Thursday, February 24, 2011

Politics Bubble

An Ezra Klein tweet directed me to this blogpost today, ordering me to read the last two paragraphs. And I was glad he did, because I found it very edifying:

I've said this get a sense of what politics is like for many Americans, I suggest thinking of something that you do encounter in some way all the time, but that you just have zero interest in. Perhaps sports in general -- or, for sports fans, a major sport that you don't pay any attention to. Perhaps it's current pop music, or HBO shows, or celebrities. Me? NASCAR, the NBA, and any games made since Missile Command and Stargate Defender. The idea is that I actually do encounter and, in a way, retain a fair amount of information about those things in the nature of headlines that I see but skip the stories, or references made in other things I do read or watch, or conversations I've had that veer off in that direction. It's not as if I know absolutely nothing. It's just that the stuff I've heard is not organized at all, and I'm sure I've picked up misinformation along the way, since I don't scrutinize any of it.

Anyway, when you're involved in what's happening in Wisconsin, or Libya, or the budget negotiations in Washington, just keep in mind that most people aren't paying any attention at all.

Doesn't that just clarify things for those of us who live inside the political bubble (AKA, those of us who feel an obligation for understanding what's happening in the world around us).

Then I read on TPM today, that barely half of Americans even KNOW that the HCR law that Obama signed into law last year is, you know, still the law.

A good chunk of the country is walking around thinking that that orange, weepy guy managed to get rid of death panels. Wow.

I hate what I'm about to say (I normally get so irritated when other people say things like this), but I'm saying it anyway: it breaks my heart to think of the people in Libya today who are literally dying for the right to representative government, and we live in a country so spoiled that most of us cannot even be bothered to understand even vaguely the things happening around us.

I have the flu, so I'm kind of bummed in general. But this is the kind of thing that just makes my normally unflagging optimism wane.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Planned Parenthood

So, I've never been pregnant and never had an STD. But I have a Planned Parenthood story. But while I am foul-mouthed and brazen, I'm kind of shy about biological type stuff, so I'm going to try and tell this story as euphemistically as possible.

You know how women have periods, right? And we use tampons? Well, sometimes, when you're younger and maybe a little more careless about things than you would be when you get older, you can, um, forget about things, and convenient removal strings might go missing, and things can get a little, um, awkward.

Stuff can also go wrong with condoms. Not like "we'd better buy a test," but more, um, "where'd it go," you know?

Most women reading this probably know exactly what I'm talking about. It's gross. And I would wager it's a large chunk of the kind of thing Planned Parenthood helps with. That and pap smears for uninsured and handing out condoms and treating STDs and all sorts of valuable health services for women.

But women's health, especially young women's health, stops and starts at abortion for a certain wing of American society. They don't care about the many valuable services Planned Parenthood perform. They only care about abortion.

As Atrios often points out, the anti-abortion movement (and this does not necessarily apply to pro-life people) is first and foremost misogynist. This attack on Planned Parenthood is proof positive of that. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, almost all of my friends went to Planned Parenthood for basic health needs. But, Mike Pence and the rest of the rabid, anti-choice movement couldn't possibly care less about the health needs of young women.

And they don't much care about the health needs of babies once they get born.

Which only serves to underscore my theory that the anti-choice movement (again, this is not necessarily true of pro-life people) doesn't care about the alleged babies. They just hate women.

And, dammit, abortion is a legal procedure in America, as it should be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sometimes the Things We Document are Not Atrocities

This morning when I came into the office I put Al Jazeera TV on my second monitor. This has been my wont this week.

But, you know, I have a job, and I wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying. I didn't notice Sulieman coming on TV but he was there, made a short statement and then we was gone. I didn't notice. But then I heard the news reader (Adrian something) say "Mubarek has stepped down." I stopped writing the email I was on and looked to the second monitor. And it was... I don't have the words.

No one was talking or analyzing what had happened. Instead, it was just the sound of people in Tahrir Square. Never heard anything like it in my life. From thousands of miles away, without having even known that Mubarek was a dictator until earlier this week (for fucking shame, Rhem. For shame), you could feel it. It was incredible.

All day today Adrian The Al Jazeera news reader asked the reporters who were there, most of whom were Egyptian, to take their reporter hats off and tell him how they felt. I was pretty familiar with them. There was a cute reporter guy name Aymon. And a kind of tough, war correspondent type named Hoda. They'd done their dispassionate reporter thing and let us know what was happening, clued us into the important details and done it like reporters do, from a distance even though they're right in the middle. But when they were invited to take off their reporter hats each and every one said the same thing, "There are no words. It's indescribable." But you could feel it coming out of them.

Behind me, I just heard Rachel Maddow say that this is one of those days that reminds us that we're alive and that we're lucky to be here. And I'm so glad that I had my second monitor and that I decided to go to Arab TV for the story.

I know it could be scary and I know it could be Iran. But, I'm choosing (go figure) optimism. Those people in Tahrir Square today are not going to let themselves be conscripted by another tyrant. It'll be a slog and a battle, but I'm going to be paying attention.

I hope you got to hear it when it happened. It was pretty amazing.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'll Protect You, My Child Bride

Two posts tonight! But I had such a moment of clarity about this ad that I had to share. Have you guys seen this:

I told Don when we were watching it that I think this commercial offends or outright pisses off every woman I know. And he said, "Really? Well, it's weird." Or something like that.

But I was wondering why Kay Jewelry keeps running this ad when clearly it gives almost every woman who sees it the heebie jeebies. As I said in my last post, that necklace comes off more as threat than anything else.

And then it hit me! This isn't a commercial for the ladies! It's a commercial for the men. And specifically, that kind of man who has this weird fantasy that every woman walks the earth in a state of near constant fear and that his role will be Protector. Probably he's a guy who notices that when he approaches ladies at the bar, he finds them backing slowly away and looking for their friends and asking nervously if he's the starting QB for the Steelers in the Superbowl.

I wasn't aware that this was such a big market. But I'm pretty sure this commercial has been running for a couple of years.

Next time I'm the mall, I'm steering clear of the Kay Jewelry. I bet it's just chock-a-block with really creepy guys.


There were a few things I was going to write about. First I was going to write a piece about When Facebook Attacks which was all about how weird Facebook can get (I might still write that one). And then I was going to write about how I finally understood that horrible Kay Jewelry commercial (you know... the one with the thunderstorm and the guy who's real creepy with his whole "I'll always be there to protect you against your irrational, childish fears. Here's a pretty necklace that I almost definitely won't strangle you with"). I might still write that one too. But I had an experience tonight...

So my (gak) great niece is spending the night in advance of a trip to Iowa tomorrow. She's a total peach, just this curly headed little moppet with a near constant smile and the brightest little shoe button eyes you've ever seen. But, you know, when you're four and you're spending the night away, sometimes you miss your Mommy and it's a little hard to drift away into sleep. I totally get it, I'm 41 and still miss my Mommy sometimes too. Fortunately, it's OK for me to take a Tylenol PM.

In lieu of drugging the children, I have a much healthier sleep inducement: I bore the shit out of them by reading poetry until they just drift off in lieu of anything better to do. This totally works for all parties because I quite like poetry and can read it in dulcet, sonorous tones. I think. My actual reading voice might be dreadful. (It's hard and disconcerting to listen to yourself, which is the main reason answering machines were phased out in favor of voicemail.)

I started off with Prufrock. This is a good one to start with because it is very rhythmic and even if you don't know what the hell is going on (I know what's going on and have the student loans to prove it), it still sounds really pretty. I then segued into Innisfree, which is a lovely, peaceful poem. At this point both girls were out. But I was enjoying myself so I carried on with Terence, This is Stupid Stuff.

This poem is special to me since both my father and I ended up memorizing it at different stages of our lives and completely independent of the knowledge of the other one's memorization. Just all of the sudden, we both seemed to know it by heart and would perform it despite the groans and pained expressions of everyone else in the room (cretins! philistines!).

So, I was reading it aloud and remembering Dad fondly when I got to the point where Houseman says "Oh, I have been to Ludlow Fair/ And left my necktie god knows where." Suddenly, the memory of my father saying those lines sprang up so vivid. He found that part hilarious and wonderful and pronounced those lines with all sorts of zeal and humor. I could see his eyes crinkle and twinkle and Dad's killer grin.

So, of course, I burst into tears.

Fortunately, I didn't wake the children.

I still feel really fortunate, even after all these years, that a memory of my father can spring up so immediate and vivid. He was always so alive when he was alive, you know?

It's painful, but such a great gift. And it's also so sad. It's so sad that people we love die and we don't get to hear them talk about Terence's damn drunken revelries. It's less sad than not ever having HAD someone who enjoyed Houseman so much. But somehow more sad too. And it puts me to mind of more Houseman. Which I will share below. It's short.

With rue my heart is laden
For many a friend I had
For many a rose-lipt maiden
For many a lightfoot lad

By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade

That shift from maiden/lad to girls/ boys just kills me.

Good night everyone. I hope that somewhere there's someone in your life with a twinkle in their eye who gets a real kick out of good poetry.