In the devolution of the species, hope

I was at a meeting outside of city today.  I took a commuter train.  It was exciting for me, the ultimate city dweller.  No, I can’t imagine an everyday commuter thinking this way.  And I was “reverse commuting” so the uncrowded train made it like I was going to spend a day in the country. (Except that I was in a dress and heels.)

Yes, it is ok to roll your eyes at the seen-it-all-yet-wide-eyed New York City girl.

I went to the 125th Street stop because who needs to schlep to Grand Central Station if you live on the Upper West Side?  First thing: look at the landscape and determine that the on-coming train was going in the right direction.  To get my bearings, I noted the Triborough Bridge (ok, the RFK Bridge to those born yesterday).  The sky and views on a Fall morning were in fact spectacular (if you are a city kid, like me).

Then, I had to ask the conductor or engineer (whoEVER) if it was getting on the correct train.  Never, ever, ever, in decades of riding New York subways, have I ever had to ask such a question of train personnel.

But the truth is that for all my New York smarts, I have no confidence that I could navigate the commuting life successfully.  Checking train schedules, timing it just right, missing a train because of subway delays, would send my blood pressure into the stroke zone.

It was a great meeting and a valuable trip.  Business potential, brain engaging projects, blah blah.  A promising day on the road to a working person’s Utopia.  (Where did those days of idealism go? Oh, mortgage and tuition.  Right.)

And then.

After our day long meeting, an assistant at the company drove me the three steps to the train station.  (I am exaggerating; it is a FIVE minute walk.)  She was so gracious and insistent and I was wearing heels, that I couldn’t refuse the offer and the hospitality.

We were having a lovely conversation on the way down to the parking lot and through the quaint suburban streets.   A crazy driver with his (I assume) family nearly sideswiped us (at the time, I couldn’t help but think the road aggression was personal), as he tried to barrel ahead through non-existent traffic.  Then he started to weave on town streets (but not drunkenly so), only to come up beside us and yell:

“Snapperhead!”

Whaaat?  I never heard that word before.

“Well, that was unpleasant,” my gracious host replied.

“What does that even mean? I have never heard that before.”

“It is a derogatory word for Korean.”

Whoa.  Did I imagine the earlier aggression? Was he gunning for her?

“Can I get out and beat him with my heels?”

I was so mad and so outraged at this man with a child in the back seat saying such a thing, TEACHING such a thing, that I was ready to fight hate with violence.  And that is the wrong way to change hearts and minds but it would have felt really good, especially since he was getting ready to drive away and I only had a few seconds to deliver a message.  And I thought a “FUCK YOU” message was the least I could do.

“I have heard worse and the really sad thing is that there is a child in the car who will learn from him.”

“I know.  I get that.  And I am sorry that about my outburst about beating him with my heels.  That is not the answer.”

“I get called names a lot.  It hurts but I don’t let it get me down.”

That stunned me.  A lot?  What is happening to this country?

“I sort of get that, in a small way.” But really the only reason I, an otherwise white, privileged woman, get it is because I am gay.  So, I continued, “I am gay and the hateful things people have shouted at me when I least expect it is so much harder for me because my guard is down.  Here we are having a very funny conversation, and someone spews hate out his window.  What a misguided coward.”

“Now,” my new friend said, “I don’t get that discrimination. . . .”

I was shocked.  How do you think of others in this situation?  My new friend has a kind and gentle soul  Our conversation continued as to how to undo and prevent these types of prejudices.  I was almost late for my train.

In the midst of suburban quaintness, immense wealth and potential deal-making, there converged narrow-minded ugliness and the resilience of the derided person’s sense of humanity and justice.

And a moment shared between two women of different backgrounds, cultures, economic classes, and races, who have both been bruised by prejudice, albeit to different degrees.

That was moment that turned a good day into a great day.  And filled an otherwise cynical New Yorker with hope.

Countdown to Sequester and other problems

“Sequester” will be a reality in less than two weeks.  Economic and political chaos visible on the horizon.  The Congress and the White House are in their respective corners, blaming each other.

McCain is yelling “cover-up!” on Benghazi, while under Bush’s watch, the attacks on our embassies were incalculable and the lives lost a moral travesty.

Syria is being armed by the Russians, even though Britain made a statement that Russia had stopped, further isolating Prime Minister Cameron from the EU and the world.

The President golfs with Tiger Woods. It is ok now, say those who only speak on the condition of anonymity, because he isn’t running for re-election.  I guess Michelle Obama hasn’t taught Barry enough about the rage of women.

The White House rankles partisan divides by leaking an immigration plan. Marco Rubio flamed out in his response to the State of the Union.  So much for Time’s savior of the GOP.

The Keystone Pipeline and fracking are gaining momentum even as the dire environmental implications are clear.

Ashley Judd is taking on Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat.  He looks ever more like a chicken that Frank Perdue wouldn’t serve.

For anyone keeping score on this contest between the government and nation, the nation is losing.  Badly.

Tax Day is coming up and for the first time in my life (read, even under George W. Bush), I am not proud to pay my taxes.  Why? A bunch of clowns run our government.

GROW UP OR GET THE HELL OUT.

 

 

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

an H-E-N-D

H-E-N-D?  Human-engineered, natural disaster.  Hurricane Sandy.  I would have called it a man-made natural disaster, but that sounded too oxymoronic (however, true).

And it would confuse the morons who don’t believe that humans are at least, in part, responsible for climate change.  Ok, I don’t have to be insulting, but let’s just leave it like this:  it has to better for the planet if we don’t dump toxins in the oceans or let toxins loose into the atmosphere.  If we were as gentle with the world as we expect our loved ones to be with us, then maybe we wouldn’t need a political-scientific war of words.

Since I am not good at the big theories, let me tell you about a small, unintended, consequence of H-E-N-D Sandy:  Dad’s care.

With power outages predicted, one of Dad’s children or children-in-law needed to be with him, even though he had a home health aide.  Why? What if he fell, or became confused and agitated, and the phones were down, how would the health aide — who cannot leave his side — get help?  What if, as happened, no one comes to relieve the home health aide because everyone is stranded?  One home health aide couldn’t leave for 60 hours; no one could get to Dad’s house to relieve her and she had no way of getting home.  We needed to be there to let her sleep and help with cooking and minding Dad.  And Dad needs minding.  Especially at night.

We are lucky.  Dad didn’t lose power.  We live nearby.  We married good, kind and loving people who were willing to treat Dad like their own dad and take shifts in Dad’s care.  I slept there twice; HOSOB once.  POB and SOS were there during the day.  SOB had to be in her hospital because other hospitals were evacuating very sick people to her ICU.

But so many of the elderly or infirm in this country are not so lucky.  Their children don’t live nearby.  They can’t come to the rescue in a disaster.

I bet a lot of people went without medications, good food, and proper hygiene during these past three or so days.  And I bet they were frightened.

So, don’t think about this on a global scale.  Think about your neighbors, whether they are elderly or the children who couldn’t fly to their parents’ rescue.  Then, think about your gas guzzler car, your over-processed food, your bottled water.  Then, consider how you (and I) contributed to the crazy weather patterns that made H-E-N-D Sandy an epic disaster.

Oh, Rush, please don’t go

Rush Limbaugh, please stay in the United States.  I know you threatened to go to Costa Rica if Obamacare was upheld, but what did the Costa Ricans ever do to you?

We already export fast food, inane television shows, and grotesque materialism to the rest of the world.  I think your bile and insane rantings would make the US a true pariah among nations.

You spent years berating Democrats as being unpatriotic because they protested Bush/Cheney policies they didn’t like.  Now you don’t like something and you are going to “self-deport” (to quote Mitt).  Now, who is being unpatriotic?

When you are talking to your friends in the Congress, could you please tell them that they need a remedial course on the Constitution and constitutional law.  Since Marbury v. Madison, it has been well established that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of whether a law is or is not Constitutional.  Senator Rand Paul doesn’t seem to know that.  And, if he doesn’t understand some basic principles about how our founding fathers set up our system of governance, then maybe he is unfit for his job.

But you are perfectly suited to being a shock jock on talk radio.  You are crass, bellicose, incendiary, pig headed, and an ego-maniac with one or more personality disorders.  That you are popular says more about us than about you.  And that is truly the pity.

But stay here, Rush, because other countries have enough problems without you.  Not that you were really going anywhere.  Because you really are too much of a hypocrite and meglo-maniac to give up your fame and fortune for principle.

Principles can be soooo inconvenient.

Geraldo, I wear a hoodie, too.

A friend told me recently that he enjoys my blog because I write about things on the micro-scale, even though the world (the macro-scale) is going to hell in a hand basket (sidebar: whence that phrase?).  The truth, I told him, is that our problems are so large, so scary and the politics of them are so venal, that if I wrote about that I fear I will slip irretrievably into the abyss.

But I can’t continue to blog about the wedding without taking time out to meditate on the killing of one unarmed young man by some self-appointed and armed neighborhood watchman.

And the police didn’t even arrest the shooter or bring him in for questioning.  It is a moral outrage.

The final straw was the statement by Geraldo Rivera, that young Trayvon Martin should not have been wearing a hoodie.

(Sidebar:  Geraldo, the man who never quite recovered from finding nothing in Al Capone underground safe.)

Is Geraldo saying that a plausible defense is that “the hoodie did it?” 

Geraldo, I am a white, Jewish, middle-aged, lesbian and I wear a hoodie when I go to the gym.  Of course, you would not suggest that my hoodie would somehow be the reason for an assault on me.

Geraldo, you know that you meant that young black men should know better: if Trayvon Martin don’t want to get killed, he should have dressed like a model straight from the Brooks Brothers catalog.   You seem very comfortable with acknowledging and codifying this undercurrent of deadly racism.

Are you kidding me?  

People don’t carry guns unless they are ready to use them.  So, the shooter is responsible every time that gun is fired.  But, if I follow your logic (I can’t really get my head that far up my rectum), Trayvon practically put the gun in the shooter’s hand and begged him to pull the trigger.

Shame on you and all of the other people on that TV show who let you spew this stupidity and insanity without challenge.

I am a mother and my heart is breaking for Trayvon’s parents and all parents who have lost children to this kind of insanity.

 

How I learned to Relax and Enjoy the Newtron Bombney

For many months, I have been tied up in knots over the contenders for GOP nomination. I am terrified that on the third Tuesday in January, 2013, someone will utter any of the following:  “President Romney”, “President Gingrich”, “President Paul” or “President Santorum”.

I watch the GOP debates, with all of the venal, xenophobic, hypocritical, self-serving garbage that the candidates spew.

Any of these people would destroy our nation.  Setting aside Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (who are not winning the primaries), Gingrich is just evil, mercurial and evil (it bears repeating) and Romney is clueless and changes position faster than some in our nation change underwear.

President Obama who was elected to fix everything in less time than it took to break it all.  And, he wasn’t supposed to break a sweat or a promise or make a mistake.  We were exuberant, irrational and naive about the true state of our nation.  No one — no Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party-ist, whatever — would face any easier re-election bid.

Let’s just accept that.  If McCain had won, he would be called the GOP’s version of Jimmy Carter.

And let’s be clear — Obama’s campaign fed on the hopes and aspirations that we were electing a messianic politician.  He rode high and won on outlandish expectations that his campaign encouraged.  Once elected, he had to tamp down the expectations.  Because he found out just what he inherited and it wasn’t pretty.

But the GOP nominee can be the next president of the United States.  We cannot ignore that scary possibility.  (To wit:  GWB won 5-4 in the Supreme Court.)  Too many people are comfortable that Obama can beat either Romney or Gingrich, but the economy is fragile and people are deeply divided over President Obama (some for political reasons; others, for reasons that are, let’s say, less than Christian).  So, nothing is a sure thing.

Why am I scared? We have never been more divided as a nation.  And President Obama has incited the angry passions in the left wing of the Democrats and all of the Republicans — Democratic left, because he wasn’t nearly as “progressive” as they had expected and the Republicans, because he wasn’t nearly the effete liberal, scared-y cat they were hoping to skewer.

Now that the GOP is divided and frantically scrambling to blow back against a Gingrich nomination or presidency, I smile and relax.

If I set aside what the mud-slinging says about us and our society, I can talk about the debates in the same conversation as others talk about the Real Housewives of Los Angeles.  And no one knows I am talking about the political debates and our (G-d forbid) future president of our country.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The Rights and Responsibilities of a Free Society

Forget Kumbaya.  Forget Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”  Let’s have a civics lesson.  What prompted this?  A near altercation on the subway.

This is what happened:  An older woman asked a young woman to lower her music.  The younger woman, responded by saying, “No, she didn’t ask me that?” over and over.  And then she offered that someone who made that kind of comment should get “bitch-slapped”.  That went on for a while.  The  young woman seemed a little crazy — or an aggressive sociopath.  A reasonable answer would have been, “No.”

The two women — strangers to each other — got off at the same station.  Then the young woman accused the older woman of “touching” her as they got off the subway and started to go off about her rights to play her music in a public place.  I was afraid for the older woman and almost got off the train (which meant jumping over people) until I could see that the older woman hurried away and the younger woman appeared more interested in yelling than in giving chase.  By then, someone had taken my seat.  Oh well.

After the doors closed in our car, a young man talked, ad nauseum, in a loud voice that the older woman was wrong and that she was lucky that the young woman didn’t get violent.  Because the old woman deserved to get beaten if, for example, she interfered with his entitlement to play his music the way he wanted, even if that meant he played it loud in the subway.  I was tempted to interject but after my last near altercation in the subway yesterday (where I told some teenagers to stop harassing a young woman), I learned that idiots are not worth my health or life.

The younger woman was troubled.  The man in the subway who agreed with her either was grand-standing or is an ignoramus.  I assume the latter.

So, let’s talk about rights and entitlements. The Constitution doesn’t confer the right to do anything and everything.  It creates a system of obligations with safeguards to prevent tyranny. Entitlements are creatures of legislation; otherwise, you have the right to free speech and to starve to death.

The right to free speech is limited to reasonable time, reasonable place and reasonable manner.  Inherent in that limitation is that speech cannot unreasonably interfere with other’s people’s and the states’ rights to the public peace.  So, it is pretty well settled that you cannot hold a rally in a residential area after 10 pm.  I don’t know whether  playing music loud enough to fill a New York subway car is free speech.  This may be part of the delicate balance that makes our country great.  But I do know that the older woman had a right to ask and the younger had the right to say no.

Entitlements?  A safety net for those who, try as hard as they can, they can’t earn enough to feed their families.  The social compact is that, once able, these people will give back to the system.  Just like my parents proudly paid their taxes to a country that gave them a free, excellent education.  And just as I am proud to pay my taxes so that other strivers, like my parents and grandparents, will be able to make it.  But I don’t recollect that the social compact went beyond sustenance, shelter and education to, let’s say, the entitlement to play music as loud as one wants in a public place.

I grew up knowing that democracy doesn’t guarantee a human’s survival (but if that human survives, he or she can stand on a soap box in Washington Square Park).  Our society is a complicated web of social compacts that hinge one upon the other.  Two of the underpinnings of this web are civic and civility.

If this episode is any example, this great experiment that is our nation is in the process of implosion.  Unless, of course, that man would be good about my playing Patsy Cline out, loud and proud.

 

 

As heard on the subway

This morning, I was having my usual full-body experience with complete strangers on the subway.  At 86th Street, three guys got on the subway together.  It sounded like they were neighbors.  They were in their 40s and 50s, but they could have easily been kids in a school yard.

The short, balding, rotund guy with bad teeth (Nebisch) was trying to impress his two friends by talking about a pending lawsuit over unauthorized use of information.  He apparently knows the person who is suing for a significant sum.  This guy signed a confidentiality agreement, but didn’t read it — at least that is what he said.  He wasn’t allowed to talk about it or the name of the case, but it rhymed with . . . and well it is a matter of public record. . . .  And, thanks to the conversation on the subway, a matter of subterranean record.

 

I think Nebisch wanted his “friends” to know that he knows/is related to/hangs with a person who stands to make a lot of money.

One of the “friends” is a taller guy, full head of hair, with expensive coat and shoes, that didn’t work with the pedestrian shirt and tie (Bully).

Bully egged on Nebisch to breach his confidentiality agreement and pushed him to say more than he wanted.  At his core, Bully is insecure.  He looked around every time he said something to see who was noticing him.

Bully used the usual tactics he has honed for thirty years — diminishing and challenging everything Nebisch said.  And, Nebisch, wanting to undo those childhood memories with any number of bullies, had something to prove and was pushed to say more than what was comfortable.

The third guy had his back turned to me, so I couldn’t get a read on him, other than he did nothing to help or hinder the conversation.  But he is necessary to this vignette because his presence, together with his silence (Enabler), enabled both Nebisch and Bully to assume their school yard roles dance the age-old dance.

I was able to block most of it because I get embarrassed listening.  Besides, I generally operate on a need-to-know basis (if I don’t need to know, then, really, really, I don’t need (or want) to know — mostly because my brain capacity is shrinking daily).

Eventually, Nebisch got very frustrated with Bully and Bully got bored (people were not paying enough attention) and, without more, Enabler was no longer a catalyst. I guess people do grow up and don’t run into on-coming traffic to prove they are tough enough.

At 59th Street, the subway car cleared and there was enough room to move away from the trio.  As I maneuvered through the subway car, a woman asked if I wanted a seat.

“No,” I said, “I just need to stop listening to that car crash of a conversation.”  She laughed and offered me the seat again.

Life American Style

You want to know why our society is crumbling?  Why we are losing our preeminence in education and innovation?  Look in the mirror.

These are the items that get equal billing in the news re-cycle in the US.  These are taken from CNN, Yahoo, MSNBC and FOX.  Ok, I cherry-picked.  And I re-ordered to prove a point.  So what?  I bet that I gave us more credit than we are due.  In order of (my manipulated) importance, accompanied by my snide remarks:

  • US consumer confidence is at an all time low.  No one is buying off-road vehicles for the urban terrain.
  • Banks are not lending and companies are not hiring because of confusion over the new laws that will go into effect over time.  Would you like us to re-enact Glass-Steagull (that was eviscerated when the GOP was in control)?  I bet you would take Dodd-Frank in a heart-beat.  So, shut up.
  • Did Anderson Cooper flub a critical question to Michele (Night of the Living Dead) Bachmann (two n’s so she is not a secret Jew) in the GOP Debate on Tuesday night?  Does she have a cause of action if she loses the GOP nomination?
  • The housing bubble has not bottomed out.  So, the economy has to stop and wait for that.
  • Unemployment is over 9% which is a reflection of the last 2.5 years and not of the implosion caused in the years that preceded it.
  • People are occupying Wall Street and financial centers across the country because they don’t understand why the American Dream is out of reach, but aren’t they anarchists?
  • Lindsay Lohan has to go back to jail because she overslept on her first day of community service.
  • Stock prices are lower.  “Euro Contagion,” baby.  (Wait, don’t tell me, it must be an ad for “The Black Death Has Returned,” in movie theaters everywhere.)
  • Qaddafi is dead after an insurrection against his brutal rule, but enough about that, oil prices are dropping and it is a sign of Obama’s failed domestic policies (I am still figuring out the latter).
  • The Queen didn’t mind a curtsey malfunction in Australia.  She is a woman of the people.
  • Not all of the 99% pay federal tax (but they do pay state, local and sales tax).  Nevertheless, they should be deported.
  • The GOP candidates are talking crazy talk in their debates about how much less taxes we ought to pay (and Herman Cain would not tax used goods but food — which cannot be sold “used” or “pre-owned” — would be more expensive than ever) and how we need a fence across our entire southern border because Martians and other aliens are landing and illegally entering our country and taking our jobs.  Who said the GOP doesn’t believe in UFOs?
  • Israel negotiated with terrorists because the release of one soldier was worth freeing 1,000 Palestinians non-POWs (“If you save a life, it is as if you saved the world,” said a great rabbi; it was also a smart move to undermine Abbas and his UN bid for statehood).
  • There are almost 9 billion humans in the world, at least 8 billion of whom live in abject poverty.  And I worry about my retirement accounts.
  • There is a faster and easier way to lose flab around your abs.  You mean I can watch TV, drink red wine and eat french fries (not together) and the fat will melt away?
  • Ashton’s and Demi’s marriage is on the rocks.  I didn’t know they actually got married.  Apparently, he thinks politics is sexy because . . . RIGHT before he was shtumping (I mean, stumping) for Obama.
  • The best and worst Versace styles are available at H&M stores.  He is dead, so I don’t get it.
  • Jessica Simpson (who IS she?) wants money to talk about her pregnancy.  It may be cheaper to buy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”.
  • There are ten HOT Halloween costumes for this year.  You mean the French chambermaid outfit won’t work again this year?

Res ipsa loquitur.