Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Given that I’ve been so blogless of late, I’ve determined to lay out a big long one to get back into the swing. Please know that you are under no pressure to enjoy it, but if you don’t we may face more Terrah.

Before I go any further: CARLTON. Congratulations!

[Much of what follows was composed on 16 August 2004.]

I spent most of August in Ruethen, Germany, at the home of Birgit’s parents. After a reasonably long visit to the US, I arrived here on 5 August. My goal was to get to Germany more or less at the same time as Birgit, but events conspired against that, with the result that I got here a full month after she did. In the interim, B decided to take a trip to Salamanca, Spain, for an intensive Spanish course. The official reason is that she is to lead a Spanish class at her school and she wanted to get her grammar up to snuff for the kiddies. Unofficially she is there because the weather is generally warmer and sunnier in Spain than it is in Germany, and B is high on the warm and sunny. What that boils down to is that I had an 18-day Birgitless streak in Germany.

So far I have visited our friends Rita and Jens in Bonn for Rita’s birthday, journeyed to Wuppertal to check out our new apartment, and relaxed in small-town Germany [now, of course, I am in residence in Wuppertal]. The apartment is pretty sweet, by the way. The only drawback is that two of the interior walls are rather thin, with the result that anything said or done on one side of the wall will be heard on the other side. This limits us on which room will serve which purpose. Otherwise no problems. The place is around 100 years old, has two balconies overlooking the valley, high ceilings, and plenty of space. The landlords seem nice enough (they are a retired couple).

The set up is basically that we have a largish dining/living room (with balcony), kitchen (with another balcony), bathroom, and three rooms of similar size (one for B, one for me, and one for sleeping). My room, I reckon, will eventually have a sleeper sofa or futon in it for company. Birgit’s will have a hammock (for company, too, if they want to use it).

One thing that has folks all a’ twitter over here in Old Europe is the question of Bush v. Kerry. It has been my solemn duty to inform them of Kerry’s positions on several issues of concern to Europeans, which I understand now thanks to having paid close attention to the Democratic convention.

Kerry is against it and will fight it with the same vigor he showed when he fought in Vietnam.
Kerry is in favor of working closely with allies. Had we done that in Vietnam (where Kerry was) things may have turned out differently.
Kerry claims to have been bamboozled by Dubyah, and says that mistakes were made. Given the chance to do it over again, however, he would. If elected, he would pursue “peace with honor” and Iraqification of the conflict via the deployment of additional troops. How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake? John Kerry intends to show you.
Haven’t you heard? John Kerry personally killed more than a few Vietnamese people. George Bush wouldn’t know a Vietnamese guy if he bought him a beer. So, you know, that counts for something.

[Here endeth the part I wrote in August. Here beginneth something I just wrote.]

I watched the run up to Kerry’s speech with my parents. After the last of the steaming piles of maudlin Vietnam memories was dumped on the stage, and the Man Himself was announced, there was a long enough pause for me to say (to my parents) that the band was going to roll into “Run Through the Jungle” by Creedence. This got a laugh out of my parents, but it turned out not to happen. It should have happened, though.

Or they could have played the “Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish, or “Vietnam” by Jimmy Cliff, or “In the Navy” by the Village People.

I was unfortunately (har!) unable to view the Repugnican convention, but my understanding is that it boiled down to “Stay the course, a thousand points of light, stay the course.” Also, Arnold “not a Nazi, but not NOT one either” Schwartzeneggar used the line “girly men”. What I have not seen mentioned is that that is NOT his line, but rather one of Dana Carvey/Kevin Nealon’s lines from their “Pumping up with Hans und Franz” sketches. Why America is unable to give Kevin Nealon this smallest of propahs, I know not.

Nevertheless, I figure as long as we’re cribbing from Saturday Night Live, Kerry should bust out during the debate with Jon Lovitz’s (as Michael Dukakis) immortal “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!” Also, why not have John Edwards do a turn as Phil Hartman’s “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” to criticize Uncle Dick Cheney?

Gold, as Arnold has demonstrated, does not tarnish.

This election has given me an even larger than normal dose of uncertainty. I know that I would never vote for Dubyah. So that’s not the problem. I won’t vote for Ralph Nader this time, either, as he’s not running with a party and can therefore accomplish nothing whatsoever with his campaign except, perhaps, raise issues (which he could do by just going on tv and talking about stuff as “Ralph Nader, well-known dude” instead of “Ralph Nader de la Mancha”).

That leaves me with JfK and the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer OR none of the above. I’ll get to the Johns in a second. First, a few words about other candidates (in general) and the leftie media (I mean real Left, like Counterpunch). For all the Kerrybashing I’ve read, I’ve yet to see anyone mention any alternative beyond Ralph or the Greens (who are running on a platform of “we may not even vote for ourselves”, which is a ridiculous waste of time by any measure). This strikes me as odd, considering that a rogues’ gallery of leftists run for president every time.

There is the Socialist Party, USA. They’ve got Walt Brown (and Mary Alice Herbert).
There is the Socialist Equality Party. They’ve got Bill Van Auken (and Jim Lawrence).
There is the Socialist Workers Party. They’ve got James Harris (and Maggie Trowe).

There are, no doubt, others.

Don’t ask about why there are three different Socialist parties (and a Communist Party), by the way, unless you want a dissertation on the history of socialism dropped on you. There are some things best left unknown.

The Communist Party, USA, in case you are curious, is not fielding Pres and Vice Pres candidates this time, but is instead endorsing AnybodyButBush.

The problem is, I know enough about the Way the World Works to know that no one running as any permutation of socialist has the slightest chance of getting any traction in the US (at least not nationally). There was a time. It has passed. It may come again, but I don’t imagine I should hold my breath. Therefore, a vote for any of those fine (?) folks would be no more worthwhile (and perhaps even less) than a vote for Nader. It would amount to a shake of my disproportionately small fist at The Man, who would promptly slither along his merry way. The appeal of the 2000 Nader/LaDuke candidacy was precisely that it had a high enough profile (and a viable enough party) that it could have served (and, briefly, DID serve) to improve the fortunes of a leftist party on a national level and get the attention of the national Democrats (notice Gore’s pitching to the left side of the strike zone in the late innings). That can’t happen with any of the folks I just mentioned, however. Not this time, and maybe not for a long time.

Which brings us back to DOH!

I disagree with Kerry’s position on pretty much every big issue. Anyone who calls themselves leftist or progressive should, too. He’s really quite conservative, even compared to Clinton. He IS better on environmental issues than is Dubyah, however, and on certain questions of civil liberties. He IS less embarrassing than Dubyah, and less easy to hate (which counts for a great deal). He would likely be better at diplomacy than is Dubyah (although if that means convincing Old Europeans to help fight in the imperial wars, that could be a bad thing). He IS, I gather, a generally more thoughtful person than is Dubyah, and therefore more likely to be persuaded to change things for the better.

On balance, then, Kerry is likely to be less bad for the world than a second term of Dubyah. This is hardly news, and I’ve always known it and have written to that effect. What is new, for me, is that there is genuinely no real alternative this time. The situation is that, although I am filled with depair at the thought of having no choice but to vote for Kerry, a vote for anyone other than Kerry would fill me with even greater despair.

So I’ll vote for Carrie Edwards.


Mind you, although Carrie Edwards may well be less bad for the world than DubyahDick, I fear that this election cycle will determine whither the Democratic Party for the next generation. The left wing of the Dems woke up this time. Many representatives of the left were on display at the convention. They’ve got ideas and skills and they are bringing what the country needs and what lots of people (I daresay a majority) in the country want. If they are silenced (or silence themselves), as was the case under Clinton, the party is fucked. The Repugs have been ascendant in large part because they listen to their true believers. The DLC “third way” and triangulation tactics took the Democrats towards the right (not the middle, where they already were), and the Repugs responded by going even FURTHER right. We can see the one result of this in the feckless Carrie Edwards campaign: they can’t attack the substance of Dubyah’s actions because they have supported most of them, so they are stuck with attacking his style. They are forced to promise that, if elected, they will do a less bad job of doing the wrong things!

I’ll have to settle for that this time, but it is mighty thin grits.

I probably shouldn’t do this, since “mighty thin grits” is a great closing line, but I’ve got to say something about a news story I’ve just read called Punch-up at tomb of Jesus. It is about Christians of different stripes getting angry at one another and is funny.

Here is a Well-Known Writer talking about the scene of the brawl at another time:

[Upon entering Jerusalem] “One naturally goes first to the Holy Sepulchre. It is right in the city, near the western gate; it and the place of the Crucifixion, and, in fact, every other place intimately connected with that tremendous event, are ingeniously massed together and covered by one roof -- the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

“Entering the building, through the midst of the usual assemblage of beggars, one sees on his left a few Turkish guards -- for Christians of different sects will not only quarrel, but fight, also, in this sacred place, if allowed to do it. . . .

“All sects of Christian (except Protestants) have chapels under the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and each must keep to itself and not venture upon another’s ground. It has been proven conclusively that they cannot worship together around the grave of the Saviour of the World in peace. . . .

“And so I close my chapter on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- the most sacred locality on earth to millions and millions of men, and women, and children, the noble and the humble, the bond and free. In its history from the first, and in its tremendous associations, it is the most illustrious edifice in Christendom. With all its clap-trap side-shows and unseemly impostures of every kind, it is still grand, revered, venerable -- for a god died there; for fifteen hundred years its shrines have been wet with the tears of pilgrims from the earth’s remotest confines; for more than two hundred, the most gallant knights that ever wielded sword wasted their lives away in a struggle to seize it and hold it sacred from infidel pollution. Even in our own day a war, that cost millions in treasure and rivers of blood, was fought because two rival nations claimed the sole right to put a new dome upon it. History is full of this old Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- full of blood that was shed because of the respect and veneration in which men held the last resting place of the meek and lowly, the mild and gentle Prince of Peace!”

from Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad, Volume II” (1869)


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