I don’t care what you think about the protesters who were there first. Seems to me that a legitimate strategy for making a protest movement seem undesirable or inconsequential is to point out how the protestors lacked permits, how they messed up the area they were camped out in, what a logistical nightmare they made for the police and local governments who just wanted “to keep the peace.” And sure, some of them desecrated the flag in fashions much more imaginative than mere burning, and some of them didn’t know what the fuck they were really out there for - they were just shouting because it seemed cool.
But, just like the Republican Party has its Tea Partiers, Christianity has its Westboro Baptists, and Islam has its Taliban, so too did this movement have its outliers and “fringe.”
I am not one of those outliers or fringe people, but as of this morning, I’m ready to throw in with them, as are thousands, millions of others, because - as New York Republican Representative Pete King so eloquently put it - there was an inherent danger to this outlier movement gaining momentum and legitimacy.
What was the danger?
That people like me who weren’t yet willing to speak out and speak up would finally get a fire lit under our asses, and that there would FINALLY be a “policy-shaping” challenge to the way he and his fellow politicians have gamed the political system of the greatest nation in the world to further their own financial and political self-interests. People have given lip service to challenging the system for several years now.
For instance, “ liberals” like myself (I’m actually a centrist, like many Democrats) thought we’d found an answer in Barack Obama back in 2008. After eight years of watching George Bush play hacky sack with American foreign policy and the economy, we thought MAYBE someone would reign it in. But American politics has already become too corrupt, too partisan, too ingratiating to the interests of the corporate elite for anyone within the system to seriously challenge it.
As another example, there’s the misguided Tea Party, who took the other tack and decided it was those on the left who wanted to tax them to death in order to fund programs that weren’t necessary. THEY started a movement, and mistakenly filled Congress with even more assholes who in no way intended to help them. Sure, those Congressional newcomers vowed to fight any tax hikes, but they also wanted to cut obscene amounts of spending on programs that many of the Tea Partiers who voted them into office actually benefit from every day. Not quite the solution the Tea Party was looking for - although most of them don’t realize they’ve been duped.
I don’t think the people who voted for Obama were duped. I think we were let down. It turns out that Obama’s testicles haven’t descended or something, because on more than one occasion when he’s had an opportunity to actually stand up for the interests of the American people, he’s cowtowed to Republican lunacy. “Bipartisan” and “compromise” come out of his mouth on a regular basis, while he looks all sad-faced “across the aisle” at the likes of Eric Cantor, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, who absolutely refuse to compromise on ANYTHING. Why continue to compromise with people determined to undermine your Presidency, and who are determined to shatter the economic backbone of the nation - and as a result, quite possibly the whole world - simply to protect the interests of a few thousand millionaires (a group to which many of them belong)? We could get into a lengthy discussion as to why, but that’s a tangent for another day.
So… we’ve had hope. We’ve had talk. But we’ve seen no change. Now, however, there arrives a movement that many have already compared to the protests of the 1960s - protests that career politician Pete King is old enough to remember as instigating legitimate changes in policy way back then.
That movement could have died.
It could have died the same death that the hope Obama gave us in 2008 died. It could have died the same death that the Tea Party movement is dying as it implodes. It could have become another footnote in history, the way the L.A. race riots in 1992 have.
But someone was concerned enough with the movement to take action against it last night. You see, over the weekend protests similar to the original one in New York sparked up in Boston, L.A., Chicago, Seattle, and right here in Atlanta. And last night a coordinated effort moved in to shut down pretty much all of them. Now, I’m not saying that law enforcement in all of the cities in question got on the phone with each other and said, “Let’s get ‘em at 11 p.m. TONIGHT!” Still, the crackdowns have begun, and in a few instances they’ve gotten ugly, and now… NOW that someone has actively taken steps to shut the protestors up, many people are awake to the possibilities of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I’m not here to try and justify the protestors’ right to assemply and free speech - although this does reveal some questionable decisions on the part of the local governments. I’m simply here to point out that the movement is very likely scaring the shit out of someone - enough that they are TAKING STEPS. And that, my friends, does pretty much the opposite of what they want. It adds legitimacy to the Occupy Wall Street movement - enough so that people like me are opening our eyes and seeing that perhaps there still is hope - that perhaps we can actually change policy (FINALLY!) by screaming and cajoling and threatening these clowns in Washington. They are supposed to represent US, right?
Gandhi has been quoted as saying this, although it’s actually a paraphrasing from a speech given by a union activist in the early 1900s:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Regardless of who said it, it looks like this particular movement is in phase three. I hope (See? I STILL have some hope!) that when phase four comes around, that average American citizens - and not American politicians or the millionaires to which they are beholden - are the winners. And I have decided that I will find something to do in the coming weeks that will make that happen.
What about you?
Recent censuses taken worldwide indicate that less and less people identify themselves with a particular faith, and that more and more people have begun to identify themselves as having no faith at all. Being somebody who DOES believe in God, I am of course saddened. But I’m not surprised. Considering all the shenanigans that people who profess faith often get up to, it’s wholly understandable that some people outright reject religion. The real sadness is that it is often BECAUSE of the actions of professed religious people that less people follow a faith. And it is increasingly true that people with no faith - atheists and agnostics - are more philanthropic, more generous to their fellow man. Go figure.
As an example of something infuriating (at least to me) that certain religious people do, I’d like to take this opportunity to rant about a gigantic irony pervading the political climate in the U.S. these days, particularly with Republicans.
Recent surveys I found put the percentage of Fundamentalist Christians among Republicans at somewhere between 40 and 51%. Now, before it looks like I’m agreeing with Ann Coulter when she says that Democrats are all godless heathens, let it be known that the disparity between the number of Christians among the two parties is NOT that big. Yeah, the Republicans have a few more supposed Christians - and way more of the Fundamentalist variety - but a significant number of Democrats believe in a Creator, and often believe he sent the Christ to Earth to die for man’s sins.
Now, according to a 2007 Barna Group survey, found here, 57% of Republicans assert that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches. This means, for everyone who hasn’t had a heart to heart talk with a Fundie, that the Bible - a document of over 1000 pages, translated from as many languages as Jesus had fingers and maybe toes, which is easily over 2000 years old, and whose translations, interpolations, iterations, and derivations have mostly passed through white men with political agendas and axes to grind - is the absolute perfect message that God wanted us to receive. Screw the myriad contradictions, the uncertainty of some of the source material, and the glaring omissions.
Well, I don’t think the Bible is the PERFECT WORD OF GOD. But on one subject, time and time again, it’s pretty clear. Let’s look at some passages, shall we?
“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich - both come to poverty.” - Proverbs 22:16
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. There will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered litte did not have too little.’” -2 Corinthians 8:13-15
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” -Matthew 25:41-45
A friend of mine (What’s up, Kym?) told me recently on Facebook that it’s easy to manipulate what the Bible says to match your ends, and seeing what I’ve seen, I tend to agree, but these passages are pretty straightforward, and since I’m not a Bible adherist, I gravitate to the straightforward bits. Like these.
These seem ridiculously obvious to me. Even their surrounding context doesn’t contradict or undermine what they say. And what they say is this: if there are poor people among you, do what you can to help them out. If there are those who have a little more than average, then they should give up some of what they have to those who have a little less, just to even things out a little.
Those are essentially (and Bible adherents can’t reasonably deny this) commands from “on high.” And hey, you know what? Centuries later the absolute common sense of “taking care” of your poor and underprivileged was underscored by such prominent philosophers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith - philosophers which the Founding Fathers of the United States studied, honored, and drew inspiration from.
Flash forward to the United States, circa… now. Now we are told by the political party that contains so many Fundamental Christians to let the poor fend for themselves - it’s typically their fault that they’re in the condition they’re in, so why should we help somebody so lazy and desperate? (By the way, I invite you to make it through the month playing this game. I did, with $24 left, but WOW, my poor children suffered for it.)
Now we’re told by the millionaires of our country to leave their money alone. It’s theirs by right, and they need all of it - they can put it to better use than any poor person can, creating jobs and such (BTW, this has been proven false in more ways than the Bible has). We’re told by those who say the Bible is PERFECT to simply disregard these few passages (oh, and a LOT of other ones, too) simply because, well, it inconveniences them.
Now I know a lot of you have figured this irony out already. This post isn’t really for you, except to underscore what you already know, and to let you know that a “person of faith” understands the ironic difference between the things that certain other people of faith say and appear to believe.
The purpose of this post is to ask people who claim to be Christian, ESPECIALLY those who claim that the Bible is the perfect Word of God, to reconsider their position toward the poor. I suggest that maybe they go back and read their perfect Book without some preacher with an agenda and an axe to grind looking over their shoulder. I suggest they use their common sense, and THINK about what happens to a society that doesn’t take care of its poor.
So far, in the year and a half that I’ve been working on this site, I’ve posted piece after piece of my PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED poetry - I don’t want to make a habit of giving away TOO MUCH of myself for free. For some reason, though, this week I feel compelled to give something away. For, uh, free.
Also, we’re heading into the home stretch before Election Day here in the U.S., where - in case you haven’t been paying attention - we’re having to deal with levels of stupid and crazy that we haven’t had to deal with since the early 19th century. You know, back when slavery was okay, women couldn’t vote, and eight-year-olds died on their feet while finishing their shifts on the factory floor. I vowed I would try to refrain from commenting on politics in a recent post, but this is poetry, AND it’s non-partisan, so it doesn’t count.
Given all that, here’s a poem for you. It totally steals from the rhythm and rhyme scheme of Lewis Carroll’s ’The Pig’s Tale‘, and it sort of refers to a song by The Police called ‘Walking In Your Footsteps’. But it’s (mostly) original, it’s funny, and I think it’s pretty good.
In Lapland far, under glacial slope
A team of scientists found
Through strenuous, prolonged toil and grope
An archeologist’s fondest hope
A discovery of the grandest scope
‘Twas buried underground.
A rock-carved house of largest size
And furnished as if for giants
You can imagine their surprise
As history was made before their eyes
Oh joy, successful enterprise!
An indelible mark for science.
Within a stone-hewed, o’er-sized den
They found a wooden desk, intact
Its drawers stuffed with enormous parchment and pen
And shuffled amid the sheaves within
A letter written by giant-kin
Carbon-dated millennia back.
“My dear Triceratops,” the letter read,
“I hope there’s a future for us –
But given the direction we’re being led
And considering the things our leaders have said
I fear that soon we’ll all be dead
Your erstwhile friend, B. Saurus.”
“P.S. And when the eons pass
Will we be remembered as a nation
Of enlightenment and benevolence unsurpassed
Or will the barbarism of our recent past
Through ages hence indeed outlast
Any positive reputation?”
In shock the archeologists studied their find
Maintaining silence as they’d been bidden
For to reveal something of this kind
Would place accepted history on rewind
Would rearrange how the ages had been outlined
So they kept the excavation hidden.
But now the awful truth’s been told
And as fanciful as it may sound
Who knows what the faraway future holds –
Will archeologists determined and bold
Find our future in the bitter cold
Buried miles underground?
I have had an interesting conversation with several of my friends lately. Same conversation, but with different friends and on different occasions - and that’s what makes it remarkable. Each conversation was with a LIBERAL friend, and each conversation centered around how they refuse to discuss politics with anyone not of a like mind anymore. They gave me a lot of different reasons for their decision, and in the meantime I gave them a hard time about “giving up” and “letting the bad guys win” and “making our voices heard.”
Now, though, I’m joining them in silence. I’m lucky, though: I have this public forum in which to explain why I’m giving up to anyone who cares, and yeah - to take one last jab at “the bad guys” before signing off for good. Writing this feels kind of like quitting a job: I’m sad about leaving something that has meant so much to me, but I’m relieved, too. It’ll be nice to reprioritize and put my energy into other things.
So… why am I quitting? Why am I giving up?
I have a lot of conservative friends. I met these people through various means other than politics - through gaming, through past jobs, through other friends - and since I live in a section of the country in which conservativism predominates, it’s natural that I will meet and become friends with people more conservative than I am. When I met these people, our political views are not what attracted us to each other. It was something else.
As I persist, though, in presenting what I believe to be truths regarding U.S. politics today, time and time again I butt heads with my friends. A lot of them are reasonable - more reasonable than I am even - and a lot of our discussions don’t break down into argument. But a lot of them do. We get angry with each other, at the other’s refusal to see that he’s absolutely wrong, and the argument ends with us packing up and stomping away. (A lot of these conversations/arguments take place on Facebook and Twitter, so packing up and stomping away is figurative language - although it has happened that way “in real life” too.)
I don’t like being angry. Also, I don’t like the creeping sensation of disrespect for these friends that grows a little every time we discuss politics. Like I said, their political leanings are not generally what attracted me to them, so it should not color how I feel about them. On the flip side, if I’m feeling this level of disrespect from them, then they’re probably feeling it for me - and I want them to respect me, as I want to be able to respect them.
Finally, I don’t want to be known as “the guy who’s always bringing up politics”. I’ll leave that for Dennis Maguire (if you know Dennis, you know what I’m talking about). I want to be known as “my friend Will who wrote that poem which touched me” or “my friend Will who wrote that kick-ass story” or “my friend Will who has those two beautiful children” or “my friend Will who beat my ass in Twilight Imperium last night.” Hell, I’ll even take “my friend Will who really digs beer” over “Will the politics guy”.
To continue on that train of thought - in order for me to be “the guy who…”, then I need to turn my attention - my full attention - to the things that will make me that guy. In other words, I’ve known for a long time what kind of person I was destined to be, what I was supposed to do with my life. And it wasn’t politics. Whenever I engage in heated political discussions, I feel like I’m wasting time - time that I should be using for the things that I’m supposed to be doing.
For example, yesterday I scheduled a whole afternoon for editing my novel. For various reasons, it’s absolutely vital that I finish this last round of rewrites and edits soon. But then, I got sucked into a discussion - one that I started - about political campaign contributions. The discussion went back and forth on Facebook for hours, and in the end resulted in three things: 1) Neither I nor the people I was arguing with gave an inch. 2) Two of us effectively stormed off, throwing our hands up in disgust. 3) I got about half of my intended goal with the novel finished.
I can’t keep arguing politics and get the things I’m supposed to do with my life done.
Nine times out of ten, when someone posts something which contradicts the standard Republican/conservative talking points, Republican/conservative people retort, and often their retort contains some misunderstanding or some distortion of the facts. Sorry guys, I have to say this one final time, even if you think I’m wrong. I don’t think you necessarily misinterpret information or misconstrue it on purpose. I just think that you’re being led my the nose by entities who are actively trying to make you vote against your self interest and against the interests of your country.
And I know many of you feel the same way about me. Here’s the thing, though, and this is the point I’m trying to make with this part of my post: when I get into a discussion, and something blatantly false pops up (nine times out of ten), I don’t feel justified in just telling you that you’re wrong. I have to do research to make sure of it. Also, and you may not realize this, so I’m telling you this now: I am totally aware that sometimes I pull stuff out of my ass, too. The thing is, whenever I do and I get challenged on it, I take the time to look at my own sources as well as yours. I have actually lost sleep at night fretting that something I wrote was false. (I don’t think Glenn Beck does.) Even then sometimes I blow it. Most times though, I don’t. Still, the time it takes to fact check so many things is exhausting, and I find that when I’m discussing politics with Republicans who get their facts from Michelle Malkin, Fox News, and their Baptist preacher, that I have to do an awful lot of it.
It shouldn’t have to be that way. I should be able to have a discussion about politics and let it boil down to the ideological differences that separate us: Do you believe that free market capitalism is self-correcting? Do you believe in the redistribution of wealth? Do you believe in a person’s right to own a gun or make her own choice regarding carrying a baby to term. We shouldn’t get bogged down in facts and figures. But because there are so many people out there trying to mislead us, and because there are so many of us who are either too lazy, too busy, or too gullible to question their sources, we do. We get sidetracked by things that we should agree on, and our discussion is derailed.
Fact checking is wearing me out.
I’m proud that I carried the torch this long. I don’t blame my liberal friends who’ve already “agreed to disagree”, and quietly acquiesced, but I’m happy to be able to say that I outlasted them. So, why did I persist for so long?
Part of it is because I’m stubborn as shit. Ask any of the guys who play games with me. We’ll be playing a game, and almost everyone will agree that it’s a foregone conclusion that so and so will win. Well, if so and so isn’t me, and I think I have a chance in hell, I usually insist on playing things out. My dad had an illustration on his wall at work that showed a frog getting eaten by a crane. You could see the lump in the crane’s throat that was the frog’s head and body. But the frog’s legs were sticking out, and he had them wrapped around the crane’s neck just below the lump. The caption read: “Never give up.” That frog is my hero.
Another reason is because I think that the GOP is evil. Seriously. I think the leaders of the Republican Party, along with pundits like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, have set up a kind of pyramid scheme, where they get minions to do their bidding while they and only they reap increasing benefits. I think a sizable portion of the Republican leadership has consciously decided to sell the U.S. short for their own material gain, banking that they’ll still be secure and happy when the rest of it goes to shit. Another portion of the Republican Party is just batshit crazy.
And YES. I KNOW that there’s a lot of corruption and impropriety among Democrats. At the end of the day, they’re all politicians, and politicians by definition are corrupt, self-serving liars. I get that. I won’t argue it - I can’t. But while Democrats are mostly guilty of political maneuvering and corruption typical to their line of work, the GOP is taking things to the next level. We can’t tackle the general abuses of power in our political system that we all recognize and despise until we first defeat this threat, which goes beyond anything we’ve experienced in this country before. We’re perhaps the greatest singular nation the world has ever known - but we’re still young. And naive. And right now, vulnerable.
I persisted because I believed I was fighting the good fight.
But now I’ve decided that this is not my fight. I have other things that I must do, so instead of using my time beating my head against the wall in a futile effort to change the world via political debate, I will turn back to the things that I feel more capable at. To things which will not alienate me from people I care about, that do not exhaust me. That I am meant to do.
Now, this is not a call or suggestion that - if you’re liberal - you do the same thing. Giving up like I am is something the GOP WANTS us to do. Instead, as I step aside, I encourage all of you to step up and take my place. The fight must continue - I just can’t participate any more.
Finally, don’t bother arguing any of the things I’ve said in this post - I’m done arguing. And if you’re disgusted or angry with me because I’m throwing out this last shot without any recourse on your part, if you’re disgusted or angry with me because you feel offended and I offer no apology, then remember why I’m doing this. I’m doing it because I want to remain friends. I’m doing this because I need to redirect my energy. I’m doing this because I’m tired.
Believe what you want to believe and I’ll do the same. I know that I won’t change your mind, so I’m finished trying. This is the last I’ll say on the subject.
Until (and if) I can say, “I told you so.”
There’s a new Internet meme floating around - an e-mail that goes like this:
“Ten men decided to have a business lunch once a week. They always met in the same restaurant and the bill was always $100.00 for all 10 men. If each man was responsible for his share of the bill, each would pay $10.00.
The men decided to divide the bill based upon their ability to pay, inspired by the government’s progressive approach to collecting income taxes. The formula they eventually agreed upon included the following payment arrangement:
Man #1, #2, #3, and #4 paid nothing.
Man #5 paid $1.
Man #6 paid $3.
Man #7 paid $7.
Man #8 paid $12.
Man #9 paid $18.
Man #10 paid $59.
After a number of weeks of the 10 men reliably frequenting his establishment, the owner of the restaurant decided they deserved a discount. He offered to reduce the total cost of the men’s lunch by $20.
This created a bit of a problem among the gentlemen, because the four men who paid nothing felt cheated that they were not sharing in the windfall. The others complained that if the $20 were to be distributed proportionally based upon the amount each paid each week, Man #10 would receive over half of the total discount amount.
So the restaurant owner proposed this solution:
Man #1, #2, #3, and #4 still paid nothing. They were unhappy at being excluded from the benefits of the reduction, but a discount from zero is still, in fact, zero.
Man #5 now also paid nothing. His contribution went from $1 to $0, so he received a 100% discount.
Man #6 now paid $2, receiving a 33% discount.
Man #7 now paid $5, receiving a 28% discount.
Man #8 now paid $9, receiving a 25% discount.
Man #9 now paid $14, receiving a 22% discount.
Man #10 now paid $50, receiving a 15% discount.
So they completed their meal and left the restaurant. Once outside, an argument ensued.
Men #1 through #4 were displeased that everyone else received a benefit except them. Man #5 was upset that he only got $1, while Man #10 got $9. Likewise Man #6. So these men beat up Man #10, took his money and left him bleeding on the sidewalk.
The men returned to the restaurant the following week for lunch, but of course Man #10 was a no-show. So when the bill arrived, the remaining men discovered they couldn’t afford to pay even half the bill.”
No one’s sent ME this particular e-mail, because they know that A) I’ll probably disagree with their point and B) I’ll have a ready answer. Still, I spend a lot of time nowadays immersed in social media and lurking on the Internet, so this e-mail came onto my radar pretty readily.
Needless to say, I think the analogy of the effects of our graduated tax system is an overt oversimplification of what’s really going on, that it’s tweaked to make one point without taking certain things into account, AND that it’s ultimately damaging to the conversation we SHOULD be having about the direction our country is going.
To drive my point home, please allow me to add some undisclosed facts regarding the story at hand.
What the author of the story failed to mention was that, every time the end of their meal came, Man #10 would assure the rest of his fellows that he’d finish up paying the bill, and told them to leave their portion and go home. They did. Then Man #10 would call the manager of the restaurant over and tell him that, even though his agreed upon portion of the bill was $59, he really didn’t feel he should pay that amount. He told the manager he’d pay a significantly lesser amount, and that if the manager disagreed, he’d make sure that the manager would lose his job.
The manager was a greedy man, eager to please his boss, the restaurant owner, because he was getting a steady and generous paycheck. Still, he was unwilling to tell Man #10 “No”, because he knew that Man #10 was a powerful and rich man, and could in fact do exactly as he threatened.
So the manager told Man #10 not to worry, that he’d work it out somehow. Man #10 left, satisfied and smug, and the manager set to work trying to figure out how to make up the difference in the 10 men’s bill.
After some consideration, he went next door to the Chinese restaurant, then across the street to the Swiss bakery, and simply borrowed the money from them. He did this over and over again whenever the 10 men came in, until the restaurant had amassed a tremendous and un-repayable debt.
So there you have it - the rest of the analogy.
Now, before I continue, I’d like to also point out a flaw in the original. While the parallels between it and reality are clever, if oversimplified, one thing happened in the original story which hasn’t happened in “real life”. So far, no one’s pummeled Man #10 and left him bleeding in the gutter with his wallet emptied. Because of that, the original analogy falls apart. It ends, in fact (and rather unclimactically), with the men returning again and again to the restaurant, with Man #10 leaving with his portion of the bill promised but unpaid again and again, and with the restaurant sinking further and further into debt.
At this point, you’re either going to take my continuation of the analogy and use it in your discussions against people who try to use it to argue against a graduated tax system, or you’re gnashing your teeth in a mild (or maybe not so mild) fury because in a way you know I’m right, and in a way, you’re absolutely sure I’m oversimplifying matters and tweaking the “facts” to my own end. Which I am.
To those of you who applaud my audacity, I say, “Yes, please. Take it and run with it. Use it. Enjoy.”
To all of you, though, I offer this thought: I understand that the analogy, including my addition to it, is simply not an accurate portrayal of the whole story - the real tale is way too complicated to analogize adequately. The difference, though, is that I am not using the analogy to make a point about our political process and income tax.
I’m using the analogy to make a point about abusing analogies to make political points.
An unprecedented amount of time went between podcasts this time. Sorry about that. I have been busy, mind you - I haven’t been slacking - and while maintaining this podcast is high on my list of priorities, there are other things higher. You’ll be glad to know that I was taking care of that stuff - and not just playing games and drinking beer.
It’s been a while since you’ve visited Sarah Dobson on her quest to become a city councilwoman. So here she is, having adventures in campaigning. Enjoy.
A War Between States Part 14:
Chapter 8, Part One: Campaign: Sarah
September 5, 2003
Sarah Dobson and Nancy Walker puttered along Washington Street in Nancy’s silver Aerostar, which was shiny and sleek on the outside and absolutely filthy on the inside. On either side of it, white magnetic signs advertised: Vote Dobson for City Council — A Better Future For Marionville in big, blocky red and blue letters. Inside, the two women puffed hungrily on cigarettes, while Nancy drove and read mailbox numbers aloud and Sarah shuffled through handbills and fliers.
“Four-forty. That’s Mrs. Mobley. Wanna stop?” Nancy asked.
Sarah considered, then nodded with enthusiasm. “Don’t know if Mrs. Mobley has voted for the past 20 years, but maybe this year I can convince her to get out from in front of Montel and punch my ticket.”
Nancy pulled over to the curb. “Can she drive to the polls? She’s almost blind.”
“She drives out to the lodge every Sunday for the buffet.”
Both women tumbled out of the Aerostar, followed by clouds of mentholated smoke. Sarah reached back and pulled out a yard sign.
“Do you think she’ll let you put one of those up?” Nancy asked.
“Never hurts to try.”
Together the two trudged up Mrs. Mobley’s cobblestone walkway, surrounded on either side by a patch of unkempt yard which didn’t look like it had been mowed all summer and still had leaves in it from the fall before. Sarah mounted the single brick step that led up to the screened-in veranda and rapped on the rickety frame door.
“Mrs. Mobley?” she shouted into the dim interior. “Are you home?”
“Of course she’s home,” Nancy whispered behind her.
“Hush. I gotta check. She could be dead.”
A shuffle on the inside of the house told them something there was alive.
“Who’s there?” a thin, reedy voice asked. Sarah saw the brief glint of sunlight on a pair of glasses as the owner of the voice moved out of the deepness of the house and onto the veranda.
“It’s Sarah Dobson and Dr. Walker,” Sarah replied. “Do you remember us?”
The old woman hesitated for a moment, then shuffled forward into the dim light which the dirty screens of her porch let in. She wore beige slacks, a nondescript blouse of a color Sarah couldn’t place, and a pair of threadbare house slippers. Her hair was thin, white, and teased into wispy curls which barely covered her liver-spotted head. It seemed to Sarah that over the months since she’s seen Mrs. Mobley, the woman had shrunk. She barely exceeded four feet tall.
“I ‘member ya’ll,” Mrs. Mobley said in a cracked voice. “You the other doctor, and that woman from the church.”
“That’s right,” Sarah said, although it had been two years since she’d sung at the Methodist church’s annual Christmas cantata. In fact, it had been two years since the church had hosted a cantata — the population of Marionville was on the decline, especially the church-going population.
“You got a sweet voice,” Mrs. Mobley said.
“Thank you,” Sarah replied. “Mrs. Mobley, my name’s Sarah Dobson. I’m running for city council.”
“Say-rah Dobson,” Mrs. Mobley repeated. “I ‘member. You sang.”
“Yes, Mrs. Mobley. I sang. And now I’m running for city council. I want you to vote for me.”
Mrs. Mobley hovered for a moment, apparently deep in thought. She didn’t say anything, but her eyes, sightless and filmy, with rips in her irises and broken, bleeding veins, darted around like she was trying to ascertain something, see something that was just out of sight.
“Will you vote for me, Mrs. Mobley?” Sarah asked the old woman point blank. “I promise to work hard to bring business to Marionville, to revitalize the economy. I want to reestablish a high school here, and make provisions for an influx of new business downtown.”
Mrs. Mobley didn’t move. Nothing in her countenance suggested that anything Sarah had said was registering — but it must have been, and Mrs. Mobley must have just been reviewing the little speech word by word, because finally she bobbed her head and said, “Well, sure. That’s fine, honey.”
Sarah quietly sighed in relief — relief which was replaced in an instant with mild dismay when Mrs. Mobley said, “We ain’t seen you up at the church for a while. What have you been up to? We miss you at the church.”
Sarah glanced back at Nancy for help, but Nancy’s eyes and the cast of her mouth said, You’re the one running for office, not me. Sarah turned back to Mrs. Mobley, groping in her mind for an answer.
But Mrs. Mobley was off in another direction already.
“Oh, ya’ll,” she was saying, “It’s been so long since I had company, I done forgot my manners. Ya’ll want somethin’ to drink? I got some tea and some Sanka. Dr. Cox won’t let me have nothin’ but Sanka, on account of my jitters.” She had turned her back on the two of them and had walked from the screened porch into her narrow kitchen, with its faded yellow linoleum floor and dusty lime green cabinetry. Sarah sighed again and followed her to the doorway. She felt Nancy take one step behind her, then stop.
“Ya’ll can sit a spell, cain’t ya?” Mrs. Mobley said as she stood on her tiptoes and rummaged through her cupboard for clean glasses. “Springer’s on, but I seen this episode before, I think. Lawd, some of the folks come on his show.”
“Mrs. Mobley, that’s okay,” Sarah said, motioning for the old woman to stop. “We got a lot of people to visit today, tryin’ to get the word out that I’m runnin’ for city council.”
Mrs. Mobley looked surprised. “Oh, are you runnin’ for council, darlin’?”
Sarah nodded and made to leave. She tried to keep her frustration from showing on her face — though she figured Mrs. Mobley probably couldn’t see two feet in front of her anyway. “Yes, ma’am. And Nancy and I have to be getting on.”
“Are you sure, honey?” Mrs. Mobley asked, standing in the middle of her kitchen holding the one chipped coffee mug she’d found. The mug was shiny and white, with a cartoon of a man on it and the words, FISHERMEN DON’T DIE — THEY JUST SMELL THAT WAY printed on it in a green scrawl.
“I’m sure.” And Sarah all but flew from the house. Nancy was already on the walk by the time Sarah got to the back door. “Bye, Mrs. Mobley,” she shouted behind her.
“Bye, honey! We’ll see you at church!” came the reply.
Nancy was laughing. “Jesus, girl. You said Montel, but you meant Springer.”
Sarah screwed her face into a half-scowl, half-smirk — if that’s possible. Without a word, she crossed Mrs. Mobley’s yard and planted the campaign sign she was carrying right in the center of it so that the sign was in easy sight from the street.
“I was gonna suggest that,” Nancy said. “It’s not like she’s ever gonna see it.”
As they climbed back into the minivan, they both pulled out and lit cigarettes. Then Sarah asked, “Where’s Mr. Mobley?”
To this, Nancy shrugged.
“I don’t know. I don’t recollect him dying recently.”
“Maybe he was in the house somewhere?”
“Maybe. But you know, I haven’t heard about him or seen him in a long time, either.”
Nancy gave her cigarette a long pull and cranked up the Aerostar.
Sarah Dobson - Jennie
Nancy Walker - Paula Towry
Mrs. Mobley - Starr Neel
Narrator - Will Kenyon
My previous “thought process” post went over so well, you know there had to be a follow-up. Here are some more random thoughts that have occurred to me since the last post. This time, not only am I sober, but it’s 6:30 in the morning and I woke up thinking about this.
- Does anyone else hear a frightening similarity between North Korea’s current “diplomatic” posturings and Nikita Kruschev’s “bury you” rants?
- We need less gun control because how else will the common man defend himself against a zombie holocaust….
- Text message I saw recently: fuckin A dude. Now, should there be a comma or not? Ah, the power of proper punctuation.
- I don’t and never have liked Tom and Jerry cartoons. They’re sadistic and mean-spirited without being clever. On the other hand, I think sadism and mean-spiritedness can be okay as long as you’re clever.
- You can skip class because of a hangover. You can call in sick to work if it’s too, too bad. But when your kids want breakfast, by God, you better get your hung-over ass up and make waffles.
- It takes a certain amount of arrogance to point out how arrogant someone is.
- Henry Louis, Bill, and Defense Secretary Robert: Just six more Gates to go!
- Every religious person should have a crisis of faith. If your faith survives, I can guarantee it’ll be stronger.
- A zombie holocaust could never happen, unless it took place in a nation of complacent, self-involved, lazy whiners.
- I think I’m sometimes vulgar because my parents always told me that vulgarity was indicative of stupidity, and I’m trying to prove them wrong. Is it working? Well, fuck it.
- I spent a lot of money on my lawn so I wouldn’t have to spend so much on toys.
- If you’re a writer, then I recommend the movie Adaptation. A critic once said it was “Too smart to ignore but a little too smugly superior to like….” I think he missed the point.
- With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Digg and the like, mailing lists are becoming less important. So saying “please take me off your mailing list” just doesn’t pack the punch it used to.
- Michael Jackson isn’t dead. Neither are Elvis and John Lennon.
- Why does War and Peace have to be so LONG?
I wrote this several days ago, and I’m just now finding the room and time to post it. I still feel these sentiments, even weeks later.
I’m writing this at midnight on the Fourth of July, and I gotta say – this was one of the weirdest Fourths I’ve ever experienced. It wasn’t David Lynch weird, but… it was pretty fucked up.
For years, as I’ve lived where I live in this suburb of Atlanta, I’ve had a number of local, neighborhood friends. Now, as they do when you live in a place a while and things and people are in flux as they are, some of my friends have gone away: I’ve lost touch with some because our children stopped going to the same school. Some have died. This is to say that I’ve lost friends due to circumstances bigger than us. Truth be told, though, I can’t honestly say that I care for those people less; though my memories of the times we’ve shared are fading, I miss them, and if they were here right now, I’m absolutely certain that we could and would share all the laughter and sadness, joy and dismay that friends share. It is simply circumstances beyond us that separate us – things beyond our control.
Recently, though, I seem to have lost two friends to circumstances which are, for want of a better word, infuriating. And it all boils down to politics. Now, I’m not gonna talk national politics - not in this post at least - but let me say this: I have vigorously disagreed with friends whose national outlook differed from mine, I’ve avoided people who weren’t my friend because I knew they disagreed with me, and I’ve been frustrated to the point of almost screaming because some idiot friend of mine could not see reason regarding how insanely wrong he was with his political ideology.
But I’ve never actually stopped being someone’s friend because we disagreed on politics.
Likewise, on a smaller scale, I’ve never stopped being someone’s friend because we disagreed on local politics.
I had a friend, though, a genuinely great guy, who used to hang out with me and my gaming buddies and play our geeky board games with us. His children are roughly the same age as mine, and he and I would take “kid excursions” together – my daughter and his kid to the Renaissance Festival. Trips to Six Flags. Days at the park.
And then one day he pretty much said, “I don’t want to hang out anymore,” and acted awkwardly when his innocent child and my innocent child started talking together, oblivious as children can be to the sinister machinations of their adult counterparts.
I was bewildered. I wondered what I’d done.
Turns out, what I’d done was dare to be friends with a local political figure who didn’t fit with my other friend’s ideology. His wife is an outspoken opponent of my political friend, and so… no hanging out.
I had another friend who has worked in a professional service and repair industry for many, many years. Once upon a time in fact, I called him up to ask him to come help me with issues I was dealing with regarding his area of expertise. He came, he helped, I payed him a paltry sum – much less than I would have paid someone else to do the same thing.
Now, he and I have remained on speaking terms for a long time, despite the growing schism between whom he and his wife support in local politics and whom I support.
Recently, his wife has made inquiries into my professional relationship with my friend who is in local politics. As circumstances would have it, I did some work in a public relations capacity for my city a while back (we needed it), and my political friend saw an opportunity to ask a friend (me) to help him in my area of expertise. I came, I helped, and the city paid me a paltry sum – much less than they would have paid someone else to do the same thing. I did this because I love my friend and I want my city to be better.
Ironically, because I did work for the city at the request of her political enemy, there are inferences of nepotism.
So… how am I supposed to interact with my friend, her husband, next time I see him? Awkwardly, I would guess.
Okay – on to the weirdness of tonight.
In the midst of all this political chicanery, over which I have inadvertantly lost two friends, we had our Fourth of July throwdown in our city. There was a big street fair, a festival, and a block party, all leading up to the kickass fireworks climax.
During all the festivities, I managed to see both wives of my estranged friends, one of the friends himself (from a distance – I didn’t know how to approach him), and the other friend’s child, who probably would’ve liked to have come and played with my daughter. Seeing them made me feel a strange mix of anger, indignation, helplessness, and frustration.
Meanwhile, the son of my political friend was playing with my daughter, dashing around the crowds and having a grand old time.
And while they were playing, just before the fireworks began, the boy did something, and broke his arm. He came over to our little camp, where we were staked out to see the fireworks display, and complained that he’d hurt himself. His mom and dad were busy on the other side of the festival – I’d entrusted my daughter to them for several hours as the festival raged on, and in return, they entrusted their son to me and my family for the duration of the fireworks.
So… no one’s to blame for what the boy did to his arm, but when he came over complaining about it, I took one look at it and knew something was wrong – it was bowed in a way it should not have been bowed. So I took the boy and led him through the crowds to his parents, turned him over to them, and explained what happened. They immediately took him to the hospital. And they all missed the fireworks.
Now here I am, thinking about all the relationships between all these people. It’s in my nature and always has been to analyze situations after the fact, and I can’t help but be glad that I was there to make sure that boy got to the hospital. I’m glad to have been able to be that kind of friend. I value his parents’ friendships and wouldn’t give them up lightly.
But then again, I valued the friendships of my other two friends as well. Had it been their child who hurt himself or herself, I’d like to think that I would have responded the same, despite our differences - it was easy, it was my responsibility, and I care about them. Even now.
But would they do the same for me? They’ve tossed aside our friendship so easily, would it be as easy to simply toss aside the welfare of my children because it inconvenienced them or because they were mad at my politics?
And so I’m left with questions: Is basic humanity so easily disregarded in the face of difference? Apparently, friendship can be tossed aside, so who’s to say humanity can’t follow?
During the last Georgia legislative session (back in February, to be precise), a bill came before committee which would lift the statewide ban on alcohol sales on Sunday. The bill failed. While in the state of Georgia we are finally allowed to purchase alcohol in bars and restaurants on Sunday, alas, we cannot go to our local grocery or liquor store to purchase something we can enjoy in the privacy of our own homes.
Now a new effort has begun to lift the ban, and grant the decision to allow alcohol sales to individual municipalities. While the original effort focused on lobbyist efforts, this one will focus more on publicity and public awareness. In a sense, that is one of the purposes of this post – to let readers know what has happened, and what they can do to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
According to Zak Koffler of the Young Democrats of Georgia, during the presentation of the bill earlier this year, “Members of our state legislature decided to pander to the religious extreme to gain support for their campaigns for higher office. Among those leaders are names that you will be hearing a lot of in the near future: David Shafer, Casey Cagle and Eric Johnson.” Indeed, Shafer, Johnson and Cagle are considering running for either the state governorship or lieutenant governorship in the future, and the money and influence of the powerful fundamentalist lobby is an important political consideration.
Some points for you to consider as you explore further:
- I am biased, and shamelessly so. In some articles I wrote elsewhere, I covered the details of why the ban makes little sense: the first one is here, the second here, and the final one here.
- Support for this bill is bi-partisan. Politicians on both sides of the aisle recognize that “safety” concerns are mostly bogeymen, that revenue from Sunday sales will help area businesses, national businesses, as well as government coffers, and that the ban on Sunday specifically is a direct violation of the separation of church and state.
- Everyone involved recognizes that religious extremists are not the only people who oppose the bill. Some other businesses do as well – but they are a small and not nearly as “persuasive” group. Also, and yeah this is kind of callous on my part, their losses would be minimal compared to the gains everywhere else.
- This is not an “attack” against religion. The truth is, this is a blow for personal freedoms. What you do on Sunday should be up to you: if you want to spend the day interacting with your God, then you should be allowed to do so. By the same token, if you want to get a six pack and watch the game at home then… you should be allowed to do so.