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Archive for September, 2008

While reading comments from the previous post, I was delighted to see that an old blogfriend, Closet Metro, had dropped in and endorsed my candidacy in 2012. I said to Jif, “Aw, someone has nominated me for President.”

“I’d vote for you,” he said (and he really sounded like he meant it).

But still, “I couldn’t be the first woman President. I can’t even kill a moose.”

“But you could talk it into submission,” he countered.

I thought about this for a second . . . “I did approach one, once.”

“I know you did. And you were FEARLESS.”

It’s the truth. Many years ago, Jif and I took a couple of long road-trip vacations through the state parks in the American west. I loved this so much. Actually, as I’m writing this, I recall that at that time, I did contemplate a future in the White House. I remember saying, “If I were President, I’d be the ‘vacation President,’ and I would make it so that every kid in the country could take this trip, could see the parts of our country that we’re seeing.”

We were in Yellowstone, shortly after the fires. And I was just falling in love with photography. We came upon a clearing where there was a bit of excitement. An enormous, magnificent bull moose had wandered near the road, and everyone was trying to take his picture. I put my trusty Minolta MAXXUM up to my face, and started inching toward the big guy, snapping away. I used the zoom, in and out, horizontal and vertical, all the while moving slowly forward and never removing the camera from my eye. I suddenly noticed that the buzz of excited whispers had died, and the only sound I heard was my camera. Then someone off to my right said, “Uh, miss? You’re a little close to that moose…”

It took me a second to realize that I was the miss in question. When I removed the camera from my face, I nearly plotzed right there. I was within about 3 yards of that moose, face to face, antlers to headband. My view through the lens had distorted my perception of my real life proximity to my subject. OH. MY. GOD. I froze. And stared him down. I was close enough to his eyes to see an actual “look” in them. If he were a hip-hop moose, the look would have said, “Aw HELL no, you are NOT all up in my grill right now;” and if he were a therapy-savvy moose, the look would have said, “I feel as though you’ve violated my personal space, and I must ask that you show more respect for my boundaries.”

“Are they dangerous?” I asked no one and everyone.

Someone answered, “Uh, yea, you’re way too close.”

So I politely and slowly backed up, with Bullwinkle watching me all the time until he broke his stare and began munching flora, to let me know I had returned to an acceptable distance.

So yea, if ever elected, I can handle myself around a moose, and I would take all that golden parachute money to help the under-vacationed. I’m Susie Fairchild, and I approve this message.

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Caution: It’s getting political up in here…

Some of you know this, and it may surprise some others: I love politics. I love political conversation, debate, inquiry. I always have. From the time I was little, I watched the conventions and I SO wanted to grow up and be a delegate. I wanted to carry a sign with my state’s name on it, and wear a red, white and blue hat, and (be still my heart) have thousands of balloons drop on my head.

::tangent::I have, in recent years, put forth the theory that the party who delivers the best convention balloon drop will be the winning party come November. In the last election that was true. The Dem balloon drop suffered serious technical difficulties. This year . . . we’ll see::end tangent::

And even with all my political preoccupation, most of the people who really know me and talk to me every day don’t know which candidate I support. (This might not be all that surprising this year, because I don’t either; still working on that one.) Sometimes in political discourse, I argue the position opposite from my own, just to make sure that I can. My mother is a loyal Democrat; my father was a proud Republican. I suppose that’s why I find it perfectly natural to be “mixed,” when most people around me are acting like donkeys or elephants. I grew up in a house where two people held opposing political views yet managed not to hate and despise one another (most days, and even when they did hate each other, it wasn’t over politics); and both of those people had vices and virtues that became important to me, either for purposes of avoiding or imitating. (My balancing act on the political fence is a large part of what will likely always thwart my childhood dream of becoming a delegate. They tend to be gung-ho types from either party.)

In my work, we talk about “all-or-nothing thinking,” or “black-and-white thinking.” These terms refer to the the way of thinking that says, “I am all right and you are all wrong.” It also takes the form of “if I disagree strongly with you on one or more ideas, I am right and you are [dangerous, delusional, stupid, evil, fanatical, rigid, close-minded…fill in the blank]. Psychotherapists call this kind of thinking a “cognitive distortion.” In the vernacular of 12-steppers, “stinkin’ thinkin’.” Again, in my line of work, this type of thinking is regarded as wholly irrational, and antithetical to progress and healthy human development. As you might guess, I’m concerned for the mental health of our nation right about now. Because, while I do love politics, I am sickened by the written and verbal expressions of this cognitive distortion that is so much a part of our daily lives now.

The more I encounter groups of people who venomously defend their own candidates while denigrating others, the more I have to seriously question whether I want to affiliate with such people. Regardless of which candidate you support, or whether you haven’t yet decided, I would like to ask you to ask yourself this question: What is wrong with my candidate?

If you are supporting someone whom you believe is the one person who can save us, I believe your support is misguided. You will end up becoming disillusioned, and your candidate, if elected, will ultimately fall short and be unfairly judged. He’s not going to save us. Whomever he may be. And what’s more, there’s a hell of a lot wrong with him. Because he’s a human being. I believe we’ll all choose much more wisely and realistically if our support is tempered with a rational understanding of what is wrong with the guy: where are his weak points? What mistakes has he made? What are his character flaws? Where does he need expert advisers to fill in the gaps? Can I list the really stupid things he’s said publicly during this campaign? And so on.

I can make a fairly long list of what’s wrong with both candidates. And in my opinion, if you are whole-heartedly supporting someone for whom you can’t make such a list, then I don’t think you’re being a very good donkey or elephant; I think you’re being a sheep — following the voice of some master without thoroughly investigating where you’re going. Do a little (balanced) research. Read some different opinions. Make a fully informed, not entirely emotional choice; that’s all I’m saying. A flesh-and-blood human being will win the election. And it’s very likely that in some areas, at some point, he’ll profoundly disappoint some of his staunchest supporters. And he still may be a good President. But he won’t save us from ourselves.

::tangent::This is one of my soapboxes in recent years. I think we Americans behave childishly in some respects, expecting others to do the homework, make the decisions, etc., that we should take responsibility for making. Take, for example, the recent financial headlines. Both sides have placed blame on the other, for some part of this. But it wasn’t them. Either of them. It was us. It was we who bought houses, cars, vacations, shoes, way beyond what we needed or could afford, and ended up not paying our bills. We can argue about whether the problem trickled down from deregulation or trickled up from obscene materialism, but Americans at almost every socioeconomic level had a hand in this mess. I am embarrassed to admit that two times in my life, I have gotten into credit card trouble. As I recall, one was during a Democratic administration and one was during a Republican one. Not for one minute was it ever the President’s fault, nor the fault of any member of Congress. It was all mine. Our values, our expectations, our work ethics, are out of whack. It is a problem, but it’s not one that a President can solve. We’re on our own. The good news about accepting responsibility for your role in a problem is that it also means you have some power to make it better. If the problem is all someone else’s fault, you’re screwed. You’re at the mercy of what “they” decide to do. Some people prefer that point of view, because it absolves them of personal responsibility, and always gives them someone else to blame. If you’re one of those people, good luck with that. Me, I’d rather understand how I contributed to the problem and try to do my part to contribute to a solution. I like to have something I can do. ::end tangent::

I’m going to risk beheading here by saying that the most hateful, the most all-or-nothing, the most offensive rhetoric that I have heard or read is from Democrats. It may be that I just haven’t read enough of what Republicans have to say. But I did ask some very conservative people to direct me to what they think would be the most conservative websites. And I took their recommendations. And while I found lots of policy disagreements, I didn’t find personal attacks. I didn’t find people threatening to leave the country if Obama is elected, because our future would look so bleak.

Jif and I talk about this phenomenon quite a bit, because it’s really disturbing to me. After reading a particularly extremist anti-McCain blog post recently (McCain was pictured whispering in little Piper Palin’s ear, and the commentary accused him of pedophilia), I said to Jif, “Why are they behaving this way? What do they get from sinking so low?”

He said, “They believe they’re saving the planet.”

Saving the planet?”

“Yea,” he answered sadly.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that it isn’t hatred that’s going to save the planet.

Part of why I don’t get so bent out of shape at the idea of either candidate winning the election is because of my faith. Faith in God, yes, but faith in this country. I so treasure the Constitution. It is an amazing document that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so. Of course we disagree among ourselves about its interpretation; that is part of its design. It works! I have faith that no one party, and certainly no one person, is going to “ruin” our country in four or eight years. I don’t believe it can happen. I have more faith in the American people than that. All of them. All of us.

I recently said to Jif how I feel like such an alien (talking outerspace, now, not immigration reform) because I love the fact that we are roughly divided in half on our candidate selection, according to the pollsters. Most elections in recent memory have been this way. I think that’s part of what makes us great. Taking into consideration all the various leaders for whom we vote, we have the potential to balance one another perfectly — to not go too far off the path in either extreme direction. Imagine the alternative to the current statistical dead heat: imagine living in a country where the polls were 90% to 10% in favor of one Presidential nominee. Now imagine being one among that 10%.

I’m staying here, happily, thankfully, no matter who is elected. I have found potential good in both candidates, and I’ll celebrate and support that. And I’ve found potential chaos in both, and I’ll pray for the new President regarding those areas, and I’ll take responsibility for not adding to the chaos by my personal speech or behavior.

And I’ll stay here. And God willing, live to vote another day if we don’t choose well this time.

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Taking a break from the political posts I’ve been trying to write — I know that is a disappointment to you, since there aren’t nearly enough bloggers writing about politics these days — to ask a favor.

Just this morning I stumbled onto the information that this week, all members of Congress have been invited to a briefing on the current state of Lyme Disease diagnosis and treatment. And a sorry state it is, my friends. Will you please join me in asking your representatives — and Obama and McCain — to attend this briefing or send a high-level staff member? You know how sick I’ve been, and there are thousands (at least) more like me. We need someone to pay attention.

If you go here, you’ll find more information about the briefing and a direct link from which you can email your Congresspeople. Hurry up, now, because it’s on September 24th.

Thank you so very much.

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Those of you who’ve been reading here a while may remember this, which I think will be my “official” 9-11 post. It’s almost all I remember about that time.

Almost. These past couple of weeks, I’ve been remembering a little bit more. About what happened in the days and weeks after that terrible day. I remember going to the grocery store to get just a few things. I think it was that very afternoon. I do remember clearly that while I was in the store, two songs played on the Muzak: “The End of the Innocence,” and “New York Minute (Everything Can Change)”. I just Googled the lyrics to that second song; they are eerily well-suited to the occasion. To this day, when I think of 9-11, those songs form much of the soundtrack in my head.

The other thing I noticed, on that day in the store, and for a while after that — Americans were nicer to one another. In that store, that day, we looked at one another with kind eyes and small, sympathetic smiles, that said, “I know. Can you believe what’s happened? We’ll get through it. We’re all in this together.”

I remember one of my clients, the one whose lunch was stolen, articulating so clearly who we are, and why we would get through it. What the terrorists didn’t understand. She said that they chose targets that represented our wealth (The World Trade Center towers) and our military might (the Pentagon), and had aimed at one that would represent our power (the White House or Capitol). To them, those targets were America. The terrorists got it wrong. Because they didn’t really understand who we are. She said that we are the only country whose existence, whose origins, are based purely on ideals. We are not a country formed from ancient political processes, or the convenience of geography that facilitated commerce and economy. There was nothing at all convenient about our birth. The common thread of those who founded America was that they held the same ideals: liberty and justice. Government of the people, by the people and for the people. You can’t bomb that. It won’t die.

I thought my client’s perspective was absolutely accurate. And it helped explain my desperate hope that “they” didn’t bomb the Statue of Liberty. And another blogfriend’s fear for the safety of the Liberty Bell. The targets that the terrorists chose, while important to us, aren’t what we’re about.

For a little while after 9-11, we seemed to have been reminded of what we are about. Remember the Republicans and Democrats from Congress singing together “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol? For a moment there, they got it.

In the grocery store that day, and for a while after, the people we all encountered were like us. Americans. We’d all been hurt, we were all stunned, we all remembered how very much we love our country. I haven’t researched other cities, but I know that here, in the major cities closest to me, even the criminals observed a moment or two of silence. People stopped killing one another for a few days. Violent crime went down for a minute. I think it was because we knew that we had all been attacked. So we stopped attacking each other. And it wasn’t just the criminals. We all looked each other in the eyes more. Said “thank you” more. Smiled at strangers more. All hurt, all in the same boat, all hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

It lasted a while. But there’s nothing like a presidential election to remind us that it’s gone. The goodwill, one American to another, it’s gone. We’re back to us vs. them (Americans vs. Americans). Back to “those who don’t see the world exactly as I do are idiots, or evil, or both.”

I don’t want another reminder. Can’t we just decide to remember? That we are a nation founded on ideals? The liberty and justice thing? Can you imagine for a moment that someone of the “opposite” political party says something with which you disagree, and instead of spouting off about how stupid they are, you find some small thread of commonality in their view and yours? And if no common ground can be found, can you imagine choosing to applaud their courage in speaking out, when they know some will hate and ridicule them for it? Or just being happy for them, because they live here with you in a land where even stupid people can speak their stupid minds? “You go, stupid man (or woman)! Good for you, exercising those rights that people have sacrificed so much to earn and maintain for you! Speak up! Don’t let those sacrifices go to waste!”

Sound crazy? I’m not kidding. That’s what I believe.

I don’t know for whom I will vote. I do not completely agree with the positions of either candidate or party. And frankly, I’ve had it up to here with the childishness, the pettiness, the vitriol of the discourse coming from both sides. As I’ve said before, if I wrote out my “platform” here, neither party would have anything to do with me. And frankly, I’m proud of that. I have a hard time getting my mind around the idea of fully supporting the agenda of any one political party. It’s not me. I hope to be more open-minded, more curious about others’ ideas than that. I saw one other blogger (I know there are more, I just happen to have seen only one) who, like me, watches both political conventions with a notepad, to write down what we like and don’t like, what we want to research further, to check out, to verify. I will do the same thing once the debates start.

That’s a big part of what being an American means to me. I don’t have to march in lockstep. Neither do any of us. And when we choose not to jump in a box with a label on it, I think it affords us more freedom to be tolerant, even appreciative, of opinions unlike our own. And if that’s our perspective, maybe it will be easier to go back to those few kind, united days after 9-11, and say to each other, by our words, our actions, our attitudes, “I know. Can you believe what’s happened? We’ll get through it. We’re all in this together.”

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Recommended reading: I just received a link to another way of framing this same picture.

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Leave me out of this. Would you like it if I used the expression, “A human can curl its tail and roll in its own poop, but it’s still a human”?

I thought not.

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Political Commentary

Jif: This is exactly the kind of thing that turns people off from politics.

Susie: Yea, sane people. But it sure fires up the insane ones.

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(True confession: I have been known to cross the line.)

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