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Liberal’s Lament

wilderness |ˈwildərnis|
noun [usu. in sing. ]
an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.
• a neglected or abandoned area of a garden or town.
• figurative a position of disfavor, esp. in a political context : the man who led the Green Party out of the wilderness | [as adj. ] his wilderness years.

Liberals, depending upon whom you ask, have been outside the political mainstream since our heyday during the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and The New Deal that we barely know what the mainstream is, though many of us thought that with the Barack Obama Presidency that that would change.

Now some are not too sure.

To be sure Mr. Obama was a far better alternative than his Republican competition, but some of his cabinet picks have concerned some amongst the liberal camp.  For example, Pastor Rick Warren who will be giving the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, is hardly an example of liberalism and tolerance to some.

The rub for liberals is that many people’s beliefs are not as simple as some would like them to be, and it is quite possible to support human rights in the broader sense while not being in favor of such things as gay marriage.  So does Mr. Warren’s perspective disqualify him for consideration?  Clearly not for the Obama camp, and I don’t think that it should for any one else (based upon what I know of Mr. Warren, though that could change the more I learn about his position on such matters).

Personally, I am less bothered by Mr. Warren, than by his choice of Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture.  He supposedly (for I have not been interested in the former governor of Iowa before his nomination) was quite amenable to Monsanto during his governorship in Iowa (Monsanto being one of the leading ‘providers’ of Genetically Modified Organisms), which for me is a deal breaker because I think that genetically modified foods will do us more harm than good in the long run for numerous reasons.

I would be more concerned about his choice of Lawrence Summers for his National Economic Council because there some say that he has connections to the current recession.

I suspect that if you look closely at his picks positions in his government, you will probably find numerous people that for whatever reason you mistrust, though in his favor the Obama Administration has engaged people in what our government is doing in a way that I have not seen in many years.

And when you look at it that way, then perhaps Obama’s choices are not all that bad.

From Left Field

When Barack Obama received the support and recommendation for his bid for the Democratic nomination for president from fellow Senator John Kerry, few people had any idea who the charismatic man from Chicago was, which may in part be due to the fact that the news industry has been undergoing a consolidation for many years now.  This means that there is less coverage of any particular geographic area as new organizations fight for their survival in economically challenging times.

This was not the situation that existed during , for example, Edwin Muskie’s campaign for president.  At this point in time the major news organizations could dedicate a number of reporters to cover a candidate, and this was reflected in their coverage.  There was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ among the candidates that information that was deemed as somehow ‘salacious’ would not be aired, which was why Mr. Muskie’s notoriously short temper was not fodder for the Press at the time.

Though that does not explain all that happened during the nomination process.  During that process I had not heard claims like this, or this.  The truth of it is, both articles make Barack Obama out to be what he is:  A politician.  Though that is not to say that I would have not voted from him because the alternative of McCain/Palin was too close to Bush/Cheney for comfort, which was a choice that I–and many other Americans, for that matter–would do what I could to ensure that it would not happen again.

In an of itself being a politician is not a good or bad thing, though it does have certain connotations that come with it.  It also would have diffused the strength of some of his rhetoric during the nomination process, where he presented himself as beyond politics. Though to have known of such things–as his ambition and the perception that he does much of what he does for political expediency–would not have changed things too much as far as I am concerned.

And since many, I honestly think, saw him as beyond the traditional politics of the day–with it’s backstabbing and infighting–it made him a figure that people could rally around, and invest their hopes and dreams in.

And not to put too cynical a face on it but it did not hurt his chances that the economy was being to tank in very obvious ways.  When the signs of recession begins to hit traditionally white-collar fields, then a politician is in trouble.

Blue collar jobs, not so much.  That is not to say that they don’t matter, but for quite awhile now the balance of power in our society has shifted from those that make things to those that orchestrate the making of things.

A person growing up has many fathers, some acknowledged, others not.  Your first father is the one that’s yours by blood.  He’s the most important one because without him you would not be the person who you are.  He’s also the template and provides the first hint of what what being a Man is really about.  You look up to him, till the day you come to realize that he was only just a man.  This is when you discover your other fathers, those individuals that help to form and inform who you are and who you will eventually be.

This is an important time where crucial decisions will be mad because who our fathers are inform everything that we are, whether we know them or not.

Trust me on the latter point; clarification will come momentarily.

As I have said, we have many fathers.  My father by blood is a mystery to me, because I never met him.  He died before I was born, probably because he wasn’t quite sold on the notion of the sancticy of other people’s marriages.

That’s what I recall my mother saying, at any rate.  There were no pictures taken of him that I have seen, so I don’t know what he looked like, though my mother has told me on one of those unguarded moments that she sees him in me, so perhaps he has been with me the entire time, hard-wired into my genetic makeup.

My mother remarried, and I see some of my step-father in me as well, though we were not joined by blood.

On an intellectual level, one of my fathers was Stephen R. Donaldson, who through his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever taught me that sometimes the best way to fight is to let your guard down; to surrender.

Another is Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist and political commentator, who–as a Jewish man–has clearly and honestly critized the American relation to Israel as well as our policies in that region in general.  That such bravery deserves commendation goes without saying.

George Carlin occupies a lofty place in my hierarchy of fathers, which is a list large enough that I cannot include them all here.  He’s here because, like Noam Chomsky, he challenged the status quo; though unlike Noam Chomsky George Carlin wielded his humor sometimes like a club, bluntly, taking out everything in sight.  It was the moments that he wielded it like a stiletto though that impressed me the most.

I couldn’t include George Carlin without including another of my ‘dads.’  Here’s Richard Pryor.

For me the strenght of both men is that they don’t tell you that everything is going to be OK; they just tell you how it is and you take it how you take it.  Too much news and information these days is sugar-coated so that it goes down smoothly.  What they forget to tell you is that to get it that way they have to take out everything that would challenge and engage.

If the message my fathers were trying to get across could be boiled down to one word, I think that that word would be:  Think.

The Meaning of Christmas

What does Christmas mean?  Is is sugar-plum fairies dancing about a pine tree dressed in tinsel and lights, or is it perhaps this?  Or this?  I have been asking myself this question for a few days now, and I cannot answer it as nearly as confidently as I would like.  For a long while for me Christmas was visiting my family and essentially doing nothing but watching cable (which I don’t have at home.  Like I imagine a child a candy store would react when confronted by goodies as far as the eye can see, I tend to get really into cable television because it is not something that I experience on a regular basis) much for a few days.

For awhile this satisfied me.

It doesn’t anymore.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t any longer love my parents and my brothers and sisters, but there has to be more to Christmas than that.  Part of my angst is due to the fact that I am, while not an athiest primarily because I like to believe that there is something more out there than I will ever know–in the sense of a deity of some sorts–I get the feeling that that’s a line of thought there to comfort me more than anything else.

And in the end we are very, very alone; which is not to say that I buy into the whole ‘when you’re dead, you’re dead’ argument either because that is not the way that the universe works, as far as my rather limited understanding can tell.

All things that exist are interdependent upon each other to varying degrees, so you cannot have a tree without the sunlight that creates photosynthesis, or the water and nutrients in the soil that provide nourishment or the hundreds (if not thousands) of organisms–micro and otherwise–that in their own ways contribute to the growth of that tree.

So when you think about it, we are never truly alone, and only a being of remarkable arrogance and conceit could think so in the first place.

Human beings are literally made up of the same composition as stars, though obviously in differing amounts.  I raise this point to ask, can a star ever die?  Sure it can be extinguished, but as long as it’s light is present somewhere, that star–it could be argued, ‘lives’ on.  We can, sometimes though the naked eye or assisted through telescopes, see the light of a star that’s been extinguished long before people were even an idea in the grand design of things.

Light reaching us from an entity, if you will, long past.  Why can’t we, as not as humans but as living beings, share this ability to transcend the physical?

What does that have to so with the basis of this post, you’re probably asking.  It’s simply that nothing truly ‘ends’ more than it changes, and becomes something other.

And while I am here, in this form, I need to find the answer to those questions that I will more than likely never get the chance to ask again.

So this Christmas I intend to spend a few days doing some sort of work that actually indulges myself a little less, and perhaps helps someone else a little more.

Monotheism and Polytheism

Recently I was thinking about God, and wondered what was it that led to people deciding upon the idea of one god–the idea of monothiesm, the belief in a single deity or polytheism, the believe in an entire pantheon of gods.  There is a sort of logic to the idea of polytheism in that, let’s say, there’s a tsunami.  There must be a particular god responsible for that.

If I am out on my boat at sea and there springs a thunderstorm out of nowhere, then perhaps I had fallen out of favor with Poseidon, Neptune, or a myriad of other sea gods worshipped at one time all over the world.

This applies to most events of a persons life.  If there is a birth, and it was a effortless one, then the gods played a role.  If the birth was extremely difficult, again the gods were at play.

If the child were born stillborn, or some other terrible event befell it, then the gods were once again behind it; though their actions were brought about by some shortcoming by the mother or someone close to her.

You’ll notice that I will refer quite a bit to Greek and Roman deities.  This is primarily because it was an area of fascination with me as I grew up, and it never quite left.

There is a sort of human-ness that seems to accompany the deities of many polytheistic religions.  There’s a god for just about every purpose, and most interestingly, the gods in these cultures tend to mimic those of the people they watch over.  This is why the Greek deities pretty much act like humans with all our pettiness, and shortcomings.  They fight, they love, they argue; though it must be remembered that they are not human, and for us to arrogantly think so is to court our own destruction.

Though the Greek gods at the very least were not above mating with humans when the need arose.  Zeus (or Jupiter if your reference point is Roman mythology) was notorious for his pursuits of suitors and neither deity or human were immune to his advances.  Though Hera, his wife, would not take such shabby treatment lying down (pardon the pun) and would rage upon him.

The gods, Greek or otherwise, taught moral lessons and were a way of ‘educating’ people in times when many were not literate though that is not to say that the more educated classes did not also believe in them as well.

Monotheism is another matter.  God, is male (and this is an important point to consider.  Interpretations that portray God as female, or as something other than male tend to be ‘modern’ interpretations.

In fact he can be downright mean and wrathful.  I mean, turning Lot to a pillar of salt and destroying the city of Sodom was a pretty extreme solution to the ‘wrongs’ percieved by God.

Though the merciless God was not the only god pictured in the Bible.  This lends credence to the idea the the Bible was written by multiple individuals over an extended period of time.

What I Want For Christmas…

is for my two front teeth to remain exactly where they are currently and Peace On Earth.  I get the feeling that the odds on the former are pretty good as long as I can keep a watch on how much shite I spew and to whom;  while the latter, not so much because I live in a country where ‘war’ is a way of life.  I mean, we have been through a “War on Drugs,”  a “War On Fat” and now a “War on Terror.”

And who better to give a little background on that former war that Walter Cronkite by way of the Huffington Post.

For a country that supposedly wants Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men (and women, as well as children and small, cute furry animals, I assume) we spend a heck of a lot of time fighting wars, both of the real and imagined variety.

What is it about Americans that we so have to be putting our selves in oppostion to something as–I assume–a way to spur us to action.  Why can’t we do something simply because it is the right thing to do?  Why can’t we, instead of a War on Drugs–which we are doomed to lose because people aren’t stupid and if there’s some way to distract us from our oftentimes banal and ordinary lives virtually all of us lead we are going to take it–try to actually look at and into ourselves to find what it is that we are so intent upon escaping in one way or another.

I mean, let’s be honest here:  If heroin, cocaine or (insert drug of choice) didn’t cause you to at some point to say goodby to anything approximating a decent life or make selling your arse (or whichever part of your anatomy that you value enough not to every consider charging someone to use for a few hours) a proposition actually worth considering, then would I even be writing this?

Probably not, because we would all be higher than the proverbial kite.

That’s as far as I can tell, probably why alcohol had to be made legal by government:  people had to have some way legally to ‘take the edge off.’ otherwise this country–or any other for that matter–would have exploded in a fireball of pent-up violence years ago, instead of having flare-ups every once in awhile.

Perhaps it’s the reality most of us take for granted anyway.  I mean most of us are so focused on ourselves that by the time we actually give a shite about something outside the great big world of ‘Us’ it is too late to do anything about it.

This is perhaps why I admire Jimmy Carter, our 39th President of the United States.  History may perhaps not be as kind as it could have been to him, but in my opinion he is doing more now to make the world a better place to live in than he ever did as President.

Next post I will spend a little time on the “War on Terror,” though for those of us that have other things to do, here’s the short version:  It’s not only all kinds of nuts, it doesn’t even make any sense.

In The News

In Political News, As President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team moved into place, they intend to review as many of President Bush’s Executive Orders as possible.

President-Elect Barack Obama, says that Joe Lieberman should not be relieved of his Senate leadership post despite Lieberman’s backing of John McCain, speaking at the Republican National Convention and attacking Obama himself during the general election though he also says that the final decision is Harry Reid’s, the Senate Majority Leader.

After the loss of the McCain/Palin ticket, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin discusses events around the failed campaign as well as reasons for the toxic Republican response to her in recent days

While pondering what it is that has gone wrong with the Republican ticket after huge losses November 4th, leaders of the party took a Caribbean cruise to contemplate.

While in Financial News, Apple Inc is sitting on a huge war chest of 15.22 billion dollars while General Motors, once one of the most powerful American companies, flirts with bankruptcy and hopes that the incoming Obama Administration and a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives will be able to deliver significant aid.

Though if the Bush Administration does not come though with an aid package for the battered auto industry, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, intends to hold a lame duck session of Congress to do so.

Sadly, the economic downturn is by no means unique to the United States, as companies in countries such as Britain also feel the pain of the economic downturn.

And in other International News, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is attempting to increase the length of time the Russian President serves in office from four to six years.