Monday, December 13, 2010

Blessing Count 2010

Lisa and I worked both days this blizzarific weekend at The Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis. Saturday morning we got up and I had to give myself a little extra time to clear off the car before we left. We decided to park in the heated garage under The Hotel to avoid what we’d already heard would be a snowstorm of biblical proportions. It was crazy downtown. Everything was closed. The people in The Hotel had nowhere else to eat. We were busier than we’ve been on a weekend in months. By 2:00 P.M. when we were done with work, the airport had closed. The people who were supposed to check out ended up having to stay another night before flying home, so there were no extra rooms for employees. We thought about leaving the car in the garage (since we don’t have one at the house) and busing home and back downtown the next morning, but by that point the buses had stopped running. We didn’t have a choice. We had to drive home.
Everything went well at first. The thoroughfares were passable. Not clear, but flat-ish, and about ten feet wide between canyon walls of plow deposits. The problem came when we turned off of Penn Avenue to travel the one block to our house. The snow was just a bit higher than the undercarriage of my Geo Prism, and we couldn’t go. A car was trying to pass around the protruding rear end of the Geo, so I had to run a half-block to the house and grab two shovels. When I returned they tried to help me dig out of the bank, but the car wasn’t going anywhere. Out of sheer luck a guy drove up with a plow on his pickup truck. He opened his window and hung his stubbled face out, cigarette hanging unattended from his mouth, and asked if we could roll back far enough for him to clear us a parking space on the curb of 34th. Seriously, if he hadn’t come along at that moment we would likely have been digging out for hours into the night. He looked a little like a young Billy Joel, if Billy Joel drove a plow for a living. That was the first Christmas miracle.
The next morning we came out to the car to drive back to the hotel for day two of Blizzaricious. We turned around without incident (since Billy had cleared the whole intersection the day before), and got up to the light to turn back onto Penn. The problem was this: Penn Ave is a snow emergency route – it’s the first to be plowed. 34th is not – it’s low priority. So turning from 34th to Penn involves barreling through the plow contrail left the night before and ice-hardened into a car stopping rampart. We hadn’t had the foresight to stow shovels in the car before we left, so we sat, hung halfway between the street we lived on and the street that would take us to work, while I poked at the snowpack under the car with my windshield scraper and cursed. Our neighbor, a man we had met on the street but not really exchanged more than a moment’s pleasantries with, happened to be waiting at the corner for a bus that I assume was never coming. He came over and helped us push off of the plowridge, to universal delight. We weren’t sure if buses had been reinstated at that point, but offered him a ride downtown anyway. He doesn’t speak English super fluently, but we shared some laughs on the drive nonetheless. That was the second Christmas miracle.
By the time we were done with work at 1:00 on Sunday life was almost back to normal. The snow was manageable, the streets were clear, and the populace was self-absorbed again. People had dealt with the adversity and moved on and were either gearing up for the workweek or heading home to finally relax, but I won't forget that twice over the stormy days we were rescued by an unlikely Samaritan. To mystery plow man, thank you, and you may in fact be right – I may be crazy. To our neighbor, come up the block, friend, and we shall feed you. I’d love to hear more about where you have come from, and how much we have in common, while we share some dinner together. Skol.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do Not Disturb

There’s snow here now, and there has been for about a month. It was weird: unseasonably warm autumn with low squinty sun but comfortable afternoons on the porch, and 48 hours later there were nine inches of snow on the ground. Later this weekend we’re supposed to pick up another six inches or so. I think that’s cool. Last fall I was a little miffed – we’d had an anemic summer without any real heat and the snow came early. I felt cheated out of a season. This year, our last snow fell in late February. We had an almost unprecedented snowless March. I had our garden entirely planted by the first of May. Then September was dry, and October was warm enough to give us a second crop of heirloom tomatoes. This might be the longest I’ve gone (except when I lived in Eureka CA for a year) without trudging through snow. I can honestly say I’ve missed it.
I was prepared. I raked the yard, I drained the hose and shut off the spigot, I cleared out the garden. I was just waiting for mother nature to tell me I didn’t have any work to do outside for the next few months. The window boxes were all blank, and ready for a covering of reflective white insulation. In short, it was time to hibernate. This summer was awesome, it was long, it was hot, it was glorious, but now I had a new winter coat from Old Navy and a pantry full of canned vegetables and jams, and I was fully prepared to make the shift from grilling green and red things in a citrus marinade over flames to frying orange and brown things in animal fat over cast-iron.
Plastic went up on windows, salt went out on sidewalks, and Kev went into a warm bath. Seriously, if it’s going to get dark this early in the afternoon I’m going to put on pajamas and check out before dinner. And thank god I live in a place where such is possible. All summer I keep sandals on and stand in front of the grill until 9 P.M., but come November I can step into slippers and sink down into the LaZBoy at 5 when it gets dark and watch the news, or a movie, or all six seasons of The Sopranos (over the span of several weeks, of course).
Since buying a house I’ve come to realize that this is an important time of year. And perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself with it, as well, for first must come the holidays. There’s shopping to be done, and family parties to attend, brittle and bark to be made, gifts to be wrapped, et al. There is really no relaxing, in the true hibernatory sense, until after the first of the year. However, the winding down of the outdoor activities and the battening down of the homestead for the impending winter is an essential first step.
The Earth itself will actually cocoon us into idleness if we let it, and after New Year’s Day I fully intend to let it. It’s one of the glories of this landscape: In the summer our workshop is the whole of the world (or the whole of our world, anyway), an immense expanse waiting to be subjugated and controlled by us in the form of lawns, gardens, parks, etc. In the winter our purview moves indoors to a smaller, more controlled, and more insular kingdom. My basement is finally going to be tamed, if only because it is my only habitable frontier for the foreseeable future. In the mean time, the raspberry sticks in the side yard will have free reign over the sidewalk because it’s cold and no one else would want to walk on it. I’m inside with a book, or a pie recipe, or a band saw and a blueprint. Eventually though, this house will bore me to tears. I love my house, but it is small, and doesn’t offer the kind of creative challenges I would enjoy. I will organize my basement, and repaint the bedroom, and want another canvas on which to work. With any luck, by then most of the snow will be gone and I will be able to move my operations back outdoors to rebuild the herb beds, expand the lettuce garden, shape the hedge just so, or adjust the boulevard garden for larger and more extravagantly humble stock. Anything to keep me busy and out of the house until I need to hibernate once more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My God Can Beat Up Your God

I am an atheist. As such, it is easy for me to worship in America, as I can do so pretty much anywhere I please. I worship in the North Woods whenever the Aurora Borealis show their face. I worship in the great Southwestern Desert when I experience true silence in the face of the enormity of the landscape. In the Northwest I worship with oceanic mist splashing up on my face from the rocks below. Sometimes I worship in my own backyard when I think about the bounty of vegetables my little plot of land in the city has offered up for me. I worship a very different God, though, than that which many of my neighbors revere.
I cannot imagine a situation where I would tell one of those neighbors, “please, don’t pray to your God here.” There is neither a physical place nor a metaphysical space where I would ever ask someone not to commune with their higher power.
I don’t understand how a person in the United States of America can “respectfully” ask another person not to worship somewhere. I, as a non-believer, can walk into any church I want and pray in my head to whatever deity I choose. Muslims can go right up to the fences surrounding ground zero and pray – I don’t think even Sarah Palin would try to stop them. What difference, exactly, is there if they choose to build a community center nearby in which to carry out their prayers and ministries?
There is no disrespect taking place here. Disrespect would be if someone were recruiting martyrs from nearby neighborhoods to brainwash them and set them loose on the populace. We’re talking about a Cultural Center and Gym. The plans even include a 9/11 memorial. How can anyone claim the people behind this project are being insensitive to the memories of the people who died?
I give up. I really can’t make a better case than Mayor Michael Bloomberg did at Governor’s Island on August 3, and thank whatever God you believe in that New York has this guy now instead of the Giulli-turd. I never really felt that connected with Bloomberg, but after this speech I’d give him a kidney. Him and any other American who makes it in before we change the 14th Amendment.
It’s about ideals, people. It’s not about commandments. It’s not about prohibitions. It’s not about arbitrary sanctions. It’s America. It’s about freedoms. Anyone who tells you different hasn’t been paying attention for the last 200 years. And it’s not just about freedom of religion; it’s about freedom of interpretation. It’s about tearing along I-80 at 120 MPH up the Donner Pass. That is when I worship my God – when said God reminds me that s/he could end me at any given moment. If the exercise of your freedoms does not impinge on anyone else’s exercise of their freedoms, you can worship or do just about anything else any damn place you want.
So the Dove World Outreach Center wants us all to burn a Koran on September 11th. How is this helpful? How a dove, the symbol of peace, can be turned into an omen, is beyond me. In fact, how the Dove Outreach Center can call itself that while the only out-reaching it is doing is to sucker-punch those of us who have compassion, is beyond me. Apparently, they’ve out-reached their welcome. I for one plan to spend this coming September 11th how I spend most Saturdays since my hours have been cut back at work – exulting in my own idleness. I’ll probably pick some tomatoes from the garden to make a BLT, maybe go for a bike ride, maybe mail a Koran to the Dove World Outreach Center. I’d like it if they read it, but I can’t stop them from using it however they see fit. It is America, after all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Dayz

We were getting ready to light off some fireworks last night at Lisa’s parents’ place, and one of her sisters asked where we were going to watch real fireworks. We chuckled, and proceeded to show them how we do things in our neighborhood. We tossed some mortar shells up, and everyone oohed and aahed. The joke, however, was on them. Because in North Mpls, every house has a box of mortar shells. I have gone downtown for the ‘official’ fireworks displays, I’ve watched Stillwater’s display from a private boat on the St. Croix, I’ve watched the St. Paul display over the capitol building, but I’ve never seen anything like the Fourth of July on the north side. This year we were feeling bold after our detonations in the libertarian northland, and decided the cannons could make a stop on the front lawn before returning to the garage. We launched a half-dozen or so to the universal approval of our neighbors, but it really could not compare to the others on the block.
North Minneapolis has such a grassroots fireworks display that from dusk until midnight or so, you think you’re in a war zone. Literally every other household is gathered in the alley behind their home, launching professional-grade Kamuros and Spiders into the night sky. God knows where these people get the hundreds of dollars required for these ridiculous explosions when I see all these neighbors every day buying off-brand milk with EBT cards, but God Bless ‘em, these displays are beautiful, and plentiful. We got back into town around sundown, lit our few, and then sat with beers in the balmy summer dark until 11:00 P.M. or so watching some anonymous pyrotech artist across the alley shooting impressively crazy misdemeanors into the air. The battery on my camera was, unfortunately, dead, but here are some photos from a couple years ago that are comparable to last night’s display:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Summer Weekend in the Country

Three-hundred-sixty days a year, this hillside is an ordinary hillside. Full of unmown grass and unchecked groves of old growth trees. Five days out of the year though, Hennepin County descends on this place and turns it into something grand. The striped canvas canopies go up, the rides are erected, and the livestock are unloaded into their sawdust-floored tent. Funnel cakes and corn dogs are fried, and the air is filled with music, mud, and aromas of all kinds.
Twine goes up in horizontal lines to demark parking spaces. Signs appear on the two-lane county highways surrounding the grounds. The majority of people in the county, being city-dwellers, don’t notice. But the most talented bakers, quilters, musicians, and demolition drivers from Hennepin County converge on this park in Corcoran to show off their skills and wares, and to be judged by their peers. Teenagers come from far and wide around the area to preen, to parade, and to pretend they don’t know their whole world is watching them.
The county fair is a microcosm of Americana in the Midwest. By daylight, the respectable elders showcase their learned skills and crafts to the universal admiration of one and all, while the kids pet goats and eat mini-donuts. Then, once the sun goes down and the faux calliope on the carousel starts up, all of our progeny line up to be happily loaded into an iron cage by a mustachioed man and hurled into the night in every direction, against all the advice we’ve given them (and remember, this is in contrast to the demolition derby drivers). By night, there are all kinds of unsavory joys – mud, beer, rock and roll, cotton candy. There is an unspoken element of the unsafe in a county fair. Something that harkens back to ages ago, it may be a horticultural gathering place for the families of the county, but it still has an air that might just seduce your son to run away with the traveling circus.
I once met a girl who later ended up running away with a carny from the state fair midway. I never really understood why until I went to the Hennepin County Fair for the first time. There is in fact a romantic element to the fair (by which I refer to number 4a in the Merriam-Webster definition). The exhibitions and petting zoos are contrasted with the traveling people who turn it into a spectacle. Without the carnival aspect, it’s just a quilting bee. With them, it becomes an event. It is impressive to imagine that these people, these travelers, create this much awe and wonder from an ordinary hillside wherever they go, and to want to imagine we can become such catalysts for adventure ourselves.
I am old enough to know better. I have moved beyond the barking and preening, and I am comfortable not creating awe wherever I go. I am content to pet the goats and I am impressed by the ribbons on the jelly jars. My fiancĂ©e, as it turns out, makes the best corn relish in Hennepin County. We found this out last summer, when an impartial panel of judges bestowed a ribbon and a very proletarian $8 prize on her. The eight bucks I’m sure we spent on beer, or produce, or maybe a movie ticket, but the fact that the relish came in first is something we’ve yet to grow tired of. I myself entered some of my Swedish Rye Bread this year, and Octoberfest Mustard, and Maple Nut-Brown Ale, just because I can, and for zero dollars, it’s the best price for feedback.
But what I’m really going to the fair for is the demolition derby. It’s the mustachioed man loading kids into the “Kami-Kaze” ride. It’s the sitting under the big tent with a beer and a corn dog imagining how peaceful this hillside normally is, and what we degenerates have done with it. And yes, it’s for coming home with mud on every bit of my clothing and not being even the least bit sorry. Because I’m not one of the respectable elders yet, and I won’t act like one until I earn that blue ribbon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Runaway Carts and Forgotten Produce

I had my own little "Sliding Doors" moment this evening. Bear with me through the background: Lisa and I were making spicy ginger sticky wings for dinner, and we thought we'd do a cabbage salad to go with them. I, however, had forgotten to buy scallions last time I was at the store. So while the wings cooked, I headed over to Rainbow Foods to get a bunch. Rainbow in Robbinsdale is in a giant old building with an interminable surface parking lot that spans a couple thousand feet along Bottineau Blvd, where it is shared by an Outpatient Center for North Memorial.
So I walked in from the car through hurricane gusts (it's been windy in the Midwest today), got my fifty-nine cent bunch of green onions, and stepped up to the register. The clerk and I exchanged some banter: "Just the onions?" "Yeah," I said, "I forgot ONE ingredient when I was here earlier. Next time I'm making a list." We both chuckled. As I walked away I realized she had forgotten to give me my 41¢ change from my dollar. I paused and thought, "it's just forty-one cents," and kept walking. As I was exiting the store there was a woman in front of me pushing a cart with one bag of groceries and her (I would guess) four year old son in it. Coming out the front door I noticed out of the corner of my eye one of those big, heavy, child-seat equipped carts rolling, propelled by this evening's heavy winds up the parking lot straight for them. There was a girl coming into the store who had seen this and was jogging over, but couldn't get there in time. I ran ahead and stopped the cart just before it hit this woman, her cart, and consequently her kid. It was actually moving at a clip with some destructive momentum. She thanked me, and I said "Where the hell did that come from?" The other girl said, "Way over there! We watched it come all the way up from the hospital!"
I'm not saying I saved anyone's life, but it occurred to me that if I had turned around and said, "Excuse me ma'am, I think you forgot my change," I likely would have exited the store to see this woman standing over her son, skinned knees and all, surrounded by groceries in the parking lot. I'd say avoiding the band-aids and repacking was worth forty-one cents. But now I have to go raid the couch cushions so I can get a paper tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Of Ice and Men

I was thinking about something last week while my team lost our final curling match of the season.
My Grandfather (maternal, I never knew my paternal) died when I was twenty years old. I remember very few moments of my early childhood, but those that I do involve his errorless hand. Not in some creepy Jim Jones way, but merely as the trusted family elder who knew a lot of things about a lot of things. All of my uncles, competent men who were experts in their fields, would defer to him and ask his opinion.
When Grandma moved out of their house a couple years later, I was just starting to curl at the St. Paul club, so my mother nabbed his old trophies for me as they were clearing out the house. I thought, wow, my grandfather led his team to victory! After six seasons of playing the game myself I now know that this, of course, is not even remotely true. Curling is a four-person game. From the order of names on the trophies in my den I would guess my granddad played second or third for his team. So there is a good chance he got chewed out on a semi-weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong – curling is a tactful sport, it’s not like anyone was tearing into him, but if he flashed a take-out, or hogged a guard, I’m sure his teammates let him know just how short he fell of their expectations.
It is a really odd thing… picturing my grandfather, the family patriarch, as a curler. Picturing someone turning to my grandfather, sacred elder of my childhood, and calling, “why weren’t you on that earlier, chucklehead?!” This is not the portrait I have of him in my mind (perhaps my mother’s may come closer to that than mine). The vision makes him instantly more relatable, not the wise distant elder, but some bumbling guy who happened to sire five children (and he was a great father who did raise them well). I have to say I think I prefer this idea of him. I never really saw too many likenesses between us until I could imagine him stepping out onto the sheet and forgetting he had his gripper off and landing ass-first on the ice. Or having to buy the first round after the game because he missed his last shot. He has attained a hallowed place in my pantheon of Stoic Old Men Who Talk Straight, but the idea of him throwing 42 pounds of granite across the ice makes him seem like a fallible human again. It is so easy to canonize the dead, and some people will always condemn you if you try to make them human. I however am happy to see the ills of my heroes so I know I can someday hope to become a shadow of what they were on this Earth. So thanks, Grandpa - you still have mighty big shoes for me to fill, but with this new perspective I at least have a fighting chance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I think we've all had enough here.

Language alert: some people or employers may take issue with a couple of words in this post. Also, an apology: I know I promised a reprieve from my recent rants, but this is too important not to talk about, even in this micro format.
In the year 2009, Minneapolis had 19 homicides, down from 40 in 2008. We all felt good – violent crime was on the retreat. These numbers were in contrast to the mid-nineties, when my city was burdened with the moniker “Murderapolis” with 97 at its annual peak in 1995. Last year’s 19 is the lowest we’ve had in over 25 years.
It is now March 7. In 2010 so far, we’ve had 10 homicides. In the first two months of the year (the quietest crime months, historically), we’re already halfway through last year’s total. I was at the store buying some beer yesterday after driving through a mob of people on Penn and 26th. There were bullhorns, cruisers, and hand-made signs. I didn’t read the paper on Friday, so I asked at the store about the gathering. The cashier said it was a march for peace, and the guy behind me in line chimed in: “This is messed up, man! I’m not from here, but where I’m from, if someone’s on the street and they fuck up, brother gets gat, but no one else. Up here, this gang banging all over, people ain’t even involved, minding their business getting gunned down!” Last year I would have said he was wrong, and that innocents are largely safe. This year I’m no longer so sure. The crowd was a peace march to the church where the funeral was being held for the latest shooting victim, a 17 year old girl shot in the neck while standing in a group of friends outside a party. I thought, well that’s good. It’s good that people are standing up to this and being counted against this violence. Then this morning I opened up the local section of the paper to read that a gang fight broke out inside the church at the conclusion of the 17 year old girl’s funeral. Do me a favor and read the underlined, linked portion of that sentence aloud. See if you aren’t just a little ashamed to be talking about a major American city. Seriously, at a fucking funeral?!
What the hell is wrong with these assholes? I’m sorry, but I’ve lived on the north side long enough to say this is my neighborhood too - as well as the woman two houses down who works for the city, the men who own and run the Quick Mart two blocks over, the teachers at the school at the end of my block, not to mention the children going to said school - and I’d like to respectfully ask these gang bangers to get the hell out of our city. We citizens of this place are trying to build a positive community up here, opening restaurants and businesses, creating community gardens, making public art, and you are cutting down our efforts. So get out. If you want to be a tough guy, cowboy, or vigilante with your guns and dope, you go do it somewhere else. We’re trying to freakin' live here. The quotation in the paper from Al Flowers, the former mayoral candidate, community activist, and sometimes political troublemaker, says it best. Outside the church yesterday, he called into a bullhorn as the police tried to diffuse the situation, “This is a baby’s funeral! Seventeen years old and she can’t rest in peace?”
Can I just say that in five plus years of owning a home on the north side of MPLS, this spring is the first time I’ve ever avoided certain areas of the neighborhood, even in my car, for safety reasons. That is not the neighborhood I bought into, and desperately wanted to turn into a beautiful urban area. That is not a place I would want to open a business or raise a family in. That is not a place that will attract new residents – residents who care about the place and want to live in a truly neighborly hood.
I’ve always been the quiet neighbor. The guy who lives here and gardens and walks places in the neighborhood, but pretty much keeps to himself. As of now I am making a resolution (if a late one). This year I am going to be more involved in the life of the greater community. I will get to know more of my neighbors, and show them that I truly care about our block, our community, and their own well-being. I will attend block parties, Take Back the Night picnics, and public festivals. I will be a visible part of this neighborhood, because I am a part of it, and I don’t like some of the violent elements that have been rearing their ugly, gun-toting heads lately. So to the north side council members, Don Samuels, Diane Hofstede, & my own Barb Johnson, police chief Tim Dolan, and Mayor R.T. Rybak, I say this: I’m going to do my part. Now it is up to you all to give us a fighting chance. Step up beat patrols, yes, but also get more familiar with this troubled community. Ask us how the municipal powers that be can facilitate growth and the culture of this part of the city. We are unique, and have unique problems here. We will need unique solutions that only we on the ground can come up with, but only you can make happen. Let’s talk.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Familiar, and Familial, Arguments for Common Decency

Liberal Alert: As a heads up, I feel I must inform you that this is a leftist political rant. Feel free to skip it if you think you'll angrily disagree.
Two weeks ago, our MN legislature overwhelmingly passed an extension of General Assistance Medical Care. For those of you outside the state, I'll explain. In MN, the GAMC program provides for our state's poorest citizens. They make less than $8,000 per year. They do not have children, and many do not have permanent housing. They don't qualify for Medicaid, and they would face a four month waiting list for any procedure under Minnesota Care. At any given time there is an average of 35,000 of them on the rolls. The program was set to expire March 1st. The legislature rallied to the aid of these people, many of whom survive on $203/month for their housing and food, and have mental illnesses that make it difficult to locate their bootstraps, much less pull themselves up by them. A sixteen month extension of the benefits was passed with some alterations, so we would have time to create a permanent fix without throwing these people to the wolves in the meantime.
The senate approved the measure 47-16. The house, in an amazing show of bipartisanship for the common good, blasted the measure through 125-9 (an aside: the nine who voted against it are listed here. I did some math at the U.S. Census website, and the approximate median income of the cities and townships in which they live [in the 2000 count] is about $60K. The median poverty level for individuals over the age of 18: 1.9 percent). They were both sturdily veto-proof majorities. We all felt good.
The day that it passed and was presented to our anti-governor Tim Pawlenty, he faxed a veto letter from Washington, where he was speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Okay, we all know he's a prick, but they were veto-proof majorities, remember? This should be a piece of cake! Last Thursday the senate voted to override the veto. The result: 45-21. Done. Then, yesterday the house voted. Remember the house vote numbers? 125-9. You'd think this would be easier than falling down a flight of stairs. The override vote tally: 86-47. Fail along straight party lines. So it would appear that all of these worthless empty suits on the other side of the aisle (38 of them in total) couldn't be bothered to stick to their guns as soon as our globe-trotting village idiot weighed in with his own political posturing (recall what happened when his veto of a gas tax was overridden last year in my previous post).
Here's my rant. I don't understand how anyone with half a heart can look at someone making less than $8000 in a year and say, "sorry, but you don't deserve to get better." I also don't understand how anyone with half a brain can look at that same person and say, "no, I won't help with preventative care - you should wait until you need ER care. Then you can bill me through higher premiums."
For a while now I have found the tired Anti-Tax argument of “when families have to tighten their belts, so does government,” really offensive. After all, when families are tightening their belts, whom do they rely on to pick up the slack? Why do we have GAMC or Medicaid or WIC or EBT or even Unemployment Insurance if not to take care of those that can’t take care of themselves for whatever reason? When my belt is tightened by circumstances out of my control (Full disclosure: I made $17K and change last year, so I’m not destitute, but still not quite A-OK), I expect government to step up and say, “Do not worry – we shall catch you and put you back on your feet.”
But that old argument I hate so much seems entrenched, so let’s explore it: If we’re running government as a family, we’re running society as a family – government, by definition, governs society. You don’t get to decide who is and isn’t part of the American Family. We all are here, and we all have needs. What do you do with a nephew who can’t quite make ends meet? If you have the means, you help him out. When your granddaughter gets sick and can’t pay the bills, you don’t let her languish in an E.R. until she can be seen by a doctor – you make the changes to your own lifestyle that you must to help her out and get her healthy. When your niece gives birth to a child with developmental problems who can’t attend regular public schools, you make whatever sacrifices you can to help that child attain the quality of life you would expect of a relative.
Fine. Let’s think about government in these terms (I’m looking at you, Taxpayers’ League). Times are tough. The family (the American populace) is in financial trouble. Not all of us cousins can keep getting by. As such, we expect the rich uncle (or grandparent) to carve a little apartment out of his or her six-bedroom suburban estate for us to have a roof over our heads. We expect the executive who drives on the same potholed roads we do to step up and make sure we don’t unduly suffer from a pre-existing medical condition that an actuarial formula has decided is too risky for the bottom line to insure. You would never want your progeny to take an hour-plus bus ride through a dangerous part of town to go to two jobs that barely pay the bills and don’t carry health insurance, so if you treat government as a household how do you forget these people?
I’ve always thought of government as both a security blanket and a benevolent safety net for those who hit misfortune and can’t catch themselves. Why else would we have a centralized, federal government if not to insure both military security of the country’s citizens, but also the livelihood of the nation’s people? As such, I personally don’t think government should be run like a household, but if you insist it be so, then I too am your cousin and I can’t be ignored. I too must be cared for.
(By the way, I will return to a de-politicized discourse with my next post, so those of you annoyed by my recent rants can come back and enjoy the historical nerdiness. I just needed to get this off my chest.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Losses, Big & Small

Right now I can't decide which is a bigger disappointment - being a liberal Democrat or being a Vikings fan. They are actually remarkably similar disappointments. Both teams are powerless for long stretches, unable to do anything productive for fans or constituents, and then every few years they find a star (or an all-star cast), and the hope starts to grow again. It starts small - you think, hey, maybe we'll actually get to the postseason this year, or, all right, maybe we'll get the money back to get those 35,000 people back on healthcare rolls. But soon enough the stars start to impress, and you start the season 9-0, and you start dreaming Superbowl dreams. Or a young upstart shows up, energizing the party and sweeping a wave of optimism into Washington.
This is it! This is the best chance you've ever had to get to the big game, or to insure every man, woman, and child! If you're going to do it, this is the best group of people with the best shot at it! Everything is going along swimmingly until an interception is thrown, or it comes out that someone in the party said something stupid and racist. A recovered fumble is lost again, rather than being run in for a touchdown. Fox news is allowed to dictate the discourse, and somehow manages to paint you as simultaneously weak, and a fascist. The perfect kicker misses his first field goal of the year. You lose a seat in a safe state, and have to kiss your whole year of work goodbye (the Kennedy seat? Really? Top notch work, guys!). You try to play it cool - it was too bad, but we'll come out just as hard next year! However, as the year plays on, it becomes apparent that the star just can't stay here if we're not going to be competitive - we lose him to a richer team out east. Remember those Fox news viewers? They vote your guys out. And suddenly you realize you're "rebuilding" again. When will the next time come when the hope starts? You don't know, but you're sure you won't fall for it again. Screw those bums, if they can't do anything! If they're always going to almost achieve, only to shoot themselves in the foot again, you're just not going to hope anymore!
But you can't help it, because it's in your blood. I didn't ask to be a Vikings fan. I know most of them barely have any ties to this geographical place, but somehow they still conjure in me a pride in my homeland, the North Woods. I didn't ask to be a Liberal Democrat. It's not my fault I was born with compassion and empathy. I never asked my parents to instill in me a concept of fairness and justice for every person, but now I'm stuck with it. This winter has been especially brutal, with the disparity between hopes and results much larger than usual. I'm not saying I'm giving up on either of my ineffectual teams, but we'd better get either a Superbowl win or universal health care soon, because I don't know how much more of this disappointment I can take.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Like I needed another reason to loathe this guy.

Rudy Giuliani. Effective Mayor? Yes. Opportunistic Partisan Douchebag? Certainly. Teller of baldfaced lies? As of now, check. This prick who demeaned all community volunteers everywhere with a simple sneer at the Xcel Energy Center in '08 is at it again, on Good Morning America talking about the lack of terrorist attacks on Bush's watch. That's right, Mayor 9/11 is claiming there were NO terror attacks under George W. Bush. ...I will repeat that... the man who has based a political career on his reactions to a terror attack on New York City in September of 2001 says there were no terror attacks on the U.S. while one George W. Bush was President of the United States. For the record, George W. Bush was President from January 20, 2001, until January 20, 2009.
"We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama," are Rudy's exact words. Assuming he forgot about the Anthrax scare of 2001, the D.C. Sniper attacks of 2002, and the attempted shoe bombing of 2001, that still doesn't account for his blocking out September 11, 2001, a day when I personally almost shat myself watching him tell New Yorkers not to venture south of 14th St in Manhattan on account of the clouds of dust from collapsing towers on national television. No terror attacks under GW Bush, sir? Perhaps you'd like to amend that statement to say something along the lines of "I'll do anything if you just pay attention to me! Tell me I'm still relevant!", because that's all I hear every time you open your despicable mouth lately. Rudy, please just crawl under something damp and leave us alone since you clearly don't want to be part of the Post-Bush rebuilding process in America.