Prithee now, a word from our sponsors

The bad news is, some of the nitwits on the ballot are going to win Tuesday’s election (they can’t lose ’em all); the good news is, their campaign ads will cease and our television landscape will be safe once again for non-partisan overstatement and inanity.

But don’t fall for it when someone complains that political campaigns today are so much nastier than they used to be.  The truth is, the first American political campaigns were even more cutthroat than what we put up with in the 21st century.  If the Founding Fathers had had television, the attack ads from the Founding Political Consultants would have had another outlet for distribution:

Yes, the words–"toothless", "importing mistresses", "hermaphroditical", "chastity violated", "children writhing on a pike"–are from the real campaign material used in 1800.

Lighten up, America

(You too, Canada; Mexico, you got reason to bitch…good luck).

Things are weird all the time.  “The 60s” didn’t seem strange to me because I was just the right age—not old enough for “the 50s” to have made an impression, so no frame of reference to know that political assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate and the rock ‘n’ roll were unusual.  But life in America has bounced from one weird extreme to another my whole life.

Things in America are weird today: technological advances are changing our lives daily in ways my grandparents couldn’t have imagined, while we struggle to recover from the most severe economic shock to the system since my grandparents were newlyweds; without the courtesy of a declaration of war from Congress we’re still fighting the longest war this country has ever fought, while the dysfunctional political system rewards those who shout the loudest and refuse to play nice, and the dysfunctionaler journalism system stands witlessly amidst the chaos trying to sell me today’s “ordeal” or the latest “narrative.”

And then, some nice people who’ve somehow maintained a sense of humor and a little perspective about life try to give us a break, and a giggle or two, just before the next societal convulsion, and what do they get?  A lot of criticism from a whole range of folks who just don’t get it.

The D.C. publication had a great summary yesterday of some of the dirty bathwater being tossed at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for Saturday’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear: that they’ve crossed the line between entertainment and politics (line?), or the location is too sacred to be used in this way (Cordoba House, call for Cordoba House!), or they might offend someone (someone?).

Even when the weird is on high, a laugh can do you a lot of good…could be the best time for one.  Try it out.

Things you do when your team has a bye week

First thing this morning I’m heartened to see the Leonard Pitts Jr. column from yesterday’s Miami Herald, and so what if he’s piling on Christine O’Donnell for not understanding the Constitution—the point can’t be made too often that our country is in trouble if we voters don’t really think about what we’re doing when we get to the voting booth.

That this woman is a major party candidate for national office, that she is among the brightest stars of a constellation of like-minded cranks — some of them already in office — tells you all you need to know about this moment in our political life…Somehow we have forgotten the lesson we spent most of the last decade learning at ruinous cost, that faith-based governance, foreign policy by gut instinct, choosing leaders on the basis of which one we’d most like to watch television with, simply does not work.

It’s not  a question of conservative versus liberal:

…this is no conservatism Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater would have recognized. At least their ideology adhered to an interior logic. This ideology adheres to a perverse illogic which posits that the less you know, the more authentic you are. So what triumphs here is not conservatism but rather, mediocrity. The Know Nothings and Flat Earthers are ascendant.

And then while I was looking for a cartoon I saw to fill out this post, I ran into something even better—humor at the expense of our leader, in the form of a show tune!

Enjoy the lazy Sunday…the World Series, Halloween, and STS-133 are coming up the rear view mirror.

All hail the radical middle

I don’t write here every day because I promised myself I would try to think about things and then write rather than just explode all over the keyboard when something struck me as odd, inspiring, stupid or funny—Little League World Series developments, of course, being an exception.  And if that sets me apart from that part of the planet that’s always ready to respond to any development with the predigested talking points of some demagogue or another, I can live with that.

The more I think about this weekend’s TDS_RallyPosterRally to Restore Sanity/March to Keep Fear Alive, the more I think it will be a fun and educational way to remind everybody that we, the people who are not exactly pleased with everything that goes on in our government and our economy but haven’t thrown in with the extremist wingnuts du jour and want to talk about ways to make things better, are the center that holds this all together.  As the rally organizers say:

We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles.

TCR_RallyPosterNow, I think that’s funny.  But I bet you, too, know people who wouldn’t laugh, who consider any deviation from the revealed truth to be treason and heresy, people unwilling to scrape the rust off of their imaginations for an honest discussion about possible alternatives to what they’ve told.  Leonard Pitts Jr. calls them “people who believe what they believe because they believe. Their ignorance is bellicose, determined, an act of sheer will, and there is not enough reason in all the world to budge them from it.”

Rex Huppke in the Chicago Tribune sees us as a sizeable block of Americans who are aware that the emperors on both sides of today’s partisan hissy fit are naked, and are occasionally amused by the spectacle.

…what about those folks who have remained largely on the sidelines during the campaign, chuckling at the often absurd rhetorical volleys of our feuding politicos? This could be their moment to stand up and say, “Hey. You all are acting like jerks. Cut it out.”

I’m sorry I can’t attend this weekend’s rally in Washington, D.C., but I plan to enjoy it from afar.  And I plan to keep thinking about and writing about issues that are important to our future, as Americans and as Earthlings.  A good place to start is among the ideas laid out by political consultant Mark McKinnon, who thinks we need more talk and good will in the political arena to get the radical middle into the game.

They don’t agree on every policy, but they are willing to debate on principles. And consider principled compromise. They recognize hard decisions are ahead. And neither party is stepping up to make the tough decisions.

We could use a little more sanity around here for a change.

UPDATE Oct. 20

This was published last evening about the same time as my post; Timothy Noah argues that what is likely to happen in the rallies next weekend could feed the animus that Tea Party types feel toward the “elites,” of which he believes Stewart and Colbert will be representative in their eyes, and actually influence the elections in favor of Republicans, which Stewart and Colbert would regret politically if not professionally.

Equal justice for all: the gay rights tide has turned

The fight to keep homosexual Americans from enjoying the full rights of citizenship is over; the opposition is giving up.  A federal judge has enjoined the Pentagon from enforcing the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy anywhere in the world, and the expected reaction to that news was…nowhere to be heard.

Sure, hard-core haters had their say, but I’m struck by just how quiet it has been.  At the risk of fanning the flames, I’d say it looks like the usual suspects in the anti-gay effort have finally run out of steam, perhaps because it’s so clear that courts are going to enforce the Constitutional protections that have been denied to homosexuals.

First, the DADT (ugh!) policy is a crock and it should be repealed; it should never have been imposed.  Was anyone really in favor of a regulation that permitted gays to remain in the service unless they were discovered?  How in any important way is that any different than the old system, where gays were discharged when they were discovered?

The law’s days are clearly numbered.  Although the Justice Department asked the judge not to halt enforcement of the law while it prepares an appeal, the president has promised to get rid of the law—and Congress almost did so earlier this year!

The secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs favor repeal of DADT, but they want to go slow.   Excuse me, gents—why?  Because it would force an immediate change to benefits or buildings, or protocols for social events?  That’s why you want to wait until an internal review is completed, in a month a half?  Really?

I never understood the argument that allowing gay people in the service to be open about their sexuality would hurt morale (and hurt it even worse in time of war, or wars).  I don’t believe that most men and women in the armed forces are so closed-minded and prejudiced on this topic, because I don’t think most Americans outside the military are, either.

Think about the reality of the situation: if DADT has legally cleared the way for gays to serve since 1993, then people in the military have had at least since then to get used to the idea that gays are there: to get used to the idea that they don’t leer at you in the shower or rape you in your bed, at least not in any greater numbers than heterosexuals do those things; to get used to fighting next to them in a shooting war, and to know that they can be brave and trustworthy comrades, at least to the same extent that heterosexuals can be.

We can proclaim not to understand why people are homosexual, or embrace a religious belief that homosexual activity is a sin, but none of that matters in a tolerant, secular, civil society.  The experts can’t say why a person is sexually attracted to one gender or the other.  And it violates the rights of due process and free speech guaranteed to each American in the Constitution to treat someone differently because of their sexual orientation just as it would to treat them differently because of their gender or their ancestry. 

The tide has turned.  Homosexual activity is no longer illegal.  If you read or watch Ted Olson’s argument as presented on Fox News in August, the same argument he made in the California court case, you can see that the case for gay marriage will prevail.  States are giving up trying to stop homosexuals from adopting children.  Republican political strategists recognize that opposing gay rights is a long-term losing proposition.  One officer discharged under DADT has successfully sued to be reinstated in the Air Force.

You don’t have to “understand” gay people any more than you have to “understand” people of a different race or a different religion.  You only have to understand that these people are Americans like you, who believe in American rights like you do, who want to enjoy American freedoms like you do, who support our country with their work and their taxes like you do, and who want the opportunity to serve to protect this way of life, just like you do.