
women had the best figures
that our American corn-fed women just couldn't
meet up to this standard. He
also made it a point that all of us should stop
Cindy from having dessert as
her weight was too high and made a few comments to
Amy, the 25 year old wife
the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should
eat less as she needed
lose weight.

McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women
was so great that David
the American economist had to move his Thai wife to
the other side of the
from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with
and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and
his rude behavior towards
his wife and other women, but decided he must have
some redeeming qualities as
he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I
asked him about this one
day, and his response was shocking: "Oh, that
was Cindy's idea I
didn't have anything to do with it. She just went
and adopted this thing
without even asking me. You can't imagine how
people stare when I wheel
this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in
Arizona. No, it wasn't
my idea at all."

I actively avoided McCain after that, but
unfortunately one day he engaged me
in a political discussion which soon got us on the
topic of the active US
bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he
said, "If I was in
charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a
lesson". Given McCain's
personal experience with the horrors of war, I had
expected a more balanced
point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences
of the nuclear attacks
Japan during WWII but no, he was not to be
dissuaded. He went on to say
that if it was up to him he would have dropped many
more nuclear bombs on
I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as
I could tell that his
experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to
have mellowed out his
perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive
and vengeful towards the

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that
he was leaving Turtle
Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when
McCain arrived and told
that she shouldn't be having pancakes because she
needed to lose weight.
Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I
felt fiercely protective of
Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to
leave her alone. He
very angry and abusive towards me, and said,
"Don't you know who I
am." I
looked him in the face and said,
"Yes, you are the biggest
asshole I have ever met" and headed back to my
cabin. I am happy to say
that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was
given a standing ovation by
all the guests for having stood up to McCain's

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with
friends, this is the
first time I am making this public. I almost did so
in 2000, when McCain
announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but
it soon became apparent
that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I
did not act then.
now that there is a very real possibility that McCain
could be elected a s our
next president, I feel it is my duty as an American
citizen to share this
I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America
than that this abusive,
aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed
him in intimate
surroundings as he really is, not how the media
portrays him to be. If his
attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own
family are even a small
indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to
think what will happen to
America were he to be elected as our President.
Mary-Kay Gamel
Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and
Theater Arts
Cowell College
University of California, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, California 95064
831-459-2381 (office); 831-429-8803 (home)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Visiting My Accountant

This week, amid all the financial turmoil, I went to see my accountant. Among other things, I asked him what HE was doing with regard to his investments? Was he moving things around? Bailing out of the stock market?

He said that so far, he'd done nothing. But he had taken a big hit that day, because he was heavily invested in Wachovia, which had just tanked, leaving stockholders in the lurch. Having ventured that far into the personal, I decided to risk more. I asked him who he was planning to vote for. John McCain, was the unfortunate answer.

I'm afraid I instinctively cringed, going into a crouch. But, but, but, what about Sarah Palin? I asked. Aren't you worried about her? No, he said, because I think she's the best of all four candidates. In that moment, my mind expanded to include the possibility of everything.

I suppose, I stammered weakly, that working in the field of finance, you inevitably vote Republican. I was trying to make this be okay. He's been my accountant for many years! Oh no, he said, I always vote the candidate! Yikes! At this point I just fell silent. There wasn't any place to go from here. If it's any consolation, my accountant then said, as if to reassure me, I think Obama is gonna win.

Were I moderating one of the debates, the first thing I would want ask is how, given an economy that is now on life support, can we possibly continue to wage wars that cost $12 billion a month? What is the plan for financing these astronomical sums, when our financial institutions are imploding, one by one, and credit is frozen? Then I'd want to know how and why the GOP is getting away with undermining the legislative probe in Alaska regarding illegal antics during Palin's gubernatorial tenure? In a replay of Washington, subpoenas have been issued, but no one is talking. Why isn't there a huge stink about this? And lastly, I want to hear the candidates' views on Armageddon. Sarah, it seems, has claimed she has a "special role," along with Alaska, in facilitating End Times. I want the whole story here too.

After the first presidential debate, I read something that interested me. Many people noticed, and commented unfavorably, on the fact that John McCain failed to ever look at Obama. Ultimately it lost him a lot of ground. A psychologist blogging on the Internet claimed it was because McCain was afraid of Obama. He based this assessment on his extended studies of monkey behavior. Low-ranking monkeys, it seems, never look at high ranking monkeys. "In a physical, instinctive sense," the psychologist wrote, "Obama owned McCain tonight, and I think the instant polling reflects that."

Someone else also observed that at the end of the debate, Obama walked towards Michelle, looked her in the eye and kissed her. McCain waited for Cindy to come to him, and it was Cindy who gave him a kiss. "To me," the man wrote, "this is very telling about how these two men see and treat women. Obama seems to be the type of man who sees their wife as equals, combining love and affection with respect. On the other hand, McCain seems to belong to the traditional sense of 'macho' men, head of the family type, who love their wife but at the same time expect a certain degree of obedience, like listen to me, come to me, do as I say."

I have to say I noticed a moment like this myself. After a campaign appearance, as shown on TV, McCain and Cindy were walking together down a corridor and he was accosted by a reporter. I was astonished at the way he just left Cindy behind, abandoned her, and walked on ahead talking with the reporter. I saw her stop dead in her tracks behind him for several seconds, with a "what am I--chopped liver?" kind of look on her face. I could almost hear the words inside her head: "Oh fuck, not again!" I can really relate to that look of absolute pique, because I've seen it on the faces of many friends whenever the name John McCain comes up in the conversation.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Unhinging of My Country

I know I'm fatally behind with my comments, but last week was just so over the top with mind-blowing stuff that my entire cognitive apparatus was "on steroids," to use a favored current expression. Of all that was happening, some of it was more than I could swallow, much of it more than I could digest. In short, there was so much going on, and so much to metabolize, that I could hardly think straight.

Let's start with the big government "rescue plan," aka "bail-out," for the failing economy. Even surrealism racks its brains for the answers to questions such as these: Is our whole financial system really in the process of collapsing? (Most likely.) Will the newly crafted rescue plan actually work? (Nobody knows for sure, but probably not.) Is there a better way to go about this than holding the taxpayers hostage? (Anybody's guess, really, but not happening anyway.) Is this economic "emergency" really a financial 9/11 in disguise, as some have intimated--a version of the new "disaster capitalism" (Naomi Klein)--being cynically used in a timely manner by the administration to help John McCain regain his footing in the election? (Democrats think so.)

At this point anything seems possible. Surrealism, as Annie Dillard points out, "wrenches objects from their ordinary mental settings until at last (it hopes) it unhinges the mind itself." This was, without a doubt, one of the most surreal, unhinging, mind-fuck weeks in U.S. history. And by the end of it, most Americans no longer knew which they feared most: systemic economic collapse or deceitful manipulation of their minds and their money by their government. Brother, can you spare a trillion? One thing is clear, however: there IS a lot of fear--and rage--out there.

Enter world-class spook, John McCain, "suspending" his campaign, getting everybody all riled up, poking his prick into everything, ordering Barack Obama to man the decks like he was boss of the world, postponing their debate--and now, waiting eagerly in the wings to claim "victory" for his part in whatever legislation finally gets passed. "Victory" and John McCain are inseparably wedded. God help us.

First McCain said he'd fire Christopher Cox as Chairman of the Securies and Exchange Commision for mismanagement and greed. Then the Wall Street Journal editorial board struck back, defending Cox and pointing out it was unpresidential behavior and illegal besides. The president would not have that right.

Then Gail Collins wrote a great parody of all these shenanigans in the New York Times:

"One thing we now know for sure. Electing John McCain would be God’s gift to the profession of journalism. A story a minute.

Imagine what would happen if a new beetle infested the Iowa corn crop during the first year of a McCain administration. On Monday, we spray. On Tuesday, we firebomb. On Wednesday, the president marches barefoot through the prairie in a show of support for Iowa farmers. On Thursday, the White House reveals that Wiley Flum, a postal worker from Willimantic, Conn., has been named the new beetle eradication czar. McCain says that Flum had shown “the instincts of a maverick reformer” in personally buying a box of roach motels and scattering them around the post office locker room. “I can’t wait to introduce Wiley to those beetles in Iowa,” the president adds.

On Friday, McCain announces he’s canceling the weekend until Congress makes the beetles go away."

Frank Rich, today, writes in the same newspaper:

"What we learned last week is that the man who always puts his “country first” will take the country down with him if that’s what it takes to get to the White House...When John McCain gratuitously parachuted into Washington on Thursday, he didn’t care if his grandstanding might precipitate an even deeper economic collapse."

In the middle of all this financial freak-out, cryptographic artist Damien Hirst sold 223 works for over $200 million at a Sotheby's auction. Talk about surreal! This even has to beat Franz Kafka turning a character into a cockroach.

They say it's not over 'til the fat lady sings. Up next this coming week on "American Idol" is Sarah Palin. "Andy Warhol," Patricia Williams writes in The Nation, "would have loved Sarah Palin. She really is the ultimate soup can. For anyone who never quite understood the point of an art form in which the iconicity of a mass-produced object becomes an end above and beyond its contents--well, welcome to the fame factory...What Warhol did with Mao Zedong and Marilyn Monroe is precisely what the Republican Party has done with Sarah Palin." She then likens listening to Sarah speak to the absurdity of being addressed by, say, the Maalox Max bottle, or Mr. Clean, or Mrs. Butterworth. Or, worse yet, Karl Rove in designer glasses and a skirt.

We can only hope that in the case of Sarah Palin, Warhol (were he still around) would get it right: fifteen minutes in a controlled context, and the fame problem will take care of itself. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Trouble in the Ice Kingdom

The folks up in Alaska are not happy campers since Sarah got nominated for VP. This from the Anchorage Daily News today:

"Abdication by Palin"

When did the McCain campaign take over the governor's office?
Published: September 20th, 2008 12:53 AM
Last Modified: September 20th, 2008 02:47 AM

"Gov. Sarah Palin has surrendered important gubernatorial duties to the Republican presidential campaign. McCain staff are handling public and press questions about actions she has taken as governor. The governor who said, "Hold me accountable," is hiding behind the hired guns of the McCain campaign to avoid accountability.

Is it too much to ask that Alaska's governor speak for herself, directly to Alaskans, about her actions as Alaska's governor?

A press conference Thursday showed how skewed Alaska's relationship with its own governor has become.

McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Ed O'Callaghan announced that Todd Palin will not comply with a subpoena to testify about his role in Troopergate, the Legislature's investigation into whether Palin abused her power in forcing out former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan.

O'Callaghan also announced that Alaska's governor is "unlikely" to cooperate with the investigation by the Alaska Legislature about questionable conduct by Alaska's chief executive.

Monday, he and campaign sidekick Meg Stapleton stood before Alaskans and defended the official personnel decision by Alaska's governor to fire Alaska's public safety commissioner. ABC News reported that Gov. Palin's official press secretary, Bill McAllister, paid by the state of Alaska, didn't even know the McCain staffers were meeting the press to defend his boss.

Is the McCain campaign telling Alaskans that Alaska's governor can't handle her own defense in front of her own Alaska constituents?

Way back when, before John McCain chose Palin as his vice presidential running mate, Palin promised to cooperate with the investigation.

Now she won't utter a peep about it to Alaskans. Nor will her husband, Todd, who definitely needs to explain his role in Troopergate.

Instead, Alaskans have to sit back and listen to John McCain's campaign operatives handling inquiries about what Alaska's governor did while governing Alaska. Residents of any state would be offended to see their governor cede such a fundamental, day-to-day governmental responsibility to a partisan politician from another state. It's especially offensive to Alaskans.

O'Callaghan said Todd Palin objects to the subpoena because the Legislature's investigation "has been subjected to complete partisanship." That's the kind of dizzying spin that Washington has perfected. It is the McCain-Palin campaign that has worked overtime to politicize the entire matter in a transparent attempt to justify the stonewalling.

Futile as the request may be, we encourage Gov. Palin to stand up to McCain's handlers and be personally accountable for her administration's response to Troopergate. She is the governor of Alaska, not John McCain or Ed O'Callaghan.

BOTTOM LINE: Official state business -- like Troopergate -- should be handled by the governor of the state, not by McCain presidential campaign operatives."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Sarah Palin will be meeting foreign leaders next week, the Wall Street Journal Reports:

"Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will meet with foreign leaders next week at the United Nations, a move to boost her foreign-policy credentials, a Republican strategist said.

Republican candidate John McCain plans to introduce the Alaska governor to heads of state at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, although specific names weren’t yet firmed up. “The meetings will give her some exposure and experience with foreign leaders,” the strategist said. “It’s a great idea.”

McCain and Palin are expected to visit the U.N. on Tuesday, when President George W. Bush will address the international body."

Two bloggers respond to the news:

"Then after she goes to the UN for an hour to “meet foreign leaders” and establish her security/foreign policy credentials, McCain will take her to a hospital, so she can establish her “health care” credentials; then they will go out in the street and meet a whole bunch of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to check off the “diversity” credentials; then they can ride the subway for one stop to clarify her “infrastructure” credentials; and then, finally, she can use her ATM card at a bank branch down on Wall Street so she can demonstrate her expertise on the financial markets.
God, I swear you can’t make this up."

"I think the rattlesnakes are starting to commit suicide."

Andrew Sullivan reports on the polls:

"Basically: it's tied with a tiny edge to McCain in the national vote and a tiny edge to Obama in the electoral college.Gallup's tracking shows the race closing again. My own view is that Palin has all but killed the McCain candidacy. And her real advantage was novelty. Once people realize she has no record of even interest in foreign policy and is a serial liar, her unfavorables will continue to rise."

"16 Sep 2008 03:33 pm
Palin's popularity tanks as voters get to see more of her:
The Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos now has Palin's favorability-unfavorability scores at 45-44 -- just a +1. Six days ago, when the poll launched, she was at a 52-35, a +17."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Maureen Dowd Notices Blinking Too!

From her column in the NY Times today:

“We must not, Charlie, blink, Charlie, because, Charlie, as I’ve said, Charlie, before, John McCain has said, Charlie, that — and remember here, Charlie, we’re talking about John McCain, Charlie, who, Charlie, is John McCain and I won’t be blinking, Charlie.”

"Sarah has single-handedly ushered out the “Sex and the City” era, and made the sexy new model for America a retro one — the glamorous Pioneer Woman, packing a gun, a baby and a Bible," Dowd writes.

"Her explosion onto the scene made Obama seem even more like a windy, wispy egghead. Like W., Sarah has the power of positive unthinking. But now we may want to think about where ignorance and pride and no self-doubt has gotten us. Being quick on the trigger might be good in moose hunting, but in dealing with Putin, a little knowledge might come in handy."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Problem with Not Blinking

Boy, was that one drop-dead gorgeous view from Sarah Palin's living room window, as seen in Charlie Gibson's interview with her in Wassilla a few days ago. Me, I'd think twice before trading it in for the privilege of being cooped up in a Beltway office all week, looking out on Capitol Hill.

Palin said she didn't even blink when she was offered the VP slot alongside John McCain; if you're as dedicated to the "mission" [of reforming government] as she is, and they are, then you don't hesitate, not for one second. You don't worry about whether you have what it takes or whether there is someone more qualified than you. You answer yes, of course.

Did she think it was sexist, Gibson wanted to know, when others questioned whether she could adequately juggle the job of VP (or conceivably even the Presidency) and be a successful, responsible mother as well? Again, Sarah didn't blink. She's been doing that all along: "Of course you can do it, be the VP and raise a family," she said. "I'm the Governor and I raise a family." Seeing her there in her own element, I believed her. Up there in the tundra, her juggling act seems to have worked. When it comes to the state of Alaska, Sarah Palin has definitely broken the glass ceiling.

What Gibson failed to ask, however, was, if Palin does end up winning the Vice-Presidency and migrating to Washington, whether she would take her family with her? The question is crucial, because should she try to haul them all off to Washington, then the unique ideogram that is Sarah Palin now--and which works perfectly in her mini-empire of Alaska but depends on all that pastoral order--will be destroyed.

Meanwhile people have begun to condemn John McCain for compromising the country by his choice of an unequipped running mate. But I would go even further. I believe Sarah Palin has badly compromised herself, by accepting the offer. If she wins the Vice-Presidency, she could well lose everything else that is good about her, namely, a life that really works.

In the raw world of Alaska, Sarah Palin "has it all": a great job, great family, great landscape, great house, and a great life--all of it colorful, rich, and seamlessly interwoven. I can easily picture her driving the snowmobile home from the Governor's office at lunch time, in order to check on the kids and give them their mooseburgers. But "having it all" isn't enough, it seems, and now that greedy ambition for more power has reared its ugly head, Sarah may yet be the author of her own undoing. By saying yes to John McCain, she has made a choice that could cause her whole world to come unraveled.

For instance, it's not hard for me to picture the Obama family moving from Chicago into the White House, with all of them enacting a reasonable facsimile of their previous life. But what will become of Sarah once she is separated her from the mythic trappings of tundra, caribou, wolves, and snowmobile racing--upon which so much of her successful life depends? How will she fare when disappeared into the herd of bureaucrats roaming Capitol Hill, and cooped up in an office all day? And what about her handsome, snowmobile-racing, fisherman husband? Will he be happy plying his trade in the Potomac? Talk about fish out of water! Or maybe he will stay behind in Alaska to look after the kids, helping them to build snow men? Frankly I don't think you can just uproot a fir tree, replant it in the tropics, and expect it to thrive.

Still, if Sarah Palin fails to get elected, she can always return to her former existence, unspoiled and intact. The same can no longer be said for John McCain. An uncontrolled will-to-power has already cost him beyond anything he can possibly afford to pay--his "hero" status and his image as a man of integrity have shrunk to such a degree I believe they will never be recovered. I would not care, myself, to be the subject of comments such as these, written by the columnist Andrew Sullivan (, but his words sum up what many people are thinking and saying:

"I'm in two minds whether John McCain has lost his mind or never had a soul. But I have to say I am surprised by the barrage of lies and distractions his campaign is throwing out. The farce of the Palin candidacy is one such distraction - but the lies about sex education, the lies about Palin's pork record, the lies about "tiny" Iran, the lies about the lipstick-pig nonsense, the lies about the bridge to nowhere, the lies about the oil pipeline ... I mean, what is going on?
Some believe this is just GOP hardball. But it actually isn't. They're usually not this stupid. If you are going to broadcast a series of outrageous, demonstrable lies to smear your opponent, you tend to to that in the last two weeks of a campaign, so the lies can actually stick before they are debunked. But in September?
I know many people believe that the American people - especially the under-informed swing voters - are too dumb to know when they are being lied to. But these lies are so obvious that this cannot be true. And the sheer viciousness of the personal attacks on Obama make Rove's attack on McCain in 2000 seem mild.
Here's what I think. I think McCain is out of it. I think he checked out of his own campaign and handed it over to Schmidt and his fellow Rovians. This does not mean he does not have total responsibility. John McCain is now for ever a despicable and dishonest and dishonorable man. He has destroyed his reputation..."

Whatever happens to John McCain, because of a series of reckless choices, the old-time warrior now stands to lose everything that was good about himself, most especially his honor. I'm not sure anything is really worth that. Not even the Presidency.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Beating the Blues

Everyone I talk to ever since the advent of Sarah Palin to the Republican ticket has the jitters, the heebie-jeebies. That we could really lose this election to the snide Moose Girl is now haunting every Democratic heart: we are all spooked. To say nothing of feeling blue--and I don't refer here to the electoral map. The ship is going down, for God's sake, and America is having another election about--ABORTION? Feeling blue and being spooked are not a good places to be. But how can you not feel jittery, blue, spooked? Marc Ginsberg wrote in the Huffington Post today:

"McSame is committing grand larceny... stealing the "change" message. He's throwing the wool over voters' eyes. He's pretending that the he's not the latest GOP fox in the henhouse. Hiding behind the skirts of Sarah Palin, the GOP is swift-boating the truth once again. And Democrats should be ready with an overwhelming counterattack."

I'm feeling exhausted by the lies, ravaged, trashed. So, what to do?

As most of my friends and readers will already know, when stressed, one of my personal antidotes is to ask a question, open the Thesaurus at random, and point my finger. The place where my finger lands either offers an immediate answer, sometimes astounding me, or it doesn't apply at all. Admittedly this technique won't always work. Sometimes, however, truly uncanny stuff happens. It did last night.

Last night I asked about Sarah Palin and John McCain. Tell me what's really going on here? I queried. My finger landed precisely between these two phrases:

"have an ulterior motive" and "have an eye to the main chance."

They were under the larger heading of "CUNNING," and these were some of the proximate words:
"sly, play the fox, try a ruse, shift, dodge, juggle, maneuver, jockey, double-cross, spin a web, weave a plot, contrive, play tricks, pull a fast one, outsmart, outwit, go one better, snatch from, waylay, undermine, ambush." This seems to meet the question perfectly as a description of what is really going on. McCain has pulled a fast one and is now trying to go one better than the opposition. It was an ambush, and with it, he has now managed to snatch the lead from Obama.

But this is a confirmation of what we already know, albeit a pretty consummate one. Since I'd gotten an ace in the hole with my first question, I decided to push my luck and ask another: Will it work?

The answer here began somewhat cryptically, with two phrases "like a cat on hot bricks, like a hen on a hot griddle." (Or maybe, like a barracuda on a curling iron?) My Thesaurus entry then went on to advance what seemed like an amazingly accurate description of Sarah Palin:

"stirring, strong, quick, brisk, nippy, spry, smart, energetic, forceful, up-and-coming, frisky, spirited, mettlesome, full of beans, animated, vivacious, on one's toes, restless, nervy."

Okay, I continued on: Can Obama still win, Sarah's nervy up-and-comingness notwithstanding? Here is what I got by way of an answer:

"Be superior, transcend, rise above, surmount, tower over, outreach, exceed, out-Herod Herod (!), carry off the laurels, bear the palm, wear the crown, surpass, reach a new high, go one better, trump, show quality, shine, excel, assert one's superiority, be too much for, steal the show, outshine, eclipse, overshadow, ridicule, outclass, outwit, get the better of, trounce, rise to the occasion, defeat, tip the scale, change the balance, be up on, be one up."

I followed a further reference in the same entry, and got: "Give hope, have faith, rest assured, feel confident, bank on, intend, keep one's fingers crossed, remain hopeful, never say die, keep smiling, persevere, inspire hope, [be] without discouragement, without despair, authentic, well-grounded, authoritative, influential, give testimony, cite the evidence."

That seemed to describe Obama pretty definitively, and the path he has been consistently charting. These answers aren't definitive; they don't predict an outcome. But they do thrust themselves rather tellingly straight into the process. The way I see it, after receiving my reading, in order for our phoenix to successfully perform his fiery rite, it is up to each one of us (his supporters) to fervently, scrupulously, and unrelentingly follow this same guidance:

"Give hope, have faith, rest assured, feel confident, bank on, intend, keep one's fingers crossed, remain hopeful, never say die, keep smiling, persevere, inspire hope, [be] without discouragement, without despair, authentic, well-grounded, authoritative, influential, give testimony, cite the evidence."

With such thoughts we create an omnidirectional field, a hidden incantation--so that one candidate cannot conceal the other the way a penny in visual space can hide the sun. I leave you to conjecture which one is the penny, and which one, the sun.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Witty One-Shots/Feeling Sick

John McCain, the Michelin Man, definitely killed a lot of birds with one stone last week when he unfurled his running mate, Sarah Palin, at the Republican convention. You could tell he was sitting pretty like the cat that ate the canary this morning, when he was opposite Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation." He looked like he had dropped ten years in ten days and was positively lit from within.

As for me, I went from the successive highs engendered by watching the Dems--from feeling light-hearted and buoyant all week--to the unspeakable lows of a mastodon's floundering in the swamp. Everyone I know who forcibly subjected themselves to watching the Republicans do their thing on stage had the same uniform response: it made them sick. I mean really SICK, not as in the metaphor "it made me sick," but real-life actual sick, nauseous and queasy sick, full-body sick. This phenomenon is now so widespread, there must be reasons for it. Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert may have nailed some of them in his NY Times offering the next day:

"If there was one pre-eminent characteristic of the Republican convention this week, it was the quality of deception. Words completely lost their meaning. Reality was turned upside down."

I'll go even further and suggest that malign spirits occupied the hall that night. Folks waving flags. who yelled "Drill, baby, drill" like they were Nazi butchers whose lungs were nearly bursting. One after another, speakers belittled Obama, mocked him, joked him, raped him, like there was no tomorrow. How to describe what I witnessed? Ugly. Evil. Disgusting.

Here's Rudy Guiliani: "He worked as a community organizer. What? Barack Obama has never led anything, nothing, nada." These words were then echoed by the Republican's newest hate-monger, Sarah Barracuda: "The world of threats and dangers, it's not just a community and it doesn't just need an organizer."

These witty one-shots all drew dark laughter from the crowd. After they were done eviscerating Obama, McCain went on to STEAL his platform, masquerading himself as the leader of "change." (He'd already realized he wasn't going to make it on "experience.")

But what really happened that night seems to have gone largely unremarked. In his choice of Palin, McCain handed the country over to the Republican party's right-wing Evangelical base, the same group of folks that put GWB into office twice, and who up until then had been mostly indifferent to his candidacy. Indifferent to him, as he was to them:

In the not-too-far-distant past, McCain famously assailed Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for "the evil influence that they exercise over the Republican Party." (Later he said it was a joke, his standard tactic of obfuscation to disguise what he really means.) In January of 2007, Dr. James Dobson, the influential evangelical leader, said of McCain, "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for [him] under any circumstances." Since then, McCain has courted and accepted endorsements from "agents of intolerance" such as John Hagee and Rod Parsley. The very McSame who previously called himself an Episcopalian and shied away from talking about his personal faith, now declares Roe v. Wade must be overturned, and speaks openly about his faith in Christ.

So let's talk about deception! Let's talk about turning reality upside down. Meanwhile, what the Michelin Man has really done (by choosing Palin as his VP) is to set the country up for "four more years" of hideous rule by the same religious Right who have destroyed it. This sinister move now gives him a chance of winning. And they say this man has a conflict between ideals and ambitions? After such an unconscionable sleight of hand, McCain is now gallingly proclaiming himself the "maverick" candidate of "change"? How can you not feel sick? How can you not feel your world is being willfully turned upside down?

Make no mistake. Sarah Palin, as one blogger put it even better than even I could, "is more than a charismatic, lipsticked pitbull. She's Cerberus, the hound of Hades, waiting for us at the gates. I truly fear her, and I want her defeated. Soundly, everlastingly defeated."

Let me quietly lay that comment right side up on a clean surface, so I can better inhale it, deeply.