Lazy Sunday Post-Travel Post
Iâ€™ve been on the road for the last week and a half, not really online much, and itâ€™ll probably take me twice that time to deprogram myself from all the disinformation to which I found myself subjected to by NPR and the TV. Iâ€™m once again reminded of the serious disconnect, in terms of discourse and the consciousness it creates, between internet news junkies like me and people who still rely on the SCLM.
Iâ€™m a proud Midwesterner, born and bred, and Iâ€™ve lived here almost all my life, in MI, IL, OH and WI. Traveling across those states this past week gave me a chance to take things in, and gave me plenty of objects for contemplation. Early fall in this region can be glorious, and if youâ€™ve never done the Color Tour, I strongly recommend it.
Iâ€™ll get to serious posting soon, but I thought Iâ€™d share a couple of anecdotes as a warm up to my return to life at the small desk in the dim light with the streaming radio and gut wrenching anguish, hope and fear. I realize this every time I travel: life in Bushâ€™s Amurka is an emotional roller coaster ride. Even for people who donâ€™t follow politics at all. If I can say that anything has changed in the past five years, itâ€™s that the land lies heavy with malaise, a kind of depression that is alternately articulated and not, but always perceived. You can see it on peopleâ€™s faces. I consider the road an equalizer for observation; one sees all walks of life on the freeways and backroads of the country. Driving for most of the days I traveled, I saw a people harried, tired, stressed and pinched. And fewer than is normal, I have no doubt due to gas prices.
Happily, I noticed that NPR is a tad toothier these days. I heard stories about Franklinâ€™s plea of guilty, juicy comments from a dissatisfied right over Miers, and some local call-in shows in farm country where people calling in sounded surprisingly familiar with Internet-only news. One open topic call-in show from the east side of WI had nothing but unhappy callers reporting in, and each one of them had something bad to say about Bush or one of his policies. I try to remember such moments when I read that bush enjoys 60 or 70% approval ratings...on anything. The religious stations, when I could stand them, also seemed a bit muted.
I had a long conversation with a 40ish union laborer at an Irish pub in Chicago. Even as the Royal Family of that city suffers serious political turmoil amongst His Honorâ€™s aides, all this guy wanted to talk about was Republicans, and how they suck. It was funny, as I was with someone and donâ€™t generally make much small talk at bars like these, but this guy was just dying to talk to me...about Bush. Like so many times this has happened to me, he started out with a generic â€œthe government sucksâ€ type of comment, not revealing a party preference. When I responded with a (mild for me) liberal come-back, the horses were off to the races. Half an hour later my friends came to get me, and this guy was still going. Not hitting on me, mind you, but just gushing forth with hatred and enmity for all things Bushian. He was passionate, informed, and ready to kick some serious ass. Democrats, are you listening? Take advantage of this energy.
I had a long conversation with a good friend recently returned from the Philippines and Thailand. The most important thing I learned from it: opportunity exists in the East for Americans, and we shouldnâ€™t be shy about considering them. As someone whoâ€™s surfing this dismal regional job market, it was almost shocking to hear about opportunities in Asia that are just waiting for the right qualified and motivated people to move in on. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s a golden land of plenty over there for anyone, but people with skills and a sense of adventure should check that market out. Like a lot of people, I struggle with contempt and disgust at the human race when I contemplate how easily Americans are throwing away their heritage. Hearing about other peoples who arenâ€™t doing so can mitigate that. Oh, is that unpatriotic to say? Sorry...
This hasnâ€™t really been a great week for Bush. Iâ€™m happy about that, and Iâ€™m happy to report that at least in my travels, I met plenty of people paying attention to that fact. Yet Iâ€™m equally worried, as these same people are facing more job loss, higher fuel bills this winter, and the usual laundry list of Bush Boondoggles that are draining this nationâ€™s treasury, military, and good standing in the world. I believe these next two to three years are going to be very hard for many, even if we have indictments and convictions at the highest levels of Republican leadership. A nation is more than its government, a people are more than a focus group. And it must and will be from the people that renewal comes. What is missing just now is leadership. There are many places from which a leader can come, but right now, I suspect that disdain for politicians as a whole will guarantee that the next paradigm-shifting leader will come from outside the parties.