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Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Golden Calf

False economy is a term that means, basically, being too cheap costs more in the long run. Buy a cheaply made car and pay more for repairs later. Buy shoddy clothes and have to replace them more often.

But when I’m confronted with the resistance to using public money for public goods that comes up so often when talking to hard-core conservatives, it becomes even more clear that they operate under a false-economy philosophy. Skimp on education now, pay for jails later. Refuse to fund sex education and contraception, pay for more moms on welfare and kids locked into poverty…and more STDs. Refuse to fund mass transit and pay in increased pollution, highway maintenence, and unsustainable sprawl. Refuse to invest in intelligence and diplomacy, and start wars that cost us in trillions of dollars and thousands of lost lives. And then blame all the bad results on others; on democrats, or sexually active teens, or black people, or Saddam Hussein. Anyone but us.

I’m told this sort of thing is common in politics, where pandering trumps strategy, and winning elections trumps any idea of working for the long-term good of the American people. But while I can see the logic of that explanation, it doesn’t really work either, because even a Senator or House member will probably have children, and grandchildren, to inherit the country they leave behind, to breathe polluted air and drink polluted water. Even riches won’t protect you from those things indefinitely.

Which is why I think the Republicans who are left (more seem to retire every day) have succumbed to a sort of madness, have forgotten that what they do affects the ones they love, and untold others, for generations, have told themselves that ideology trumps reality, that if they just pray harder to the almighty market to save them, all will be well. That America can never fail, therefore there is no risk to doing anything they wish. They’ve made a god of free markets and patriotism and shut their eyes and their minds to what is actually happening around them.  And their gods have failed them, but they dare not admit it.

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Tree or Fire?

As my husband and his friends cursed and shivered and tried to get our damn New Year’s bonfire to light (some of the firecrackers we were using to set it off were apparently duds) I talked to another friend about what we thought it meant. What does it mean when you tie firecrackers and newspaper to a supposedly dried-out old Christmas tree, set it on fire, then watch in disbelief while it mostly refuses to burn?
We decided there are two possible interpretations:
  1. Negative. Like our attempts to burn the tree, all our attempts at success this year will fizzle and disappoint. Comparisons to the Fed’s frantic approach to fixing the economy inevitably come to mind.
  2. Positive. Like the tree, we will resist firecrackers, burning newspaper, and even a splash of gasoline thrown at us in desperation. Battered and scorched, we’ll survive midnight to greet the dawn.
I guess we’ll have to wait 12 more months to find out which one applies.

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There’s a lot of fear around, these days.

The funny thing about fear is that you can almost always justify it. There is no reason to think you’re not doomed, that things aren‘t going to go to hell in a handbasket, that death or disaster is crouching just around the corner waiting for you or your loved ones. Whole genres of literature (dystopian sci-fi) and political philosophies (survivalism, Rapture-ism) are based on the obsession with What to Do When it All Goes Pear-Shaped.

And of course, in the end we all die anyway. So that fear, at least, makes some sense. But the rest of it is of limited value for me.

I think about fear a lot because it’s always had a crippling effect on my life, even when I knew it was irrational and that it was making me miss out. Fear of “doing it wrong” whatever “it” was; being a good person, good wife, good mom, good friend, competent employee. The times when I’ve let fear make my decisions have almost always been the times with bad outcomes–when I take the safe job, turn down the risky opportunity, stifle a deep need out of misplaced martyrism or just being timid. The safe job turned out horribly; the stifled need made me miserable; being a martyr just sucks, period.

When I feel most alive, most connected to living, is when I’m taking a risk–a thought-out risk, usually, but a risk–that is connected with something I need. Having a child, moving to New York without a job or a longterm place to stay, marrying a musician, going to a college that no one had heard of but that had an awesome English department.  Traveling to Germany on my own at 19 for a week with minimal language skills. Not all of these were easy or 100% awesome (I got homesick in Germany and came back early, I kind of regret not going to a cheaper school) but all produced rewards and made me intensely happy in one way and another. All of them gave me stories, and memories, and opportunities, that I would never have gotten otherwise. All of them required ignoring my fears.

So I’m resisting the fear all around me now, of bad news, of uncertain survival. It’s easier of course, because I haven’t lost my house or been laid off. Yet. But there’s still plenty of anxiety to go around. Logically, I should be worried, should rein in the hopes and plans I have for my future and Nathan’s and Matt’s. In chaos, though, there is opportunity. The world is being shaken, and it’s quite possible that this is the beginning of a long bad stretch. But it might also be the chance for new things to pop up, new ideas to get tried, a chance to change some things that weren’t working.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t take the suffering so many are going through lightly. I think it’s a damned shame that it takes an economic collapse to get our leadership to take seriously problems and ideas that have been around for a long time, that have been clamoring for our attention long since. I am angry that things have had to get to this point at all. That’s immoral, because it has caused needless suffering, and it should not have happened this way.

But it has, and if we can use this time to make life more worth living, let’s do that. Let’s not be afraid any more than absolutely necessary. Let’s leap into the unknown, instead of waiting for it to catch up to us. That way, we might generate some useful momentum to carry us to something better.

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