Archive | Politics

Sandbox Economics

 

playground.jpgThe playground. To an outside observer, it is a noisy but innocent enclosure, in which children frolic and gambol, engaging each other in happy chatter and utterly compelling games of make-believe.

From the inside, however, the playground offers insight into the world Darwin saw in the Galapagos a hundred years ago: a universe in which the strong perch on monkey bars hurling projectiles at the weaker inhabitants below.

Consider, please, the sandbox.  Ever watched a two-year-old in the sandbox as he or she marches around snatching all the shovels, all the buckets, all the little sandy matchbox cars and plastic ponies and green octopus sand-molding thingys?  And then she herds these things into a corner, claiming that she NEEDS them.  She WANTS them.  They are all, in fact, HERS.

 

sadie-sandbox.jpgThe parent nervously intervenes, tells little Coco or little Cooper that, no, the toys belong to the other children too, see, and won’t it be more fun to play together? 

To which the child would respond, if the child had the proper vocabulary, “Fuck that. I got this stuff, possession is nine-tenths, lady, and those suckers are SOL.” 

Every parent has been in the position of having to reach gingerly into the sandbox and redistribute the toys. And if you’re a parent and insist that you’ve never had to do that…well, either you’re not paying attention or you’ve given birth to Christ.

Don’t you love the moment when you realize the only recourse is to lift your kid bodily out of the sandbox (ignoring all those veiled glances from the other parents  who are delighted that it’s not THEIR kid causing the scene) and carry his flailing, weirdly strong little body (how a child can be so strong on a diet comprised basically of white food is anyone’s guess) over to a bench for a little talk about how it’s nicer to share. 

The kid may grudgingly agree with you, but it’s a purely contingent acquiescence, designed only to get the hell back INTO the sandbox and start the process all over again, perhaps attempting to lure another child into becoming a co-pillager, thus deflecting some of the trouble away from himself.

Over the past few years, as I sit in the playground, watching all these would-be Masters of the Universe stomp around, I’ve had the depressing thought that maybe, at base, we are all … base. Are greed, self-interest, and violence so deeply embedded in human nature that my endless reminders of “say please! say thank you! ask nicely! share with your brother!” will create only the thinnest veneer of civilized behavior and that as soon as the going gets too tough – or too easy – it will be every man for himself? Caveat emptor, mofo…

I trust that by now you see where I’m going with this? Let’s substitute … hmmm …Wall Street for sandbox, and million-dollar bills for buckets and shovels.  Does the picture become clearer?

The men (and okay, probably not all men – Carly Fiorina comes flapping to mind) who have been running our economic show (into the ground) remind me of the seagulls in “Finding Nemo,” who hurtle through the harbor, screeching “mine, mine, mine” until they get stuck, beaks first, and are unable to move.

Nemo-seagulls[1].jpg  

So now Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke et al have their beaks in a sail (or asses in a sling; choose your visual) and we are supposed to do what, exactly? 

A $700 billion dollar bailout? That’s a whole lot of buckets and shovels. 

As we say on the playground, there are consequences for bad behavior.  Do these guys really expect us to REWARD them for their greed and stupidity, their cupidity and amorality? 

We’re going to give this big check to Henry P. and expect him to be the grownup who patrols the sandbox and gets everyone to behave? A man who only a few months ago was on the Sunday talk shows extolling the virtues of the “flexible” US markets?  He reminds me of the playground parent who sits on the bench furthest from the sandbox, scrolling endlessly through her blackberry while her little angel tramples everyone in the sandbox. This same parent, of course, swoops in, eyes blazing, as soon as anyone dares to chastise Little Angel for grinding sand into some other kid’s hair.

If there are no rules – no rules that anyone can understand, anyway – and no punishments for skirting just to the outside of the law, then why should we be surprised that Wall Street is slipping slowly into New York Harbor? No one with any power to intervene seemed to notice, or care, that scruples were being compromised almost as fast as fortunes were being made.

And now these same people want us to give them back their toys, maybe even give them newer, bigger, shinier toys.

My own inner child – herself never far from the surface – looks at this mess and screams “NOT FAIR NOT FAIR NOT FAIR.” 

She’s right. It’s not fair. But that’s life in the sandbox, I guess, if there aren’t any grownups paying attention. 

Continue Reading · on September 24, 2008 in Politics

Register!

 

supremes.jpg
The other night my friend Chris asked why Sarah Palin spurred me to start this blog. At first I thought he was kidding – la belle Sarah rattled a lot of cages, not just mine.

I started to explain, no, it wasn’t just the incredible cynicism of the McCain camp assuming that just because she’s a woman, Palin would show all of us “vagina Americans,” as Samantha Bee so wonderfully put it on The Daily Show a while back, that McCain could be an alternative to Clinton.

And then — I confess — my response became a rant.

“But ignore their cynicism,” I said to Chris. “What about…the Supreme Court?”

Let’s imagine it’s ten years down the road. McCain is long since dead, and even though President Palin was ousted at the end of her first term, she managed to appoint three Supremes to the bench, who haven’t just revoked Roe v. Wade, they’ve made it practically illegal even to THINK about abortion.

Now imagine that my oldest son, who is now almost eight, has decided he likes girls and has … er … gotten into a Bristol-n-Levi situation. What would we do? Fly Liam and his galpal to Canada or Mexico for an abortion? Or say to our almost eighteen year-old-son, “oh heck, honey, we know you made a bad choice, but let’s do the responsible thing and have a wedding. And then, heckfire, you can both move in with me and daddy in our two-bedroom apartment and we’ll find a space for the new arrival. Maybe the bathtub could be a bassinet?”
 
But wait. Here’s an even darker scenario:

Imagine this: my younger boy decides that he likes boys, not girls. Then the shit will really hit the fan. Because in a post-President Palin society, it will have become illegal for boys to touch each other at any point, at any age, other than during a hockey or football match, when most of their bodies are carefully concealed under protective padding.

hockey_hug.jpg

Now as it happens, Chris wrote a great book a few years ago, called Queer Cowboys, which is about the long tradition of queer culture that pervades that greatest of all US myths, the cowboy (It’s available on Amazon – just use the portal to the right). Chris lives in PA half the week, with his partner Clyde, who is, coincidentally, a jockey – not quite a cowboy, but damn close. I’m hoping that my Palin rant over dinner the other night makes them get on their ponies and ride around the neighborhood registering voters, if for no other reason than to ensure that my kids–everyone’s kids–can shtup without fear. Or at least, no fear other than the fear of being grounded for all of high school and maybe college, too.

What’s that you say? Haven’t registered to vote yet? No need to saddle up the ponies … just click here!

Continue Reading · on September 24, 2008 in Politics

Ma Larkey

 

larkbirdc.jpgAs galling as it may be to admit it, Sarah Palin has energized the electorate: the far-right is thrilled to bits with her fundamentalist credentials, the left is terrified that a moose-killer who isn’t Teddy Roosevelt may be heiress to the Whitest House ever; and those in the middle are in a muddle: they may not be convinced about Obama’s ideas but they aren’t sure they want the old guy and the pit bull to win, either.

I’ve been goosed by Sarah too, into (finally) starting to blog, although my intention initially was not to write about politics but instead to write about being a parent, professor, and writer in Manhattan. Now, however, I am riveted by Palin-otology and wondering what it is about her that makes me want to clench my fists and hop around like Rumpelstiltskin when he finds out that the Princess has discovered his real name.

It’s not the accent, the hair-do, or the hypocrisy of advocating marriage and motherhood for her 17-year-old daughter. It’s not her facile assertion that any woman can juggle work and family — without bothering to mention the need for health insurance, a nanny, and a job (or the power) that makes it all right to bring her kids to work whenever she needs to.

No, it’s none of those things. It’s the god’s will argument: that whatever she does is god’s will — and therefore unassailable. It’s like we’ve been thrust back into the days of the divine right of kings, when to argue against the king was to argue against god, and therefore a double sin: heresy and treason in one fell swoop.  

Joe Biden offers an alternative: a deeply religious person not convinced that his god should be your god. Here’s Joe on Meet the Press last Sunday (9/7), when Tom Brokaw asked him about abortion rights:

MR. BROKAW: But if you, you believe that life begins at conception, and you’ve also voted for abortion rights…

SEN. BIDEN: No, what I voted against curtailing the right, criminalizing abortion. I voted against telling everyone else in the country that they have to accept my religiously based view that it’s a moment of conception. There is a debate in our church, as Cardinal Egan would acknowledge, that’s existed. […] How am I going out and tell you, if you or anyone else that you must insist upon my view that is based on a matter of faith? And that’s the reason I haven’t.

During that same interview, Biden also talked about McCain’s new “change” mantra, saying “I heard Sarah Palin and John McCain talk about change. Tell me one single thing they’re going to do on the economy, foreign policy, taxes, that is going to be change. Name me one. This is such malarkey.”

The pastor of Palin’s Wasilla church offered a clue about what “change” might really mean, for a McCain-Palin administration: it might mean readying the country for the Rapture.  On the youtube video of Palin’s church (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGOu-X76rR0), he describes Alaska as a “refuge state,” a place where “folks” can find safe haven during The Last Days. As he talks, you see Sarah nodding and smiling, while the congregation waves its hands and claps …

Actually, if Sarah wants to run Alaska based on that premise, that’s fine. I feel bad for those in Alaska who maybe aren’t so Rapturously inclined, but could she please leave the rest of us in the Lower 48 alone? 

So what I’m thinking here is that in fact, Sarah is malarkey: Ma Larkey, winging around the country, talking only to “real people” but not the press (when did reporters become cyborgs?); claiming sexism is behind every policy question she’s asked (it’s not sexist to ask about her record, only to ask what she was wearing when she did — or did not — order the Alaska National Guard to do…something); and  spouting claims about her reformist zeal when the record shows that her zeal is reserved pretty much for god, Todd, and the “gold under the ground,” as she says in the church video (begging the question of where else one might find gold).

McCain and Palin equal changin’? Seriously? Can anyone else taste the old wine swilling around in these new bottles?

What’s next? John, Sarah, and Cindy, holding hands and singing Dylan tunes?

On the church video, Ma Larkey tells her audience that it’s time for the people of Alaska to get their hearts right with god.

Here’s hoping that most of the US opts for Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” on election day and puts Ma Larkey back in her snowy cage. 

Continue Reading · on September 9, 2008 in Politics

The Cracker Referendum

 

 
big_cracker.jpgAfter watching the RNC, albeit in an abbreviated form–there’s only so much yelling at the television a gal can do before she wonders if the nice people in white coats are going to come in and give her a happy pill–I realized what this election is about:

How many crackers are there in this country?

And will they vote?

Will they vote early and often and even if they’re dead?

Are there enough of them to swing the election away from those who can speak in extended sentences, nay, full paragraphs?

As I watched McCain try to smile, I wondered why “cracker” had become an insult — and why people take it as a point of pride to be one.

The OED, as usual, provides unexpected answers.”Cracker” originally was a Celtic word that meant a boaster, a braggart, a liar–as seen in this line from Shakespeare: “What cracker is this that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath.”

How perfect is that as a description of the RNC? The entire thing, including the lipsticked pitbull’s speech on Wednesday night: an abundance of superfluous breath that deafed my ears.

Palin’s soon-to-be-son-in-law, Levi Johnston — the gum-chewing, stiff-armed young man on stage Wednesday night (he looked so stunningly out of place that one could almost, almost feel sorry for him) — Levi knows that crackers are boasters; they are, in fact, boasters who like to brag about being crackers, as his facebook page demonstrates in all its asterisked glory: I’m a f***in redneck, he proclaims. A redneck who has a girlfriend but don’t want no kids.

Is his page still there? Did someone from the campaign f***in remove it before less sympathetic readers decided that Levi’s happy embrace of narrow-mindedness might suggest something less than positive about his presumptive in-laws?

Does it make me a member of the media elite because I wonder why it’s a good thing to brag about being something associated with stupidity, racism, sexism, and violence?

Why does the anti-intellectualism that has always been a part of US culture seem particularly dangerous at this moment in our history? Is it because it smacks of ostriches with their heads in the sand as the tsunami rumbles closer, about to smash their tail-feathers to kingdom come?

ostrich.jpg

Is that the point? Use up the earth’s resources to bring about the end of the species — ours and all the others, in order to hasten the Rapture? Get the Kingdom to Come that much sooner?

All the superfluous breath blowing around St. Paul the last few days seemed very much in keeping with the swirling air blowing through Louisiana at the beginning of the week. I only hope that the hot air blowing from  Minnesota will be less destructive — but I have my doubts.

I’m sure that McCain thought choosing Palin would lift him past Obama, float him into the White House on a tsunami of ignorance and fear. Maybe for McCain, choosing Palin was like whistling while walking past a graveyard: he hopes that twenty-five years of right-wing decisions won’t come back to haunt him.

But we all know it’s impossible to whistle with crackers in your mouth.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Continue Reading · on September 7, 2008 in Politics

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes