Author Archive: Mark Tiedemann

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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Are The Debates Even Relevant?

| October 4, 2012 | Reply
Are The Debates Even Relevant?

Okay, I confess, I did not watch the debate between Obama and Romney. In my opinion, it doesn’t count for much. I’ve been listening to both sides now since last spring and I’ve made my decision, so exactly what good would listening to the debate do me? Or for a committed Romney supporter, for that matter? None to speak of.

So, observation number one: I’ve never known anyone who changed their vote because of something in the debates. [More . . . ]

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Paul Ryan’s Unsuspected Latent Darwinism

| September 27, 2012 | 1 Reply
Paul Ryan’s Unsuspected Latent Darwinism

Paul Ryan, in a little-noticed interview, said the other day—talking about abortion—that rape is simply another “method of conception.” This is very much in line with Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark, although it contradicts Akin’s point—which was, somehow, that the reproductive system of a woman being raped (really raped, not sort of raped or falsely […]

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Intelligent, Clever, or Stupid

| September 25, 2012 | 1 Reply
Intelligent, Clever, or Stupid

Everyone misspeaks in public from time to time. It really is unfair to pick on politicians for the occasional gaffe. But it is fair to ask at what point such gaffes are valid signs of a fundamental problem. I think Dan Quayle simply needed to stick to the prepared statements—he did not “wing it” very well, but he kept trying, and slipped repeatedly on his inherent inability to compose cogent remarks on the fly.

But Romney is beginning to show some serious problems. Never mind his 47% statement, he was arguably playing to his crowd. But his recent remarks about being unable to open the windows in an airliner are very troubling.

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What Being An American Means To Me

| July 3, 2012 | 3 Replies
What Being An American Means To Me

I am not given to setting out pronouncements like this very often, but in light of the last several years I thought it might be worthwhile to do so on the occasion of the 236th anniversary of our declared independence.

I don’t think in terms of demonstrating my love of country. My affection for my home is simply a given, a background hum, a constant, foundational reality that is reflexively true. This is the house in which I grew up. I know its walls, its ceiling, its floors, the steps to the attic, the verge, and every shadow that moves with the sun through all the windows. I live here; its existence contours my thinking, is the starting place of my feelings.

The house itself is an old friend, a reliable companion, a welcoming space, both mental and physical, that I can no more dislike or reject than I can stop breathing.

But some of the furniture…that’s different.

I am an American.

I don’t have to prove that to anyone. I carry it with me, inside, my cells are suffused with it. I do not have to wear a flag on my lapel, hang one in front of my house, or publicly pledge an oath to it for the convenience of those who question my political sentiments. Anyone who says I should or ought or have to does not understand the nature of what they request or the substance of my refusal to accommodate them. They do not understand that public affirmations like that become a fetish and serve only to divide, to make people pass a test they should—because we are free—never have to take.

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Motherhood and Politics

| April 13, 2012 | 1 Reply
Motherhood and Politics

I don’t have a lot to say about this kerfluffle over the remarks of someone who, as it turns out, is not actually working for Obama regarding Ann Romney never having worked a day in her life.  This kind of hyperbole ought to be treated as it deserves—ignored.

But we live in an age when the least thing can become a huge political Thing, so ignoring idiocy is not an option.

I remember back in the 1990s a brief flap over Robert Reich.  I’m not certain but I believe it was Rush Limbaugh who started it by lampooning the Clinton Administration’s Secretary of Labor for “never having had a real job in his life.”  Meaning that he had gone from graduation into politics with no intervening time served as, at a guess, a fast-food cook or carwasher or checker at a WalMart.  Whatever might qualify as “real” or as a “job” in this formulation.  In any event, it was an absurd criticism that overlooked what had been a long career in law and as a teacher before Clinton appointed him.  It’s intent was to discredit him, of course, which was the intent of the comments aimed at Mrs. Romney by asserting that she has no idea what a working mother has to go through.

A different formulation of the charge might carry more weight, but would garner less attention.   It is true being a mother has little to do with what we regard as “gainful employment” in this country: employees have laws which would prevent the kinds of hours worked (all of them, on call, every day including weekends and holidays) for the level of wages paid (none to speak of) mothers endure.

Hilary Rosen raised a storm over remarks aimed at making Mrs. Romney appear out of touch with working mothers.  A more pointed criticism might be that Mrs. Romney does not have any experience like that of many women who must enter employment in order to support themselves and their families, that a woman who can afford nannies (whether she actually made use of any is beside the point—the fact is she had that option, which most women do not) can’t know what working mothers must go through.

But that’s a nuanced critique and we aren’t used to that, apparently.  Soundbite, twitter tweets, that’s what people are used to, encapsulate your charge in a 144 characters or less, if we have to think about it more than thirty seconds, boredom takes over and the audience is lost.

Unfortunately, the chief victims then are truth and reality.

So the president gets dragged into it for damage control and the issue becomes a campaign issue.

Which might not be such a bad thing.  We could stand to have a renewed conversation about all this, what with so many related issues being on the table, given the last year of legislation aimed at “modifying” women’s services and rights.  Whether they intended it this way or not, the GOP has become saddled with the appearance of waging culture wars against women, the most recent act being Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s repeal of that state’s equal pay law.  Romney is the presumptive nominee for head of that party and one of the things he’s going to have to do if figure out where he stands on these matters and then try to convince the country that he and his party are not anti-woman.

Yes, that’s hyperbolic, but not by much.  This is where the culture wars have brought us—one part of society trying to tell the other part what it ought to be doing and apparently prepared to enact legislation to force the issue.  Ms. Rosen’s remarks, ill-aimed as they were, point up a major policy problem facing the GOP and the country as a whole, which is the matter of inequality.

That’s become a catch-all phrase these days, but that doesn’t mean it lacks importance.  The fact is that money and position pertain directly to questions of relevance in matters of representation.  Ann Romney becomes in this a symbol, which is an unfortunate but inevitable by-product of our politics, and it is legitimate to ask if she can speak to women’s concerns among those well below her level of available resource and degree of life experience.

The problem with all politics, left, right, or center, is that in general it’s all too general.  Which is why Ms. Rosen’s remarks, no matter how well-intentioned or even statistically based on economic disparities, fail to hit the mark.  She can’t know Ann Romney’s life experience and how it has equipped her to empathize with other women.  Just as Ann Romney, viewing life through the lens of party politics, may be unable to empathize with women the GOP has been trying very hard to pretend are irrelevant.

Like with Robert Reich’s critics, it all comes down to what you mean by “real” and “work.”  And that’s both personal and relative. Isn’t it?

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The Other Sides

| March 23, 2012 | Reply
The Other Sides

Let’s imagine the conflict known as the Civil War. It had been brewing since before the Constitution was ratified. The issues were marrow deep in American society, so much so that any attempt to address the issue of slavery was, in effect, a deal breaker for the new nation. The South made it abundantly clear that any action on the part of the North to write into the new guiding document the idea that black slaves were somehow deserving of the liberty being claimed for their white owners—and thereby signaling the end of slavery among the Thirteen Colonies—would be met with absolute refusal to play. Had the reformers, exemplified by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, tried to assert any kind of racial equality at the time, the United States would have been stillborn.

Instead, they put a time limit into the document—20 years—which forbade the topic from even being discussed in Congress until that later year, at which time, presumably, the issue would come to the floor for some kind of resolution. History shows that every such attempt was met with denunciations by southern members of Congress and often with threats of secession—which by then were illegal.

Make no mistake, as some revisionists might have you believe, secession was not an option and everyone who voted to ratify the Constitution knew it. Contrary to popular mythology, the original 13 states locked themselves together permanently.

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Coming GOP Meltdown

| March 1, 2012 | 8 Replies
Coming GOP Meltdown

I considered writing something about the recent primaries in Michigan and Arizona, in advance of Super Tuesday, but things have become so mind-numbingly bizarre I’m not sure I’d have anything relevant to say, at least not about this particular election cycle.  As a personal observation, I’d like to say that any of the Republican candidates […]

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Stepping Up Finally

| February 4, 2012 | Reply
Stepping Up Finally

I’ve been hesitant to write anything about the Susan G. Komen fiasco. Not for fear of invoking controversy, but because things started unraveling so fast it was difficult to know when it would play out. Here is a handy overview of the series of events. The position taken by the Komen charity group shifted, mutated, and reeled in the sudden upwelling of negative response, that on any given day whatever I might have said would be irrelevant the next morning.

One aspect, however, strikes me as significant. That response. It came swiftly and it came from all quarters and it came with cash. I cannot recall a similar response happening so swiftly and so decisively in this ongoing struggle over abortion rights. One of the most annoying things about being progressive and/or liberal is the tepidity with which we meet challenges. It would appear that all of us who espouse a progressive view, when it gets down to the nitty gritty of political position-taking and infighting, have feet not even of clay but of silly putty. It is actually heartening to see an abrupt and united response that is categorically decisive for once.

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A Last Picture Show

| February 3, 2012 | Reply
A Last Picture Show

The last motion picture theater of my youth is gone.

For several years, The Avalon, sitting on Kingshighway in St. Louis, across the street from a mortuary that has now become a church, has been shuttered and slowly decaying and finally has met its inevitable fate.

In a way, good. It has been an eyesore for some time, a constant reminder of neglect and a ruin of a bygone era.

Hyperbole? Indeed, yes, but true nonetheless. As you can tell by what remained, it was an elegant, simple building, with a lovely facade. A symbol of an age thoroughly gone—the single-screen, stand-alone movie theater.

The last film I saw there was back in 1986 or ’87—The Last Temptation of Christ. The theater had passed into the hands of a single owner who was a bit of an eccentric, and he tried everything to keep it going. He had a bit of a windfall with that film because of the timidity of every other movie theater in the city and county. They all refused to show Scorcese’s flawed depiction of Jesus’ final days. The Avalon announced it would screen it and it was no doubt the last time it had sell-out audiences for several days.

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