Sunday, November 21, 2004

Wisdom from William Shakespeare

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind... And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded with patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sledge hammer happiness

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
This week we took possession of our "second home." It felt good to go through the apartment here in Philly to cull out items to take down to the cottage in New Jersey. We bought some new towels so a few of the old ones could go down there. A few of the mugs and plates I don't like much were packed up for the trip. Same with some extra blankets and that old butterfly chair. It was great to finally move my tools out of the storage unit in our garage and take them to a place where they'd be put to use.

After the closing on Monday evening, I couldn't wait to drive to the cottage, set up a chair, a lamp and a place to sleep so I could begin the renovation the next morning. I had underestimated just how funky the place is. It smelled awful, and the amount of dirt and grime made me wonder (once again) about the sanity of the previous occupants.

I had brought one of the mattresses from Jackson's bunk bed, planning to put it on the floor. I couldn't bring myself to do that though until I ripped up the carpet in the front room and drug it outside. Otherwise, the smell would keep me awake all night.

I took Sami the dog for a stroll along the beach, amazed by the clarity of the stars as seen over the Delaware Bay on a warm November night. A soft glow in the distance must have been the lights of Philadelphia, about 60 miles away. When I came back to the house, I drank quite a bit of wine so I could fall asleep.

The next morning after going down to the Wawa for a cup of coffee and a donut, I came back and started at the place with a sledge hammer and crowbar. It was satisfying work, but harder than I imagined. As I swung the hammer, I thought of people like George Bush, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum and their ilk. This picture shows how much progress I made. It used to be a kitchen.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Am I blue?

Am I blue? You bet I am. In my anger over the election outcome I've spoken and posted harsh words. And I've offended members of my family with what appear to be insults to their intelligence for their votes. One of my sisters called, barely able to contain her anger with me. I deeply regret the wedge I've driven, and I've spent the last few days wondering exactly how I do feel about them in this context. I've tried to match my boundless love and high regard for them with my disappointment in their—and America's—choice.

My previous post castigated many Bush voters as people who believe sound bytes and do not do critical thinking. This upset my sister the most, and I can see why. She thought I was questioning her values, her decision-making, the very ideas that make her who she is. At first I didn't have a satisfactory answer for her, and couldn't offer a convincing excuse for my ugly words. But I wanted to be able to.

The answer came to me while reading an article in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. The distinction lies in the turn the Republican party has taken from fiscal conservatism to social conservatism. The former is the party of my sisters and their husbands and friends. They hate taxes, and see Democrats as tax-and-spenders. That's a position I can respect, and have respected, about their political affiliation. (Arguably, it's really the opposite, but that's a debate for another day, when our tempers have cooled.)

The latter—the social conservatives—are the people I was accusing of being non-thinkers. People in Ohio without jobs or health care, whose interest clearly isn't served by electing George Bush, but who did so because they were whipped into a fundamentalist lather over red herrings like gay marriage by Rove's lie machine. Reliable surveys show that a majority of Bush voters actually believe Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, and you can bet this lot contribute highly to that number. These are the ignorant people I meant in my post, not you my dear sisters.

I think you voted for Bush because your party affiliation is so strong and reinforced by your peer groups that you'd never consider a Democrat, for any reason. Hell, you guys don't even really like Bart Peterson, I suspect—an angel of a Democrat if there ever was one. I think you overlooked (or forgave) the massive failures of the Bush presidency out of partisan loyalty.

I'm sure you're saying I would do the same if the tables were reversed, and until this election you're probably right. I learned a valuable lesson about partisanship. That's when your guy has abandoned your principles, you abandon him. You might be surprised to know that I split my ticket and voted for a Republican for state senate because the Democrat is an ass.

Not wanting to turn this apology into a lecture, I need to explain why I think your guy abandoned your principles. You love his tax cuts and his aggressiveness, but in times of war, Americans don't seek tax cuts. Remember victory gardens and all the other sacrifices made in World War II? People reached deeper into their pockets and paid for the war themselves. This time, we're reveling in lower taxes while the deficit soars out of control. It's like using credit cards as if there's no tomorrow. Eventually you get to the point where you've reached the limits, and the payments alone drive you to bankruptcy. Bush is doing that to our children. And their children. The next generation will have their own problems to solve (a large part being the cost of our old age), and we're handing them a fiscal black hole on a silver platter. Your party has left fiscal conservatism in the ditch.

A newly-elected senator from Oklahoma believes that women should be put to death for having an abortion. The defense of marriage act uses the constitution to take away people's rights rather than expand them for the first time in our history. The right to open jury trials is being replaced by government tribunals where they decide in secret whether you're guilty and what happens to you. That's the brand of social conservatism which now controls the Republican party. I always respected fiscal conservatism, but I hate social conservatism with a passion and thought you would, too.

Finally, there's the war. If you want to know why I am way more passionate than you about this, go ballistic and say things that hurt your feelings, it's because I am the only one among us whose child is at risk of being sent to Iraq. This war is wrong, profoundly wrong, and it's in a state of meltddown. History will judge it as a bigger mistake than Viet Nam. Your children are grown, too old to serve. That makes supporting the war very much an academic exercise for you. But it's not academic for me. I see Damon in fatigues, and I know he'll be in Baghdad next year trying to prop up this colossal mistake. Jackson's soulmate from kindergarten could lose his life in a pointless fuck-up. Jack is equally at risk. I didn't raise him for that kind of fate and I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't happen.

I hope this tortured explanation helps heal our differences, or at least start a dialog. I love you all and really don't want to leave America.

Your brother (in arms)

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Time to Bail?

This morning I wanted to stay in bed and tried to bury my head under my pillow, fearing what I'd learn about our country when I greeted this post-election day. But morbid curiosity got the better of me and I couldn't go back to sleep. I turned on CNN and even before I had my morning coffee I understood in my gut that the America I once knew and believed in is probably gone forever.

Unrestrained by reelection concerns and aided by more allies in Congress, the gloves (such as they were) will be off. Bushco will take away more of the rights we once took for granted, plunder our riches to line the pockets of oil barons and warmongers, and continue killing our children and the children of others. It's hard to see how much further we can go to alienate those who might have been our allies, but I'm sure we'll be unpleasantly surprised. Idiotic foreign policy will sow generations of hatred in the Muslim world that will make the Crusades look like soccer practice. Fat cats will light their cigars with $100 bills from their tax relief, while generations not yet born get stuck with the bill.

Our beloved America has been stolen from us. First it was the Katherine Harris/Supreme Court cabal that inserted our puppet king in power in 2000. This time I suspect it was electronic voting machines rigged to get the results desired by the right wing that delivered Ohio and Florida.

But the brain-dead populace is just as much to blame. People who plunk their asses in front of television sets live a vicarious life fed by video pablum and sound bytes. They are not exactly critical thinkers, and easily fall for sloganeering like "no child left behind" or "clean air act" when those things really mean just the opposite. We're building schools in Baghdad while Philadelphia's schools are ancient hulking prisons. We're subsidizing oily wasteful transportation that fouls the air while public transit systems crumble and high-speed train travel isn't even on the radar.

It's truly scary to share this country with the rabid fundamentalists and corporate overseers calling the shots. My friend Diane sent an email this morning titled, "I send you healing and consolation." In it she said, "the next campaign begins today - how can we help our poor friends who vote against their own self-interest to wake up and see the truth?"

I'm no longer sure they can be helped. Too much may have been lost already. That's why I called Philadelphia's Irish Citizenship Project today. Maybe it's time to bail. I want my 17 year old son in Ireland next year, not in Iraq buying Bushco's oil with his blood.