40 Random Things I’ve Learned in 40 Years

Yesterday was my 40th birthday, so I sat down to write a list of 40 random things I’ve learned over these 40 years. Here’s my list; feel free to list your own in comments.

1.      Babies are cute; kids are mean.

2.       Your childhood will haunt you if you live long enough.

3.       People are judgmental until they get to know you. Then they’re biased.

4.       Brachiating is a good skill to master, literally and metaphorically speaking.

5.       “Laugh a lot” is good advice, but easier said than done.

6.       Avoid overuse of superlatives if you want to be taken seriously.

7.       The future is uncertain.

8.       Still, it’s best to plan ahead. Start young.

9.       A hometown is often a hurdle to adulthood.

10.   Naiveté is not cute; it’s a disadvantage.

11.   There is no glass.

12.   There is a spoon. Spoons, actually. They’re silver and only a few of us get one.

13.   Politics is a sham unless you’re powerful.

14.   Most of us are not powerful.

15.   Paying attention brings with it an awareness of stupidity, even your own.

16.   Ask questions.

17.   Learn how to find the answers to some of your own questions.

18.   Critical thinking is great, but ultimately useless unless you’re solving a problem or inventing something.

19.   Naval gazing and drug addiction have a lot in common.

20.   The world would be better off without the concept of “cool.” Continue reading

Props where Props are Due (Updated)

Updated below the fold…

I’ve been engaged in a conversation in comments over at Cannonfire recently about the equivalence of rhetoric on both the left and right. My point is basically that you can’t blame one side more than the other, especially in recent years.

First, let me say that I really appreciate the tolerance Joe has shown for my differing point of view. I recently lost yet another close friend, the man who gave me away at my wedding, over political intolerance, so I really appreciate it when I find it. Thanks, Joe.

That said, I made the following assertion, from which I’ll directly quote:

Unfortunately, I see no one with any real audience taking a risk by looking at themselves and their side first. That would do a lot to restore some credibility, but I’m not holding my breath.

I mention this because shortly after I posted this comment, MYiq2xu posted just what I was hoping for at The Confluence, and mad props go to him. I’m not saying my comment prompted it, because I’m sure it didn’t, but reading it did help me feel less alone. I’ve lost that friend and managed to alienate my uncle this week (on Facebook, the absolute devil, I’m convinced) because I refused to agree that right wing rhetoric was more violence-inducing than left wing rhetoric. So it’s nice to know there are people out there that agree that we all have to let go of some defensiveness.

And here’s to christening this blog with a semi-drunk post, as I’ve been drinking Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale this evening with real friends who would never disown me over a political opinion. Mad props to those good folks, too.

Update: Continue reading

Alienation, Futility, and Misunderstanding

Today I want to talk about some things related to our continuing discussion of “political discourse,” identification, our history, and our human propensity to make assumptions. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so please bear with me. I’m bound to ramble.

Let’s start with discourse and President Obama’s speech. I liked it. While I’m no fan, it did satisfy some of my craving for reason in the madness of our current national dialogue. Unlike the television pundits and some on the right, I did not have a problem at all with the setting or the tone of the crowd. Tucson gets to react however they see fit, and if they needed to release some positive energy that others interpreted as having a “pep rally” feel, so be it. His speech and my own reflection these past few days about this country, its rhetoric, and where I stand politically are weighing heavily on my mind tonight.

I know where I stand, but it’s a rough place to be, and many others don’t get it. I no longer belong to anybody. It’s a very lonely feeling. For nearly 20 years I was a happy, if ignorant, liberal. My political life really started with the Clinton election of 1992, the first election in which I could vote for president. It seemed then that everybody hated the man and his wife, both of whom I loved. I slowly backed into a defensive crouch as the decade marched on and the Clintons came under attack from nearly every quarter, even from within their own party. I did not understand then that privilege and class had a lot to do with it, nor did I understand until recently our partisan history. Once you understand those two dynamics, the Clinton years, and so much else, comes into sharp focus.

The corridors of power in Washington are full of the elite. It’s the place the very rich send talentless sons and the place the children of well-off, well-connected, but not technically rich people buy their children the right educations to get into. Certainly they held a grudge against the product of a working class family, from a single mother to boot, who had worked his way up on mere wit and charm, no credentials needed to enter their Ivy League institutions. Oh, they were happy to give him an education, but then the fucker had the gall to jump to the front of the line, in front of the babies of countless powerful people who felt it was Junior’s turn. That was easy enough to understand, and by the time Clinton left office, my political mind was mature enough to realize it.

Putting our partisan history in context took quite a bit longer, and has been much harder work. If not for 2008, I’m not sure I could have done it. I had bought the rhetoric of the left hook, line, and sinker.

I don’t anymore because the way Obama ran his campaign, from McClurkin, to the character assassination of Hillary Clinton, right on down to the attacks on Sarah Palin, was at odds with what I knew to be common liberal values. We supported gay rights and the rights of women, we were proud of our history of civil rights pursuits and working class roots, we thought every vote counted and that election rules shouldn’t change in the middle of the process just because a small group of powerful people wanted a certain candidate. 2008 upended all of that.

What that break did was free me of party affiliations forever. I never forgot that, like many Americans, I gave George W. Bush a fair shot after 9/11, and he repaid that by doing things like outing a CIA agent and taking us to war in Iraq. I wasn’t going to become a Republican, even if I could occasionally vote for one. But I couldn’t be a Democrat anymore, and after the treatment I received from liberal and progressive “friends” because I chose to honor the ideas I held and not the party I had belonged to, I couldn’t really claim identification with the left at all. This freed me up to ask a lot of questions I had not previously had the courage to ask myself. Continue reading

Murdered Girl Had Political Aspirations, Was Symbol of American Life

This article has been cross-posted from The New Agenda.

Christina-Taylor Green

I will never forget the day of Oklahoma City Bombing. My daughter was 2 at the time, and was at her on-site daycare when I heard the horrific news that The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been hit, including their on-site daycare. Watching the news as the emergency responders pulled so many toddler bodies out of the wreckage really hit home. I wept and immediately left work to gather my baby in my arms, filled with the bittersweet knowledge that but for the grace of something, we were spared. I could not believe that so many parents were hurting because their children were murdered during the most routine of activities.

I had a flashback to that feeling Saturday as reports came in  that a 9-year-old little girl was shot in the chest and killed by gunman Jared Lee Loughner at a political event for U. S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. I have taken my own daughter to political events. I’ve integrated her into my own political activism where she has shown interest, because I believe that exposure to that process is important as a citizen and a future woman. Christina-Taylor was there for similar reasons, lovingly escorted by a family friend who had her future in mind and best interests at heart. She was reportedly attending the event to ask Gifford how she could get involved in politics.

According to her mother, Roxanna Green, Christina-Taylor “talked about getting all the parties to come together so we could live in a better country. She was going to Giffords’ event to ask questions about how she could help and to learn more about politics in our country.” She was recently elected student council president at Mesa Verde Elementary School, where she attended 3rd grade. Continue reading

Where I’m Calling From*

Raymond Carver (1938-1988)

I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been sick and having family problems, the combination of which has zapped my energy.

Also, there’s just not a lot to analyze politically these days. Politics seems to have devolved even further, and less and less information gets through. The blogosphere has changed journalism for the worse, its amateurisms and reactionary thought processes infecting the fourth estate at nearly every level. It was bad enough when journalists were buddy-buddy with politicians, but hid it. Now they’re out in the open with it, writing naked defenses of what should be indefensible, picking fights with readers on Twitter, and the content is all he-said-he-said-Palin-said bullcrap. I’m so frustrated by that!

I’m also frustrated by indicators that things are getting worse for us Main Streeters. The market recovered. Gas Prices are going up. Commodities (the shit we need, as opposed to want) are going up. In other words, business is booming once again, but no jobs are being offered. Who needs us when you’ve got China, Malaysia, etc.? There’s so much more, but I just don’t want to think about it.

The point is, I feel powerless. I am powerless. And that, too, zaps the energy.

Raymond Carver wrote about this, the working class condition, the view from the outside, with such tenderness and beauty. In his short stories he captures the futility, the shamelessness and blamelessness of a life with fewer options, marked as it so often is with poor choices. He understood that redemption could be found even here. Sadly he lost his life due to lung cancer at just 50 years old. Carver was a life-long smoker.

That’s where I’m calling from today. Facing down 40 in six weeks, feeling pretty hopeless about the world, and quite frankly feeling the urgency to reform my own poor choices. Like Carver, I often turn to writing to ease my aching heart. Here’s a poem I wrote, inspired by Carver and my own poor choices. Continue reading