Sunday, November 14, 2010

Suggestion for President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid

This entry is an adaptation of a comment I left on my friend Neil's blog.

I am getting a little tired of hearing about the "shellacking" that Democrats took because you three, and especially the President, failed to be accommodating, civil, and cooperative enough in your dealings with the GOP. The shellacking was of Blue Dog democrats, not progressive ones, and there would be have no shellacking, perhaps not even a donnybrook, if you had done a better job of touting your accomplishments. As I will argue again later, Washington Democrats just don't understand the value of spectacle. Everyone in the country knew when their taxes were cut during the Bush era; remarkably few even noticed when they were cut this last time.

And that's not just because Bush sent everyone a check, while you decided to do what's best for the economy and make every paycheck a little bigger. It's because the Bush administration sent letters ahead of the checks and wrote on the checks that they were the ones who brought everyone the checks. I'm not suggesting that you should have written out checks, but I am saying that you simply do not understand the value of publicity and spectacle.

Despite the alleged shellacking, the Democrats retained control of the Senate. Unfortunately, though, the abuse of the filibuster has made that a pretty nominal victory. Any one senator can filibuster any bill, and it takes 60 votes to stop that from happening. And the Democrats don't have 60 votes, even during the lame-duck session.

Michael Moore suggested using the lame duck session to pass some of the 420 bills the House passed but that stalled in the Senate. Let them filibuster, he suggested, nutrition for children or fighting elder abuse. I agree, but I want to take it farther.

Others, in fact, have suggested both parts of my proposal (to no effect, as Democrats in Washington have seemed, for the most part, to be bent on appeasement), but what I think makes my combined ideas strong is that it brings two important actions together, and the whole would discredit the GOP more greatly than the sum of the parts.

I think my fellow Democrats in the Senate are idiots to let threatened filibusters have any effect. I think they ought to make the Republicans actually filibuster--stay up all night, read the phone book, not take bathroom breaks, the whole nine yards. On TV. Over popular bills, even bills that do what they originally proposed--which, yes, they have then turned around and opposed the moment Pres. Obama has agreed. 

I say the Democrats should bring up every bill that got through the House that would help ordinary people--and make Republican senators  actually filibuster those things.

Make them go all Mr. Smith Goes to Washington--but in order to stand for letting elderly people be abused. Make them demonstrate, on live television, their opposition to good things, for hours and hours and hours on end. Make them show the country what they're really doing and how little they care about the people who voted for them, in comparison with how much they care about taking complete control of the country back.

Make them be, visibly, the part of "hell, no"--hell, no, you can't provide nutrition for kids; hell, no, we won't say who finances our campaigns; hell, no, the wealthiest 2% of the country won't have to pay the same taxes they paid 11 years ago; hell, no, you can't have more unemployment even though there aren't enough jobs; hell, no, we won't keep the deficit down; hell, no, you can't retire at 65; hell, no, we won't do right by vets; hell, no, we won't adequately fund education; hell, no, you can't have affordable medical care; hell, no, gay people can't serve in the military, and hell, no, we won't fund the military at all if that's what we have to do in order to go on discriminating; hell, no, you can't refuse to give birth to your own sibling at the age of 13; hell, no, we won't vote for renewable energy; hell, no, we won't regulate predatory lenders.

Make them stand there and filibuster every last time; make them stand up and explain why it's not just hell, no, we won't vote for these things, but hell, no, we won't even let them come up for a vote.

By treating the threat of a filibuster as being the same as a filibuster, the Democrats are demonstrating a respect for the intelligence of the voters that, I must admit, is charming--but that totally fails to take into account the effectiveness of spectacle. In this case, the spectacle would be that of literally endless footage of Republicans talking and talking, reading aloud, reciting their grocery lists and the multiplication tables, and so on, all to keep popular legislation from being voted on, for fear it should pass--day after day, round the clock, bill after bill.

Republicans, however, do understand the visceral impact of that kind spectacle. They might try to spin the first few bills as heroic efforts to protect the people, but they know that, along about the 20th bill (or more likely, well before then), they would look like complete and utter assholes in the eyes of all sane people paying even the slightest attention.

There was an episode of Star Trek in which two countries on a planet (or maybe two planets at war) quit fighting real battles and switched to computer modeling. If the computer model of an attack said you would have died had the attack been real, you were to show up at a designated place and be killed. And people did it, because otherwise, there would be real war, and terrible infrastructure damage, and no one would have any quality of life.

Allowing the threat of a filibuster to serve as a filibuster is like that, except that the negative consequences of making the GOP filibuster would be that the Senate would grind to a halt and get nothing done, and the Republicans might become merciless and implacable opponents of everything the Democrats did.

And guys, it's time to face facts; those ships have already sailed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hello to everyone out there, from all of us in here

I shamelessly plundered this idea from a friend, who had stolen it from a friend of hers, with whom I subsequently became friends, too. (You caught me; this is a repost.) I may be a little removed from the original idea, but as I understand it, this is about naming the “personalities” we all have inside us, naming and describing the parts of ourselves that we keep compartmentalized. As Whitman said, “I contain multitudes.” In this entry, I’ve written up brief character sketches of a few members of  the multitudes in me.

I would love to hear about all the people living inside of anyone who reads this.

Christobel is a little girl, and she loves being just that. She wants to write with a big, fluffy, pink, quill pen, but the rest of us refuse. Her ambition in life was to grow up and be a fairy princess, and she still remains incompletely persuaded that that is not a possibility. She likes to play dress-up and is waiting for an occasion to own a ball gown like Deborah Kerr’s from The King and I. It is Christobel who (with Siobahn) tells me to paint my nails—and Marian who seldom lets her paint them pale pink. Christobel likes birds and butterflies, blossoms on trees, and meadows full of buttercups and wild strawberries. If she had her way, I would spend most of my time gathering flowers into a basket on my arm and making up fairy tales. She keeps her heart close to the surface and is devastated to see anyone or anything hurt. She loves and believes in everyone and is crushed when anyone doesn’t love her back or when her trust is betrayed. She desperately wants to please and be loved by everyone she meets. When that doesn’t happen, she feels like a failure.

Andrew, like Christobel, is about six. He likes to play with turtles. He doesn’t much care about pleasing others as long as others will play with him. He often becomes very busy while playing. He would very much like to build and make things with his hands and is thoroughly disgusted with the rest of us for not being mechanically inclined—or, indeed, able to walk and chew gum. Our biggest failing, as he tells us in his blunt way, is not being able to whistle. He would be perfectly happy to spend forever hanging around a creek or exploring the woods. He doesn’t come out to play very often any more, perhaps because he has no interest in or understanding of the things that occupy the rest of us most of the time. He likes some video games, though.

Marian is a warrior, She doesn’t have any gender issues with being female and a warrior, and she’s as happy in a dress as slacks—but she does, as I said, draw the link at baby pink nail polish. She is not willing to tolerate any kind of bigotry, injustice, or dishonesty, and she is unrepentantly certain that the one thing it is all right not to tolerate is intolerance. Any paradox that might lie therein, she is certain is mere sophistry. She is direct, believes in action, and has no patience for inactivity of silence in the face of evil or injustice. She gets the rest of us into trouble a lot when she acts alone, but she is showing an increasing willingness to listen to Edmund. She has been very vocal lately and is taking a definite interest in the election.

Edmund is the practical philosopher, and he forces the rest of us to be just as often as he can, whether we like it or not  (that is, he forces us to "be just" whenever he can--not he forces to "be" just as as often as he can) . He is the one who believes (and reminds us) that none of us are any wiser or more likely to be right than anyone else, which makes him the wisest of us. He insists on civil discourse, from the rest of us and everyone else, and can be hard on anyone, internal or external, who is uncivil or unfair. He is one of the few of us who think before speaking. The rest of grudgingly admit that he’s right most of the time, but he has been so helpful over time that we can’t resent him.

Sylvie is fairly quiet. She lives in the woods and loves contemplative silences. When she does speak, it is softly and often in song. She is a goddess worshipper and frequently wishes she could disappear into the fog and wander unseen. She sees a lot of beauty and carries a camera, but has to be reminded by the rest of us to use it, because she lives too much in the moment to remember to record things. She could fly if she weren’t weighed down by the rest of us.

Gertie is greedy and envious. She is constantly reminding the rest of us that we can’t sing, don’t have good hair, are not popular enough, etc.—and urging us to hate and resent people who have what we don’t. She would like us to dislike anyone with more money, education, talent, looks, or better fingernails. Edmund, Marian, and Elizabeth spend a lot of time sitting on her. Most of the rest of us have learned not to listen to her, but Christobel sometimes falls under her influence. Andrew and Sylvie are immune and never hear her at all.

Hagen is clumsy. He means well and says the wrong thing at every opportunity. He is not at all able to cope with nuance or subtlety of any kind. He is often baffled and he feels left out when hints are dropped. He is, alas, in charge of incoming communication which involves subtlety, and he frequently makes a fool of us all. We have tried, especially Edmund and Lucretia, to educate him, but in the end, people who have anything to say to any of us should probably just be direct. When forced to guess, Hagen always guesses wrong.

Banshee is a howling void of aching need. She is the raging repository of every hurt, rejection, injustice, lie, or attack we encounter. If Marian can’t right it, Banshee stores it. Christobel reports everyone who doesn’t love her directly to Banshee, and Banshee hoards it all up. Her wail is dangerous and destructive, but if stifled too long, she gains in power. She writes some of my worst poetry, and I let her. It helps keep the wail from getting too loud. Since she stores up anger at external injustices, too, she sometimes teams up with Edmund and Marian to write some of my best blog entries, and on rare occasions, a poem that surprises the hell out of me and makes me proud.

Erinye is the voice of certain family members, certain teachers I had, and a few former friends. She tells me I am bad and wrong and have no right to enjoy life or have any fun, ever. Whatever I say or do that is healthy or good, she criticizes. She tells me I’m lazy and selfish and mean. She hates Banshee, in part because one of the things Erinye thinks is worst about me is that I am, in her words, a troublemaker. The other reason she hates Banshee is that Banshee is trying to destroy her, for which I am grateful to Banshee. We all are. Erinye hates Marian, because Marian is a truth-teller. She hates Edmund, because Edmund is fair, even to me, which pits him against her. She hates them both because they’re courageous. She hates Sylvie, because she doesn’t think I deserve anyone so beautiful or private. She is okay with Christobel, because she likes to devastate her by saying that no loves her or any other part of me. If Banshee could drive out Erinye, Banshee might become something much better than she is.

Lucretia is terribly clever. She likes to read Derrida and discuss ideas which have no application to real life. She can be fun, and she helps us all win at Scrabble, but she’s terribly self-indulgent and pleased with herself, and she frequently irritates the rest of us.

Siobahn embraces the non-rational. She loves colors, all colors, and also all shades of grey, which she refuses to let any of us spell gray. Siobahn is passionate but disorganized. She writes a little, paints a little, and with Sylvie, photographs a little. She is attracted to everything with colors, such as swaths of fabric, bottles of nail polish in a row, and dishes of colorful candy and will happily come home with a purse- or pocketful of paint chips. She wants to eat every bright red berry or red glass bead she sees. She is lazy, and it’s hard to get her started, but once she gets going, it’s hard to stop her. She also cooks and likes to experiment with recipes and invent new dishes. She decorates but seldom cleans. If she had her way, I’d have a different hair color every few weeks. She loathes Elizabeth’s taste in clothes and would prefer to dress in costume or at least as the mood struck her, without regard for fashion or appropriateness, and is quite irritated that the rest of won't.

Elizabeth mediates and sort of runs things. She is not, alas, very disciplined, but she is funny and loving and tries hard to listen most to Edmund and Marian. She does most of the writing and the talking and making friends and decides with whom to collaborate and when to pass the microphone to any of the rest of us. She shows up for work and tries to live like a grown-up, but she often forgets to listen to Andrew and Sylvie.