Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Never Before

I've probably admitted before that I've never watched a full political speech before so that's not new. On the other hand I probably haven't told you why. I have an anxiety problem. It's not diagnosed, it's not medicated, it's not debilitating but it is pervasive. It was its worst when I was a teenager and probably right around the time that most of you out there were first being exposed to politics and were asked to connect to the process. Triggers include but are not limited to nuclear power, nuclear war, otehr kinds of war and marriage. (Kidding.) (But about what?) Nuclear war and nuclear power were big deals in my teen years and they're just coming around on the guitar now, aren't they?

Is that an excuse not to have watched a full State of the Union until I turned 41? Could I not have worked out some coping mechanisms (lord knows I have plenty) and toughed it out since it's the adult thing to do? Yeah, probably. But I didn't and now you know why.

So I've got no practice talking about the hour and 10 minutes I just watched. The only thing I know for sure is that the minute he endorsed nuclear power my heart started to beat faster and I had to take a little walk around the room putting some things away while I kept listening. My head knows that nuclear energy is clean and safe and smart when handled correctly but my heart told my head to go fuck itself.

Did the President of the US make fun of people who don't believe in climate change (and therefore science)? I think he did. That felt chancy. Felt kind of good, too.

This speech cemented something I've thought for a while. I like that Obama doesn't please one side or the other completely. Of course he wrapped up his comments by reminding everyone that he never said the change would be easy nor that he could do it alone. I can't be the only person who remembers him saying that in other speeches both before and after his election. I mean, I didn't even watch all of them! If you honestly thought that Obama would significantly change the world in a year or less then you have even less experience of this world than I do. If you'll pardon my saying so, that's sad because I am a poor example.

His ideas struck me as FDRish, which I suppose is either wonderful or horrible depending on your perspective. I don't know a whole lot about FDR but he gave my grandfather a job and so far my family all still has our heads above water, even if just barely on some days, so I'm partial to him and his crazy New Deal. Plus, he made the Federal Theater possible and that makes my heart ache with joy and loss.

I'm sort of even listening to the Republican response but it's making my stomach clench. This man's demeanor feels combative and it's setting off all my anxious bells. After a speech that took both sides specifically to task for partisanship this slick little man is calling out Democrats specifically. Shouldn't that be offensive and poor politics to everyone? I live in New York State, our state legislature stopped functioning entirely this summer due to partisanship, I don't take that shit lightly. And neither should you, wherever you live. Earlier he said that government needed to be reduced and now he's saying that government "close to the people" is best. I can see where he's going with both of those but if you put them next to each other they seem wildly contradictory. And then he quoted "the scriptures." Well, sir, I hate that even more than I hate Obama's "God Bless the United States of America" bullshit. At the very least be more specific, which scriptures? Each religion has their own. Now I wish I hadn't watched, I may not sleep and I'm definitely going to cry.

Really, though, I started to write this to say something related but entirely different. I went through my reader a few months ago and swept out blogs I was reading out of obligation adn not enjoyment. A few of those were blogs where the author's political views were a. drowning my enjoyment of the other things they wrote and b. were clearly not going to change. Since then I've gotten myself on Twitter and the other day one of the authors I'd decided not to read started following me. That was weird on a number of levels since I don't think she ever read my blog but it prompted me to click over to her and read through some of the recent entries.

During the last Presidential election this writer clarified a bunch of things for me about conservative views. I remember her responding to something about government charity. I'm not sure how charity was defined during that conversation. She strongly advocated that the government not be responsible for this sort of thing that private funds should be used or at least that citizens should be allowed to choose how much they give to people who need assistance and that government should not, in essence, force us to give. The implication was that anyone who deserved to be saved (whoever that is) would be helped with this system and there would be less waste. It was a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of discussion.

This week in going back to her space I discovered that her husband has lost his job and they may be facing foreclosure. I'm considering reading her regularly again because she may swiftly be facing the need for the sort of help of which she is skeptical. She's smart, skilled, motivated, strong and absolutely sure in her convictions so I feel as though she could be about to teach a big lesson about whether her plans will work. I want to know if she'll use government or private assistance and how she'll resolve this dip in circumstances. It's surely a dip, she'll be back on track soon, I have no doubt. But going back just to see how she resolves this misfortune feels like stopping to watch someone in trouble on the side of the road, it's rude and creepy and no help at all. I'll be thinking of her, though, because she's ground level, everyday America right now and she has a golden opportunity to explore the solutions all our political and media air bags are huffing and puffing about now.

I suspect they've got a lot to learn from her.


  1. Since the Prez has brought it up, I'll just toss this out there for your information: If you'd care to learn what daily life in a US nuclear plant is actually like and how an accident might unfold, see my novel "Rad Decision", based on my 20+ years in the nuke industry. Nuclear has its good points and bad points, and this is a good introduction to them. Hopefully my little tale won't cause your head and heart to go to war. The book is free online at No advertising, no sponsors, no money for me.

    "I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalog

    James Aach

  2. oh it's terrible, Mark and I were watching Slumdog Millionaire when we discovered we'd missed half the speech. I am so out of the news/politics loop that I didn't know when the speech would be on. It's shameful, but the news and politics make me sad.

    When Obama mentioned fighting for the rights of gay men and women in the military, I myself had a stomach clench. He's taking a lot of big things on, and I am a bit of cynic. I'm cheering for him but I worry, too.

    I really loved how he ended the speech, saying that Americans don't give up, and that he will not give up. That was what I needed to hear, and it was a simple ending in light of such huge issues.

  3. I liked the speech very much because I love his gift of oratory. I love how he can speak in front of so many powerful people and he's confident, smart, and engaging.

    I don't particularly love what I see as biting off more than he can chew, but the reality is the President doesn't really DO any of the things he talks about. He's got people to do it, then other people who have to agree to it. I'm starting to wonder how much the President has turned into a figurehead, like a queen.

    Anyway, in spite of all that, I lovethat he showed the "old" side of himself again. I miss his speeches, his passion. I hope this job doesn't dampen it.

  4. I thought his speech was a good one - it did all the things a political speech is supposed to do and then some. Yes, he called a LOT of people out on their shit (my favorite moment was the moment that started "All due deference to the separation of powers..." and went on to say that, essentially, the Supreme Court fucked us without so much as a kiss.

    I'll be watching very carefully for the demise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was a cowardly move by Clinton, and I'm eager to see it crumpled up and tossed in the can.