Tag Archives: politics

Early Morning Activism

Thing these little beauties out into the world this morning. Postcards by Marta Pelrine-Bacon.

Update: I hesitated to post this on Facebook, and I even hesitated to post it here, in my own virtual living room (knowing i would probably be allow it to be sucked into Facebook, but that fewer people would see it because: algorithms.)

But now, instead of cowering, I’m roaring.

During the election I felt things strongly and I posted them on Facebook because that is where I interact with people the most, now that I am at home, writing all day.

I was one of those people who prompted Facebook comments like “I can’t wait for the election to be over so we can get back to posting about the kids and cute kittens.”

But I can’t go back.

This is who I am.

This is why you rarely see me at neighborhood get-togethers. It’s why you don’t see me hanging out making small talk after church. It’s why I tend to turn down invitations to jewelry parties (that and the fact that I don’t wear it.)

It’s not that I don’t care about the people in my community. I do. I like a lot of them an awful lot.

But this is who I am. And this is what I want to talk about.

I very much appreciated my two years of being a bus-stop mum, after the kids switched to public school. I liked the comradeship and the forced socializing early in the morning (the requirement that I get dressed, for one, and maybe drag a comb through my hair), and the opportunity to share concerns and triumphs with other parents, maybe to help, maybe to be helped.

And I miss that.

But that’s not all I am. (It’s not all anyone is.)

I am passionate about Big Ideas. And I can’t not talk about them. 

I care a lot (head-‘splodingly) when the leaders of the richest nation on earth “decide”, in the face of scientific evidence, that climate change isn’t being affected by humanity, because it might slightly affect profits if they do.

It drives me insane when our so-called ‘leaders’ protect a broken status quo rather than looking for bold solutions to the problems we face.

It makes me want to punch things when I see people lying to support their ideology.

And I can’t shut up about it because they work for me.

My blood pressure goes through the roof every time I see a flier for pot-luck dinners and fundraisers when someone in my community gets sick.

And do you know what? I haven’t seen so many of those in recent years, since the Affordable Care Act raised premiums but required that all insurance covers stuff like, actually getting treatment when you get sick. The calls for help that I have seen, tend to be about ‘helping out with living expenses while the family deals with this’, which is still not utopia, but is better than the panicked “OMG, she’s going to be homeless and bankrupt if we don’t help right now”, like the ones I used to see.

(This is true in my physical community and even more so in my professional community of artists, who don’t have big corporations to sponsor their health-insurance for them. One house fire, one tumor, one car accident can mean DISASTER to the self-employed, underpaid writers and artists who provide all the entertainment we rely on so much to get us through the day.)

I care ALL THE TIME about war and international relations and small businesses and public transit and corporate welfare and the dignity of human life, the poor, the vulnerable, the prisoner, the refugee, the underemployed, the at-will contract worker, the person with mental health issues, the rich person who doesn’t know why they still aren’t happy, the unborn, the born, the entrepreneur; I care about how we treat our animals; truth in advertising; integrity in government; faith (yours, mine, and his right to lack it); philosophy, history, truth, truth, truth (subjective as it is, but pare away as much of the rubbish until we get as close as we can, clear-eyed about our own prejudices and privileges).

I cannot wash my hands of it all. I can’t shrug cynically and say nothing makes a difference. This doesn’t makes me better than someone who can. I’m simply stating who I am.

Are You There, Senator? It’s Me, Your Boss

Our voices ring in the ears of our elected representatives. I’ve been blessed with a mostly-tax-payer-subsidized and excellent education that trained me to research, gather information, compare and contrast, analyze and build an argument formed from the best available facts. It is a talent and a gift and I feel compelled to use it to spread truth, and battle misinformation.

I will continue to suck in information and share the best-researched, the most-thoughtful, most useful information I can. I will be eloquent when I can and pointed when I cannot. I will be opinionated and honest about my biases.

TL;DR: This executive action on the environment SUCKS and I will be screaming about it for a long time. This small-hearted, short-sighted government chaps my ass and I will be screaming about that for a long time, too. 

If you’re looking for kittens, move along.

Should The BBC Play “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”?

So, yes, it is cruelly amusing that Margaret Thatcher’s death has caused the song “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead” to shoot up the UK charts as people express their still-passionate dislike of her policies and her effect on Britain in the 1980s and beyond.

But also yes, I think the BBC is right to decline to play the song on the chart show.

It’s a matter of taste.

While I’m all for the Internet and self-expression and self-publishing and all that, I find myself applauding the venerable old institution for clinging to its role as arbiter of taste and keeper of the culture. There are some things that are tasteless. This is one. I’m happy that the BBC, like a fine old-fashioned gent, is quietly frowning and staying in its seat and saying “You dance if you must but no, no, I’m afraid I don’t approve and shan’t be joining you. Terribly sorry to be a stick in the mud, old fellow, but there it is.” The lady had children who are, no matter how you feel about their actions, people too. How we treat other people is a reflection on the state of our own souls, not theirs. And gleefully celebrating any death is just cruel, disturbing and unkind to a family in distress.

The BBC’s actions makes me feel like something is right with the world.

(And before anyone screams about government censorship, the Beeb runs on a government charter, yes, but it’s run to by an independent board).

So Bravo BBC.

On The Other Hand

I also read that some, perhaps more right-wing sources, were up in arms after Thatcher died, because they felt ‘one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.’

Rubbish.

She was a public figure and the media profiles of her life absolutely had to include commentary from people who were willing to speak ill of her. They are not doing it out of thoughtlessness for her family’s feelings. They are assessing her public work, her actions, not celebrating the fact that her family is now in mourning. And they have an obligation to do so.

The obituaries and media profiles after a public figure dies become part of the historical record and part of the judgement that history begins to write of that person. Without a truthful assessment of a public figure’s life in these moments, we end up with hagiography not history. By whitewashing their legacy all we do is fail our society and its future, by failing to learn from what is past.  If we only allow a public figure’s supporters to talk about them in this moment, we silence the opposition and we deny the suffering of the thousands who feel they were personally harmed by that person’s actions.

Just look at the divisions in US society caused by historians’ efforts to finally tear the halos off the Founding Fathers and look at them warts and all. It is “a liberal conspiracy”, it is “a war on America”, it is “unpatriotic”. Really? It’s unpatriotic to search for the facts about the men who founded the country? It’s a war on America to try to see them as humans rather than heroes, and from there try to figure out what shaped their opinions and actions and thereby interpret them more accurately? It’s a liberal conspiracy to seek to acknowledge the suffering of millions and millions of poor and enslaved people whose voices are largely unheeded, and to examine the contradiction that some of these collosi of US history were also slave owners? Because, to me, that’s history. That’s a search for the truth. That’s the only way we can ever learn and improve and make things better.

Don’t Burn Flags And Dance In The Streets

So yes, I’m a bad person: I laughed when I heard that “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” was rising in the charts. It’s part of the black humor which makes Brits make jokes about tragedy. We ALWAYS take it too far (remember the space shuttle jokes that would not die?) and it seems some things never change.

But no, I don’t think we should be burning flags and dancing in the street, celebrating the way that disgusted us when we saw TV coverage of people doing the same on September 11, 2001.

And yes, I do think we need to take an honest, unvarnished look at every public figure’s life, when they die. Say what you like about her (and I’m certainly no fan) but I do think Margaret Thatcher would have been the first to agree that she should be judged on her actions, not on the sentimental reminiscences of her fluttering fanboys.

A Constitutional Pause

The preparations had all been made. The last minute flutterings and flappings had been calmed. Their masters had retreated to the country to answer for their actions.

Sir Alec had cast his vote and had returned to the club for a rare evening with no-one asking him for favours, no-one knocking on his door, obsequious, seeking an audience. It was understood that this was Sir Alec’s Night Off.

He lit a cigar and leaned back, shrouded by the red leather of his wing chair by the fireplace, unlit on this seasonably warm spring day. Off duty, perhaps, but still holding court, Sir Alec received visitors as they passed by his throne, accepting congratulations on the smooth running of the election thus far; to ask him jokingly, since they knew he would never offer an opinion, who his master might be tomorrow morning.

He always gave the same retort,

“The politicians come, the politicians go. The Service will always be here to run the country.”

People chuckled approvingly and moved back to their small groups. Occasionally Burridge would stop by to refill his brandy balloon. One or two of his favoured inner cirlce would sit in the chair opposite and reminisce about previous election nights.

Ten o’clock rolled around and someone turned on a television that seemed not to know it could receive any signal but that of the BBC. The exit polls were making it clear that this was indeed going to be as close an election as the papers had been hinting for months. Within the hour, the first results were in from Sunderland, as usual. Sir Alec had been there, once, as  a junior civil servant, watching the frenzied activity as the town struggled to hold onto its record as primoris. He could picture them now, frantically flipping through the corners of ballots, licking a finger occasionally for traction; panic and pride on the faces of the returning officer and his team.

He sipped his brandy and glanced at the television that was incongruously bolted to the wood panelling high in the corner. There was Dimbleby, as ever. Statesman-like, himself.  A little like a civil servant, Sir Alec thought. We fence with them, of course, but really we are very similar. Bastions. Institutions that hold the culture of the country in our briefcases.

The clock chimed the hour, the quarter, the half, the three quarters. The mood in the room had grown somber. It was clear that the post-election day script was not going to be the familiar ushering out, ushering in, soothing, welcoming charming, and driving to the palace. This would be something, if not ‘new’ then at least ‘unfamiliar’, and Whitehall was not a place in love with ‘unfamiliar’. Phones were buzzing. People talked in hushed voice.

At five minutes to twelve, Sir Alec put down his glass and his cigar and pulled himself out of his barricaded chair. All eyes turned to him, an unspoken question in the air.

“Well,” Sir Alec said. “I think…”

The room grew, if possible, even quieter and Sir Alec would have been lying if he had pretended–in the retelling– that he had not savoured the moment a little and let it dangle a fraction longer than was strictly necessarily.

“I think,” he repeated. “That I had better have an early night.”

Post-Election

Gosh it’s hard to concentrate today.

I have to say, I am just thrilled with the election result here in the US.

I think I live in a pretty Republican neighbourhood so I’ll have to watch that I’m not too jubilant when I see everyone (because that would be in bad taste, and because I don’t think anyone is 100% right or 100% wrong on anything – gosh, how liberal of me. Why is that a dirty word, again? Oh right. Maybe it’s not anymore).

But I’m so relieved that the US seems like less scary place today. Especially since I live here.

Woo-hoo!

Despicable

Sarah Palin is accusing Barak Obama of “palling around with terrorists” because he served on a charitable board with a man who was a violent radical 40 years ago. A New York Times article that examined the relationship declared that the two men lived in the same neighborhood but ‘did not appear to be close’.

I hate this kind of politics. it is dishonest and it’s mean and it gets untruths out there that are repeated as facts (hands up, everyone who ‘knows’ that Obama is a Muslim and doesn’t put his hand on his heart for the pledge of allegiance).

Attack his record, by all means. Question his policies. Disagree with his plans. Tell people why they should REALLY vote for you. But don’t just try to smear other people’s characters disingenuously saying ‘people have a right to know’. If people have a right to know, then provide them with all the facts. Don’t indulge in the kind of playground activities that would make your own children come home from school in tears. Aren’t we grown ups?

Oh, and in the interests of balance, Palin has not said those other two things about Obama as far as I know; and that chain email about Sarah Palin trying to ban books: Politifact.org gave it a “Pants on Fire” rating on its Truth-o-meter.

A Guide to the US Presidential Debate, for non-US citizens

So, this was the first official debate between the two men vying for the US Presidency. After months of name-calling and out-of-context quoting of the other guy in ridiculous TV and Radio spots, weeks of mock-outrage and storms in teapots, we finally get to see them talk at length.

On a Friday night. In football season.

When millions of voters, country-wide, are standing on the edges of fields at their local high schools cheering on the team. Do you think people are going to rush home to watch the debate, or support the local football team? Hmm?

Those who were watching the debate were largely engaging in amusing drinking games. (“Every time McCain says ‘Miss Congeniality’ take a drink!”). This has become something of a tradition, and there are websites dedicated to rating the popularity of…the drinking games, never mind the candidates.

Immediately after the candidates have stopped talking (and on some channels, periodically WHILE they are talking) pundits (spit!) will turn to each other and say “So, Bob, Obama says that if you earn less that $250,000 you’ll be getting a tax cut. What do you think he means by that?”

Pundits will spend the next six days (until the next debate) slicing and dicing the candidates remarks, removing them from context and deciding who ‘won’ the debate, distorting people’s memories of what they actually said and skewing the emphasis so that all people remember are the moments when McCain stumbled over the Iranian president’s name, or when Obama laughed at McCain’s jokes. Serious stuff.

Me? I thought it was nice to see them talk. I enjoyed hearing them make their points in long, complete sentences. I enjoyed making up my own mind.

But then again, I’m not allowed to vote. I just pay taxes here.

Tell you what, though: if I were on the campaign staff, I’d demand a better background colour for the next debate. That electric blue background may have had a patriotic feel but it made Obama look green and McCain look like one of the house ghosts from Hogwarts.