Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Tangled up in blue

7 11 2012

David Shankbone, Creative Commons License 2012


Mayan campaign mashup 2012: We don’t need another hero

6 11 2012

Presidents are not heroes.

Even the best of them—the brave, the wise—are leaders, not heroes. They are not here to save us, from ourselves or anyone else, but to guide us through the present and into the future with an open heart and an open mind and with malice toward none.

President Barack Obama is not a hero. President Barack Obama will not save us.

President Barack Obama is a leader.

There are things I like about his presidency and things I don’t, and I doubt that the things I don’t like—the continued drug war, the unilateral and heavy use of drones, the timidity on global warming, among others—will change much in a second term.

But the things I like—his efforts to use the state for rather than against the vulnerable, the concrete recognition of the rights of women to control their (our) own sexuality and for queer folk not to be punished for their (our) sexuality, good Supreme Court picks, his measured approach to international affairs—point the way toward a future which just might be better than it would otherwise be.

April 14, 2010. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Barack Obama, 2012.

Would you go?

5 11 2012

Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion; bodies at rest, to stay at rest.

Newton’s first law describes the principle of inertia; for a body to change its inertial status, force must be applied.

When I was young, I was a body in motion: my default was Go. A party, a scene, a county fair, anything happening anywhere—go.

Go, go, gotta keep moving, gotta move on.

That worked, for a while, a long while, but as I fled into the molasses of depression, I wound down, and out, and the default shifted. It was a survival tactic: even amidst my self-destructiveness, there were parts of my life I sought to protect. I cannibalized my social and political life in order to feed my intellectual life.

That worked pretty well for graduate school, actually. There was no time, especially in those early years, for anything other than study, so withdrawing from social activity made both emotional and practical sense.

Yet, over a decade past my turning away from self-destruction, and I wonder if it is possible yet again to shift my default. I don’t need the freneticism of my youth, but this quietude is too much like passivity; this quietude has become passivity. It gets in the way of what matters.

I did finally make my way down to the Red Hook Initiative and put in some hours helping people, and since my downtown office will be closed tomorrow, I think I’ll head down there again. But it took me so long to get there, so much talking myself into doing what needed to be done. I hate it when anyone tells me that I think too much—I don’t think it’s possible to think too much—but I do too often think dishonestly, that is, I use my intellect to de-activate myself, to justify that de-activation.

I’ve said before that I am a polar person: I  swing too far in one direction, then too far in the other, and only after blowing past the far points can I make my way towards the center. Perhaps this has been one hella long swing from too much to too little. I’ve gotten used to being a bystander, but perhaps instead of saying This is how I am, I could say, A little push, and I’m on my way.

I don’t have to run and I don’t have to hide; I just need a new default for somewhere in-between.

Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Hold it steady, hold it steady

2 11 2012

I’m off shortly to volunteer unloading and distributing relief supplies, an effort organized by the Red Hook Initiative, (and found through the Brokelyn website, via the Red Hook Recovers Twitter feed)—but before I go, a bit o’ political prognostication.

I think Barack Obama is going to win, both the popular and Electoral College votes, and by a comfortable margin. Not overwhelmingly, not a landslide, but with, say, more than 290 electoral votes.

And since I’m in a predicting frame of mind: The Dems retain the Senate, and while they pick up some seats in the House, Republicans will likely control that chamber.

I’m really going out on a limb, I know, but I’m usually allergic to predictions and this time I just feel so. . . calm about this.

This is not normal for me. I usually try to game the worst that could happen and prepare myself for that, partly because I genuinely believe the worst will happen, and partly as a hedging strategy: better to be pleasantly than unpleasantly surprised.

My new-found serenity may be due to an (over-)attentiveness to polling aggregators and explanations of Obama’s small-but-persistent edge by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight as well as by John Sides  and the folks at The Monkey Cage and Jonathan Bernstein at a plain blog about politics: they offer good probabilistic evidence for confidence in re-election.

Still, I’ve rarely let evidence get in the way of my neuroses before, so why the calm this time?

I dunno, I truly don’t. Maybe it’s the sense that even if Obama loses and we end up with President Romney (may those words never truly be joined), things will be worse than they’d have to be, but we’d survive. Hell, we’re still here after eight years of the thoughtless, careless George W. Bush as president, so would the empty privilege of Willard Mitt Romney destroy us? No.

Anyway, since I’ve been quietly confident of the president’s re-election for some time, it seemed only right that I put it out there—if only to take my licks if I’m wrong.

But this time, this time I think it’s going to be all right.

I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses

1 11 2012

I am beyond lucky to be bored.

CUNY reopens tomorrow, but since I teach on a T-Th schedule, I won’t be back until next week, and the office for my other job is closed tomorrow.

Upshot: A week off.

And what have I done this week? Fuck-all.

Dmf suggested this would be good writing time, and he was right! But did I write? Nope. I have a bunch of pants that need to be shortened and skinnied; did I haul out the sewing machine and do this? Nope. Files to go through, the Civil War site to be updated—nothin’. Sat on my ass, my near-but-not-yet-recovered-back  even keeping me out of the gym.

Now, I did think of volunteering, but since my work schedule was day-to-day, I didn’t want to sign up for anything and then have to back out. Thought I might donate blood, but it’s not clear that, as a shrimpy person, I meet the requirements (and I’ve been turned away in the past). I did manage to donate some money to a relief fund, but, really, how hard was that?

This is shitty to admit to feel, but it’s as if my city has gone through this horrendous event and all I’ve done is hang out in the alcove above the Real Action™,  refreshing my browser and wondering if I should do something. To put it more baldly, the Big Bad happened and I feel left out.

I know.

Now, I do immediately remind myself that I am lucky to feel left out, that it’s one thing to pine for a shared experience and another thing actually to, well, experience it. I’ve been in shitty situations and they’re called shitty for a reason: ain’t nothing fun in having the elemental supports of your life washed out from under you.

Anyway, I thought, Do I sit here indulging in self-flagellation, or do I actually get out and do something? Well, when you put it like that. . . .

So, yes, since I know I’ll be off work on Friday, I signed up through NYC Service to volunteer. I don’t know what, if anything, will happen, and of course I’m both kicking myself for not signing up sooner (shoulda played the work odds in the other direction) and fretting over my motives (am I doing this to help or because I want that Real Action™?), but, at least, it’s something.

And in this case, mixed motives or no, something is better than nothing.