“All of us who are concerned for peace and triumph of reason and justice must be keenly aware how small an influence reason and honest good will exert upon events in the political field.” ~ Albert Einstein

USS Peacemaker Tall Ship (barquentine)

    

“A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.”  ~ Leonard Bernstein    
The American Rover Tall Ship (Hampton Roads)

Still feeling puny. I didn’t sleep well last night (as usual), but it was particularly trying: sleep one hour, awake another hour, sleep one hour, and so on. Around 4 a.m. I got on the computer, thinking that I might post, but instead I looked for images and quotes. Thinking that I had done enough to tax my tired brain, I went to bed. Six a.m. awake. Seven a.m. awake. Corey arrived home from work around 7:30, and I was still awake.

Maddening, quite maddening.

Anyway, Tuesday afternoon. The sun is shining intermittently. The Jack Russells are asleep beneath the chair, and Tillie is trying mightily to get Brett to play pool ball with her.

Speaking of the Jack Rusells, Alfie, the smallest dog in the house, has begun to do something new: For the past three or four weeks, he has taken to sleeping with his head buried in my shoulder and his body pressed against my side. It’s quite cute, actually, except that I feel obligated to remain in the same position while he snores quietly into my ear.

Still no joy on finding the part for my computer, which I don’t quite understand. I mean, it’s an HP. The part had to come from somewhere, so why can’t we find it? It’s a right-wing conspiracy; that’s what it is.

“Beware
At war
Or at peace,
More people die
Of unenlightened self-interest
Than of any other disease.” ~ Octavia E. Butler

USS Niagara Tall Ship (brig)

Speaking of right wing and things that I don’t understand, Fox Not-the-News won the coveted first row seat vacated by veteran UP reporter Helen Thomas. Why? How? Is the White House so afraid of Fox that they will capitulate to them in the hopes of better coverage? Not going to happen.

Unbiased coverage is one of the most basic tenets of journalism. Report the news. Don’t comment on the news. That being said, political reporting is an entirely different beast. Everyone has an opinion. Reporters interview other reporters for commentary. I can deal with this as long as the facts are correct, as long as those commenting do not play fast and loose with truth.

Of course, this cannot be said of Fox, which consistently plays with the facts, makes huge gaffes (mixing up Shirley Sherrod for Maxine Waters anyone?), and takes things out of context. Truth is completely insular, presented as something elastic to be stretched and shaped depending on whim. This is not journalism, nor is it news. So why then reward them with a seat at the table?

I am increasingly disappointed in this administration’s lack of balls. Obama came roaring onto the scene, full of good ideas and better oratory. But once in office, it seems that he lost at least half of his fire. I mean geez, he has a Democratic Congress and he still cannot get anything done because of his need to be liked by everyone, or so it seems. Granted continued obstructionism from the right doesn’t help, but it’s not the only reason for the lack of progress.

Obama was elected on a platform of change, and yes, there have been changes. But the Republicans are threatening to reverse those changes if they retake power, and it seems that everything coming out of this administration is transitory, sort of like cotton candy. I’m waiting for the Dems, especially the administration, to realize that they have some advantages before they piss them away this November. I fear that it will be a long wait. 

“Politics: ‘Poli’ a Latin word meaning ‘many’; and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures.'” ~ Robin Williams
USCG Eagle Tall Ship (barque)

Speaking of (yes, I know that I’m repeating this phrase) things that I do not understand:  supporters of Arizona’s immigration policy continue to act as if America sprang up as a populated nation, instead of emerging from generations of immigrants from all over the world.

What confuses me about this issue is the Constitution. Well, not the Constitution itself, but the right’s continual shift on said document. I mean, the tea baggers and their fanatical female trifecta Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Sharron Angle constantly preach on strict adherence to the Constitution. Yet as a result of Arizona’s xenophobia regarding all things Hispanic, Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) are coming out in favor “rethinking” the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S.

According to the Huffington Post, in addition to McConnell, “Sens. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have all called for re-thinking the 14th amendment (to one extent or another). And as a Democratic source points out, back in April 2008, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced a bill that would have required at least one parent to be a legal resident in order for their child to be granted U.S. citizenship.”

Which is it: strict adherence or adherence only when it suits the platform?

“Education should prepare our minds to use its own powers of reason and conception rather than filling it with the accumulated misconceptions of the past.” ~ Bryant H. McGill
Amazing Grace Tall Ship (schooner)

Finally, I found a wonderful paper on political misconceptions written by Brendan Nyhan, a University of Michigan political scientist. The paper was referenced in an article written by Marty Kaplan, Director, Norman Lear Center and Professor at the USC Annenberg School.

Kaplan’s article, “The Best of All Possible Americas,” discusses the intimidation of the free press we once knew by right-wing pressure groups. As I mentioned above, instead of reporting the facts, journalism has morphed into a deformed entity; as Kaplan states, the media has become so afraid of being labeled “lamestream” and “liberal” that “the job of fact-finding has been replaced by the grotesque practice of “balancing” charges with countercharges.

Nyhan’s report, “When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions,” analyzes why people continue to believe things that they think are true (WMD’s, anyone) even when presented with facts to the contrary: “Corrective information in news reports may fail to reduce misperceptions and can sometimes increase them for the ideological group most likely to hold those misperceptions.”

Take, for example, those who continue to insist that the president is not a U.S. citizen (aka birthers) even when presented with evidence that he is. The insistence on continued belief is strengthened by ideology. In other words, facts do not necessarily change a misinformed individual’s mind, especially if that individual is politically partisan. Truth does not always out.

Why is this important? Well the misinformation being dispersed by outlets such as Fox is taken at face value by certain segments of the population because this misinformation reinforces beliefs that are already held. This information, whether or not factually valid, is ingested and remains solidly embedded in those who believe it even when faced with factual corrections. And—and this is the most important point—those armed with this misinformation vote.

More later. Peace.

Music by Cowboy Junkies, “Mariner’s Song”

You Know It’s Bad Because I’m Speechless

cracks-in-the-rose-colored-glasses

Cracks in the Rose-Colored Glasses

Corey came home from the maritime school today totally downhearted. He had to withdraw from the AB class in which he was enrolled because of our SNAFU with the IRS. Then he went to the union to turn in his application, and the guy who talked to him said that he would only be qualified as a beginner.

Imagine how it would feel if you have piloted tug boats on your own, you hold a 200 ton Master’s license, and because you don’t have an AB (able-bodied seaman) qualification, someone wants to put you in with a group of people who have never worked on a boat in their lives. It’s insulting, to say the very least.

At the moment, he is sleeping. It’s 5:30 in the afternoon, and Corey only naps when he doesn’t feel well and when he is really depressed. Today, it’s both.

I feel so utterly helpless because there is nothing that I can do for him. If I had something of value to sell to get the money for his tuition, I would do it without a backward glance. But I do not possess valuable things. The most valuable things I have are my wedding and engagement rings, and I know from previous experience that I would not get very much for either one. Their value lies in the sentiment.

I despise feeling helpless. I am angry at the world. And Eamonn is coming to me telling me about all of the things that he needs as a senior: his senior dues, his prom fees, his yearbook. We still haven’t finished paying for his senior pictures. We agreed to help with his senior dues when we thought that we were going to have a little bit of tax money leftover. I know that this is one of the most exciting times in his life, yet my answer to him is the same as it’s been throughout all of last year and into this year: We’ll have to see.

He has been saving money of his own, but working one or two shifts a week at minimum wage isn’t really giving him that much to set aside. And I cannot allow him to work more because he is not good at balancing school and work, and frankly, school and getting him to graduate are much more important.

You want to know the irony of the whole situation? We went to the City of Norfolk to see if we could get assistace with our water bill. They have a program specifically tailored to help people with water bills. However, we make too much money. Too much money? By whose standards? Certainly not AIG standards. We didn’t want to apply in the first place, not because we are embarrassed, but because of that whole concept of being able to take care of yourself, your family.

dorothea-lange-great-depression2
Dorothea Lange's Famous "Migrant Mother" From The Great Depression

Hard work brings its rewards: that Puritan work ethic in which we happen to believe. You know, that if you work hard, are honest and work within the system, then things will work out for you. I’ve worked since I was 15. I have been putting my share into the coffers for a long time now. Corey has worked since he was a teenager; he served his country. Something is wrong here.

But I cannot even begin to put a finger on all of the things that are wrong with this situation. Drug dealers drive around in fancy cars, wear the best clothes, want for nothing. People involved in organized crime have their own definitions of family and being taken care of. Wall Street gives out bonuses in the 8 figures. My son just wants to go to his senior prom. What’s wrong with this picture?

I mean, I’m thankful that we aren’t at the poverty level. Truly. I have a real appreciation for all that we do have and am aware that compared to so many Americans today, we are ironically in an enviable position. But the message in this is that too many people are doing without while a select few are doing really well.

I appreciate the fact that we have food and shelter. But my health insurance premium is killing us. It really makes me want to see nationalized health care. And don’t give me the argument that nationalized health care is the country’s first step into socialism. Too many democratic societies have nationalized health care, which disproves that big fallacy. If we weren’t shelling out so much for my stupid insurance, which I cannot live without, we might be in better shape. But as it is, we have no options.

No options. That phrase is unbearable to me for so many reasons.

I sent an e-mail to the White House today. Not that I think that anything will really come of it, but it just felt good to get some things off my chest. You see, I believe that you can support an administration and still exercise your basic First Amendment Freedoms. Maybe I’m wearing rose-colored glasses when I allow myself to think that things in this country will get better; my only fear is that we will sink before things get better.

Peace.

                                                                                                      

I thought that I would share a little poetry today as it always helps me when I am depressed, angry, or anxious (and I am all three today). And since I don’t have one of my own that fits my particular mood, I am going to borrow from one of my favorite poets.

The following pantoum is by Donald Justice. A pantoum is a type of highly stylized poem, like the villanelle. In a pantoum, which is written in quatrains, the second and fourth lines of a stanza become the first and third lines of the following stanza.

Pantoum of the Great Depression

Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don’t remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don’t remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We have our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

Donald Justice, October 1962

Where Reality and Television Intersect at the Line of Pain and Heartbreak

Stumbling Upon Two Posts That Won’t Let Me Go

Watching Death in South Africa

One of the things that I really like about blogging communities is that when the blogs are flashing by on the screen, you can come across some real gems. In fact, that’s how I’ve met all of my regular correspondent with whom I check in daily. But there was one blog that stopped me in my tracks, literally. And I backtracked to the original post, which came from a blog called “Letting Go.” 

The female speaker on this site has many entries about her recovering battle with alcoholism and her so far successful sobriety, as well as her travels. But the one particular post that caught my attention was called called “The Plague Years” ( http://louisey.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/the-plague-years/).

mourning-in-zimbabwe
Mourning in Zimbabwe

This post is incredibly stark in its depiction of the reality of AIDS in Africa, while at the same time being very moving in how the author shares with readers her own experiences amid all of this devastation.

Woke up this morning and thought about having to go to two funerals later today, both of them for young people who died of AIDS. It is not a certainty that the funerals will take place because the municipality still has to organise workers to dig the graves. The graveyard has overflowed the old fenced area and extended down the hillside, hot rocky ground that is not easy to dig. Every day of the week there are burials and it is mostly children who die because their little bodies are too malnourished to fight the opportunistic illnesses.

There are times when I feel this plague will never end. I have been going to funerals here and in Zimbabwe, in Kenya and Botswana and Mozambique since 1985, more than 20 years, and sometimes I feel I will keep watching these premature and unnecessary deaths until I myself am ready for the grave.

The society in which we live shapes us for better or for worse. The material conditions of our lives shape our values and sense of community and altruism, and limit or enlarge the possibilities open to us. Unrelieved poverty opens the door to plagues such as cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis and AIDS. If we have no africsaidspicretrovirals because the government does not want to believe AIDS really exists, thousands are condemned to death. If we have no AA or Alanon because nobody will admit he or she is alcoholic or battling to live with an alcoholic spouse, the struggle to stay sober is that much harder. If it is taboo to speak about AIDS or alcoholism so that there is no education in schools or on the television or radio, the lethal ignorance continues unabated. The discourses around shame and secrecy are the hardest to tackle.

All around me on this bright lovely morning there are birds singing, church bells tolling, childrens’ voices on the playing fields across the road — and all I can hear is the deafening silence of a conspiracy to prevent anyone from speaking the truth. It is forbidden to speak about sexuality in Xhosa, especially if you are a woman. The churches outlaw the use of condoms. And the death rate keeps soaring.

Here are some facts just about one of the countries involved in this epidemic: Zimbabwe is the third largest HIV/AIDS burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to an AIDS fact sheet distributed in 2005 by the Kaiser Foundation. That means that almost 2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and at least 120,000 of them are children. Young women between the ages of 15 to 25 make up about 77 percent of the infected population, and the projected life expectancy for females ranges from 30 to 34.

In a January 2008 article The Boston Globe cited the following statistics:

  • An April report by WHO and two other UN agencies said only 6 percent of children in need of treatment were getting it.
  • The government reports that more than 2,200 Zimbabweans die every week of AIDS complications.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 321,000 people need antiretroviral medicines, or ARVs, and only 91,000 have access to them.

As If That Wasn’t Enough To Hurt Your Heart

Thanks to another blogger with whom I have recently begun to correspond, I am now obsessed with watching “West Wing”  YouTube videos of memorable scenes. For example, from one of the earlier seasons, there is the episode called “Excelsis Deo” in which Toby is moved by the plight of a decorated homeless veteran who died wearing a coat that Toby had donated to charity. The coat still had Toby’s business card in it, so he was informed of the man’s death. The episode ends with the Dire Straits’ song “Brothers in Arms” playing in the background, the White House staff being serenaded to Christmas Carols by a children’s choir, and Toby in Arlington Cemetery with a full honor guard.

Okay. They could have stopped with just the full honor guard. That by itself is enough to give me goosebumps at anytime. Thank god they didn’t put me through the bugler’s “Taps.” I did have to make it through the folding of the flag and presentation on bended knee to the family member. Yes, I am crying openly by now. The link to this particular scene is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfOfUtkbiHQ.

west-wing-20-hours-in-america
From "The West Wing," Episode: 20 Hours in America

But wait, I’m not finished. There’s Leo’s funeral. Enough said on that one. Or, there is the famous mood episode called “The Two Cathedrals Press Conference,” in which President Bartlett is asked if he is going to run again; that’s a classic for the staging alone. All of Bartlett’s team fall into line behind their President, and the scene is a shot of just the men from the thighs down.

But the single best scene from any episode of “West Wing,” the scene that embodies the best of Aaron Sorkin’s writing for his tenure on the show, the scene that I dare you to watch and not be moved by, comes from the epiode  “20 Hours in America.” In it, President Bartlett delivers one of the best speeches to be heard ever—not just television speeches, not just pretend president speeches, but best speeches ever. The rhetoric in it burns.

Just a taste (but without the video, it’s like reading Obama’s speeches rather than hearing them):

“The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.”

(I don’t even want to think of how badly W. would have mangled this. How do you type visually shuddering?)

And I so want to put the link in here, but I don’t know if that would be stealing from Willpen’s World (http://willpen.wordpress.com/) since she just ran the YouTube link on her site. So go to her site and watch the video there, and be sure to let her know that I sent you. It’s worth the hop and skip to see this. Trust me.

So, now that I have completely ruined your day and evening with truth and near truth, and the power of words to hold the human heart, let me close. There will be more later. Peace.