Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obama's Daemon

I am a huge fan of the Philip Pullman series, "His Dark Materials," a three part fantasy series that is akin to the Harry Potter series on steroids. One key part of the story is the relationship between a person and his/her daemon. The daemon is like an externalized part of self and takes the form of an animal. During childhood, the daemon shape shifts depending on the mood of the child. During puberty, the daemon takes one shape.

I am reminded of this part of the story when I read about the relationship between Rahm Emmanuel and Obama. One is cool and collected, the other a kind of tazmanian devil whirling around in a cloud of profanity and influence. What Obama cannot express, it seems, Emmanuel can (including the word "fuck"). What Obama cannot do (cozy up in the carriage with any person of power and wealth at any time and clop down the road whatever direction he or she decides to take him) Emmanuel can't seem to help but do. And Obama and Emmanuel seem from the news and newspaper reports to be connected with a kind of psychic tether of influence.

The last weeks have made it clear, Obama' administration is in its childhood. I suspect his daemon, in the form of the preternaturally large-eyed, tiny framed Emmanuel, seems to be everywhere in the engineering of this monster mess of health care reform. I'm reliving parts of the campaign through Richard Wolffe's book "Renegade" and am reminded of how clear the Democrats, including Obama, made it that they would radically reform health care if put into office.

What we've gotten instead is a president seemingly allowing his daemon to jerk him around by that tether. Meanwhile, the entire health care issue has run amock. The constant shifting forms of the health care "reform" being put forward by the democrats is, at this point, indecipherable. This is not what we voted for, this is not what we need, and these half-assed measures being suggested by the president will not restore the integrity of a wealthy, powerful, and utterly corrupt government.

Keep this in mind, Americans are the MOST productive workers on Earth, according to a U.N. report (2007), and we have millions of individuals and families underinsured or uninsured. Millions of families must make that call in the middle of the night, "Do we bring our sick child to the hospital tonight and risk loosing the house for the bills, or do we hold off and hope for the best?" Some of the people I love most in this world have made that call.

We need an adult in office capable of putting bullies in their place, looking after those in need, and STAYING HIS GROUND when that ground is unequivocally solid. Children, women, men, workers, and the unemployed, all human beings deserve to have access to medical care. The greed of the few and the powerful have the daemon's ear, it seems. And apparently our child president can't make up his mind about what form those who influence him will take.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Town Hall Meetings- The Two America's

I have been as flabbergasted as anyone watching footage of the town hall meetings being held around the nation by publicly-elected officials to discuss health care reform. Working my gears, I have not come to any explanation that truly settles my mind or stomach. Aside from the shitty avarice of special interest groups hiring enraged (though what they actually are enraged about has not been touched on by the media covering them except for Jon Stewart)citizens to use violent language and behavior to control the discussion and neutralize the national push for health care reform.

Did you see the man who actually strapped a gun to his thigh to intimidate folks at a town hall meeting where Obama was to speak? The guy arrogantly accepted an interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews where he demonstrated his profound lack of understanding of the issue or ability to use reason.

Aside from the paid-for assholes, there are still legions turning out to shout down their representatives over an issue so critical in the lives of millions of Americans at this point, that it's like shouting down the scientist who came up with penicillin ('Ta hell with 'ya Alexander Flemming). How fucking dare you try to save our lives!

I'm afraid, watching the footage, this is simply about two America's: those citizens who regularly use the fancy, new-fangled frontal lobe that helps with reason, and those who can't give up the hormonal pay-offs of the tried and true reptilian brain. There is reason and there is emotion and those capable of moving between the two cannot deny the obvious, which is that if good medical care capable of improving quality and duration of human life is available, all humans have a right to it. To believe otherwise is something akin to subscribing to the brutal logic of wolf culture where resources are dominated and distributed by the most aggressive in an attempt to control genetic representation in future generations.

There are parts to this "debate" that are downright laughable. When Senator McCaskill asked the legions of screaming citizen protesters how many received Medicare, many in the crowd raised their hands. She asked how many would like to give up their benefits because they're government provided. No hand was raised. This astonishing lack of insight and understanding about the very system they depend on profoundly disqualifies the validity of their position. But they don't realize that.

Even less understandable to me was the woman my age crying, literally weeping about the loss of her country to socialism. Considering the downright forceful Obama policies launched to save our capitalist economy save no expense, the use of the word "socialist" is a weird, inaccurate cover word for "Black." Obama is Black, his wife is Black, there's that Hispanic lady on the supreme court now. She's not black, but she is brown. When folks from the Obama administration go in front of cameras, it's not uncommon for the person to be non-white, non-male.

And then there's all this caring from the administration for the poor.It's almost as if some of these protesters are offended that powerful men would care about the health and welfare of the poor. These seem to be people most comfortable with being abused then disregarded by their government.

Or maybe it really does come back to the wolf analogy for many of the protesters. People of political and economic power have come from the European ethnic groups for the last several hundred years. To acknowledge and accept leadership from outside of the Euro-American male background, say maybe Black people, women, dare I even consider it...Black women, is to acknowledge that something truly remarkable and perhaps even unprecedented is happening here.

The consciousness of the majority of our voting public has risen above the confining, base impulses to protect the interests of one group above other groups-one tribe over the others. Millions of Americans are considering the actual gifts, ideas and abilities of individuals regardless of their skin color or cultural background. When true individualism is respected, somehow it seems to work that the best interests of the larger whole are also served. Go figure. But there are many citizens left behind in this evolutionary leap and many of them are showing up at town hall meetings promoting, or rather, forcing down our throats their reason-less debates.

The reasonable majority must continue to put pressure on our political process right now. If we are not showing up to the town hall meetings, we need to give our senators and representatives a call on the phone. They need to know most of us can use reason, and if they come up with a reasonable bill, we will support it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh What A Night That Was

Yesterday, my family was puttin' around our neighborhood and passed the high school where our district's Democratic Caucus was held a year and a half ago. It seems like longer ago than that since I found my classroom in the large building I'd never had reason to enter before. On that fucking freezing February night, I participated in an entirely ad hoc, peaceful, representative democratic process. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

By mid-winter of last year, I was already profoundly preoccupied with the dramatic, compelling and utterly surprising twists and political turns the Democratic primary season had issued forth for a national and international public. It really was like a dream come true for a progressive, Gen Xer like me who got to decided between a competent, intelligent woman and competent, intelligent bi-racial man for the top of the ticket. Life experience does inform perspective, focus and drive. Obama's way of approaching issues intellectually and communicating his perspective won my political allegiance almost immediately, but I appreciated that the other choice was digestible, too.

So when I drove up to the school and turned into the frozen parking lot, I was genuinely excited to participate. There were no legitimate parking spaces left and I was a half hour early. The packed parking lot was, I felt, a good sign for Obama. The extra enthusiasm that political season was definitely spun up by the Obama campaign. I pulled my car onto a small stretch of ice-clad concrete, looking around to see if someone would make comment or implement punishment for my aggressive parking strategy. A teenage-looking girl who had just pulled the same parking scheme I had looked at me briefly then turned and walked towards the school.

There was some confusion inside, but a round middle-aged women in mommy jeans and a puff paint sweatshirt figured out my room for me using my address and a clipboard of worksheets. I climbed up a couple flights of wide, cement stairs and turned into my classroom. A beautiful women who's accent and appearance placed her in my mind as being one of Minnesota's many African immigrants was seated at a desk just over the doorway's threshold. She asked me my address. I asked her how the process in our room was working and she smiled nervously saying wasn't sure. She was given the job of managing the lists and checking people in a few minutes after arriving in the classroom. She did not know anymore than I did about how a caucus was run, but she was managing. By the end of the evening I had also been recruited to count and report the votes. I was as excited as a child picked by the teacher to do a special job.

The room filled up and the time to begin arrived. I mentioned how busy the streets had been and suggested we take a look outside to see if people were still arriving. I looked out the window of our room, then ran out of the room to look out other windows, too. The memory of what I saw still bring tears to my eyes. In every direction, for as far as the eye could see in that dark, freezing cold night, people were coming. The road to the highway was a solid line of lights. People were parking everywhere in the surrounding streets, in front of houses, businesses, anywhere a car could be negotiated out of the way of traffic.

I went back into the room and suggested we wait for any important votes, as there were still people coming. We took the time to decipher the instructions, elect officers and generally get our democratic process in order. There were people there of a surprising ethnic, age and gender background in our room given the reputation of the Minnesotan suburbs for human homogeneity. However, there was a large number of old, white, men. I admit here my prejudices at that moment. I didn't really imagine who they were there to vote for, but I assumed it was not Obama.

I was quite wrong.

In fact, when we finally made it to a vote, the room was split between Obama and Clinton with Obama winning by a significant margin. One Hillary supporter, a man I knew from other political events around our community who always came with a list of unrelated complaints, was so flabbergasted by Obama's win that he cried out. Seeing the solemn looks on the old men's faces and their nod that indeed, the vote was correct, he resigned himself loudly, "Well, okay then!"

I went out, reported our results, then quickly made my way back home in the black, frigid night. From the comfort of my home, I watched the tallies coming in. It was Obama, Obama, Obama.

Now Minnesotans are not an easily dazzled bunch. In fact, I've never met so many people whose personalities are best described as "laconic" in my life. Of course, I haven't been to the ancestral homes of Norway and Sweden, yet. I hear it's a similar emotional landscape there. We do not get too excited about things over here. But we got excited about Obama.

Though the putrid muck of Washington politics seems to be sullying our golden child, it is important to remember the reason we voted for him in the first place. He inspired us to be good citizens and to believe better things are possible for our kids and for ourselves. Be good citizens, read the legislation available on-line and make up your own mind. Tune out the din of commercial TV and find some media sources that seem fair and balanced. These are important times, tough, but important.

We have already seen some positive things happen since Obama became our president. Personal savings rates are way up, Americans are returning to more measured consumption practices, the economy is out of a tailspin and leveling off, ready for a positive return, and our government is finally fighting back against a health care system that makes millionaires of a few, and peasants out of millions.

Have faith, remember the caucuses. With focus, determination, and a willingness to participate this time, we can make this a fair and good place to live.