Not just pictures, though, but a whirlwind of activity and several friends – though far fewer than we’d have liked. And to those of you we didn’t get a chance to see – the fault (if any) is ours, and we hope we can hook up with you next time.
Beth’s already described some of what it felt like, from a political perspective, to be back in our hometown on election day 2008. This is unquestionably the most important, most memorable election of my life. Beth left very early on Tuesday morning so she could have some of the afternoon in San Francisco for business meetings, but I didn’t leave with the kids until 2:50 PM….or so I thought. Beth had printed up an itinerary for me and the kids the previous night (November 3), which gave the usual information, including flight number and departure time – as well as a bar-code that you can pass under the check-in kiosk at the airport to speed up check-in and boarding.
Fast forward to later that afternoon. The itinerary Beth printed said flight departure was 2:50. We got out of the house a little bit later than I wanted to – almost thirty minutes, in fact. But that’s why you plan to arrive quite a bit ahead of your departure time: so that if you hit any snags or delays, you can still make the flight on time, right? Right. So I drove probably a bit faster than I should have, and we made up a bit of time. Pulled into the main check-in area only twenty minutes “late,” or so – which theoretically should still have left us a plenty-big cushion of time to get through security, potty stops, buy some water, etc…
I drop the bags at the self-check-in kiosk, run the itinerary Beth printed off the Delta.com web site under the scanner…and it says “too late to check in for this flight,” and lists the departure time as 1:50 (not 2:50). Heck and crud and various other words I can’t say in front of the children. Could I have just mis-read it, lamed out so badly that I was not twenty minutes late, but in fact an hour and twenty minutes late, and now almost certain to miss our flight (it was 1:44 at the time)? I pulled the itinerary out, re-read the flight information, and no, sure enough, it did say a different flight number, and a 2:50 departure time, not 1:50. More muttered fake curse words. Tell the kids to pick up their suitcases again, and get in a long line for “old-school” check in (read: in front of an actual ticketing agent).
I guess it must be the near-bankruptcy, or the tanking economy, or some combination of those and other factors, but I think Delta (and possibly other airlines, but I don’t know about those) have “trimmed” their flight schedules – or perhaps are in the process of checking each flight within a 24-hour period of take-off, to see if it’s full enough to fly. What with gas (and therefore jet fuel) costing as much as it does, I suppose it makes sense for them not to fly routes with only twenty or thirty tickets sold. The fuel costs just as much as it would if the plane were full (or nearly so).
But it gave me a heart-attack, especially when the ticketing agent started making noises about not being able to get us on a later flight. In the end, though, she found us seats (even together!), without even having to fly standby…but we didn’t leave until 4:05PM. This delayed our scheduled arrival in San Francisco until almost 6:20, instead of the previously-promised 4:20ish arrival time. So we had to call Uncle Bruce and tell him we were delayed, and also let Beth know. In the end, though, it worked out fine. The kids were grumpy towards the end of the flight (and who could blame them, after 5 hours on the plane plus all that time cooling their heels in the terminal), but when we arrived, Bruce was there to get us, and we hopped in his car, drove to the Hilton in the theater district of San Francisco, met mommy, dropped the stuff off in the room, and then – because we were hungry – went two blocks down the street to Johnny Foley’s , a great little Irish pub right in the theater district (side note: this is the same pub which has a basement that they only open up for music events, in which we saw the absolutely amazing (and now sadly defunct) Sixteen Horsepower with only about 150 other people, three days before Beth’s delivery date with Meredith! – check out Lars’ amazon.com review of their album Hoarse, if this band sounds intriguing to you.). So there we were, eating fish and chips, and drinking Murphy’s Irish Stout (OK, OK, if you must know, the kids drank lemonade, LOL), and watching CNN with about a zillion other people….as the election was called for Barack Obama. The timbers literally shook; what a great moment, to be able to be there, where our hearts are, on the day that so much of what’s been wrong about the last eight years seemed to be so soundly refuted by so many of our fellow countrymen.
As many of you guys know, we’re an Apple family (as far as our computers, not the fruit, LOL). I’ve been a Mac guy literally since the very first one, and our family had an old Apple II way back in 1982/3. So I keep up to date with two or three of the best Mac/Apple-related blogs/news sites out there. There’s several, but I don’t bother with all of ’em – just two or three to keep up to date on stuff. Anyway, the point is that it’s all geek-oriented stuff about Apple. But on election day, as I was checking my iPhone for various election results as we watched CNN, I came across this post from John Gruber, the proprietor of Daring Fireball, one of these Mac-focused blogs. I’d never seen anything like it – or in fact, anything NOT about Macs – on his site. But it quoted one of my favorite all-time writers, and fit perfectly with much of my own sentiments on that day, especially as I sat in Johnny Foley’s. So here it is:
A Fantastic Monument
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Hunter S. Thompson, September 1972:
The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states.
Well, maybe so. This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves: finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes and all his imprecise talk about “new politics” and “honesty in government”, is one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.
McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for.
Jesus! Where will it end?
It ends here, today.
I love this country.
Yeah. Me, too, Mr. Gruber. Me, too. I actually got a bit misty when I read that one. I’ve been insulted on a pretty regular basis over the last decade or so in ways you probably wouldn’t imagine, unless you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage or watch Bill O’Reilly (in which case, you probably don’t need any explanation). My own “skin” isn’t so thin that I get easily wounded by insults from people who I don’t know and/or don’t respect (which would include Messrs. Limbaugh, Savage and O’Reilly, for various but similar reasons which need not be detailed here). Especially when I remember that they don’t know me personally, as well. When I hear some paid flack ranting away on TV or radio or in print, calling liberals (and in fact anyone who doesn’t hew to the particular strain of conservatism which has become synonymous with George W. Bush, and now – seemingly – with Sarah Palin) “traitors” or “anti-American” or “terrorist-enablers” or a variety of other epithets, varying in accuracy from “not very” to “you’re kidding, right?” and varying in tone from “insulting” to “if you said that to my face, I’d kick you,” I tend to let it slide off my back. Or at least I try to. Because I’m aware that they don’t know me, or my friends, or my family, or the people I care about. And I know that they’re paid to be outrageous, and to “stir up the base,” or whatever.
But is this how we – as a people – want to engage the political sphere of discourse, even when we’re attempting to “stir up the base?” I hope not, because the political narrative, the “voice,” if you will, of conservative talk-radio and of the conservative worldview in general has been so dominant (partly due to the spinelessness of the Democratic party during these last ten years) that in many parts of the country, the voices of Limbaugh, Hannity, et. al. were the only voices you could hear, even if you’d been open to hearing something else.
And it’s having an effect – and not a good one. As people in many places continue hearing almost nothing but these voices of anger and division and (too often) fake outrage (what I call “fauxtrage”), it starts to become part of the air they breathe. If you spend years listening to nothing but discourse that tells you that it’s not only OK, but actually laudable for the average person to refer to a subsection of their fellow citizens (in this case, liberals, in another time and place, perhaps Jews, any other minority) as deserving of scorn, derision and insults of the worst sort, you begin to not even notice when people – perhaps even yourself – are doing so. Insults which would make you red-faced and sputtering with outrage if they were directed towards you and your ideas or values hardly even get recognized as being insults or hatred. Don’t believe me? The secret service, after the election (just in the last week or so), went on record (something they almost never do), admitting that Sarah Palin’s campaign rhetoric about Barack Obama (saying he “pals around with terrorists” and “doesn’t care about America like you and I do” and similar comments) had, in their words,
…provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling “terrorist” and “kill him” until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.
But it has now emerged that her demagogic tone may have unintentionally encouraged white supremacists to go even further.
The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin’s attacks.
And I, in my lesser way, noticed it as well, when I would frequent political debate boards. I never felt physically threatened, but then again, that’s because it was cyber-space. I feel certain that if some of the people who called me everything from anti-American to functionally treasonous to, well, you get the idea: if they’d been able to figure out my personal details, I’m halfway convinced I’d have gotten intrusive and nasty letters, at the very least. These are the fruits of all that bile on talk-radio and opinion shows on TV. Politics has always been a contact sport, and probably always will be…but there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re seeing levels of division and rancor unseen since the height of the anti-Vietnam era in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And that although no one party or group is ever going to corner the market on rancor, division, spite and hatefulness, that doesn’t mean that it’s always distributed equally, all the time. These days, that means on the Republican side. Still don’t believe me? Try this:
In 2004, liberals had had more than enough of Bush already. John Kerry may not have been the greatest candidate possible, but I would describe my mood during that election season as very similar to the feelings of many a McCain voter in this most recent election, namely: possibly not utterly thrilled about my own party’s candidate, but definitely feeling that he was orders of magnitude preferable to the other party’s candidate. A “lesser of two evils” choice, if you will. And most of us – liberals – truly thought Kerry had a shot. Given how close the election was, I don’t think it’s completely inaccurate to say, even in retrospect, that he did have a shot. Bush was reelected with the smallest margin ever of any incumbent during wartime. Ever.
But I digress. Here’s why I brought up 2004. The point was: we wanted Kerry to win (or at least wanted Bush to lose, which amounts to the same thing in a two-party system). Many of us gave money, worked volunteer shifts, and generally hoped like hell that Bush would be a one-termer like his dad. And right up until the very end, we thought he might be. So, when the election was called for Bush, we were pretty crushed, most of us. Four more years…ugh. But have a look at this: it’s Kerry’s concession speech. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, just the part in the beginning where he says he made the traditional concession phone call to President Bush. You can hear a pin drop:
Now, contrast that with John McCain’s concession speech from two weeks ago. I thought – like many commentators did – that McCain’s speech itself was remarkably gracious and conciliatory, the kind of “reaching across the aisle” for which Senator McCain had become known, but which was (sadly) little in evidence on the campaign trail, amongst the negative advertising. It was nice to see a flash of the McCain of old, a man whom I thought I’d either imagined in the first place, or who might have vanished for good. But McCain isn’t who I want to focus on. Have a listen to his supporters – hard core partisans, no doubt…but no more hard-core than the Kerry volunteers/supporters were in 2004 – listen to how they react when McCain also mentions the traditional concession phone call:
Quite a contrast, isn’t it? I could be wrong here, but I suspect the difference in the two “losers'” respective audiences comes from more than a dozen years (starting well back in the Clinton era) of right-wing pundits, radio hosts and commentators not only telling their listeners/viewers that it was OK to hate liberals, but actually encouraging them to do so…and possibly also intimating that victory or running the country was conservatives’ due, so that they feel “robbed” enough or consider it “unjust” enough that “their guy” lost that they feel empowered to boo and jeer at their own candidate’s concession when he mentions the President-elect.
These are the same people who read Ann Coulter’s books, like “How To Talk To A Liberal – If You Must” or “Treason,” or Michael Savage’s books, like “Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder,” and felt entitled and empowered – even encouraged – to call me all sorts of names for expressing contrary opinions on a public debate board. And the more unstable of them are even the sort of people who march into a church full of men, women and children during Sunday services, and open fire. The man who shot up a church from MY denomination (Unitarian Universalist), explicitly said that he did so to target liberals because he hated them (a UU church, in the South? Tennessee isn’t Atlanta, but don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me that those could very, VERY easily have been MY children).
Of course, not everyone who dislikes the other side in politics is a nascent church-massacre-perpetrator. Mr. Adkisson clearly had plenty of mental problems. But it’s worth pointing out that the rage-filled fantasies of the authors of books found in both his truck and home – O’Reilly, Savage – fit in perfectly with his own violent mental disorders. It’s worth noting that Adkisson did not direct his rage against the elderly, or Canadians, or left-handed people. This was not a random, schizophrenia-induced mania/delusion. It had a very specific goal. And nothing in what he was clearly soaking up like a sponge from books, radio and TV told him that there was anything wrong with demonizing liberals and thinking of them as subhuman.
But as I sat there in Johnny Foley’s in San Francisco’s theater district on the night of November 4, 2008, even with all the experiences I’ve had which reinforce in me the old saying that “the arc of the moral universe is long,” I remembered the rest of that quote: “but it bends toward justice.” And maybe, just maybe, I thought, I might have been witness to one of the rare times when you can actually SEE it thusly bending, ever so gradually, toward justice. And for some reason, this video clip kept coming to my mind (live from the Berlin Wall, 1990):
Used to look in on the children at night
In the glow of their Donald Duck light
And frighten myself with the thought of my little ones burning
But, oh, oh, oh, the tide is turning
I sure hope so, Barack, Roger. I think it might be. I think the Limbaughs and the Savages and the Coulters are starting to lose their hold on the public’s consciousness. I think the American people have started to realize once again that what unites us is far greater than what separates us, and that we are at our best when we can see our own humanity in others, both here and abroad. They’ve begun to remember that the pen truly is mightier than the sword. And that the reason people have kept flocking to our shores all these years isn’t because we offer them the chance to be Donald Trump, or because we’ve got the largest and best-equipped military the world has ever known, but because of the words our founders laid down, and those who came after maintained, about a new kind of way for citizens to treat one another and for their government to treat them: fairly, and without prejudice or malice. Sort of like a barefoot, rabble-rousing community organizer got himself hanged for suggesting, two thousand years ago. Maybe the tide IS turning.