Tuesday, November 16, 2004

My New Rule

Here is something that's bugging the crap out of me--the neighbors across the street put up their Christmas decorations a week ago. Now I am a lover of freedom of self-expression, and I hate stupid neighborhood association rules that dictate what color you can paint your house and how you can landscape it, blah, blah, blah. Your property is your little piece of the earth for which you have paid dearly, and while I'm all for architectural integrity and that kind of thing, a good many of these people who make neighborhood association rules don't know what the hell they're talking about. They also make rules like no clotheslines, because damn it, who cares about using all the energy we want to run our gas dryers? (Don't get me wrong. I love my gas dryer. I'm just sayin'.) However, I would support a federal law that said no Christmas decorations before the day after Thanksgiving. (Retailers have different considerations, so they are exempt.)

Also, I love Christmas. However, since I am now one of the ones with the major responsibility to make the magic, it's a lot of work. I save personal energy all year so I can cook and shop and wrap and decorate and entertain. This is why I need Thanksgiving. Even though I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, and that too will be a lot of work, it's different. Thanksgiving is laid-back and sweet and relatively simple. Therefore, I don't want Santa and reindeer and bows and lights and a lit-up American flag and all manner of glittering kitsch staring me in the face everytime I look out my living room window. Believe me, no one loves glittering kitsch more than me after Thanksgiving. I love that these people go all out. They do it for Halloween too. I realize that some people like to put up the lights on nice days so they don't have to do it in the freezing cold, but they don't have to turn them on. Can't they wait two weeks?

Thanksgiving is wonderful, and it's for everybody. People like me will inundate everyone soon enough with our peculiar celebrations of this religious season. Can't these folks give everyone a break, and let Thanksgiving be the lovely calm before the storm?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Fecundity and Dispersal

OK, one more election thing, then I'm moving on. Today I heard something on NPR (an advertisement for something upcoming on Day to Day) that confirmed what I suspected. Conservatives have more babies. Now, barring the kind of religious and political diversity that exists within my own family--we have Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans, liberal and conservative Christians, agnostics, Wiccans-- usually that certainly improves one's chances to eventually produce voters in concert with one's own ideology. I thought it was just a goofy notion of my own, but apparently someone else checked it out , and it is so. Now, I am pretty much out of that loop at this point, but young liberals: have more babies!! No more of these two-child, environmentally, socially responsible families.That's just cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if one or two of your kids turn, surely you'll keep a few of them within the fold.

Here's my other idea. There was (still is) a sub-group of Libertarians who support something called called the
Free State Project who got people to sign up and pledge to move within a certain number of years to a state on which they would vote, and therefore create a political majority in that state. ( They eventually voted for New Hampshire.) Now, considering the Electoral College, that's the wrong way for liberals and Democrats to go. The blue states are too concentrated. The red states must be infiltrated. It seems the best strategy would be to go where margins of victory were narrow, and move in enough blue population to create an electoral majority. What made me think of this is that my husband and I have been thinking for some time about moving to one of the red states once he retires. In recent weeks, this has seemed like a horrifying thought, until it occurred to me that some of my like-minded friends are also in various red states.

As Linus Pauling said, you have to have a lot of ideas for a few good ones to show up. I'm not saying this is a good one. (It will probably turn up that I'm not the only one it occurred to.) I'm just working on having a lot of ideas.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Election perspective Part 2: Action

In my last post, I stated that two things were called for: perspective and action.I It's very important that we think about what we can do over the next two to four years to ensure that 48% of us are recognized and heard. Some things we can do are join and become involved in our local Democratic parties. We can e-mail our legislators. We can send letters to the editors of our local newspapers. We can e-mail and call in to radio and television talk shows, including the ones we disagree with, so we can challenge the logic of those with whom we disagree when necessary. In short, we can stay informed, aware, and make sure that we are very, very visible All politicians understand numbers.
Now here's the hard part: when we do these things, we must temper our passion with respect. We must be behavioral, and we need to anticipate their counterarguments and be prepared to answer them. Here is an example of what some people did locally shortly before the Iraq War started that I found disrespectful, off-putting, and ultimately counter-productive. They had an anti-war protest, all well and good. However, they took their protest out into the street and blocked traffic during the late/afternoon and evening rush hour. They did not think about the fact that they might be thwarting someone anxious to get home to their latchkey kids, or perhaps a single parent who would now have to pay the day-care provider for the extra time. They did not think that they might be blocking someone trying to get to their night job, the kind where you get paid by the hour. They were very committed to their point of view, which was good, but I'm sure they turned off a lot of people who before that might have been willing to pay attention and listen. I think seeing people protesting with dignity and consideration would have been more thought- provoking. It's about trying to win people over, not piss them off..
Of course, almost everybody is busy and we can't do all of the things suggested all of the time. However, we can take 15 minutes to write and send e-mail to legislators and media outlets. We need to ask ourselves if we have made ourselves heard lately, and in many forums where there is a great deal of visibility: not just electronically but in the kinds of newspapers and magazines that people hold in their hands and maybe stash away for later reading, and in the kinds of radio and TV talk shows that a lot of the people who disagree with us listen to. I think a lot of us do a lot of preaching to the choir, and we associate most of the time with people who pretty much think like us. That's natural, just not really that effective in trying to change things.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Election perspective

The number of people who have been shedding tears (including me) over Bush’s win and Kerry’s loss has surprised me. I thought campaign workers and I were the only ones who cried over election outcomes. I think there are two things that will help us through this time: perspective and action.
When I first started voting in presidential elections, Reagan and Bush, Sr. were the victors the first three times I voted. By my fourth presidential election in 1992, my guy won. So, to the young folks who came out enthusiastically to vote for Kerry, I say, don’t get discouraged. There will be elections in which your candidate will prevail. Not only that, but in two years there will be mid-term elections in which people in many states will have the opportunity to reconfigure the House and the Senate, and herein lies our opportunity to hold the people who represent us accountable.
Also, I take heart that 49% of those voting did NOT vote for Bush. Even though Bush/Cheney are claiming a mandate, their side knows we’re out here. If not, we will remind them.
As for the country, I think we’re still in a state of grief but don’t always recognize that . As I told my son, it’s like in some families when someone in the family dies. At first everyone comes together and supports each other through the rough times. Then before you know it, everyone’s at each other’s throats about who gets Granny’s teacups. Of course, Granny’s teacups are worthless, certainly not worth tearing the family apart; people aren’t thinking rationally, although in better times they are quite capable of rational thought. Eventually, some people come back to their senses and realize the family can’t go on like this even though they know they‘re always going to have to deal with the few remaining hotheads. It was never about the teacups at all, but not knowing how to deal with that sense of helplessness.
I think another thing we have to avoid is the us vs. them mentality. The most important reason is because it’s beneath us both as Americans and human beings. Another more practical reason is that we have to listen in order to understand what drives and motivates people. If we take the position that we are smart and they are stupid, we are kind and they are heartless, people with different philosophies are going to become further alienated from one another. Then one side wins and another side loses, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Another thing I think is going on is that there have been so many changes in perspective and culture that people are overwhelmed. People are at least talking about things that they never would have discussed 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. For people who are younger, it’s hard to explain the massive culture shift that has occurred. When I was a little girl, I was the only kid I knew with a divorced, working mom. I did not meet an openly gay person until I was in my second year of college. Now there are 5 gay guys with a hit TV show based on the idea that they are gay. I think there are many younger people now are used to dealing with things changing quickly, but there are other people whose heads are spinning .
I have more to say about this, but for now I think we have to be careful of how the media sometimes reduces people's deeply felt beliefs, fears, hopes and values into stupid pundit-friendly and inaccurate sound bites, which I believe minimizes our complexity as human beings and causes us to misunderstand each other even more than we already do.