Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine Vigil: "Occupy" the Heart of the World

I have a wonderful friend, Paulus Berensohn, a potter living in Penland, North Carolina, and I am so lucky to be on his greeting card list. Paulus honors every holiday with a handmade card, and this year his valentine arrived a bit early. It contained a message that resonated so strongly with me, I decided to use it for my blog:

"Occupy" the Heart of the World. Valentine Vigil.

It was definitely the best thought I encountered this week. Since "Occupy" has become the word of the year most bound in ribbons and bows, I checked in to see what the Thesaurus offered by way of further illumination. I found multiple calibrations of the word that built wildly and musically on each other, piling up inexhaustibly glorious possibilities:
"join, piece together, restore; dwell in, inhabit, haunt, install oneself, come to rest; give one's attention to, take pains, make important, miss nothing; make better, cultivate, lay claim, assume ownership." So, is this what it would mean to "occupy" the heart of the world?

A second really rum idea surfaced yesterday in Tom Friedman's Sunday column in the New York Times. Basically he proposed that the Republicans should fold their tents and recuse themselves from the coming election: "Watching the Republican Party struggling to agree on a presidential candidate, one wonders whether the GOP shouldn't just sit this election out--just give 2012 a pass." This was not some sardonic vision stated with bitter humor; it was a straightforward suggestion. No matter that it was a bit like asking a compulsive arsonist to please hand over his matches. Friedman was being dead serious.

He went on to liken their scramble to come up with one viable candidate to a scrabble game in which you look at your seven letters and you've got only vowels that spell nothing. "You throw your letters back," he explains, "and hope to pick up better ones to work with. That's what the Republican primary voters seem to be doing. They just keep going back to the pile but still coming up with only vowels that spell nothing. The reason for this is that their pile is out of date. It's an incoherent mix of hardened positions, none of which are constructive or helpful: anti-abortion advocates, anti-immigration activists, social conservatives worried about the sanctity of marriage, libertarians who want to shrink government, anti-tax advocates who want to drown government in a bathtub. When he looks at America's greatest challenges today, Friedman says, he can't see the Republican candidates offering realistic answers to any of them.

"How's that for a Valentine surprise?" I ask Virgil.

"It beats chocolates and flowers," he replies, stepping briefly out of the swamp that birthed him. If only Tom Friedman were half-brother to Houdini, he could wave his magic wand or hold up a red cloth, and they would all disappear. Now you see them; now you don't. In the aggregate, however, lacking as they are in the prime requisites of imagination and ability, those Republicans will certainly spurn his advice and continue to play on with their meaningless vowels. And Sarah will continue to rake in the catcalls,"

Then, wading off into the threadbare dampness, my lovely alligator-muse pauses to wave. "How would you like to be my Valentine? Together we could save the Republic." he asks, demurely.

"You really want me to open it over the phone?" I answer. And then, with my best Art Deco flair, I blow him an air kiss.

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