politics (a ditty)

When nations bark like dogs that want a treat
And leaders sniff like cats who smell fresh meat
The people cheer, like frogs that find some water
Not knowing they are being led to slaughter.

The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends

I have a tendency to get worked up at election time.

This year, I did a pretty good job of staying cool, calm, and collected.

The best way to do this is by not watching TV — which I did not do for several weeks.

Then, about a week ago, I posted this little video on my Facebook.

I thought it was funny, but it garnered some harsh, emotional opposition.

Thus began the phase of me getting “worked up.”

I wrote a blog, and the response to that got a little personal.

What’s going on!

I know.  I know.  Don’t talk about politics or religion.

But news, weather, and sports should be okay.  These days, politics is news and news is politics — at the expense of real, consequential news.

But these tea party folks aren’t looking for a discussion.  They’re looking for a fight.  Many of them, it seems, just discovered the U.S. Constitution.

It makes me nostalgic for the day, prior to the Bush-Gore election, when the world wide web was much younger, when I tried to teach a 5th grade class a lesson on the electoral college.

I had the computer hooked up to a big TV, so you could see the red and blue states and click on Florida once for blue, and again for red.

This was fancy technology at the time — which was the point of the lesson.  I was demonstrating for teachers how the internet could be used, along with a TV, in the classroom.

As I began explaining that Presidents were elected by an electoral college, state by state, the classroom teachers eyes glazed over.  After a short time, they interrupted me to say that this material wasn’t important and that the children weren’t interested.

They were right.  Nobody was interested.  Until a few weeks later when we all got a huge civics lesson.

Now, it seems, it’s gotten crazy.  We’re all too interested.  And some of the novice politicos don’t have the best manners.

I remember handing out pamphlets for McGovern, and then going to Nixon’s inauguration.

Win or lose, it was all quite interesting — but it was more respectful.

On my blog, I wasn’t sure whether or not to approve the comments or delete them.  I approved and argued that people can respectfully disagree without getting…well…nasty.

Then, in order to feel a little better, I moseyed down to the Democratic headquarters and made a few GOTV phone calls.

And watched a bit more TV.

And blogged again…

And watched more TV.


But, in order to get myself back on track, I took a long walk today with my dog — out in nature.  It was quite beautiful out there, with only the sounds of leaves and breeze and geese.  I noticed that geese love to talk to me, but when I answer, it seems to throw them off.  They get quiet.

And I started humming one of my favorite songs:  “The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends.”

This made me feel great — but a little old.

Trusting Obama

Today, I delivered Coffee News to restaurants in Concord, NC and listened to NPR the whole time.

They reported Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech — playing clips, analyzing, and parsing.

Interesting stuff — waging war and seeking peace.

I haven’t had time to read or watch the whole speech, but it sounds like it’s destined to become an historic document.

I really trust Obama — both as a President and as a politician.

I’d like to see him step on some of the opposition’s ridiculous ideas a little harder (especially ideas about creating jobs by reducing the budget deficit —  ideas put forth, hypocritically, by those who put the D in Deficit).

But I think he will step on those ideas soon enough.  At this point, he’s doing a little governing, which is a better political strategy than campaigning (which so many can’t seem to stop doing).

Little to talk about

It’s not that I haven’t had time to blog lately.

It’s just that I haven’t had anything to say.

I have been watching the political news, the talk of health care, racism, tea baggers, Obama, Obama-haters, financial Situations, unemployment — all the American-style extremism…  What can you say?  It’s all crazy — our leaders trying to find their way in the world with all this new media.  Let’s hope they do find their way and we become a country that is, once again, governable.

But, there are a couple of things:

Started a new walking routine.  I’ve found a bench near a creek, and I stop there for about fifteen minutes — in the middle of my walk — and well…sort of meditate.

The dog calms down also.  Sometimes she interrupts by licking my fingers.

This is a pleasant addition to the daily walk, and I highly recommend it.

Other than that, same ol’ same ol’…

Can't we all just grow up a little?

The Obama protesters — a noisy bunch — strike me as folks who don’t understand how democracy works.

They are horrified by Obama’s agenda — but it’s not new. This is what he campaigned for.

During the campaign, they made fun of “change,” saying Obama just liked to give ‘pretty speeches,’ accusing him of using ‘rhetoric’ (dismissing rhetoric as something undesirable — when, in fact, it’s something quite useful and necessary).

No — it was actually change.

The push for health care reform should not be a surprise. Many of us gave money and walked many miles canvassing — precisely for this “change.”  We had an election. We won. That’s the way it works.

Granted, he didn’t plan on beginning his presidency with bailouts. Nobody liked that.

But…don’t we want our President to deal with a crisis? Would we have preferred another Great Depression? I think not.

Am I stating the obvious? I think so.

Is this outrage real? If so, it’s perfectly legal and okay — but it’s a little late. That energy should have been channelled into the McCain campaign. Is the outrage strategy for future elections? Possibly. I don’t know.

I feels more like a bunch of babies who don’t know how to lose.

It’s almost as if some people don’t understand what elections are, and that if you care — and I know they do — sometimes your candidate still loses.

In fact, losing is normal and complete victory never happens. Even when your candidate wins, it’s a mixed bag.  We have a pluralistic system in which his or her agenda — particularly in domestic matters — is never completely realized.

Recalling a few Presidential elections:

1972. I was a junior in high school. The Saturday before the election, my older brother dropped me off at a strip mall in Kannapolis, NC. Kannapolis, at that time, was not known for its diversity. Let’s call it a “conservative” area. I’m Jewish.  My hair was long, very curly, and unruly. My partner was another long-haired guy with a heavy accent — our Finnish exchange student.

I don’t think we won George McGovern any votes that day.

I liked McGovern. He said something like ‘We’ve tried getting peace with bombing. Let’s try getting peace with not bombing.’  Something like that.  As a sixteen year old who would soon be registering for the draft, I wanted the war to end ASAP.

I remember, about the time the polls closed on election day, talking with the local newspaper reporter who covered politics.

I remember still hoping that McGovern could win. This reporter told me he thought McGovern might win a few states, but that winning was “out of the question.”

I still remember hearing that cold prediction and not believing it. A few hours later, of course, his forecast was confirmed accurate. The next morning, on the way to school, a friend told me, “Don’t take it so hard. Nixon’s not that bad.” I was not to be consoled.

1990.  Here in Salisbury, we had an anti-Jesse Helms rally.  We marched from the Democratic headquarters, on South Main St., to the courthouse steps on North Main, where we made speeches.  Across the street, Helms supports shouted back. It was crazy — but at least it was before the Helms-Gant election, not after.

1992. I took my daughter to Clinton rallies and to the inauguration. We had a blast. Thus began the indoctrination of another generation.

2000. The debate was held in Winston-Salem, and I took my children.  We watched it in an auditorium, on the large screen, with lots of other Democrats. We saw Al Gore ride by in the motorcade.

In 2004, I spent quite a few evenings on the phone, calling swing states. On Saturdays in the fall, I took my daughters canvassing.  It seemed that every door we knocked on (all registered Democrats) was opened by a hardened, pro-war, Bush supporter.  We canvassed all day on election day, in a slightly more sympathetic neighborhood.  Even in a hopeless effort, which North Carolina clearly was, I like to feel that I’ve helped out a little.

That night, when Bush defeated Kerry, these daughters of mine, and one of their friends who was at our house that night — all of whom had worked quite hard all day — began to sob.

It took me a minute to realize that their grief was real. They were really this torn up about an election. I blamed myself for taking this too seriously and transferring that emotion.  Some things in life are more important than others, and at this point in my life, a national election seemed too abstract to take personally.

“Geez,” I said. “It’s not that bad. It’s just politics.  The pendulum swings back and forth. Maybe we’ll win the next one.”

No words could comfort these three girls, sitting on our living room couch, balling uncontrollably.

I realized that I was caught up in the history as much as the cause, whereas they were devoted entirely to the cause.

I’ve always taken comfort in the advice given by Timothy Gallwey in The Inner Game of Tennis, which goes something like this:  ‘If you pay attention to the score, losing is the norm.  Even so, winning isn’t that great and losing isn’t that bad.’  The idea is that one can win all the time by redefining what it means to win.  Full effort and improvement is winning.

And that’s the problem with folks now. Winning can happen — but it’s rare.  Losing is the norm, and it’s not worth going crazy and having a tantrum.

Politics is fascinating, but we seem to have a decent system that is somewhat self-correcting.

So c’mon, Republicans. Get a grip. Grow up. Play fair. It’s better for the country. There will be more elections, and your day will come again.

Poets can be brutal

Talking politics, these days, can be mean business.

There’s a lot of fear.  A lot of ignorance.  A lot of shouting.

Generally, the ones who shout loudest are the least informed.

News flash:  Poetry is more brutal.

I’m a member of a poetry website (unnamed, for fear of retribution).  Occasionally I post poems there (under a pen name, for fear of retribution).

Members of the site critique and rate each others poems.  That’s why I do it.  I want feedback and help with revision — and many members are quite helpful and generous.

But talk about mean!

Why is it such a crime to write a bad poem?  Or — write a good poem that somebody doesn’t like?

I post my poems and rate others, sometimes critique — but I pretty much keep my distance and refrain from engaging in conversation.

On a regular basis, you can find poets over there with egos the size of Jupiter who are ready to start WWIII.  The community is ripe with ongoing conflicts, pent-up hate, and vendettas.

I’ve seen comments that were less than ten words — benign, earnest comments about meter, or punctuation, or even heartfelt, caring thoughts — that were answered with a barrage of four letter words. Unrepeatable insults.

I’ve never engaged enough to become the object of anyone’s hate.

But, I did take a hit yesterday that hurt.  One of my poems had a pretty high rating — and I had been basking in the glow for days (they are rated on a scale of one to ten).  This poem was at the top of the charts for a couple of weeks, getting almost all tens, with a five, an eight, and a smattering of nines.

Then somebody (who knows who) gave it a one.  It quickly got another one and, thanks to averaging, is now off the radar.

Kinda mean, huh?

I was bummed, but dare not say so there.  It’s unseemly to talk about ones own poem.  It’s scary.

Rush Limbaugh

He may act mean and bounce like jello
Rear his head — shout and bellow
Call people names — snort and blow
Act like a jerk who stubbed his toe
But maybe Rush Limbaugh is a pleasant fellow.

He may make racist rants
Hate whole groups while dancing his dance
(as if he had fire-ants in his pants)
A zealot with a stubborn stance
But let’s give Rush a second chance.

He may sound vile to you and me
Beyond the pale
Wanting Barack to fail
A guy who needs Dale Carnegie
But we all know his show ain’t free

Perhaps his listeners are rough and tough
Guys who love to eat this stuff
Rush can’t just give them fluff!
Can’t look like a cream puff!
There are ads to sell. Ratings to buff!

He could be a very nice old hack
Running a popular comedy act
I don’t listen (it’s below my station)
But perhaps it’s worthy of admiration
To give raw meat to those who need a snack

Suppose he’s sour. Talks for an hour
It’s harmless fun in his Florida sun
He doesn’t have any real power

Except — could it be morally wrong
To encourage so many
So long
So strong
Not to get along?