That little election we just had

dc114

It’s hard being the only flaming liberal in your little family. Okay, my aunt Vicki is also a flaming liberal. So there are two of us, I guess, among a sea of red. Red so red that I am regularly inundated with emails calling out Obama for not being patriotic enough. Not loving his country enough. Not saluting the flag enough. Not being Christian enough. And my dad has been saying for years that Obama is an undercover Muslim hellbent on destroying the U.S. from the inside. He knows this because he heard it from a guy who does construction for some Muslim dude who said it was true. I like to imagine that scenario: Muslim prankster chews sandwich and scares the shit out of a couple of nearby white dudes by confirming their biggest fear.

I try to keep my mouth shut because we all know arguing with your family about politics is a nonstarter, but sometimes I can’t. Keep arguing long enough and you realize there are parallel realities happening. It’s scary.

Just this weekend my family was in town for Holden’s birthday party and apparently (I found out the next day when I left for work) my brother ripped up my Obama yard sign and my dad replaced it with a Romney sign. I don’t run around ripping up his Confederate flags and putting down, uh, American flags. Because that’s his thing and even though I disagree with it and think it’s divisive and hurtful, that’s his property and his house. I let it be. I reckon those rules have changed though, going by precedent.

Here we are in the afterglow of a re-election victory. What a relief. I haven’t called or texted anyone to gloat. I remember how I felt in 2004 when Kerry lost. Just fucking beside myself with grief. How could the country be so stupid? I’m sure Republicans are reeling in the same way. Those stupid Democrats and their stupid lack of stupid comments about rape. And their stupid legal weed and their stupid marriage equality.

God, I want to gloat.

Four years ago, in January, I got to witness history being made. That picture up there shows an enormous crowd at the Obama inauguration. It was an honor and a fucking blast to be present for that. The vibe was incredible and it’s one of the most important and cool things I have ever done. I’d like to go again.

It feels good to win but it feels even better to see the tide turn toward sanity. I have to remember that it is a tide, though, and sometimes it will recede. We take steps forward and then get yanked back sometimes. You can’t lose hope and you can’t check out. Politics is not a game and I get irritated when I hear people dismiss it as such. Those people in slick suits politicking are going to make the rules you live your life by; you sure as shit better pay attention, read something every now and then, and contribute.

And for god’s sake, don’t get caught on the wrong, hateful side of history.

The one about the Weiner

Like everyone else with a functioning limbic system, I am sick of hearing and talking about Anthony Weiner. But this is one of those controversies where so many people seem to be willfully missing important points, and before you know it, the Dow’s back in the crapper and planes are falling out of the sky while we’re all yelling at each other about a socially retarded congressman who sent prick pics to near-strangers. It’s stupid. But I am going to contribute to the noise because I need to get this out of me so the toxicity of even having to think about this crap does not eventually give me cancer.

I’m glad he’s resigning. I hope this means all the news people will stop saying his name and we can move on now. I think it really, really sucks for the Democrats to lose him because he was an incisive, funny, politically whip-smart pain in the ass to the Republicans. The party needed someone like him because the rest of them, by and large, seem to be able to engage the public about as easily as rotten carp. But you know what? He’s not my ally anymore. He did something exceedingly stupid, he lied about it, he got caught, he needs to go.

Some people keep bringing up other Great Mean in History and pointing to their unsavory personal lives as proof that what Weiner does in his personal life has no bearing on his life as a politician. Saying Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. were dogs with the ladies is a stupid argument. You mean to tell me that American men were freer to womanize without consequence decades and decades ago? When women couldn’t vote or own property or, later, when women were fighting for their civil rights to be recognized as full people and not just homemakerbots and babyfactories? You mean there were men of power who took advantage of their privileged station in life to fuck (and fuck over) whoever they wanted without having to answer for it? Next thing you are going to tell me is that toasters aren’t powered by wishes. Well then, let’s just all agree that since men once upon a time could point their penises at things and declare “WANT!” to a backdrop of trumpet blasts and rainbows, we might ought to keep it that way, or there might not ever be another Great Man In History ever again!

Horse shit.

On that note, the Bill Motherfucking Clinton argument needs to go on and die a stabbed death. “Bill Clinton actually had sex with someone who wasn’t his wife and he didn’t step down!” Believe it or not, Dems with amnesia, there WERE people on your side saying that Clinton should step down. Clinton abused his power in egregious ways and then lied about it (just like some of those other presidents Dems love to villify). He should not be awarded sainthood, he is not the best president ever, and conveniently forgetting about or glossing over his fuckups does not make them disappear. Letting Weiner slide because Bill Clinton lowered the personal-morality bar is a dumb thing to do.

Saying “so and so did a much worse thing and kept his job!” is a non-starter. If we continue to set the pace of the present and future based on how much we let people in the past get away with stupid, egregious fuckups, we are heading for trouble. How does that give us any incentive to evolve toward something greater, to strive to be better tomorrow than we were today? Isn’t that the chief charm of progressivism — to move forward, make progress?

Oh, and here’s something to think about: The fact that we consider abusing power in order to get sex a much less serious issue than abusing power in order to get money says something about how we value the human body and human dignity, doesn’t it?

There is a bit of “boys will be boys” attitude floating among Weiner’s defenders. Again, who’s the wacky man-hater in this scenario? Here’s that bitchy man-hating feminist, who wants all people — especially our supposed leaders — to aspire to be better people than the average flailing dumbass with his dick out on ChatRoulette. And then here are people defending Weiner by saying that men are just programmed to be complete idiots who are at the constant mercy of the muscle twitches of their genitals. Hint: It’s not me, the bitchy man-hating feminist who actually hates and devalues men. I think men are better than the bullshit standards they are often held to.

This scandal is not exclusively about sex and wanting Weiner to go away does not make me or anyone else anti-sex. This is not about legislating morality. It’s about judgment, doing the right thing, leadership, and earning the right to be a representative of the public. We’re not talking about a man who is polyamorous and in a marriage where his wife knows about his sexual proclivities and agrees to them. (If that had been the case, then I’d be the first to say we should all shut up and let the man work. But that requires that all parties involved in the the activities are up to speed on what’s going on. Clearly that is not the case.) We’re talking about deception. Sneakery. He took an oath of total commitment to his wife — who is having his child — and look how he treated her. How on EARTH could he ever treat constituents with any more respect than the one person he promised in a fancy frigging ceremony to put above all others?

Remember when we argued that saying George W. Bush is the kind of guy you could have a beer with is a dumb argument for why he should be president? This is along the same lines. I want my leaders to be better and smarter than the average douchebag. Saying “Anthony Weiner is just another dbag in pursuit of poon so give him a break” is not good enough for me. I want my leaders to be better than that. Smarter than that.

It’s a disservice to continue to think that it’s impossible for us to ever expect that kind of goodness from our leaders.

2 a.m. wine-down

Ahhhh, election night. I’ve been home roughly an hour now and I’m a glass in and I just want to listen to Sleigh Bells because it’s simple and dirty and distorted and I kind of just want to bob my head along to a beat right now. I have to keep the volume at a reasonable level, I suppose, because I am no longer the only person in my house. I kind of love that. I feel like I’m getting away with something. There are cats perched around me, just trying to be within reach of me. They are my sitting, slit-eyed sentinels, constantly eying my lap for an in. Just now we all heard a bump in the night outside and they sat up with those crazed owl ears, blinking slowly and contemplating the best way of ignoring whatever it is out there so they can get back to their snoozing.

It’s nearing 2:30 a.m. and I feel wired in the head and shot in the body. Election night does that to a person. I came in to work clutching a venti coffee and I finished off my night with a cup of the black stuff. We won’t even really talk about the unholy amount of assorted leftover Halloween candy the design desk consumed out of a plastic bag. That shit was so unexpected that even reporters were coming over to get handfuls. “You gotta protect your sources!” I told them when they said others were asking where the sweets came from.

Tennessee took a hard turn to the right tonight, it seems. Meh. I find myself unable to get too worked up over it. Steve Cohen still kicked major ass in my district, yay, but as for the rest of the state, well, not too many of my beloved home state’s Democrats have ever really acted like bona fide Democrats, so I’m trying to figure out how a Republican majority will be all that much different. (I am not daring you to show me just how fucked up you can make things, Universe, so calm down.)

As for the country, well, hell. The pendulum is going to swing. I remember the palpable relief I felt on election night in 2008 when Obama had edged out McCain and his wide-eyed, Bumpit-befitted sidekick Palin. It was as if a wave of pragmatic reasonableness had overtaken voters, and I felt comfortable and happy and hopeful. And yet half of the country started buying up ammo because they thought it was the End Times. Fuuuuck.

I’m sad that what I saw as an optimistic, progressive push didn’t last longer but I’d be naive if I believed that this whole system didn’t take a one-step-forward-two-steps-back formation on purpose. It is what it is. What it is sucks, yes, and needs tweaking. I don’t for a second believe that the main thrust behind the tea party is legitimately grassroots or anchored in small-government libertarianism. I’m embarrassed for tea-party supporters who think that their freshman representatives are going to do anything but be steamrolled by congressional Republicans into towing the GOP line. Perhaps it’s somewhat akin to the way I secretly believed Obama would shake the haters off and rule unapologetically progressively without even pantomiming the cross-aisle reach that always inevitably led to Republican loogies being aimed at Democrat eyes. We all know how that turned out. I find myself wishing he was more of an asshole and less of a diplomat. What a country.

God, I’m so sick of politics. But I’m never going to be free of those toxins, I suppose, because I can’t just ever not care. In work or leisure.

Topical humor for your Thursday

I have some hack-and-slash Photoshoppery for you:

stupid

I hope no one else beat me to it, but that whole collective consciousness thing leads me to believe someone probably did.

‘Restoring’ ‘honor’

Saturday morning I got up shortly after 11, just in time to remember that the White Privilege Wankfest was streaming live online and I should probably watch some of it. The term “White Privilege Wankfest” is probably not going to sway many people who don’t already think that’s what it is, I realize, but I have never been known for my measured, diplomatic argument style and, frankly, would much rather call this spade a motherfucking spade than pretend to play nice with the nastiness that is driving much of the tea party/Restoring Honor/etc. backlash these days.

I was surprised at the huge turnout, which immediately led to a deep feeling of pity. Which sounds condescending, I guess. And maybe it is. I do not understand how or why anyone would follow Glenn Beck anywhere for any purpose. He has worked so hard to cultivate a nasty, fear-mongering, hyperbolic persona who “cries” on command and “feels” deeply for his country. That anyone takes anything he says for true and right is proof that we need to educate people better about television and how people who are on it for a living are pretty good bullshitters and maybe not the best people to throw your allegiance behind in times of what you perceive as national crises.

The flipside of that is how ridiculous it feels to get so worked up over what Glenn Beck says and does; after all, he’s a just a huckster on TV. Except, well, my fellow Americans sure do like to give a lot of power to hucksters on TV.

I made a throwaway comment on Twitter on Thursday about how I couldn’t believe any reasonable conservative would be on board with the ill-timed Beck rally. I thought this was a fringe event, I really did. Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone could NOT be at least a little squicked out by the timing and the framing of the rally. But Mick Wright called me out and asked me why I thought what Beck was doing was gross. And I thought he was being facetious or coy. He wasn’t. At all. Sometimes it seems like there are vast, impassible chasms between the left and the right, and in very fundamental, non-political ways.

So. Saturday morning I watched Beck’s wrap-up of the event, cringing at his every over-emphasized emotional flail. I listened to what he said, and watched a stream of tweets on the side of the webpage. Lots were excited that Beck was talking about the nation returning to God. Lots were talking about how much of a moron Beck is. Some said Beck was doing God’s work, that he was a modern Patrick Henry. Buhh? Meanwhile, the buzz around the nets was that the rally had turned out to not be political at all, that it had turned into one big white tent revival (yes, I know there were some brown people in attendance; the cameras stalked them something fierce).

And sure enough, Beck wrapped up by pleading with his followers to get the country back to God.

But that is hardly apolitical. In fact, that is an insanely political bomb to drop on a crowd.

And it scares the shit out of me, and should scare you too.

I don’t want my country to get back to God. I don’t even know what that means, pragmatically. I can line up ten people and get ten different definitions of what God is. If you think that is a solid foundation for the day-to-day operations of government, then I’d like to go build sandcastles with you, because you’ve got more faith in rocky foundations than I do.

You get the country back to God and once again you’re giving nonbelievers and skeptics like me the finger. And guess what: Nonbelievers and skeptics count too. We get to be a part of this big crazy experiment too. And not just on a token, tolerated basis either. (Don’t let me get started on the myth of Christian persecution in this country; try electing an atheist president and see how far you get.)

Here’s what evangelical Christians need to understand about this insane plea for a governmental return to God:

You start basing/strengthening laws based on interpretations of your religion’s holy books, and you are setting yourself up. Sure, right now Christianity is the prevailing religion in the United States, so evangelical Christians feel righteous in their push to base our laws on whatever morality they interpret from the Bible (good luck cherry picking which edicts to adopt). But what happens when you have entrenched godly law into the country’s fiber and suddenly Christianity isn’t so hot anymore? What if the Christian alarmists are right and the EVIL SCOURGE OF ISLAM TM* actually does eventually get a good foothold in this country? Then what? You think out of respect for the Christian minority, these laws will still be interpreted based on what people think the Christian god wants? So many Christians are convinced that Sharia law is coming to America (horrors, they’re building mosques, which are just underground political nodes, EVERYWHERE!!!!!) that the best way they can think to combat what’s frightening them is by returning our government to … God? Whose god? Whoever is in power?

No no no no no.

We must fight for a completely secular government that exists independent of the whims of ANY religion, including yours. Find a common ground of human decency and bolster it with the understanding that we are all free and it’s the government’s job to ensure those freedoms. Turn to god, if you wish, in your own life. But pushing to re-establish and strengthen Christian hegemony in basic government/school/etc. functions is the least stable thing you can do for this country.

I just want to know: What honor was restored Saturday? From whom are we taking our country back? How has this country strayed from its basic values or, perhaps more specifically, which basic values have been abandoned? How will a God injection save the republic and its people? These are questions Beck left unanswered. These are questions the rally attendees in videos I’ve seen from the event have left unanswered, even when asked to provide specific examples of their grievances and ideas for change.

This country has a short but brutal history. We don’t have as honorable a past as many would like to believe, and we all have benefited from things we’d probably just as soon never know about. When I hear “we need to return to our country’s values,” all I hear is “take me back to the mythical good old days, when [X] folks knew their place and my right to certain kinds of power was never subject to changing social tides.”

You may not be saying that, but if you align yourself with Beck and Sarah Palin and their ilk, you might as well be squawking it from rooftops.

Oh, and? If you suddenly woke up in 2010 and decided that the country had gotten to a deeply fucked-up place and it’s all because of Barack Obama, then I am going to laugh at you. I’m sorry. But how utterly ridiculous.

*that’s supposed to be a superscript but my superscript code isn’t working! wahhh!

Lady, have you been in a coma for a couple of decades?

I’m combing the interwebinars for Memphis Tea Party coverage to post to The Memphis Blog, and I’m seeing a good deal of dumb/awful/racist/troubling/violent signs, but here’s one that I honestly just don’t understand.

T-minus two weeks

I’ll be in Washington, D.C., two weeks from this very moment. It’s kind of ridiculous how it has crept up on me, and how unprepared I feel. Actually, that part’s not ridiculous at all; I routinely fly places while being fully unprepared. I don’t ever get fully prepared for anything, really.

One thing I need to do is procure a proper winter coat. When I visited Chicago in mid-December of 2007, I very nearly froze to death after being outside for three minutes because my wussy little trenchcoat did little more than shield me from the most timid of breezes. I’m told D.C. can be brutally cold in January and I’d hate to get there and then be unable to move because of my own inability to dress myself appropriately.

(Of course, if I go and buy an $80 coat — how much do coats these days cost, anyway? — it’s pretty much guaranteed to be 60 degrees in D.C. when I’m there. Which is also fine. In fact, that would be effing awesome, right?)

I’ve been officially turned down for inauguration tickets (thanks for nothing, Steve Cohen!!!) so I don’t exactly know what I will or won’t be able to see and do. I figure I’ll do a lot of wandering around, pushing through crowds, trying to find the top of my gracious pal David’s head, and standing on tip-toes. Lots of squinting. Which is fine. Just being there will be an amazing experience in and of itself. But it sure would be nice to feel like I had some chance of actually participating in more than the sheer spectacle of four million crazies descending upon the Capitol. I am one of those crazies, so I can hardly complain. I realize that people watching their televisions from home might get a better view than I will get, actually being there, but I am still so excited to get the chance to tap in to the electricity that I hope will be buzzing through the city that day. And then coast on that high through the rest of the week while I tour museums and see what the local watering holes are like.

My dad is super worried and convinced that a complete meltdown of human order is going to happen. He’s not keen on the idea of his little girl being in the thick of such a major news event, but I think that once it’s over and everything has more or less gone smoothly, he’ll be the first to brag to his work friends that I was there, witnessing it all. At least I hope he’ll brag. I want him to understand how important this is to me, to our country, to civilization in general. I want him to feel some semblance of pride. Not fear. This needs to be a good moment for him and people like him. I’ve got all my digits crossed in the hopes that everything goes smoothly and that people can come together to celebrate this amazing victory without conflict.

But, well, we’ll see.

Surreal

People coming to buy papers

They are directing traffic in the parking lot of my office so that people can drive up and buy editions of today’s paper. Demand was so high that they printed up 40,000 additional copies and they’ll be offering up other promotional items in the days to come.

I’ve not been in the newspaper business very long, so I’ve only lived through an era in which print is said to be dying a slow death. I’ve never really known what it feels like to face great demand for your product, so I have to confess: It’s flippin’ awesome.

Things that are making me stupid giddy right now

fucking finally

Isobamapresidentyet.com (seen above) and Palinaspresident.com

• My man won. I have backed him all along and I can’t even tell you what a relief it is to see him come out ahead with such a wide margin. I have faith in him and I know fully well that he could disappoint me hugely (being human and all) but I believe in his essential goodness enough to really really root for him to do the right thing and feel reasonably confident that he will make good judgments and surround himself with good, sensible people. Coming off of eight years of following what seemed to be an absurd and ironic morality play, it is going to take some time to get used to being led by an intellectually curious and fairly inspiring personality. What a dilemma, right?

• We got happy hour prices and a free shot of tequila tonight (and a plastic election-night hat!) at The Cove. And there were people there shaking noisemakers and shouting “Viva la revolucion!” And the barkeep made a funny face when I ordered tequila and wine at the same time. We finally explained where we worked and I think then he understood the urgent need for liquor, which is, I think, why we got the discount.

• Sarah Palin might very well become a historical footnote, and hopefully a cautionary tale about how sex appeal used as political strategy is FUCKING BOGUS.

• This country just evolved. Just took a major leap forward. Fifty years ago it was perfectly fine to deny black people participation in our society. And now? Clearly their participation is fucking crucial and important and in a fully undeniable way (as it should have been all along). Apparently there are some white folks who don’t understand why their fellow white folks would get emotional and excited about the prospect of a non-white presidential candidate. To which I can only say IF YOU DON’T GET IT, THEN YOU DON’T FUCKING GET IT AND NO ONE IS OBLIGATED TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU.

• Tears if joy. When’s the last time I actually cried those?

Today

I’m so excited/nervous/barfy/worried about how today is going to unfold. I have my hunches and my hopes, but we all know those don’t amount to a hill of vomit-flavored jelly beans.

I remember being so full of hope in 2004 and then feeling all that slip away like sand in my fingers. Dirty, stinking, fickle sand that I clearly never had a grasp on anyway. Waking up and knowing Bush had managed to pull it out and that so many people I know and loved helped him just wrecked me. I was embarrassed and angry and just defeated at the prospect of four more years being led by a borderline evil and ineloquent fucktard. Knowing the Dubya era is now coming to a close and that it might actually give way to something positive and potentially unifying fills me with hope and the delicious saltwater tears of pride.

I don’t know how I will handle another defeat. No, really. If this country unites in complacency and fear and puts Grumpy and Dopey in office, I am going to have to take some time to think real hard about what that means.

I have never worked a presidential election at a real paper before. We’ll have pizza and cookies and I’ll be swilling coffee, so chances are I might go into sugar shock before it’s all over. I’m going in early and staying late to make sure we do it right. Also, because my nerves are about to eat me alive and sitting around the apartment in my pajamas isn’t making me feel any better.

History is about to be made, y’all. Let’s be on the good side of it.

(Election-day work pimpage: The CA has a really cool project mapping local polling places and what’s happening at them.)