Thursday, September 20, 2007

On black armbands and hope

I'm wearing a black armband Friday to protest the war in Iraq. It's part of a national movement (see to break your daily routine the 3rd Friday of each month as a public demonstration of how many people want the war to end.

So when I go to the doctor's office, when I wait in the driver's license office for my new 16-year-old to get her license, I'll be wearing something I haven't put on since we protested the Vietnam War in high school. Maybe someone will ask about it. Maybe I'll have a chance to engage someone in a conversation.

One thing I know for sure - it is a pitiful and lame response to the catastrophe that is Iraq, and as glad as I am that there is something I can do it feels almost worse than doing nothing. No soldier will evade an IED because of my armband. No wife will get her husband back earlier because of my piece of cloth. No Iraqi family will get to stay in their home instead of leaving everything behind just to survive, because I have a different wardrobe one day a month.

But it is something, I guess. As we learn from quantum physics, the smallest change in the smallest particle is still a change. Enough small changes, and pretty soon everything is going in a different direction.

Small changes can coalesce when we little people take a stand and then recognize a fellow spirit. When I'm walking through my neighborhood and I see a blue dot sticker, I smile, I recognize a kindred spirit, I don't feel so alone and I feel like maybe I can do something more. I feel hope.

I might only be a quark (a blue quark in a red photon field?) but I can do something. And maybe it will give me the courage to do more.

"Maybe life's meaning is not so much found, as it is made." Opus, by Berke Breathed

It was 16 years ago today...

Well, this picture is from more like 14 year ago. But my baby turns 16 today. Oh, the stories I could tell, but I won't. I'll save those for the 18th birthday!

Now she's getting her driver's license! Some cultures have bat mitzvahs, others have quinceaneras, Southerners have drivers licenses as their rites of passage. And even though I'm not from the South, both my daughters are. So we will make the trek tomorrow to the license office and if we're successful (it's a long line!) she will drive by herself to her birthday party Sunday. I will be right behind her, of course. She can leave the nest but for a while it will be more like a bungee jump so I can reel her back in.

So here's to a great kid - writer, poet, animal lover, kind to people, lots of friends. She's already making a difference in the world and we are expecting greater things in the future!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Breaking: Water is Wet!

An article in the Los Angeles Times today tells about a study that demonstrates
liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

We are also open to new experiences, and those mindsets apply to our everyday decisions as well as politics. (Of course, for some of us, politics IS an everyday decision!)

People who identified as conservative tended to respond in a "knee-jerk fashion" during the test.
Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives

A researcher who was not connected with the study said

the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry... as a "flip-flopper" for changing his mind...
He added that liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas.

Even with the danger of uncritically accepting every new bit of information that passes my way, I still see the liberal mindset as a better way to live in a constantly changing world. It certainly makes life a lot more interesting and fun when you're always learning and enjoying new experiences.

(This isn't a partisan thing. I know plenty of Republicans who are educated, informed and able to look at all facets of a situation. And there are an awful lot of Democrats, at least here in Alabama, who want to do things the way they've always been done and are interested only in perpetuating the existing power structure.)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Politics, Parenting and the Democratic Cowards in Congress

As I watch our Fearless Leader in action - his sociopathic disregard for other human beings, his obsession with his own image and legacy - it occurs to me that my lifelong commitment to not telling other people how to raise their children might have been misplaced.

How different might our country be today if someone, anyone, had told GWB "No" just once in his life? What if his Dad didn't get him out of National Guard duty? What if his mom hadn't enabled his drinking problem? What if he had had to pay the consequences, just once, for his actions? (And no, "crying" is not a consequence, but merely more self-indulgence.)

Now, I'm not the world's best mother. Much of my disinclination to give advice to other parents comes from my understanding that they might not approve of me, either. When my children were young, and they didn't like something I made them do or kept them from doing, I would tell them I was trying for my place in the Bad Mom Hall of Fame. Later, my older daughter told me I wasn't really a Bad Mom, so I changed it to the Mean Mom Hall of Fame.

My point to them was that I was not their friend but their parent. It was my job to love them unconditionally but to insure that they knew how to behave in civilized society. That meant that we never considered ourselves better, or worse, than anyone else. We encouraged and appreciated their achievements, but emphasized that those were just part of the whole person. I made sure to ask what their friends were good at, what things other people did better than they did, what they learned from others and vice versa.

It also meant that we took what seemed like small infractions very seriously. We really didn't have very many rules, but the ones we had we were serious about. You don't lie, you don't cheat, you don't steal. You are kind to people and creatures and the world around you. If you cut off the cat's whiskers ("Mom, do you think that Tigger's whiskers are too long?") you get a stern discussion of how cats use their whiskers for feeling around and if it's dark and she starts to bump into things it is your fault. If you take a quarter out of the cash box at the nature center and try to tell me you found it on the floor, you not only don't get a candy bar, you find out about how we use the money to buy food for the animals and when you steal you are taking food out of a cute little flying squirrel's mouth and now you can do some community service by cleaning out cages.

And if you are caught at 2 a.m. in a church parking lot playing the Flaming Tennis Ball of Death game, you get grounded for a month even though the reason you snuck out of the house in the first place is that it is so UNFAIR that you're 16 and you have to be home at 10 p.m. in the SUMMER!

What does this have to do with politics? The Democrats in Congress are acting like parents who just want their children to like them. Well, let me tell you - your children will not like you. They will scream at you and call you names and pout behind closed doors and write nasty things about you on livejournal that they will not let you read. It doesn't matter because you know that you're doing the right thing.

Democrats are cowering before Republicans, the 30 percenters, when the vast majority of Americans want us out of Iraq. Democrats are afraid of being called names if they don't give in. Well, you're going to get called names no matter what you do - it's part of being the responsible party. Grow a thicker skin and do the right thing.