Category Archives: politics

Powerlessness and disconnectedness, 4.5 years later

The other day I was thinking idly about the Iraq War and how it’s been going on so long I couldn’t even remember when I started, and I happened to look at my impossibly tall, strong daughter, and I realized that I knew exactly how long it’s been going on: as long as she’s been alive. Actually almost 2 months longer: I was arrested in the protests the day the war started, and I was 7 months pregnant with her. In four and a half years a human being can go from 7 pounds of delicate helplessness to a running, jumping, somersaulting, questioning, back-talking, joke-making, reading (almost!), writing, loving person. And in that same time, your country can start a war which kills 654,965 Iraqis, 3,921 US armed forces, 933 US contractors, 307 armed forces from other countries, 112 journalists, 40 media support workers, and 95 aid workers. (From Wikipedia). The scales are too different to fathom, and yet the impact on me of that one little (big!) life is so much greater than all the deaths, it doesn’t make sense. She is my universe. Iraq is a distant, abstract tragedy. I was tempted to call it a nightmare, but that’s at least something I would experience. It doesn’t touch me.

The mapping of the personal and political milestones is even tighter here: Chris and I moved from our old house on September 11, 2001. It was a big leap for us, moving into a house roughly three times the size of the old one and in need of significant attention. It was the start of our new lives, our marriage (very shortly after we moved in) and our becoming parents. It was, apparently, also the start of a new world. The world would never be the same after 9/11. But I’m hard pressed to say how this new world manifested itself in our lives. I don’t know anyone who’s been deployed to Iraq or died there. Our change of neighborhood, on the other hand, has determined so much of who we are as a family now.

There are giant feet-think panes of semi-liquid plexiglass between us and the world we live in. It seemed at the time I was about to get arrested that I was doing something momentous. Greg was with me and he was flipping out. He was convinced I was being irresponsible to my unborn child, and he was on the phone with Chris who was similarly freaked out. I had to steel my courage to get rounded up by the San Francisco police in an intersection on Market Street. Drums were beating, people were shouting. It was loud and chaotic. I was in a brown striped dress with black books; I didn’t look like a hippie, and I thought it would be good for an “older” (oy, that’s me) more conservative person to get rounded up. I wasn’t the only professional in the crowd by a long shot, but we were the minority. I hoped to make at least some small statement, but when I was released (incredibly quickly, due to my gigantic belly and all the liability and PR issues I represented) I realized there had really been no point to anyone but maybe me, and even that was a big maybe. I had cost the good city of San Francisco so many dollars in police and civil servant overtime, and I had made a lot of people very late for work. And my best friend and husband kind of pissed at me. End of story. You can scratch at the plexiglass, but it somehow heals itself right back up. Not that we are willing to sacrifice what it might take to break it.

Corey and Katya and I talked about this the other night at the new wine bar on Lakeshore (review to come – don’t worry; I’ll lighten up soon). What if the next election is stolen too? What if we can no longer deny that the election system is rigged and the will of the people is a joke? What will we do? March? With our kids? Would we risk our precious time, much less our lives? Not likely, because who believes it would make any difference? We need a new form of protest. Maybe it’s just economic. If a quarter of American moms completely ceased all discretionary spending, would it matter? Do we have any power? Or do we need to put on our marching shoes? There are so many hopes pinned on Obama now. He’d better fucking win.

I’d like to post the story of my being arrested here, since I never shared it with anyone after it happened. I can’t find it at the moment, but I think it’s on the hard drive at home, and if I do find it, I’ll add it to the bottom of this post after the jump. Or I’ll post it on March 20, which will be the 5th anniversary of the war.

Mindy Kleinberg

I heard this woman on NPR today and her eloquence really got me, so I went and grabbed the interview off the website.

(Mindy Kleinberg’s husband, Alan, was a securities trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, working on the 104th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. Kleinberg has watched some of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial on closed circuit TV, at a satellite courtroom in Newark, N.J., set up for victims’ families.)

What my family has gone through and the impact that it’s had on us will be the same whether he’s put to death or not. For me he’s never been my proxy.

You know, it’s almost like a scapegoat — we’re going to hold this man up and put him to death so you can all feel better. It doesn’t work for me.

If you catch Osama Bin Laden, I will feel better. If you fix the FBI, I will feel better. If you fix the CIA, I will feel better. If you get radios for the firefighters in New York that work, I will feel better. Putting Moussaoui to death has zero impact on my life and he is not my proxy.

Dare to hope

The people at MoveOn and ACT have done a good job of being upbeat, to which I say, good lord, that’s some courage! Karl Rove is rubbing his poisoned hands together and chuckling in the corner, but this from the MoveOn team gave me a tiny shot of hope.

“And there’s a historical precedent for believing this is a beginning, not an end. In 1972, Richard Nixon ran against George McGovern, a progressive populist with a great message about stopping the Vietnam War. McGovern lost in a landslide, winning literally only one state even though the Watergate scandal was swirling around Nixon. But a year and a half later, Nixon resigned; two years later, reformist Democrats won back control of both legislative chambers.”

The problem with hope is that it is clearly insufficient. Writing 244 letters and making a handful of GOTV phone calls is clearly insufficient. I think we have to change how we talk about this stuff. We can’t just be pissed at the people who voted for Bush; we have to understand better why and find some common ground with them. I’m not sure there’s all that much more vote to get out.

Denial

Still in it.

The Downside

The downside of having our own little analysis tool is that we’re calling it. The upside is that we’ve switched to watching Dharma & Greg and avoiding dealing with the reality. It’s not that big a deal, tomorrow. Just don’t think about four more years. Think one day at a time. Oh look, Will and Grace is on!

Micromanaging Ohio

Josh and I are micromanaging Ohio. We have a spreadsheet pulling the actual number of votes for each candidate in Ohio from cnn.com and showing us the spread narrowing or widening moment by moment, as we hit refresh. Half an hour ago, we saw the spread drop from 130,000 to 90,000 in the push of a button. I’m shaking a bit each time I hit refresh but this one was a doozy. Sadly, it crept back up over the next 20 minutes and it’s still showing as a Bush state, with 89% of precints reporting, so it’s hard to maintain hope, but Josh and I are keeping the flame alive. We can’t tell how much of Cleveland is reporting yet and the spread is still close. White knuckles. I’m staying up til Ohio is officially called. And I’m putting quite a dent in a bottle of Australian Shiraz in the meantime. Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep.

Grand Lake Theater Sign

“Congratulations to John Kerry for exposing Bush as an incomptent idiot in debate”