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.
My relationship with the Boy Scouts of America was not the most pleasant. I was an oddity, to be sure. I think I was at one time the only—only—second class scout to be a patrol leader. Second class. For those who may not have been through the quasi-military organization, the way it was structured in […]
As usual, Florida is still undecided, a mess. According to NPR, though, it is leaning heavily toward Obama, despite the shenanigans of the state GOP in suppressing the vote.
I didn’t watch last night. Couldn’t. We went to bed early.
But then Donna got up around midnight and woke me by a whoop of joy that I briefly mistook for anguish.
To my small surprise and relief, Obama won.
I will not miss the constant electioneering, the radio ads, the tv spots, the slick mailers. I will not miss keeping still in mixed groups about my politics (something I am not good at, but this election cycle it feels more like holy war than an election). I will not miss wincing every time some politician opens his or her mouth and nonsense spills out. (This is, of course, normal, but during presidential years it feels much, much worse.) I will not miss…
Anyway, the election came out partially the way I expected, in those moments when I felt calm enough to think rationally. Rationality seemed in short supply this year and mine was sorely tasked. So now, I sit here sorting through my reactions, trying to come up with something cogent to say.
I am disappointed the House is still Republican, but it seems a number of the Tea Party robots from 2010 lost their seats, so maybe the temperature in chambers will drop a degree or two and some business may get done.
Gary Johnson, running as a Libertarian, pulled 350,000 votes as of nine last night. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, got around 100,000. (Randall Terry received 8700 votes, a fact that both reassures me and gives me shivers—there are people who will actually vote for him?)
Combined, the independent candidates made virtually no difference nationally. Which is a shame, really. I’ve read both Stein’s and Johnson’s platforms and both of them are willing to address the problems in the system. Johnson is the least realistic of the two and I like a lot of the Green Party platform.
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I thought I might write about something other than politics this morning, but some things are just too there to ignore. But perhaps this isn’t strictly about politics.
Representative Paul Broun of Georgia recently said the following. I’m pulling the quote from news sources so I don’t get it wrong.
“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
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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 . . . ]
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 […]
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.
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?