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The language problem

I’ve been trying to put into words exactly why I hate my job. I love my job – I love having one, that is, but also just can’t stand it. It is so hard to explain why I would be upset by what is really a good job. Logically I know I have no right to complain when so many are suffering and looking for work. But, it is normal to bitch about jobs, right? So, I have been in a serious malaise – upset and depressed at work for quite some time. Trying to find the right word to express that, however, led me to another train of thought. The one word that gets at the heart of my issue at work is “emasculated”. But, there is no female equivalent for that feeling of powerlessness that the word represents. Sure, technically, I guess you could say infertile but that is really another meaning of the word. What I am looking for is a word that means stripping away of one’s power, one’s self-determination. Emasculation fits the bill. Yet, the word itself and the fact that there is no similar word for a woman just speaks to the history of powerlessness of women in general. Even the language reflects it. If there was a “de-feminate” word, would it not be a compliment for a man? I used my Merriam-Webster’s app to look up the exact definition: “To deprive of strength, vigor, or spirit: weaken”. Then there is this example of usage: “He plays the role of a meek husband who has been emasculated by his domineering wife.” Nice.

It is not the only example of “language misogyny”. When someone is bold, we say they “have balls”. When we want someone to stand up for themselves, we tell them to “grow a pair”. Both of these are even used for women. Conversely, when a male cries out or is startled, we say he “screamed like a little girl”. If someone is weak, they are called a “pussy”. This one just drives me crazy! Seriously! Women shoulder so much of the burden in the household and work… how in the world could a female body party be a synonym for weak!

The world may now be open to women to enter any field or work any job, but the gender roles remain deeply engrained. We do not tell a young boy, “Oh you are so pretty!” as a compliment. You may say he is “smart” or “strong”. You do not complement his appearance. Yet, invariably, “Oh, you are pretty.” will be a standard compliment for a girl. It is seemingly harmless, but how does this train us? If we complement a girl’s appearance, especially to the exclusion of others, then we are telling her that that is what she is – pretty. That becomes the goal – to be pretty.

Words do matter. They shape us and direct our development. They are more subtle than the images that are foist upon us. And they tell the story of where we have been and how far we still have left to go.


Leave Captain America out of it…

This photo was on HuffPo representing a tea party rally.  I must respectfully ask that tea party people please stick to the tri-corner hat costumes and leave the superheros out of it.  Captain America would probably come down on the Republican side, but he is no tea party guy.  He is straight-laced but compassionate.

The photo caught my eye, but the article was worth reading.

Hope the exit polls and AP polls they are citing are good surveys… if so it is promising to think that only 30 percent of adults are supporters of the tea party crowd – but that 60 percent of Republicans align with the tea party. If the Republican party shifts hard right to please that 60%, then the 70% of adults not supportive of the tea party can regain ground and perhaps quiet down some of the yelling. Although, that 30% sure makes for good TV…


Rachel Maddow is awesome

I love, love, love this. Ok. It is MSNBC. They are biased. I don’t care. I love it. It is true. It makes me feel good knowing someone else is just going nuts about all this stuff!!!

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Really. Who would you choose?

Honestly, listening to the two speeches side by side, who do you really want to deal with? Who really would be productive governing?

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The politics you can afford, the politics you deserve and the continual search for sanity

Surely no one was surprised by last night’s results. The treads were there for a while. Yet, I woke up this morning with this new reality – that the Republicans really did take the House and gained a bunch in the Senate. It is hard to wrap my head around and it is hard not to be depressed. Mostly, I just can’t understand it because it really doesn’t make any sense to me.

The phrase, everyone has the politics they can afford, keeps coming to my mind. It usually refers to something like buying a car with a traditional gas engine that gets 33 mpg instead of a hybrid that gets 45 – you would love to be able to get the hybrid because it is best for the planet, but the savings on gas wouldn’t pay off during the lifetime of the car. It is why I feed my family beef and chicken from the store instead of the grass fed and free range products at the farmer’s market. Today I keep thinking of it in reverse. So many people voted against their own self interests – they voted for the politics they couldn’t afford. They voted to go back to leaders promising to do exactly what they did the last time – which is what led to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. How can you say you are voting for change when you are voting for the same old thing? How can we afford these politics again, when they about broke us the first time? I understand that people are hurting; I know people looking for a job. They can’t afford the politics of tax cuts and no regulation. The surveys of the Tea Party crowd showed them to be better off than most, older and educated. In other words, we are getting the politics they can afford. The guy working his ass off at the factory (yes, there are still actual factories in this country), is not being served by them at all. Yet, the anger is catching and cathartic. If you are desperate it feels good to have someone or something to be upset about – yet it sure seems to be misplaced.

I simply get angry about it and the phrase changes to ‘you get the politics you deserve’. What really gets me though is that I am part of that “you” – I get the politics, too. Do I deserve it? I listen to the Tea-GOP’ers say they want to cut taxes to create jobs, to balance the budget, and for just about any problem that comes up. That is the only solution. Cut taxes. They want a balance budget, they want to cut the deficit – cut taxes. It simply counterintuitive, it is simply incorrect. They can offer no concrete way to pay for the cuts – they say defense, social security and Medicare are off limits. Yet, those are the biggest portion of the budget. They really offer no solution except cutting taxes. How can you logically listen to that and think, “oh that makes sense!” It is short sighted. The idea you might get your little piece of the tax cut or not have to pay a little more next year, is really not that much of an incentive, is it? Isn’t it like trying to buy a vote? Isn’t it a lot like people voting for Bush in 2004 because they had received a $300 check? You are paying a huge price for that little lagniappe.

This weekend I went to a satellite Rally to Restore Sanity (in Dallas at a bar named Lee Harvey’s, if you like irony). I really appreciate the message. I think Jon Stewart is brilliant and sincere. The two hundred or so people at the rally and I all agree, things are just crazy and need to be taken down a notch so we can really grasp the choices we are faced with. Perhaps his rally and the push for reason are just too late in coming because insanity really seemed to rule the day. There are exceptions, Delaware decided to go for the candidate that knew the constitution did specify the separation of church and state and Nevadans held their noses and voted for Harry. But you have Kentucky vote in a guy who questions the legality of civil rights legislation. Most of the insanity stems from what we see and hear in the media. Insanity sells. Controversy and argument sells. I understand the need to point out the vitriol on both sides of the center line, but I cannot help but think that in doing so, it cuts against the left. There is such a thing as righteous indignation. There is a difference in speaking in hyperbolic phrases to stir up fear and using actual facts to make a heated point. I am biased. I admit it. MSNBC is biased – I admit that and so do they. Yet, it drives me nuts to have them linked in with Fox as the counterbalance. The difference is Fox doesn’t admit to being biased and it plays very loose with the truth. MSNBC does actually report news or give commentary with factual information. The difference between the left and right, Republican and Democrats is the very thing that makes Republicans so much better at politics – they stay on message. Fox is not going to question Republican leadership where MSNBC can scorch Obama on any hint of compromise. But Fox and MSNBC are the extremes. Most of the news, with all its myriad faults, falls in the middle. I don’t buy the liberal bias for the reason stated above. Whatever you want to call them, those of us left of center never can stay on message. If anything the news is biased to the bottom line and what makes money is what is sensational. So the overall bias can cross that middle line from left to right, but it will always trend to the extreme because that is always more sensational.

So, where is the sanity? The sanity is us. It is finding news sources without an agenda – that excludes Fox and MSNBC. It is about actually taking the news and thinking about it. It requires more time and thought. It requires people to be engaged. It requires not yelling, but discussing. I will continue working on doing my part in that. Who knows, maybe it will become a trend.


The American Fundamentalist – Tea Partyism

More reading material. I found the article by Andrew Romano in this week’s Newsweek, America’s Holy Writ, a nice summary of the Tea Party phenomenon. Follow the link for the story (Newsweek needs the support).

Exploring the Tea Party through the lens of fundamentalism is instructive. While many of the Tea Party group may be religious fundamentalist, that is not the point here. Their fundamentalism is based on the “scripture” of the constitution. It goes beyond strict constructionist thought or even the worship of the document. It is that there interpretation is correct and static. Or, as the article puts it: “Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.”

That is the aha moment for me. It is like any religious fundamentalist. We know best. We have the answers. If you don’t understand, we will explain it to you. When you talk to a fundamentalist Christian, you are not going to change their mind, or even have a discussion on any issue. They have the answers right in the book in their hand. The earth is 6,000 years old. God just planted those dinosaur bones as a joke on scientist. They can tell you that their God is love while Allah is hate – while holding a book that expressly tells stories of their God telling his people to go and slaughter everyone in a city. They eat shrimp, they don’t own slaves nor do they stone anyone. But, they know that every word is the word of God. In the fundamentalist world, they don’t have to think about it anymore.

In this view, I can see the Tea Partiers as filled with fervor rather than just hate. It is no less alarming, though. They are a loud and offer something soothing: black and white answers, absolutism, a romanticized vision of the past. But, just as god, any god, would not create a human with a brain and then ask them not to use it, I don’t think the Founders thought they had created the end all, be all of a constitution. If they had, they wouldn’t have made room for amendments. Mr. Romano ends his article by quoting several lines from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Samuel Kercheval in 1816. While in the confines of an article his clips serve, I think a fuller quote is even more interesting. (My emphasis added.)

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.
As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood.”




Feeling down about the elections?  Me, too.  I don’t understand the “enthusiasm gap”.  I don’t understand the lack of urgency.  As much as the those holding their tea parties are afraid of where the Obama administration is leading the country, I am afraid of where it will go without him.  Really, doesn’t it keep you awake at night to think about Republicans taking back congress?  Not only was their entire platform the last two years simply “No”, they now vow to undo everything that they said “no” to!

I found the Rolling Stone article The Case For Obama to be a nice salve – and also offers a nice run down of everything those of us left of center should be proud of – and should be fighting to keep.

Buck up!  Vote!

Here is a link:

Here is a pdf: The Case for Obama – Rolling Stone

And here is a excerpt:

Less than halfway through his first term, Obama has compiled a remarkable track record. As president, he has rewritten America’s social contract to make health care accessible for all citizens. He has brought 100,000 troops home from war and forged a once-unthinkable consensus around the endgame for the Bush administration’s $3 trillion blunder in Iraq. He has secured sweeping financial reforms that elevate the rights of consumers over Wall Street bankers and give regulators powerful new tools to prevent another collapse. And most important of all, he has achieved all of this while moving boldly to ward off another Great Depression and put the country back on a halting path to recovery.

Along the way, Obama delivered record tax cuts to the middle class and slashed nearly $200 billion in corporate welfare — reinvesting that money to make college more accessible and Medicare more solvent. He single-handedly prevented the collapse of the Big Three automakers — saving more than 1 million jobs — and brought Big Tobacco, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Even in the face of congressional intransigence on climate change, he has fought to constrain carbon pollution by executive fiat and to invest $200 billion in clean energy — an initiative bigger than John F. Kennedy’s moonshot and one that’s on track to double America’s capacity to generate renewable energy by the end of Obama’s first term.

On the social front, he has improved pay parity for women and hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians. He has brought a measure of sanity to the drug war, reducing the sentencing disparity for crack cocaine while granting states wide latitude to experiment with marijuana laws. And he has installed two young, female justices on the Supreme Court, creating what Brinkley calls “an Obama imprint on the court for generations.”

What’s even more impressive about Obama’s accomplishments, historians say, is the fractious political coalition he had to marshal to victory. “He didn’t have the majority that LBJ had,” says Goodwin. Indeed, Johnson could count on 68 Democratic senators to pass Medicare, Medicaid and the Voting Rights Act. For his part, Franklin Roosevelt had the backing of 69 Senate Democrats when he passed Social Security in 1935. At its zenith, Obama’s governing coalition in the Senate comprised 57 Democrats, a socialist, a Republican turncoat — and Joe Lieberman.

In his quest for progress, Obama has also had to maneuver against an unrelenting head wind from the “Party of No” and its billionaire backers. “Obama is harassed as well as opposed,” says Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. “The crazy Republican right is now unfettered. You’ve got a Senate with no adult leadership. And Obama’s up against Rupert Murdoch, Dick Armey, the Koch brothers and the rest of the professional right.” Compared to the opposition faced by the most transformative Democratic presidents, adds Wilentz, “it’s a wholly different scale.”

Despite such obstacles, Obama has succeeded in forging a progressive legacy that, anchored by health care reform, puts him “into the same conversation with FDR and LBJ,” says Brinkley, “though those two accomplished more.” Goodwin, herself a former Johnson aide, likens the thrust of Obama’s social agenda to LBJ’s historic package of measures known as the Great Society. “What is comparable,” she says, “is the idea of using government to expand social and economic justice. That’s what the health care bill is about. That’s what Obama tried to do with the financial reforms. That’s what he’s doing with education. The Great Society was about using the collective energies of the nation to make life better for more people — and that’s what Obama has tried to do.”