"If you want to end the war and stuff, you gotta sing loud." Arlo Guthrie
I remember in college, there was a guy who insisted we all had to listen to Alice's Restaurant because it is a "Thanksgiving tradition." I was raised by folkies and it was the first I heard of this tradition. I soon realized that this was because, amusing tradition or not, there was absolutely no way people who hosted a 30+ person sit-down Thanksgiving dinner would have the time to indulge in an 18+ minute sing song.
One thing that amazes me about Thanksgiving as an adult who does not host Thanksgiving is how incredibly calm it is and how much time one has on one's hands. I can totally understand how this tradition took root among people who looked at the yawning chasm of time between waking up and getting to one's destination and worrying at how it could be filled. Especially before the internet was invented to take the edge off of everyone's boredom. The parade is over, the ballgames haven't started, an 18+ minute song that begins on Thanksgiving? Sign us up!
For all the conspiracy theories popping up surrounding the rapidly mushrooming scandal surrounding the resignation of David Petraeus, I am wondering why no one has yet blamed Hollywood for the whole thing. Come on, the head of the CIA is forced to step down due to a sex scandal on the very day the latest James Bond film opens in US theaters and you expect me to believe it is all a magical coincidence? I mean, I do in fact believe it is all a coincidence, but only because this whole story seems to be so boring, despite the high powered individuals involved; you would never catch M communicating with a lover through an unsecured email account and Bond would never consider going to a politician because he felt shut out of an investigation. As in so many other areas of human existence, spies in real life are so much smaller and more ordinary than they are in the movies.
We won't use guns, we won't use bombs, we'll use the one thing we've got more of-that's our minds. -Pulp We've always been privileged. Privilege just means "private law." That's exactly what it means. He just doesn't believe the ordinary law apply to him. They are brought up to give orders, they know that they're on the right side because if they are on it then it must be the right side, by definition, and when they feel threatened they are bare-knuckle fighters, except they never take their gloves off. They are thugs. Thugs and bullies. -from The Truth by Terry Pratchett
Because we have waited patiently for them to bestow rights upon us, and instead we have seem them continue to chip away at the rights we have already garnered.
Because the gap between the super wealthy and everyone else keeps expanding, yet they still insist the wealth will eventually trickle down. Because they don't want us to.
The only reason the bullies have power is because we give it to them. Yes, they have been raised to believe that their wealth and strength is a sign of inherent superiority. When we don't vote, we confirm this belief. Sure, they say that we are all equal, but look at their policies, does that look like equality to you? That future they have mapped out for us is nothing much to shout about. So go out there and vote. There won't be fighting in the streets They think they've got us beat, but revenge is gonna be so sweet. -Pulp
"This is where the party ends
I can't stand hear listening to you
And your racist friend.
I know politics bore you
But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you
And your racist friend."
-They Might Be Giants
The stage manager for Screwtape (Matt) would put music on during our group warm-ups. One time, he played Flood and it was notable that a little more than half the cast was knew every word by heart and sang along while the rest looked at us and asked how we all knew this record of which they were completely unaware. Which struck me as odd because we were all roughly the same age and it was a platinum record; I could see not knowing every song on the record, but if you went to college in the late 80s-early 90s, how did one avoid hearing Istanbul (not Constantinople) or Birdhouse In Your Soul? I'll admit, I wrote these people off as unobservant and dim, not to mention lacking taste (an assessment which was later confirmed when one of these actors announced that "Journey was a GREAT BAND" without the slightest smidge of irony. Um, yeah, don't stop believing, hold on to that feeling).
In a way, that is what the current political climate feels like. While it always feels like a near even split in the electorate, with 48% voting Republican and 48% voting Democrat and the horse race occurring in that 4% undecided, one would have to be blind not to notice that something was different this time around. A recent article in Slate described it as follows
White people—white men in particular—are for Mitt Romney. White men are supporting Mitt Romney to the exclusion of logic or common sense, in defiance of normal Americans. Without this narrow, tribal appeal, Romney's candidacy would simply not be viable. Most kinds of Americans see no reason to vote for him.
This comes as no surprise to so many of us. After all, we knew that despite everyone's hopes that an African-American president would help race relations in our country, one does not overcome the deep rooted systemic racism in our society in just a few years. We knew that the forces of evil would find a way to fight back and we know racial attitudes have gotten worse (we didn't need a study to tell us this, all we had to do was turn on Fox News and listen to what people feel comfortable saying in public)
For more than four years, without pause, Republicans have been campaigning and propagandizing against an imaginary Obama. At the most grotesque end of the fantasies, he is a foreign-born, anti-colonialist Muslim. In more reputable precincts, he is a power-mad socialist and a dumb affirmative-action baby, promoted all the way to the presidency by a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite. (As if the presidency of theHarvard Law Reviewwere awarded to anyone but the hungriest shark in the shark tank.) This is the position of the party's mandarins and reputable spinners—that Obama was foisted off on regular Americans against their will, despite all those votes last time around.
We have been hearing the stuff said by conservative pundits and politicians and we can't understand how the Republicans we love can stand it, much less stand by and support it. For their part, those loved ones see no racism, coded or otherwise, and can't understand what we are all hearing and write us off as overreacting and seeing things. Even after we tell them exactly what we are hearing and exactly why it is racist, they brush it off and say we are just imagining it. Or they shrug and say they can see it is wrong, but that's not why they are voting for Mitt Romney.
I so want to take these people at their word. Because if I don't make excuses for them in my heart, the truth is, I respect them less and that is too painful a prospect. It is easy to write off all the people I don't know who make up the 48% of the population who will likely vote for Mitt Romney on Tuesday, but it is far harder to reconcile the votes of people I love. Especially if this vote is indicative of a larger political change which the person has undergone. I need answers and yet, there are none. How can someone who instilled in me a belief that it is not just enough to be anti-racist in one's heart, one must also speak out against racism when one encounters it, now be voting for people willing to pander and encourage those feelings if it means they will win? How can someone who once actively fought racism now be seemingly ignoring it? Was it all a lie? Was I a fool to believe?
So I rationalize. I tell myself there must be a good explanation, even if I can't find one. I tell myself it will all be okay. I tell myself they just can't see what I see. I make excuses.
Of course, making excuses for people is precisely the problem, isn't it? We want to believe the people we love are good people. However, maybe it would be better if we reminded them that people are known by the company they keep. If they choose to stand next to a racist, they shouldn't be surprised if people will assume they agree with the racism. If they vote for people who use racist strategies to get elected they can't be surprised if those politicians assume they agree with the racist message. We need to hold the politicians accountable, but we also need to hold the people we love accountable. Because if it doesn't work, it will stop. It may well be a lovely party and taking a stand is hard. It is so much easier for some to just sit, bobbing and pretending. The rest of us, however, wonder how they can tolerate it? Because you can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding. If they care about our country, they need to have the courage to stand up and say, "This is where the party ends."
Go read or listen to this amazing interview with the Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National.
"Growing up middle-class, I never thought to question that I was provided for. My parents, we never talked about money. They had plenty of money stresses but as kids we never really felt it. They made Christmas ornaments out of costume jewelry, stuff like that, but we never really thought about being in a class -- and if you're in a class where you don't have to think about it, then you're in a class that's well enough off not to worry."
When I first heard this song, I thought it was a love song. Then I thought it was a song about going back to the place you grew up and feeling nostalgic for a time when that was all you knew. Then I thought it was a commentary on the financial crisis. Apparently, it was all of the above.
"I still owe money to the money to the money I owe The floor is falling out from everybody I know."
I feel like I have been tremendously lucky in my life and, in particular, the last few years. It would be so easy to tell myself that it wasn't luck, that our remaining financially solvent is a direct result of our intelligent and responsible choices. Sure, maybe. But over the last few years, I have seen friends lose their jobs and go into large amounts of debt, friends who thought they were making similarly intelligent and responsible choices. And, let's be honest, our circumstances have a lot more to do with our relative privilege, and the privilege of pretending we aren't privileged, than it does with any choices we made. One of the things which surprised me was the disdain displayed by the Republican Party for people who are struggling, both in their platform and in the things they say when they think no one is looking. Heck, I have been stunned by the Republicans I know who have said casually racist and classist things, so casual they don't even think they are being racist or classist and they accuse me of being too PC if I mention it. However, I guess it shouldn't surprise me. If one chooses to be completely blind to one's own privilege, if one constantly tells one's self that one's success is entirely one's own doing, that you built it, that one's community and family wealth contributed nothing, then I guess one would believe that all the people who were not doing so well were just irresponsible moochers whose hardship is their own fault. Because if you are born on third base and thought you hit a triple, you would certainly cry foul at anyone who gets walked if they are hit by a pitch. Yes, economic recovery has not happened fast enough. However, it makes no sense to suggest that the way to fix our economy is to reinstate the same policies which caused the meltdown in the first place. And it especially makes no sense to say people deserve to live in poverty and go hungry or that being too poor to pay federal income taxes means one is irresponsible. But I guess sense doesn't have a lot to do with it, it has to do with the way you see people. I certainly don't think all Republicans look down on those who are struggling. However, they are supporting policies which advocate increasing the tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy while cutting the programs which help those most in need. What is in their hearts and their very best intentions are all well and good, but ultimately, those are not reflected in how they vote.
All righteousness did build thy arrow To shoot it straight into their lies Who would expect the mighty sparrow Could rid our world of all their kind?
I have been hearing this song a lot lately as the Style Council is one of Fred's favorite bands and Pandora is so accommodating. It freaked me out to read the lyrics as they seem to be a fairly cogent response to Mitt Romney's economic policies though they were written over a quarter century ago. But to be fair, The Communist Manifesto was written over a century and a half ago and that could also be considered a commentary on the Romney/Ryan tax plan as well as what seems to be the Republican Party's views of society. It shouldn't surprise me. If history teaches us anything, it is that humans have a tendency to make the same greedy choices which cause harm to the have nots in their society. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but think about it. When you keep pushing most of society down, telling everyone to just trust you because you have a huge pile of money, and you keep peddling the idea that wealth will eventually trickle down even though history has demonstrated this only leads to a greater gap between the rich and the poor, what exactly do you expect? Eventually, the proletariat will start to complain and some of those complaints won't be so law abiding as the Occupy movement. As a person who believes in responsible capitalism (and not the robber baron sort of which the right in my country peddles as "fiscal conservatism") and as someone who wants our economy to grow, I am very worried about the upcoming election. My father-in-law (a proud Republican) asked me if I thought everyone should vote for only one political party and I am sure he thought he was making some great point about democracy. Unfortunately, we currently have one political party who advocates the transfer of more wealth into the pockets of wealthy and corporations (because they are people, my friend) and has vowed to grind government to a halt unless they are we do as they say, and they have done exactly this when given an opportunity. So while, yes, I think having more political parties is in general a good thing, I feel like the only hope for our country right now is that we not reward these obstructionists or give them any opportunity to further enact their dangerous economic policies. Of course, my other thought when listening to this song is that the bloody revolution never sounded so smooth.
Rising up to break this thing From family trees the dukes do swing Just one blow to scratch the itch The law's made for and by the rich It would be easy. So, so easy.
P.S. I am sure there are many people who are far smarter than I am who can explain exactly how my pessimistic fears are completely unfounded and how my grasp of history is all wrong. Please do so in the comments as I could do with a bit of cheering up right now.
Halloween may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to put the skeletons away. I made this one for the school halloween party and it lives with us now. (maybe I should add a red hat to make it appropriate for Christmas).
I also made a few ghostly banners (I am afraid these don't photograph nearly as well as Bones)