January 2008

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

I couldn’t bring myself to listen to President Bush’s last State of the Union speech. I find him such a pathetic leader. He was too small a man for the job.  Small in mind.  Small in stature.  He has so harmed the long-term interests of the nation that we’ll be calculating our losses for decades.  When I read that Republicans still give him approval ratings over 70%, I am dumfounded.  What is it that is said about foolish consistency (Please See Essay Title)?

Speaking of which, I’d like to address a few words to my fellow Democrats. First my disclosure:  I willingly voted for Bill Clinton twice. He left the country in better shape than he found it.  He’s bright, articulate and he’s history.  If Hillary Clinton wins the Democrat Party nomination, I will vote for her.  I will even host a fundraiser in my home to raise a few bucks to further her victory.

That said, Hillary is not my first choice for my Party’s nomination. Not by a long shot.  I’m closing in on my 60th year.  I’m now an older dude.  My friends are older. The women I know of my generation are understandably supporters of Hillary Clinton.  My sister characterizes it as, “An emotional attachment.”

They grew up observing the lives of their mothers and grandmothers. Some were first hires in prestigious East coast law firms and lived through incredible hazing and idiotic male aggression.  Most experienced (experience even today) a ceiling of “lower” opportunities (pay). In Hillary they see a bright woman, who by every standard, could legitimately be President of the United States. A woman whose election would signify once and for all, that women are as smart and talented and as capable as men.  Period. End of story.

That such a political statement is necessary is more an indictment of American History than any reflection of the capabilities of women.  We all know that.   At least the rational among us do. But, alas, Hillary is not the best candidate for what America needs now. Her candidacy is divisive, not unifying.  Her very being, rightly or wrongly, conjures up the past.  She is so aligned with her husband, Bill Clinton, that you legitimately cannot separate the two.  That may be unfair but that is reality.

For some,  Bill Clinton lying about sex with an intern (I have not met one man, ever, who would voluntarily confess to such an accusation) is far worse, morally, than President Bush’s war that has bankrupted our future, weakened our national security and killed 4,000 of our servicemen. Those are family values?  Who knew. That is my take on the Bush legacy. Yet Bill Clinton (and by association Hillary Clinton) is/are reviled by large segments of the American population.

And Bill, bless his soul, is out working hard to win a Clinton Restoration when America actually needs a Reformation.  I do not fault the Clintons for campaigning hard, for trying to win the Democrat Party nomination.  They are tough, resourceful politicians.  But, America so needs to move on from the politics and divisions of the past. A New Morning in America?  Ha!  Sound familiar?  Check your horoscope.

Bill Clinton lost sight of the opponent.  His comments about Barack Obama were not only wrong, they are divisive. For Democrats.  For America.   Sure, Obama gigged the former President with his observations about President Reagan but, please, Bill, let’s not lose track of the goal.  Bigger Democrat majorities in Congress and the White House.  A free, better, safer, more prosperous, more literate, healthier America.  Let’s not, as the expression goes, eat our own.  Firing squads don’t typically form a circle, Bill.

I am not sure Hillary can win.  I feel/think/believe Obama can. Hillary, if you believe polling numbers will never get above 51% or so of electorate votes.  Her negatives are that pronounced. I do not want a fall presidential campaign so deep in the mud of “got-cha” history that, yet again, large blocs of American voters chose to sit it out. So putrid the stink.

To my Democrat friends, let us move on from the Bushs and the Clintons, let us turn a page and shift our visions forward.  I get it!  Your consistency of support for Hillary.  Yet, your minds are infinitely larger than that.  Now, let go of the emotional.

Let that hobgoblin go. Put it in the past where it (the Clintons, the Bushs) belong.  Obama is America’s future.

Here’s a plug for a great community amenity  (ACAJ Approved):  Tonight (31st) at Rollins College is the beginning of the "2008 Winter With the Writers, A Festival of the Literary Arts."  Michael Cunningham, 1999 Pulitzer Prize author of the “The Hours,” speaks at 8:00 p.m. in the Tiedtke Concert Hall. Free Admission.   Nuf sed.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US                                                                                                01.31.08

What obligation(s) do we have to one another? As citizens of the longest running democratic experiment in history, what responsibilities do we share with one another for the health of our democracy and nation? Steve Jobs of Apple Computer was recently asked what he thought of the newest electronic computer book, he said, in essence, “It’s a waste of time and energy as no one reads anymore.” Forty percent of Americans (in one poll) indicated they read less than a book a year, if at all.

This begs the question (to me, anyway) of how my fellow citizens are determining the state (condition) of our nation, how do they decide which candidate to vote for or which recently nuanced historical revision to subscribe to? How do they differentiate between fact and fiction? How do they know anything?

Oh, I do not discount, at all, one’s gut. The ability to distinguish gilded B.S. from your standard run-of-the-mill B.S. is a necessary skill, never more so in today’s climate of Acute B.S. Overload (ABSO is now a recognized mental condition by the AMA). But the gut, working at it’s optimum ABSO vetting level is no substitute for knowledge and perspective. Actually, facts (perspective) are the very thing your mind requires to effectively combat ABSO, one’s honorable gut not withstanding.

Seriously, if your fellow citizen does not uphold his or her part of our national bargain, under what obligation are you to consider their welfare? I am not jesting here at all. You do the math. In some elections a 50% turnout is extraordinary. That is, of eligible voters. Many times far fewer of our citizens participate than that. A recent local municipal election had a 13% turnout for a mayoral election. Shameful.

Republicans get all dewy-eyed over those wonderful, glorious years of Ronald Reagan. I was in my early 30s during his administration and all I recall of his tenure was all the time laughing over his ineptness. Ketchup as a vegetable? Iran–Contra run out of the White House basement and his “I know nothing” attitude (actually our biggest fear at the time was that he did, indeed, know nothing), of horoscopes and chart readings and voodoo economics. Paul Krugman in Monday’s New York Times completely eviscerates Reagan’s economic record, the one our Republican presidential candidates fall all over themselves to genuflect before.

And now Barack Obama throws a bone before that shrine of Reagan adulation. Puh-leese! Is there any politician who will not shamelessly whore themselves for votes? Any? Any!?!

I am from Iowa. Ethanol is a whore’s solution to our energy problems. To raise grain for automobiles instead of feeding humanity is, at best, morally suspect. It makes absolutely no economic sense, yet every presidential candidate lacked the cojones to tell Iowa farmers not a dime of federal subsidies. It was an obsequious solicitation of votes. Pandering whores. They’re not just found in Washington, D.C.

One of the Kennedy’s, Jack perhaps said (something to the effect), “If I resign on principle over one issue, I’ll not be there to vote on any other issue(s) of importance.” And, he was/is right. How do our elected officials juggle their consciences with their need (desire) to be re-elected? I can well imagine everyday being confronted with choices that are gray or fuzzy on the edges. Hell, just look in Central Florida. Who will have access to which water and at what cost? Every new development shrinks the “pool” of water for us all. So what if water is expensive, if ultimately there is little potable water? Watch the upcoming water wars and whose straw is the biggest? Makes me recall the observation about Milton Berle.

But that suggests a mindful public. Ah, there’s the rub. Why, the public is too busy making a living to read and understand the issues. They’re working hard, raising kids, schlepping them to piano and soccer lessons. Too busy to weigh the issues, identify the facts, besides, that is why we have elected officials, to make such decisions. You bet-cha!

And I suggest, garbage in—garbage out. If we elect garbage, don’t be surprised that what we end up with is garbage. Garbage is elected when we don’t do our due diligence, when we rely on TV news for our sense of our nation (community), when the facts are replaced by our gut, and we all know our gut so likes simple solutions (slogans) to complex problems.

Just because America is the longest running democracy in history does not mean the future has any obligation to the United States. We have been uncannily fortunate in our circumstances. Going forward, I’d sooner rely on intellect, debate and determination than luck. If fewer and fewer of us rationally participate in the ongoing discussion we call America, history will conclude, the vision, the promise of America was better than its people. Alas.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


A Human Quality

Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.   A U.N. Declaration

I believe man and woman are of a one. When we discuss the nature of our species and attempt to separate the peculiar characteristics of each sex, I begin to be confused. For years, male aggression against women totally flummoxed me. How could any man ever harm his (any) mother, sister, daughter or wife?  How is that possible?  Is it (male aggression) just an aspect of his sex?  And how much of it is genetic and how much is acquired culturally?

Then I had an epiphany of sorts.  It dawned on me that out of female tummies come the most violent creatures on the planet. It is so obvious that it resists comment.  Women are just as complicit in the violent nature of the species as are men themselves.  Males did not spontaneously combust in a vacuum, they were created jointly and incubated in the female vessel.  Our violence (aggression, if you will) as species is a joint (male/female) response to an environment that requires(ed) violence as a viable option to external threats.  I still do not understand, at all, violence against women but the men doing it are the children of women. It is tough to square that circle, that women are culpable, too, for the violent world we inherit.

I saw three movies in 2007 that all dealt with the same issue.  The movies (all quite good) were The Waitress, Knocked-Up and Juno.  All three women find themselves pregnant but not by choice.  None of the women opted to terminate her pregnancy.  Abortion was not even touched upon except in Juno (and then only disparagingly).

In the movie The Waitress, the heroine is in an abusive relationship with an abominable man.  His insecurities and potential for violence makes your skin crawl. Yet, the mother makes a decision to bring this child to term regardless. I turned to those with me and said, “I do not understand this woman’s decision.”

Knocked-Up has the heroine as a young, up and coming media executive who just receives her big career break. She celebrates, drinks to the point of “stupification,” beds a loser and finds herself pregnant. Again, no mention of “Gee, this is really bad timing to be having a child.  No credible father but I guess I’ll just have a baby anyway because . . .” That is never made clear to me, her decision to take a loser’s baby to term. Again, there is no discussion of the possible termination (or ramifications) of the pregnancy.

The theme is repeated in Juno. A 16-year-old girl finds herself pregnant and takes it to term (ultimately giving it up for adoption).  She actually attempts to secure an abortion but finds the clinic receptionist (as portrayed) so repulsive and indifferent that she walks out.

Aside: Have you ever considered how movies generally don’t portray the lives of stupid, uninteresting people?  Even villains have quirks that are intriguing (see villain in No Country for Old Men).  My point is these three movies on, “Oh, let’s just have an unplanned baby” are of beautiful, sharp, articulate women.  Unfortunately, in the human gene pool, they are more the exception than the rule. (Having babies simply because you biologically can is at times far from attractive and pretty.)

Under the best of circumstances, so much can go wrong with the outcome of human sexuality.  For the sake of this discussion let us take all environmental considerations off the table, concerns greatly exacerbated by human population pressures.  Rather, let us consider the rationale for when to have a child.  Under what conditions should human beings be encouraged to bring forth new life?

We face a conundrum.  We are hardwired to reproduce.  Historically, we breed at will.  There is within both sexes the subconscious urgent drive to get one’s genes into the next generation. Outcomes be damned. I acknowledge the incredible investment females have vis-à-vis men in this (life) process.  But it begs the question, are there circumstances more favorable to bringing forth life than simply, “Oh, well, I think I’ll have a baby now.”  What’s left unsaid is, “Because I can.” Un-huh. Yea.  That certainly can be special.

Let’s discuss as a nation, as a planet, the complex nature of the animal called human and the ideal circumstances under which we might reproduce.  How can we create cultures of peaceful men (as in males) and how do we empower the planet’s females to bring forth life under circumstances closer to the (an, any) ideal?

Ironically, the three movies I discussed undermine entirely my belief that the more educated, empowered, stronger, more self-assured the woman, the more she will resist her anatomy, her ability to reproduce simply because she is biologically able.

Any, any animal has that quality.

Reach Jepson at:MEDIAmerica.US


Hosannas for Iowa!

My Iowa Democrats did me right.  Has there been a prettier picture of America recently than the beaming Barack Obama standing on a Des Moines stage after winning the Iowa Caucuses?  Surrounded by an audience of ebullient white Iowegians celebrating his achievement.  Let there be no doubt America will elect a black man, President.  White Iowa validated where America is today. Less racist, more intelligent, more American in every best sense of what we, as a nation, aspire to.

I am personally thrilled that this hurdle in our history has been overcome. Sure, it is a long presidential campaign and Obama may stumble but on one January night in Iowa, race wasn’t the first consideration, the man was.  Hosannas for Iowa!  They did the nation an immense favor.

While attending a recent evening soirée I got into a heated exchange with a woman over my statement that I consider myself an ardent feminist and had been initially supportive of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.  I said Bill Clinton’s recent statement asserting his opposition to the Iraq war pushed me over the edge.  It is an outright misrepresentation of the facts.  He actually said little on the subject and did on occasion offer luke-warm support of George’s War. Bad Bill.  I don’t want that “rewriting of history” culture in the White House anymore.  Republican or Democrat rewrites.

If you elect Hillary, you get Bill, too.  It’s both a positive and a negative.  Hillary’s election is a two-fer.  Elect Hillary, get Bill.  That is when the proverbial “stuff” hit the fan.  “How can you call yourself a feminist?  Bill isn’t running.  Hillary is!  She’s a woman.”

I would no more consider Hillary Clinton just because she is female than I would Barack Obama just because he is black.  Both are competent, accomplished and intelligent liberals.

Yet, as much as I want a woman to achieve the presidency, I want the best electable candidate (in my opinion) running as a Democrat for that office.  Hillary is bright and arguably, the smartest candidate running but she wasn’t that prescient in her vote giving Bush his war of choice.  That vote was a calculated determination to give Hillary cover if the war worked out.  Bad Hillary.

The Iraq War is off the radar at the moment.  Few Americans seem to care how we came to be in Iraq, the deaths, the debt.  I simply do not get it.  I want lengthy (week after week) congressional investigations and accountability.  I want bloodied and bowed heads hanging from the yardarms. I want careers ruined.  Future government service for those arrogant, hubristic, neo-con imperialists?   You bet-cha.  How about the tenured track at West Texas Regional Barber and Hairstyling  College?  Or, perhaps as an immigration guard patrolling the fence between Mexico and Texas.  You’re right.  That’s too good for such ilk.  Total banishment.  Say, they could actually enlist and serve in Iraq. What’s good for the goose is . . .

Hillary got it tragically wrong on Iraq.  Maybe in her heart of hearts she knew her vote was inappropriate but for reasons of positioning her presidential candidacy, she opted for expediency.  Alas.  Sigh.  Hillary wasn’t voting for some Alaska bridge to nowhere, she calculatedly voted for George’s War to Hell.  As a bridge to the White House.

I will, however, vote for Hillary over any of the Republican candidates.  I hope that is not my option.  I hope Barack Obama’s campaign grows and strengthens and the entire Democrat Party embraces his candidacy and that the many disaffected independents and more reflective Republicans give him a margin of victory so overwhelming that when we awaken on Wednesday, November 4, we read headlines proclaiming “Obama’s Mandate!”

It would be sweet.  A sweet gift to America. A gift of growth and transcendence.  It would be a partial burying of America’s sorrowful racist history.

Thank you, Iowa for furthering Barack’s chance to offer America an opportunity to symbolically address hundreds of years of institutionalized wrongs.  How wonderful he’s a bright, thoughtful and inspiring candidate. How wonderful so much can be achieved through peaceful elections.

Praise be to America.

Reach Jepson at:MEDIAmerica.US