Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Lost Vote

My father’s family came to this country in 1911 from Southern Italy. By the early 1920’s my grandfather, by all accounts a gentle man who wielded an iron sledgehammer of control over the lives of his wife and children, insisted that everyone be naturalized. He also insisted that voting was not an option for the male members of the family. Women were not allowed to vote, except for my Irish mother who did pretty much what she pleased. On the night before every election the men gathered for food and fighting, wine and fighting, sweets and fighting - sometimes fist fighting. Although, I could never figure out what the hell they were fighting about, they were all Democrats. Nonetheless, they were at it until time to go vote and sometimes report to the emergency room in that order.

When Grandpa died and my papa inherited the iron sledgehammer, Grandma came to live with us. Since my father was even more fanatical about voting then my grandfather he demanded that my grandmother vote. I remember the day he told her. The look in her eyes was abject terror. This was a peasant, born into a peasant’s world. She told my father that she was afraid the police would come and take her if she didn’t vote the right way. The old man in his infinite wisdom assigned me to help her because she didn’t read English and because my mother, the granddaughter of a Suffragette, was highly suspect of family sedition – being a Republican.

For several elections, local, state and off year, we struggled to gather information, think about it, make a choice and go vote. I went with her into the voting booth because everyone knew she could not negotiate the language. She would often say to me, "What do you think little rabbit?"

"What can I think Granny?" I replied. "I am nine."

Finally there came an election that she got very excited about. We gathered all the information we could from newspapers, television and the radio. She wore a campaign button everywhere she went. I bought her a poster for her bedroom door with my allowance. She told people she met on the street that she was going to vote for the “little Irish boy who wants to be President.”

Four days before Halloween 1960, some 50 years ago on this day, my grandmother suffered a massive stroke and died. She never got to cast her vote. I would have loved to cast it for her, but that wasn’t possible. I am sure there are cynics out there who would say that the election was rigged in Chicago by Daily, or that he didn’t need her vote anyway. I think he would have been happy to have it.

I loved and respected my grandmother. She was a courageous woman, genetically predisposed to optimism and hope. She was born and raised in an Italian vineyard. She worked there much of her life, giving birth to two of her sons on the ground next to the vines. She came to this country with her husband and gave birth to eight more children, burying four of them along the way. She left her quasi
feudal world and traveled several centuries into the middle part of the 20th all in one lifetime. Yes, I think Kennedy would have been happy to have her vote.

Even though her love was unconditional, I don’t know if she would respect the woman I have become. Our sense of duty, family, honor and loyalty are light years apart. She would be terrified of my religion as she was terrified of my mother’s mother who taught me. Still, I believe that wherever she is she understands that every vote I cast is cast in part to make up for her lost vote and all the lost votes of the generations of women who were kept from voting. The Franchise is not a right; it is a legacy, a light in the darkness, a path out of oppression. My grandmother was a peasant who learned to be a free woman. Why in hell would anyone want to stop voting and go backward?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eighteen Days Out

The Grateful Dead called its compilation album, "What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been." They could just as easily have applied that title to the election season of 2010. Long, oh yeah. It started roughly twenty-two minutes after the inauguration of President Obama by the media’s lights, and for the right very soon thereafter as the Republicans began to publicly grind out a chorus of mantras and allegation aimed at his political demise.

Strange? Believe me, this has been one of the strangest off year elections in my memory. Take for instance, the Tea Parties that seem to metastases faster than glandular tumors from state to state. They have no platform other than rage against a disenfranchisement that has not occurred. They see Communist-Socialist-Muslim-Nazis under the bumper of every car, and hate President Obama because he is a Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist-maybe Communist-Nazi. Their philosophy, if that is what you want to call it, is like something out of Serling’s Twilight Zone.

Through their psychosis they have the Republican Party on the ropes and the media in their pocket. I keep thinking of Salvador Dali’s painting, “The Persistence of Memory.” In his vision a clock is draped over a branch, another is wearing a suit and a third is sliding like molasses off a raised platform. Clocks are appropriate - how much longer will we have to deal with the false legitimacy of this distorted mental picture?

Indeed how much longer will we have to live out our political dreams in the theater of the absurd? Consider last night’s debate between Sharon Angle (Tea Party darling) and Harry Reid in Nevada. Ms. Angle’s stupidity is surpassed only by her arrogance, yet she is spoken of as a serious candidate for the Senate. Her entire performance last night seemed to revolve around insulting Reid, squealing about the need for an unrestrained Free Market and remaking Social Security in that Market’s image.

Reid for his part stammered and stuttered and demurred like a frightened debutant at her first dance. When Angle snarled at him to, "man up," he could have told her to, "grow up, consigning Social Security to the Free Market and Wall Street is tantamount to financial homicide." Did he? No, he did not. He just kept attempting to elucidate his achievements with ever diminishing effectiveness.

Throughout this election season of darkness and decay lies have bloomed in the halls of power and the hearts of the American people like wild flowers in a field. Obamacare - socialized medicine, death panels, increased taxes, stimulus isn’t working, Sharia Law is taking the place of the Constitution in this country, and our president is a secret Muslim, ad nauseum. In my estimation some of this stuff is laughable, and some is treasonable. Some of it is obviously nuts and some deeply offensive.

Take the fact that within the last day or so the Empress of Deceit, the Queen of Fraud, and the Demigod of Destruction, Sarah Palin, has taken a statement of Michelle Obama’s out of context and used it to imply that the First Lady has never met a member of the Armed Forces nor does she care about them. One of Mrs. Obama’s signature causes is helping the families of service men and women. She has taken more care and done more good for these families then most of us know. I would like to know what Palin has done for them recently other than using them as political fodder.

No matter how outlandish, idiotic, foolish, destructive or Nixonian, the media clings to these lies, these distortions of Palin and her ilk like drunks clinging to a wall because they can’t stand up straight. The media’s powerful voices hardly bother to correct the falsehoods, and this is yet another thing that has made it all so bizarre, so weird, so surreal over this unending election season.

C.S. Lewis said, "Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn." We Liberals have had a brutal political experience. There have been times when it seemed that even the Democrats had no use for us. Still we and we alone carry FDR, JFK and RFK’s banner. That is a heady responsibility and we can’t allow their standard to drop into the mud for buffoons with tea bags on their head to tread upon. We may need another party, a Liberal Party, but not now.

I have learned that many of our leaders are weak, and we must be strong for them. I have learned that our opponents gain strength daily from their deceit, their cruelty and their innate racism aided and abetted by the media. Eighteen days out from the November election and I am sure of one thing, the bitter lesson of the past two brutal years is simply this – if we don’t stand up now and turn out we are doomed to government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich run by Tea Party influenced or intimidated fanatics who consider love a failing and hate a virtue. Please vote!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Goodbye for Now

Soon the sweet scent of the rose will be just a memory drifting out on the West Wind. Pine and wood smoke will replace her gentle elegance as snow covers the grass and the skies turn gray. A true gardener laments the coming of Autumn - the first song of Winter - just a little. The fading of the last mum is like the loss of a rare and beautiful love. Even though the flowers will return in streams of color and joy from spring to summer they are deeply missed at the evening of the year, through its midnight and into the dawn of the next.

When I was a child my father, the finest gardener I have ever known, told me that Heaven's seasons are the opposite of ours. When the pale gown of Winter covers the Earth the souls of all the flowers bloom above to delight the saints. My father and I did not share a faith, but we shared an understanding of the inestimable spiritual significance of the flower.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What is Really Going On - A Rant

What is the hope behind Citizens United and all the subsequent money poured into political campaigns? Is it that the vote of the American people is for sale? We know that our elected representatives have been walking upon and down K Street in their Joan Crawford hurt-me-pumps singing “Hey Sailor” for years. We know what they are, but is it possible that the Republican Front Man, John Roberts, and his masters on the Hill think that we are the same? Are we? If we aren’t does it matter how much money is pumped into cable advertising, internet soliciting or the ever gaping holes in the faces of the legions of pundits? If we aren’t for sale then money is just green paper, like a vampire it has to be invited in to hurt you.

Perhaps, it isn’t money at all. Perhaps, a myth or an outright lie is being perpetrated here. Since there is no real-time benefit for the voter from large amounts of money flowing into the political arena, can we believe that a man or woman will vote against a quality education for their children simply because an expensive ad campaign instructs them to do so? Is a slick commercial enough to induce a working person to vote for someone who opposes the minimum wage? In other words, have we got any reason to believe that people vote on the basis of the money given to others rather than their own self interests?

I ask these questions only because I am sick of the world according to media false prophets, as corporate driven as any Wall Street banker. It is my belief that the anti-intelligence, xenophobic movement is far worse than the money – it is the root cause of voter nullification. Deep, critical thinking, higher education, and a fluent use of the English language are discouraged by many on the Right. No reading Shakespeare – he was British. No reading Voltaire – he was French. The unwashed and malleable masses of the GOP are too extraordinary to ever bother with or learn from civilizations hundreds of years older than their own.

Every election season it starts, the new dummying down of the electorate. Don’t think, don’t question, don’t not do what you have always done. Your betters will tell you what to feel, what to expect, what you need, when you can organize. They will proclaim their love of your Jesus while worshiping their Mammon and calling it all Free-Market Capitalism.

I think of all of this as deliberate, slovenly ignorance. My dear friend Kitty feels that it is a lack of education. I defer to her on this, as I defer to her on many things. Still there are times when I hear some over paid twit disregard the adjective case and refer to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party that I would like to bitch-slap them back to the prom.

Thank you for listening.