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Archive for November, 2004

Saying Goodbye…

Posted by Brian on November 23, 2004

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.”  William Shakespeare

I received an e-mail today that I’ve been dreading for a few years now… notice from my family that my grandmother passed away.

She died last weekend, I’m told, and my grandfather decided to have a simple ceremony a few days later so I wasn’t able to attend her funeral as I had been preparing myself to do. She had been quite ill for almost a year or so, and a few months back my grandfather decided to move her into a nursing home so she could get full-time nursing care. Alzheimers was also setting in, making it even tougher for my grandfather to deal with. Over the past few months, she lost a lot of weight, and when she caught pneumonia roughly 10 days ago, my mother tells me she simply stopped fighting for her life. My grandfather decided to take her off life support and told the nurse to give her medicine for her pain. She died on November 14, in the evening.

Despite the grief, I’m happy to be able to say that my parents (she was my grandmother on my mother’s side) and my brother and his wife were able to make it down to LA in time to say goodbye. My grandfather, her husband of over 50 years, was also dedicated to her till the end. She died with loved ones nearby… we all should be so lucky.

I saw her last in Los Angeles last year in September when my girlfriend and I flew down there so she could do some more traveling in America before returning to Korea. I’m trying to remember the things we did with my grandmother while we were there and two things come timd: lunch at some family restaurant in Pasadena (I complained about the huge salad) and a few hours spent at my grandparent’s condo talking and showing pictures to my grilfriend. Saying goodbye that day, I was well aware that it might be the last time I ever saw her. It was.

I learned a lot about my grandmother that day… my grandfather showed us a collection of old pictures and newspaper articles about my grandmother that he had saved. Apparently my grandmother, at one of her first jobs, did such a great job at her office that the small, local paper carried an article on her success (with a picture even).

But despite what I learned that day, I still didn’t know much about my grandmother. But, in a way, that that taught me so much about her. As a kid, and even now, I always enjoyed listening to my grandfather talk about his life back in Scotland and about his experiences in WW2. I asked him a lot of questions, but I didn’t ask many to my grandmother. But looking back, she never seemed to mind. I guess she was just so happy to see me so inquisitive about history, about my grandfather’s life, that she didn’t mind. Or maybe she thought her life was a bit mundane compared to my grandfather’s globe-trotting adventures as a RAF mechanic. I remember calling their house from time to time and my grandmother, if she was the one who answered the phone, would quickly pass the phone off to my grandfather. I didn’t complain, but sometimes I wondered why she was so quick to get my grandfather on the line. You know, grandma, I would not have minded talking to you a bit longer. Looking back, I think she was satisfied with being a traditional wife who supported her husband in the background. She was happy enough just to see my Grandfather and I bond.

Not being religious, I can’t rely on the old bromides that help people get through their grief. Is she in a better place? Well, I like to hope so, but I really have no idea. I’m trying to take some comfort in her long life and all the great people she helped bring into the world. I suppose that will have to do.

Grandma, thank you. Thank you for raising such a great woman, my Mom, who did such a fine job bringing me up. I’ve been blessed with great parents, and your parenting and wisdom in letting your daughter marry my father, despite their youth and my dad’s less-than-perfect family background, is a gift I’ll cherish throughout my life. Your marriage to my grandfather, all 50+ years of it, sets a sterling example to me about marriage the way it is supposed to be: till death do us part. Thank you for helping my mother raise me right, thank you for always having some cookies or cake on hand whenever I dropped by your house with no warning back when I was a kid, and thank you for supporting me no matter what decisions I made in my life.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there one last time to say goodbye, or to support Grandpa as he struggled to help you. I’m sorry that while living in Korea all this time I didn’t call you or send you letters as often as I should have. I’m sorry.

I promise you that I will do my best to help Grandpa live the rest of his days in comfort and with companionship. He did as much for you, so it’s what I will do for him.

I’ll never forget you, Grandma, sleep well. I love you…

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Election

Posted by Brian on November 18, 2004

(I’ve been working on this post for a while now… part of the delay in actually getting it online was because of problems with Blog City)

The e-mails have already started coming from my foreign friends around the world, all with the same question: “What’s wrong with America, Brian?” How do I answer them? Considering what was at stake here, simply saying, “Sorry, we did our best,” hardly seems sufficient. I just hope my friends can find the time to read their own local sources that I’m sure will explain exactly what went wrong and how.

Regarding Kerry the candidate, I don’t fault him too much. Looking back, I think he ran a pretty good campaign… consistent, disciplined, and relatively clean (compared to the bottom-dwelling Bush campaign; the way they denigrated the war-time actions of a decorated war hero leads me to conclude that every single Republican supporter ought to be ashamed of themselves). I had my doubts from time to time, but it all came together at the end. I do regret, however, not being fully confident from start to finish… I really do.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, The Big Ho comes along and tells me I was blinded. In his words:

So now I’m gloating. Not because I take pleasure in a Bush win: this blog has documented plenty of complaints about Bush. I’m gloating because I’m witness to what blind hope does to people who really should have been more practical. There was no way Kerry was going to win this. The overall mood of the country was too obvious to ignore, but many Kerryites chose to ignore it, anyway, in making their confident predictions.

Hardly. Considering the various so-called incumbent rules, and given the various polls we were seeing prior to the big day, and given everything else (biggest debt in history, most jobs loss since Hoover, just to name two Bush negatives) there was no way this was a lock for Bush. Heck, as I mentioned during my live-blogging, the freepers were panicking early on when the the first returns were looking good for Kerry. So even his supporters must have had some doubts, no?
Sure, maybe the echo chamber effect might have boosted our hopes a tad higher than they should have been, as Salon’s Andrew Leonard discussed. And Leonard is right to suggest that next time, people on the left spend less time high-fiving each other at Daily Kos day after day and more time on the streets actually talking to people and getting their read on things. But damnit… the win was within our reach… so we went for it.

And even if we did somehow know that Kerry’s chances were bleak… what does Kevin propose we do? Stay home? Don’t bother? God help the Middle-Earth if the Big Hominid was on hand to council Frodo, “You know, Frodo, the odds really are stacked against you. Don’t get your hopes up.” We put on our best game face and struggled onward because, as any high-school football coach will tell you, confidence is half the battle. And if, along the way, our confidence ended up obscuring the huge challenge we faced, then so be it; I’d rather be overconfident and lose than be pessimistic and hand over a victory without a fight.

But that’s not the only line from Kevin that I take issue with:

And by the way: the absolute worst thing you can do for your own cause is to claim that most of your countrymen are stupid. You simply confirm the stereotype that liberals are arrogant and elitist. You can be better than that. Fight smart next time around. Don’t proceed on the basis of delusions.

This reminds me of the new breed of feel-good education, where students are never wrong or stupid, they simply have different answers or ways of thinking. Remember this poll:

Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions.

Now I have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of Bush suporters when they pulled the lever/pressed the button/check the box for Bush (“Jesus saves,” perhaps)… maybe they thought Bush was the man most likely to make homosexuality a capital offense so he won their vote on that. I’m not gonna criticize these people for having opinions (not matter how outlandish) and voting on them. But really… looking at the results of the survey above, a large number of them probably had all sorts of misconceptions about Iraq, misconceptions that could have been easily proven false with a simple trip to a library or an hour of websurfing. So, despite calls from both the right and the left to avoid making such a judgement, I have no choice… I can only conclude that a large number of Bush supporters are stupid for the simple fact of believing things that are simply untrue (WMD in Iraq, for example) and using them as justifications for supporting their guy. And, even worse, by being stupid, they were abrogating their reponsibility to be a well-informed electorate, for which they should be criticized as well.

They’re the ones who need to smarten up, Kevin, not me… not us. These red-state yahoos are the ones who use delusions to buttress their support for a clueless and incompetent idiot like Bush. Bush the “regular guy,” Bush the “good Christian,” please… Bush, son of a President, grandson of a Senator, is the epitome of “elite” in our society. Meanwhile, his religious faith is about an inch deep and a mile wide, used to to attract the fundy vote but tossed aside as expendable whenever it might damage his political career. It’s a prop… a ruse… and people fall for it (hey, how about that time he mocked a killer on death row, begging for her life; how Christian is that?). The Bush they believe in is not the real thing… a studied look at the man will tell anyone as much. They’ve been had, and now the rest of the country has to be dragged down even further because of their rank ignorance.

But enough of that, I have other comments I want to go to. Next, Eric Alterman on the results:

The problem is just this: Slightly more than half of the citizens of this country simply do not care about what those of us in the “reality-based community” say or believe about anything.

They don’t care that Iraq is turning into murderous quicksand and a killing field for our children. They don’t care that the Bush presidency has made us less safe by creating more terrorists, inspiring more anti-American hatred and refusing to engage in the hard work that would be necessary to make a meaningful dent in our myriad vulnerabilities at home. They don’t care that he has mortgaged our children’s future to give trillions to the wealthiest among us. They don’t care that the economy continues to hemorrhage well-paying jobs and replace them with Wal-Mart; that the number without health insurance is over forty million and rising. They don’t care that Medicare premiums are rising to fund the coffers of pharmaceutical companies. They don’t care that the air they breathe and the water they drink is being slowly poisoned and though they call themselves conservatives, they even don’t care that the size of the government and its share of our national income has increased by roughly a quarter in just four years. This is not a world of rational debate and issue preference.

It’s one of “them” and “us.” He’s one of “them” and not one of “us” and that’s all they care about. True it’s an illusion. After all, Bush is a millionaire’s son who went to Yale and Harvard and sat out Vietnam, not even bothering to show up for his cushy National Guard duty, and succeeded only in trading on his father’s name and connections in adult life. But somehow, they feel he understands them. He speaks their language. Our guys don’t. And unless they learn it, we will continue to condemn this country and those parts of the world it affects to a regime of malign neglect at best—malignant and malicious assault at worse.

Bush supporters do not think, they merely respond to Karl Rove’s Pavlovian experiments on just how easily the American electorate can be manipulated. They see Bush parading around his multi-million dollar ranch in his $500 cowboy boots and think he’s one of “us.” They see Kerry windsurfing and think “them” (because really, how many Bubbas in America actually windsurf?). The issues themselves are a sideshow for the pundits to blabber on about… the “real Americans” vote on “character” and “family values,” not the issues. Ignorance reigns. America, and the world, loses.

And I’ll tell you what really burns me up, what really scares me… when one of these crazy Muslim terrorists decides to set off a dirty-nuke in America, he’s not gonna target East Bumfuck, Alabama, population 547… he’s gonna drop it in New York City, or Los Angeles, or Seattle… all so-called enclaves of leftism, all cities that I take pride in for their vibrant and diverse cultures, all cities that are a part of what makes America great (and just watch, the religous zealots will see a nuked American city as evidence of God’s displeasure in American “decadence”).

And when that happens… or when the Bush deficit cripples the American economy for good… or when the Bush Social Security privitization plan leaves our American seniors without the food and medicine they need, I’m gonna be ready to stick a fat finger in the face of each and every Bush supporter and let loose with a steady stream of “I told you so” (along with a few other choice words). Our current course is simply untenable… we are creating more terrorists far faster than we can kill them, and even the American economy with it’s millions of hard-working Americans can only hold up so much weight. The red-staters have set us on a path to doom, I’m sorry to say, and I will never, ever let them forget that they are the ones responsible.

To the millions of Americans around the country who worked hard for the Kerry campaign, you have my eternal gratitude. Some called you mercenaries, I call you patriots. My own Mom, I’m proud to say, actually volunteered for the Kerry campaign in Washington State. I only wish I was able to join all of you on the ground there as part of your noble cause to ensure that everyone gets a chance to vote (as opposed to the Republican tradition of standing in the way of people voting).

For my American friends and co-workers who were too busy or lazy to vote… I don’t want to hear a peep from any of you about the direction Bush takes our country. You had your chance to speak your mind a few days ago but chose not to. Just sit in the back of the bus and shut up.

Now, on to something positive: What did I learn from this disaster:

First, I am a Democrat. I didn’t really have a political affiliation either way prior to the election as I had my own little differences with the Dems over the way they operate, but the reign of Howdy Doody as made it clear to me that we all have to choose sides in this battle for the heart and soul of America. While I admire and respect the efforts of people around the country to help raise a third party to nationwide prominence, the American electoral system, for good or for bad, just doesn’t have room for them. Of course, they’re free to organize how they like – this is America after all – but I feel a moral obligation to choose a side, the Democratic side, even though the fit isn’t perfect.

Second, paying attention to this election more than any other in the past has revealed to me just how corrupt and dishonest the Republican Party really is. They have no interest in responsible governing or leadership… their eyes are on one thing and one thing only: power. Last-minute turncoat Rodney Alexander was welcomed with open arms to the Republican Party, never mind the odious manner in which he did so (waiting until the final moments before the registration deadline so that the Dems couldn’t find a suitable replacement); while crooked-as-fuck Tom Delay is admired in his party for his “strong” leadership (for example, leading the way in money laundering, sleazy off-year gerrymandering, illegal fundraising, strong-arm tactics, among other things). There’s no tactic too low, no candidate too corrupt for the Republicans to take a step back and think for a minute, “hey… is this what we’re really about?”

Now, with the post finally winding down, it was at this point that I was originally planning on saying my goodbyes to politics for a while. My outrage meter has been set at 11 for the past 2 years or so, and I felt that I just didn’t have it in me to continue putting up much of a fight. I though that for my own mental health, it would be better for me to stand down for a bit… take a breather. But as I bounced around the left-wing blogoshpere looking for advice, looking for help in handling my rage and utter disappointment, I found certain comments that inspired me to stick to it. For example this one, from Steve Gilliard’s blog:

I was in Los Alamos, NM, before and after the terrible fires a few years back. I was doing a collaborative research project there at the National Laboratory. The fires were unbelievable. You would have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate what it looked like. The fire was consumming everything. They couldn’t stop it, it was running over everything. It was racing for the National lab and nothing, I mean nothing could stop it. I was told the firemen, ” fire warriors” really, kept falling back, and falling back, trying to get a grip on this unforgiving blaze. However, as this “monster” reached one particular road, the road that separated it from the laboratory, they built a line. These very brave men and women said that nothing, nothing, was going to get thru that line and to the laboratory. This monster, (this monster!), that destroyed 100s of homes, so much wildlife, too many trees to count, drove all the residents from their homes, and burned so many acres of land your eyes couldn’t see where it stopped, came to that line and used all the force it had to cross it. And it tried, sparks would jump across. Evergreens caught, the winds of the fire blow towards the lab. They say the sound of the fire was so loud you could hear it in Santa Fe. The smoke could be seen in Albuquerque. Just the heat of the blaze caused the blistering of skin. But, those warriors held the line. They held the line. The energy of that monster blaze eventually ate itself. And that fire did not cross the line and destroy the laboratory.

I don’t know why I wanted to tell you this story that was told to me except that your writings evoked the vision of the fire line. Our 49% community has to draw the line. And here the 51% will not pass. Kerry tried. And man he is good, really good. That’s why they smeared him so hard. Didn’t Rove say something like by the time all this was done Kerry wouldn’t know what war he had been in. I really wanted John as my President. I still do. I’ve read all this whining on the blogs. All this “we worked so hard”, “we gave all our money”, “its the gays”, “the young didn’t vote”, “we have to appeal to the religious right wing”, yada, yada, yada. And our own 49% bashing Kerry. I think he is extraordinary. I couldn’t have stood the shit they threw at him. The damn catholic bishops going after him. People saying he should have yelled at the SB liars. Where the hell was the dem party? The dem party and the dems need a spine. And this going on about our needing to only put Southern candidates up for election as having any hope of our ever getting a dem president elected. PLEASE!!! Where the hell was the Boston tea party held? Where did Paul Revere ride? Those Twin Towers were in NYC not the South damnit! And New Yorkers went to work the day the Towers fell and everyday after it. What are we now ashamed of our heritage and who the hell we are? I don’t dance to the GOP tune. They are playing us for fools. And we are buying it. Do the 49% think the GOP didn’t sweat in the last couple of weeks? They were terrified after that first debate. This past week’s info on the missing explosives in Iraq was driving them around the bend.

This election either makes us grow a real spine or we die and this country goes to hell. We only really just started to get a spine this past year. A year ago we said there was no hope but man we came really close this time didn’t we? Really close with a wonderful man that most of the country never heard of before this year. I was never political before but damn I am now. I feel like qouting Cher in “Moonstruck” and slapping the whiners and saying “snap out of it.” Yeah we lost. But, not by much. JFK the first has a quote “…pay any price, bear any burden…”. This is where we begin to pay the price and bear the burden. Its grassroots. We draw the line. What truths do we hold dear and self evident. The only thing the GOP does well is stick together, you don’t catch them bashing each other. Bush is an idiot in the debates and they say he is manly, commanding and amazing. I’ll say he was amazing. I’d never seen anything like Bush before in a debate.

I am so proud of Kerry and Edwards. I had hoped they could serve as our fire line. They tried. Man they really did. But, obviously it isn’t going to be easy. We like quick fixes so we can go back to our lives and let someone else do the lifting. Nope. Nada. It is up to us. We can’t leave it to only two guys. We’re the line.

If we want to be.

Then there’s this letter, in response to a touching Salon article on Ms. Anderson, a 96-year old African-American voter:

Yet with this election, I thought not only was the fight lost, but also that I didn’t have the strength of will to continue fighting. Your article has changed all that..

I will remain in this country. I will strengthen my resolve to stand and to die if I have to, in order to secure the civil liberties of every human being on this planet, not just Americans. I will do this for Ms. Anderson, and for those others who were not born a white, American, heterosexual, Christian male and therefore are not afforded every advantage that this country can provide, and yet have fought against great odds to secure those rights and advantages.

I may get tired, I may get frustrated, and honestly, a part of me wants to just give up and let the Bush team run the country into the ground. But I find myself unable to throw my hands in the air in despair and just walk away. I just can’t do it. While I can respect those who are leaving the country in response to Bush 2: The Nightmare Continues, I will continue the fight as best as I can from my own little corner of the world. I will continue to butt heads with my opponents on the right, I will continue to hold America to a very high standard, and I will continue to hold Bush accountable for dragging our great nation’s name through the mud. It’s the least I can do as an American citizen.

So for all you Bush supporters out there… enjoy the next four years. Go ahead and mock us, laugh at us, threaten us, accuse us of being traitors, unpatriotic, or friends to terrorism. Go ahead and try to stack the Supreme Court with other like-minded right-wingers… try to deface the Constitution with amendments banning gay marriage and flag-burning. But never forget this… there are 55 million Americans like myself who don’t share your vision and we will fight you every single fucking inch of the way. We will not cede you a single thing…

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It all comes crashing down…

Posted by Brian on November 13, 2004

My life sucks right now. Really… I mean that.

I feel like I’m getting battered about in the middle of a perfect storm system here. My grandmother is very sick and most likely near the end of her life; my business is dying, which in turn is creating tension between my girlfriend and I; and when/if I ever overcome those problems I still have 4 more years of suffering under George W. Bush to deal with.

I try to stay strong, I try to stay optimistic, but more often than not I feel so damn overwhelmed by it all. Where’s the point of light that I should be keeping my eye on? I’m gonna be in debt for years, and on top of my own problems, I feel the guilt of dragging my girlfriend (and her now-gone life savings) into this mess. It’s hard enough keeping my own head up, but my girlfriend is pretty upset these days so I need to do what I can to help her.

I need some more soju…

People try to cheer me up by telling me I learned a lot, or that I should get credit for taking a risk. But damnit… this was an expensive lesson to learn, and I can’t help but feel like all the money I poored into this mess could have been spent better elsewhere. It’s all well and good that I should be proud of reaching for my dream the way I did… but pride doesn’t pay the bills.

I usually play some Bob Marley to help cheer me up… but even his songs don’t seem up to the task at the moment. What I need is some collosal good news to break me out of this funk.

Damnit…

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Four More Years

Posted by Brian on November 5, 2004

I appreciate Howard Dean trying to talk progressives back from the ledge, but I am having a hard time seeing that I will be off that ledge anytime before 2008. Four more years. A triumphant Bush with command of the Congress, pushing through judges, raping the environment, ignoring the poor and uninsured, going on more foreign adventures.

Four more years.

I am sick to my stomach, literally sick. I hate this man, this president. And what I hate most of all, I suppose, is that I am sharing a country with nearly 60 million people who look at this disaster of an administration, and think it’s a good thing. Us intellectual liberal types aren’t supposed to say it, but let’s pretend I’m Ann Coulter for the left: How fucking stupid are those people? And why in God’s name should I, and my children, be punished because they’re so fucking stupid?

You know what you Republicans can do with your smirking, snide, Schadenfreude calls for “reaching out” and “working together”? You can shove ’em where the sun don’t shine. You beat us, battered us, abused us, lied, cheated, stole, and now you want us to play fair and nicey-nice? Well, forget it. We didn’t declare this culture war, baby, but we’re sure going to finish it.

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’m not backing away from the ledge any time soon.

Doug Moran

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