Friday, September 26, 2008

Kool-Aid and Cocktails

Got daughter to bed, came up and turned on the debate to hear McCain arguing that his experience with Keating made him best-qualified to deal with the current mess. Bah-dum!

I think I'll just watch this Nick Cave video BA sent my way today. I could listen to this song go forever, and it practically does. Very purgatorial.

The other day the Post Style section asked "Where have all the protests gone?" and answered its question on the next page in the GOSSIP column, where it told of the PEN/Faulkner awards speakers:

"The annual PEN/Faulkner Award gala at the Folger Shakespeare Library -- typically a genteel literary affair -- turned into a mudfest Monday night when two authors launched into denunciations of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

"Like most cult leaders, they really think the public is stupid enough to drink this Kool-Aid," best-selling novelist Terry McMillan said. "I am not taking a sip."...

Poet Amiri Baraka railed that the choice is between Barack Obama or that "patient from the Vietnam War." But it was McMillan ("Waiting to Exhale," "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") who eviscerated the GOP ticket with deadpan sarcasm:

"Now a senior citizen dying to dress up as the new sheriff of this land of opportunity and opportunists, John McCain, alongside . . . his charming VP running mate (who has finally gotten a chance to wear that tiara, even though this is not a beauty nor personality contest), Sarah Tall-and-Pretty Palin, have -- as self-ordained mavericks and reformers -- been making empty . . . promises about how they want to clean up Washington." All McCain really wants, she went on, is to "find a new war to fight"; Palin and her "uneducated snowmobiling husband just want to fly first class."

The crowd laughed a bit; mostly people whispered, "Did she really say that?" Oh, yes, she did -- and more....

We asked local novelist Alan Cheuse, another reader at the gala, if politics had spoiled the party. "Stendhal said, 'Politics in a novel is like a pistol shot in the theater,' " he told us yesterday. "Terry's a very passionate woman and speaks her mind." He called Baraka "a poet and a bit of a propagandist -- his problem these days is that he doesn't know the difference."

Decorum returned for the post-performance dinner in the Folger's Reading Room, where the 250 guests and the authors effortlessly switched from campaigns to cocktails."

Thank heaven things got so quickly back to normal.

Yep, their comments were rough. But ruder than war profiteering? That's, um, debatable. I'd rather have a poet confused about propaganda than a president. Where is the "decorum" in a death toll?

But hell, they're just angry black people, and one of them a poet besides. Marginalize them on the gossip page.

This is where the protests are--everywhere.

I'm thinking about multiple PEN/Faulkner winner E.L. Doctorow and my favorite of his novels, The Waterworks. It's a love poem to the newspaper business and scary and readable as anything by Stephen King. But it's also a look at the riches of the last part of the last century, conspicuous consumption and moral hypocrisy, the North's role in slave trading and war profiteering, and the cynical, damaged, despairing generation that came after these profiteers.

It's about a cabal of old men who want to live and control everything forever.

I'm not one of those who wants to be my child's best friend. But I would like to live now in a manner that my daughter's generation won't despise me later.


mark said...

Let's start with the debate.

Verdict: tie. I would have given it to McCain, if only he had the common decency to look his opponent in the eye, or address him by name. He didn't even do it when they shook hands at the end. (By the way, insolence does not delineate down party or cultural lines. Anyone who argues different is once again trying to distract us with minatue, and gets my vote for King or Queen of Fools.)

Obama scores points, as always, for simply having a plan. McCain justifiably refers to his honorable career in the Congress. That they have differences and that they both made mistakes, we all know this. They sounded like a couple of school kids arguing over bragging rights to the courtship of Lady America. The brainy band kid with the scholarship to Yale and the football hero still basking in the glow of fan adulation. Geeze!!

But did either one of them gives us a clear feel for their future administration? No. Fixing the economy? No. "Talking the talk and walking the walk?" No. Whom to bomb first, Iraq or Pakistan? No. How to viably engage Russia, China or North Korea? No.

Maybe because neither of them really know. What this debate did give us was a feel for their personalities. And here it's Obama all the way. Wotta guy. I'd love to have him over for dinner, actually.

My wife scoffed when the candidates mentioned their solidarity for Poland. I know what she means. She's Polish, and I lived there for five years. McCain, she says - the "soldier boy" (it's weird how when I closed my eyes during his answers, I could perfectly hear my Retired Air Force Dad talking) - understands Europe better than Obama, but the idea that America or the European Union would do anything if Putin grabbed that Caucasian pipeline or attacked Ukraine or Poland.... well, it made her laugh.

Poland finds Russia's aggression alarming, to say the least. Many of my friends and contacts in my old adopted country are all in favor of the planned American missile silos on Poland's eastern border, for no other reason than to deter a Russian attack. I give McCain full props for talking tough about the Bear's evil eye on Ukraine. (Though he still didn't say anything of substance, other than "watch out!") Me, I still see my America manipulating my Poland into another game of "Stump the Russkies!"

We Americans still tend to see this world through our not-quite-rose-but maybe-magenta-colored-glasses and don't understand the caution and mixed emotions the rest of this world views us with. I'm not talking about those from the opposite extreme who view America as the Evil Empire; I'm talking about the America who's fat and lazy and much too cocksure of itself.

Even in our posturing over how bad America has been run into the ground by the current administration and poetical party, we're still so god damned certain that it's up to us to regain our moral footing and lead the way for the rest of the globe. We're still so blessed with the inevitability of our own Manifest Destiny. I mean, it's nice to feel that you're always right, you know? C'mon, I know you know!

Which is why much of the world tuned in for the debate, and will be reading and talking about it tomorrow (or is that today?) in Warsaw and Moscow and Beijing and Tokyo and all the rest. Because Americas believe we're the best - even when we're downright condemning ourselves. We believe we're the best, we act like we're the best, and that makes us dangerous to the rest of the world. Or annoying. Or both.

But did it ever occur to you that we should just shut up for awhile?

Anyway.... Health plan talks? Point to Obama on this one. Any corporate entity that says we have to shell out large sums of our earnings each month into a structure that we largely won't use, and when we do use it we are at the capricious mercy of health care providers who overschedule in the grand rush to stuff their waiting rooms and soak up all the cost benefits they can, keeping us hacking and feverish while surrounded by others who are somehow always reliably worse off than us, spreading the germs in a big old fashioned love fest. And God forbid if we don't start our benefits "on time" or buy into the right plan or have the temerity to contract a pre-existing condition.

Now.... for the economy. McCain may have been on point when he suspended the campaign to engage in Congressional talks. It's always bothered me, these longish campaign seasons. I mean, don't these people have jobs? Stop talking and let me see you in action!

Blame is spread both ways. Golden parachutes? Oh yeah, baby.... just evil how many of the wealthiest will stay wealthy no matter how badly they mismanage things for the rest of us. But there also has been a big push for loans to traditionally heavy-risk clients..... it was called racist and classist when banks did not loan to these demographics, and now it's being called racist and classist again that these loans defaulted. Seems to me it was just a lack of common sense in the guise of politics to secure these loans in the first place.

So, my .... ahem.... bipartisan solution? Have plans for people to receive their Constitution guarantees: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Points to Obama. But don't under any circumstances give them money in hand. Cut spending. Points to McCain.

And leave more money in their pockets by cutting taxes. Points to both.

That was THE problem with this "he said/ he said" debate. Hell, with all debates! Stop talking about how you're going to lead, damn it! Just do it!

Well, as they say in Polish....Na razie.

PS Tine to retire "maverick," "miss congeniality," and "wall street/main street" comparisons. Please!

Maria Padhila said...

Perhaps we might ask ourselves the same bold questions you put to our potential leaders: Should we shut up for a while? Don't we have jobs?

And it's OK to just answer these questions quietly, to ourselves.

mark said...

Sorry 'bout that, Maria. I meant that for a different acquaintance's blog.

But please don't get all herky-perky with me. Everybody who blogs talks too much. Everybody. And the vast majority of us have absolutely nothing to say.

Jill Matrix said...

"This is where the protests are. Everywhere."