Monday, November 12, 2012
This isn't a political blog, but it is a fairly personal one, so with your permission I think I'll spend a few personal words on the American election of last Tuesday, especially now that the very last state to report results (Florida) has done so. Four years ago, when Mr. Obama was announced as the new president-elect, I went out on to my front porch and shouted with delight and amazement. "You made a good decision, America," I said. (For once, we made a good decision.) I crossed the street and knocked on the door of a neighbor who was an early Obama supporter. He offered me a celebration beer, and we watched all the excitement in Chicago's Grant Park. Last Tuesday night, however, after the election was called I just went to bed, not so much excited as relieved. Or maybe a bit of both. The next day, I saw a Facebook post from a former student chiding both Obama and Romney supporters for placing too much hope in polticians, for expecting a politican to be a savior. Of course, my former student is correct, but this election, to me, wasn't about finding a savior. It was about wondering if I even knew my own country anymore. Whether you care about politics or not, it's hard not to agree that the sitting administration in Washington sets the tone for the government and to a large extent determines the parameters of policy debates. It became increasingly hard for me to fathom that after the eight long, difficult Bush years--with only a four year reprieve of sanity--that we would again want a president whose foreign policy would have amounted to the Return of American Arrogance, chockful of the same blockheaded decisions, ill-considered statements, and eagerness for military confrontation that characterized the Bush administration. Is that what we really wanted? The whole world hating us again? Were we really about to elect a man who would gladly cut government benefits to poor and middle class people--not to reduce our federal deficit but in order to give more money to the already wealthy? (How "conservative Christians," who generally support such policies, reconcile them with Christianity is beyond me. Have they even read the gospels?) Is that what poor and middle class people, many of whom are still struggling terribly, actually wanted? Would they support such disgusting policy positions with their own votes? I didn't understand it. I couldn't understand it. I didn't know what to make of this country I call home, if it was set to install such a person into office.
So I was simply relieved when the results came in last Tuesday. I felt reassured that maybe America wasn't insane after all; that I could still call the country my own. I even felt good for the many millions of people who voted for Mr. Romney, because I actually feel that their needs and concerns will be better addressed by the current administration than they would have been under Mr. Romney's. They just don't realize it yet. (One of the terrible ironies of American politics is that most of the people so vocally opposed to the supposedly horrible "Obamacare" law will actually benefit from it.) And I got a kick at seeing the variety of legislative impulses afoot in different states. My own very conservative state of Arkansas--in which Republicans ruled virtually every statewide election--came within a hair's breadth of approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes. (On election night, NBC's Brian Wilson turned to a political "expert" sitting next to him and with the wryest of smiles said the line that you know he'd waiting for hours to deliver: "There's weed all over the ballot tonight!") Boy, are we a big and complicated nation, with so many different personalities. Some of them actually interesting. I just feel glad that, for this week at least, I can still call the nation mine. I recommend that anyone reading me today follow this link to commentary by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. It's from last Wednesday, the morning after Mr. Obama's reelection. Maddow explains exactly what, to her, the election meant. I am not a political animal. I don't watch MSNBC, although many people I respect do. I don't follow the Sunday morning political talk shows or read the front page of my newspaper every single day, but I have to admit to not only liking this piece but being moved by it. Do check it out.
A few followups to previous posts, and a tiny little publication related bit:
Followup #1: Last week I blogged about the importance of Just Keeping Going: in running and writing. I probably should have mentioned that not only am I out there training again on Prince Street, but I've jumped into a new novel in recent weeks. Too early to say exactly what the heck it is, except that I think it's a comedy. (I think.) I've just added an Australian and a ouija board.
Followup #2: About a month ago, I blogged about the connection between cooking and writing, and I expressed some dissatisfaction about my countrymen's approach to eating. In nonfiction class last week we had a great discussion of this very topic, due to an essay in our textbook by an author who ridicules Campbell's "Soup to Go." The author's main argument is that the company took one of the most ancient and communal kinds of food and turned it into something one is supposed to guzzle while sitting alone in one's car. (The cannister itself was designed to fit into a car's cup holder.) Many of the students opined at exactly how bad canned soup is--one had even tried this particular product and found it inedible. This, in turn, made me wonder outloud if there is a whole stratum of Americans who have never actually tasted Real Food (i.e., made from scratch by one person for another), who have literally no idea how much better Real Food tastes and is. Unfortunately, I do think this stratum is actual. How else to explain the ever expanding numbers of fast food outlets and varieties of prepackaged, on the go, because-we're-too-busy-to-spend-as-much-ten-minutes-on what-we-stick-in-our-mouths products. (You can even buy pre-made, vaccum-sealed peanut and jelly sandwiches, for heaven's sake. This is unspeakably stupid.) My new pet theory as to why Americans are obese: The food we eat is such Not Real Food, that to derive any pleasure from it we have to consume it in great quantity.
Tiny little publication related bit: A bizarre, comic story of mine--it's formatted as a pretend shopping list of someone who is being held captive after being kidnapped from a superstore--was published recently in the print journal The Pinch, published out of the University of Memphis. One of the editors contacted me last week and invited me to read at their launch party this coming Friday. It certainly is nice to be asked, so I'll probably be making that two-and-a-half hour drive Friday afternoon. Too often the journals I publish in are located so far away that there's no way I can make their launch parties. I'm happy for this exception. Thanks, The Pinch.