I am an old school feminist in that I believe the political is personal and the personal is political. That is what today's little rant is about in three parts as prescribed for Western rhetoric and argument by the definitely non-feminist and sometimes downright sexist Plato through his teacher/muse Socrates. The three parts are the personal and happy, the political and terrifying, and we all need to get mad and get happy.
I am lately an extraordinarily privileged person. I have not written for weeks because I have been off being happy and privileged lacking the angst required to fuel my writing muse. Don't worry if you were. The angst has returned with a vengeance but first I will discuss the personal and the happy.
The Personal and Happy
I am happy.
I have spent more time with my daughters after an extraordinarily busy Spring semester during the middle of which I took on classes for a colleague who died of cancer six weeks after first diagnosis. It was a heavy overload but I felt obligated to take it on since my colleagues had twice in the past taken on classes for me when I had cancer. There was a debt to repay because I had the good fortune to live.
I am teaching a more reasonable load this summer. Two of these classes are very small classes for students "bridging" high school and college who for various reasons do not translate into numbers high enough on paper to go directly to college. They are lovely students who work hard and enjoy class. They want to be enrolled in college in the Fall. Sometimes they enjoy class a little too much. Really. Class went over ten minutes last Tuesday. I had to insist that they leave while promising we would get together again the next day.
My quite beautiful and smart oldest daughter (I am not prejudiced) is graduating from high school and moving on to college. My graduation present to her was to pay for decorating the three areas of her new dorm room including bathroom, living area, and bedroom as if she and her new roommate had just married. Every item from trash cans to shower curtain to bedroom rug matches. This was expensive but both young women are counting the days until they move into their personal paradise away from their families so it was money well spent. Everyone got to live out their inner HGTV fantasies.
My also quite beautiful, brilliant and funny as heck seven-year-old daughter has been going to gymnastics camp in the afternoons and spending the mornings with me. After months of prepping/teaching/grading, prepping/teaching/grading . . . I am spending time with her. She is amazing. How amazing you are not asking? After returning from the weekend at her father's house she reported she was making her own museum of her artwork. Her father brings home large maps of highway systems from his work and she creates huge creative murals on the back of them. She said she had decided to allow art by other people in her museum, but she was still considering whether to allow statues. One night I thought she was asleep in bed so I was working on the computer and talking to a friend on the phone. My youngest daughter came to get me and took me outside. She had been in the front room on the couch by the window looking at the stars. She thought they were playing tricks on her. She said, "Mommy look at that star above the pine tree. It changes from blue to yellow, but that other star just stays blue. I have been watching for a long time. Why does that happen?" All the stars looked white to me. My youngest daughter has decided that I need a personal assistant and she has taken on the job. She asks me in the morning what I need to do that day and makes a checklist with boxes for an big X on completion. She is RUTHLESS about asking if I have completed these tasks. She has also been scouring advertisements to make grocery lists and really was counting how many rolls of toilet paper we had to see if we needed to stock up at Publix for $5.00 for 12 rolls or at Target for $6.00 for 12 rolls. My youngest daughter has developed a habit of drawing pictures of various processes and making small presentations about them. The processes detail answers to questions such as, "How does a spider build a web?" and "How do you do a cannonball in the pool?" She is seven-years-old.
Usually there are no photos in this blog but here is a photo of my two daughters the evening the oldest graduated from high school. The tired old puffy faced lady who looks like she has been through an endless cycle of prepping/teaching/grading is me. I have slept since then and my appearance has improved ;0) If I was not so very proud of them then I would not be putting such an unflattering photo of myself in cyberspace.
I have been the kind of happy and occupied that involves travel, good music, excellent food, and excellent company. That company includes fireworks on the beach, riding the New Orleans trolley car at 3 a.m. under the moonlight, really nice hotel rooms, late mornings, cabernet, and cognac. I realize it is nauseating to read the first two sentences drawn straight from B grade romantic comedy. However it has been and is real so I have not spent a lot of time on angst driven writing. Enough said. There is a reason female blues singers recommended one not advertise one's personal life.
I have been blessed with times with old and good friends. When I write "old" I mean old as in long talks with my best friend of 42 years about how to deal with this odd and terribly irregular happiness of work, family, and the good life. She is a therapist in San Jose whom I first met in the second grade. I talk on the phone every day to my other best friend of 30 years who works from home in international banking. I am not sure what she does but rest assured that when people or banks transfer money around someone somewhere is watching that process. These daily conversations are a gift. I am anticipating the arrival in 10 days of my old college boyfriend with whom I am going to South Beach and on a ridiculously cheap Groupon cruise to Nassau. Cable Beach here we come! This is not an issue with anyone else since that old boyfriend revealed he was gay many years back. He could not tell me in 1982 when we broke up because such confessions were not well understood in the Deep South when dinosaurs walked the earth, the Internet had yet to be invented, and we all went to church on Sunday. Since then I have visited him several times on Castro Street in San Francisco which he calls Gay Disneyland. He has been home in rural Oklahoma dealing with family matters for a year and needs a break.
So I am really ridiculously happy.
The Political and Terrifying
I killed my cable yesterday. Really. I just took the cable newsfeed out of our home because cable news was causing me to agree with a statement made by Sarah Palin and that is a terrible situation. Palin calls cable news "lamestream media" when referring to what she calls the liberal media. I am starting to think the entire spectrum of cable news is "lamestream media." The media is lame because ALL reporters, news writers, and commentators are allowing one politically influential group to define terms and frame arguments. For the love of whatever anyone considers holy please read the linguist George Lakoff's theories on framing and definition. Any of his books will do. The shortest is Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (2004) and the longest is Metaphors We Live By (1980, with Mark Johnson). Lakoff takes great pains to deconstruct how language use contributes to our worldview. He presents many many pages of explicit detail that basically supports George Orwell's statement in 1984 that
. . . if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -- if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the future' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. Book 1, Chapter 3
When everyone of any stripe refers to "climate change" as "global warming" and "tax increases" as "job killers" then one group is controlling the present conversation. Thus that group controls the future, as well as the future representation of the present. This has to stop.
I am a ridiculously happy person living in a time in which terror has becomethe new normal. I don't know if this ridiculous happiness derives from personal good fortune or from some gut feeling that if I and we are not happy now then we may not be able to have that happiness in an uncertain future. Perhaps I am not really happy but secretly frenzied. I do not believe that frenzied is good.
I think about the normalization of terror and woe as I live in Central Florida surrounded by empty housing developments along the highway and in a neighborhood in which fully one-third of the homes are empty due to foreclosure. The lock on the door handle has become commonplace. I take my youngest daughter to the movies at a once prosperous mall surrounded by an acre of empty parking lot that now had less than eight stores in its cavernous space. I see empty storefronts on every major road. I see my community college and online classes swelling with the unemployed and current or former soldiers. The unemployed are seeking respite from long term unemployment and too many of these soldiers show signs of PTSD as they try to get their lives back on track. Then I turn on the TV and do not see the rage that this new normal should create in us. I see the hubris of politicians who would bring the country to ruin because one party had framed the debt ceiling as the sky is falling. We are all accepting that definition. We are all Chicken Little. We are not thinking.
The terrrorists have won. This is true whether those terrorists be Islamic fundamentalists in airplanes or greedy Wall Street financiers who gambled until Rome began to burn and still "sell short" earning money predicting further financial ruin -- as they precipitate that ruin by framing lamestream/mainstream arguments. There are other terrorists along that spectrum but we are all using the same terms and feeling inner terror.
I did not want to hear the terms any more. I killed the cable. I want to think on my own.
We All Need to Get Mad and Get Happy
For example, last week when taking my daughter to see Cars 2 on $5 movie Tuesdays at the empty mall I entertained my bored self through 30 minutes of previews and 80 minutes of animated car crashes by thinking about uses for the dead mall. I spend a few days every year in a cabin in Devil's Den which is a state park in Arkansas. Those cabins were built from rocks dug from the ground and trees cut down on the property by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in the depths of the 1930s depression. Men who would otherwise be starving or driven to revolt by despair became craftsmen with some money to send home to their families. The mall is empty. There are two fully prepared large restaurants in that mall. There may be a mile of empty storefronts in the mall if one walks in circles enough. We need a new Civilian Conservation Corps using empty dead assets we currently have. Why can't that mall be turned into an arts center much as the WPA photography project in the 1930s depression? Why can't artists use those storefronts as studios while living in foreclosed or currently empty properties eating food in the restaurant spaces that they help to prepare? There is a huge movie theater in that mall. It would be a tremendous arts center for artists, film makers, and culinary experts. The restaurant could feed the homeless as well. The artists could assist in entertaining and teaching children in daycare centers in that space.
We need to start thinking and stop being ruled by fear. We desperately need to get mad. We desperately need to get happy.
I may sound ridiculous but it is worlds better than sitting terrified in front of the 24 hour news cycle being told how to use my brain.