Monday, November 24, 2008

Protesters, a Pivotal Person...and Privilege

It was a sunny autumnal Sunday, with exhilarating clear yellow light, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains both visible with their dusting of snow, and Mt. Rainier casting a dark silhouette, crisp and looming.

A day for two memorable experiences.

With my husband spending the day on an airplane, good friends offered to take me with them to a concert of an ensemble of musicians from the Israel Defense Forces, given at a local Reform Temple. An annual event, it raises awareness of Friends of the IDF, a volunteer group that provides non-combat-related support for the men and women protecting Israel.

I wasn't prepared for the reception we received. Lining the street in front of the Temple were several clusters of protesters, wielding signs denouncing the "occupation" of Palestinian lands. One held a sign reading "Stop Israeli State Terrorism." A fifty-foot-long banner blared "Stop the Siege on Gaza." Perhaps 35 people hovered near the entrance to the program, menacingly glaring at all who walked toward the door. Each one, without exception, hoisting some placard or sash. Some announced their bearers as Jews. Several police cars were parked nearby.
Sponsors of the event stood on the Temple front patio welcoming concert-goers. "Thank you for coming," they smiled. "Come right in." They were well aware that the protesters' aim was to intimidate. One man entering the venue spit on the ground in front of one of the picketers, and called another who advertised he was Jewish "anti-Semitic." He received no response.

Inside, six musicians and three talented singers in khaki uniforms accented in red performed modern standards and Jewish favorites, encouraging the audience to clap the rhythm and sing familiar lyrics. The second woman fighter pilot, diminutive 24-year-old Lieut. Naami, described her path to the cockpit. The local volunteers who raise money to help families of fallen soldiers, provide recreational and supplementary support in the field, contribute college scholarships to veterans and purchase mobile clubs, gyms and synagogues spoke of their work. Finally, the ensemble's lively harmonies roused many in the audience to traditional dance.

Not a very threatening gathering. But very ominous if you believe Israel should not exist. Israel is the only democracy in its region, where Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of the electorate, have a say in the government. I found it ironic that those who would remove such liberty from the mid-east's one free enclave would use that very freedom to heckle people walking to a charity concert.

Later, we attended a screening of the film "Lonely Man of Faith," a biography of Rav Joseph B. Soloveichik, considered the founder of Jewish "Modern Orthodoxy" in America. The film, a first effort by Ethan Isenberg, a 31-year-old former computer programmer who, after absorbing much of the Rabbi's approach at Yeshiva University and in Israel, spent years "on spec" gathering the biographical information and interviews that are movingly combined in this film.

What we see is the melding of old and new worlds--how a genius from a distinguished rabbinical family from White Russia who fled to Poland and finally the United States, evolved an outlook that could combine a rigorous, academic approach to scriptures with the challenges of a fast-paced, assimilationist culture. In the film, he is presented as an enigma, one who tried to lift standards of his community in Boston while at the same time overlaying a flexibility and plasticity demanded by American life.

For his efforts, he was baselessly accused of sinister motives and theft, completely cleared only after stressful years of conflict. His insistence that women receive top-flight education, and his creation of Orthodox day schools where boys and girls learned together, was controversial among the traditional, and subversive among the assimilationists who were the vast majority of Jews in America.

Finally, he gained not only respect but reverence. Considered among the most eminent Torah scholars and teachers in America, he led Yeshiva University in New York, as well as its women's branch, Stern College, to prominence as the premier centers of Jewish philosophical and halachic (law) study. Yet after four decades of teaching, which included his significant The Lonely Man of Faith essay, Rav Soloveichik (1903-1993) is still unknown by almost all Jews in America and elsewhere.

The film does not really explain The Rav's philosophies, which, given their complexity and depth, would be impossible. But it hints at his torment and difficulty carrying Torah through the pivot of revolutionary world events--escape from persecution, pre-war Poland, struggles in America, the scourge of the holocaust, the birth of Israel, and the advent of the technological age intersecting with the Age of Aquarius.

Witnessing today the anger of the protesters at the FIDF concert, and the challenges of Rav Soloveichik, I feel very small. I look at the insignificant decisions of our privileged lives--even as we watch our savings shrivel in the current financial squeeze--and see both how much more I could learn and how blessed we all are to have so many paths already forged for us.

This is the week of Thanksgiving. I'm planning to cook the traditional turkey (the only time of the year my oven contains real meat) but today's events remind me that the holiday is not about the food in our stomachs, but about the intellectual and spiritual sustenance of the friends and teachers we are so fortunate to know, and the environment in which we are free to enjoy them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Truth will (IS) Out: The 10 Big Lies About America

I may be working on my own book about marriage as the combination of opposites, but right now I'm rather engrossed in the progress of a different book--The 10 Big Lies About America.

My husband's book was published on Tuesday, and I'm not only invested in its success as the "opposite" half of my mate, but because I spent several months working on it.

My husband, who is insecure enough to think his opportunities are fleeting and must all be embraced when presented--regardless of how many other obligations he must fulfill--had signed his book contract months earlier and found himself with deadline fast approaching and still only an outline and lots of ideas to show for it. Every time somebody would mention his book project, he'd change the subject. It became the "elephant in the room," and the weight on his back, even as he wrote three or four columns every day, went to movie screenings several times a week, appeared on countless news TV shows and, oh yes, did a three-hour radio show daily. And kept Shabbat, which removed one day from his potential work time.

He considered who he could bring on board to help get this project done. He already had his editor to nag him, and in the end he decided that perhaps the best writing partner was, um, very, very close. Close enough to sit next to him holding her laptop taking notes wherever and whenever an epiphany struck. This wasn't a wild idea, since we'd collaborated on a book before (Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence, which he outlined and I wrote) and I had five other books to my own credit.

However, when one is ruminating in the bathtub or while driving, one tends to get too many good ideas. "We should put in all these massacres in the chapter on Indians..." and I dutifully wrote them all down, and proceeded to research them all and write succinctly about them. I have always been a good, dutiful student. The chapter I wrote on "the crime of genocide" against American Indians included every point he requested. It was 130 pages long and had 128 endnotes. My chapter on slavery, for which I read 56 books, was also 130 pages, and had 136 endnotes.

I ticked off each point my husband wanted covered as I continued writing subsequent chapters, but when the editor heard of the massive amounts of material being generated, he screamed. This was not to be a tome; it was to be like my husband's radio show--cogent points, well-documented, able to fit between commercials.

My hundreds of pages of writing were cherry-picked by my husband, who re-formulated and then wrote the chapters himself. As I read the book now, I see the editor was right--it's darn good. It's succinct, it's punchy, it's clever. Every now and then I see something I uncovered via my hours of digging through obscure my perusal of photocopies of the original letters between the generals accused of suggesting Native American genocide via "smallpox-infected blankets," a myth definitively quashed by my research.

Am I disappointed my work is only peripherally used in The 10 Big Lies? Well, no. The book is fantastic and I envision any parent or teacher who wants to present the truth about American history insisting that children read it. I envision it being quoted around Thanksgiving tables and at family Christmas dinners (where some lucky person received it as a gift) because of its inspiring, uplifting and heartwarming messages.

And since I truly DO believe that man and woman are "sides" of the same unique entity called a marriage, I figure I get all the kudos and thrill that my husband is earning now.

But maybe...hmmm...there's some way to publish my chapters....

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wanted: More Liberals to Take my Survey--Plus, Some Preliminary Results

It's been less than two days since I posted my survey asking about men's and women's roles in marriage, and already I have more than 550 responses. If you haven't taken the survey (described in the post immediately below), please do:
Click Here to take survey

Most participants came from my link on, and therefore include respondents who describe themselves as conservative or "right-leaning" (93%). I don't really have connections to any blogs or sites frequented by liberals/progressives, but I'd love to have a broader picture--so I'd appreciate if you could please refer others, or link to my survey.

In the meantime, I'm moved by the thought and insight in the answers provided so far.

As of now, more husbands than wives have responded (60%-40%). Participants were married from 3 months to 57 years, with lengths of marriage pretty evenly represented (fewer as years married increase, of course).

Sixty-four percent said they were "very happy" in their marriages; another 28% chose "happy."

An aside: I wonder if this reflects recent research showing that by every measure, conservatives are happier than liberals. Arthur Brooks, summarizing the research from his 2008 book Gross National Happiness to Free Republic, explained it this way:

"About half the 'happiness gap' is explained by two demographic differences. Conservatives are far more religious than liberals, on average, and much more likely to be married. Faith and marriage both strongly improve life quality for most people."

My survey was for married people, so one criterion for happiness was met. They also overwhelmingly reported preference for religion, many using religious references in their comments, so, two down.

Brooks continues, "The other half of the gap is explained by differing worldviews. Conservatives generally look at society and see a collection of individuals. Liberals are much stronger at the level of the collective... Conservatives feel more in control of their world than liberals do; liberals are more likely to feel like victims when others don’t behave the way they 'should.'” Interesting.

Back to my results: Participants in my survey provided perceptive and personal responses to the open-ended questions, especially regarding what makes their marriages work. My eyeballing of ingredients to their happiness, and advice to engaged couples, reveals themes of 1. shared religion, 2. shared devotion to children, and 3. communication/intimacy.

Though in many marriages the wife did not work, a similar number reported wives bringing in the bulk of the income. Only three surveys showed the husband bringing in 0% of the income, however. A large majority reports that the wife does most of the housework, though several people thought I should have included a housework category acknowledging children's contribution. Many noted that the economic climate now requires both partners' incomes, even if they would prefer the wife to focus on home and children.

Questions about the passage of California's Proposition 8, and views on same-sex marriage brought the expected traditionally-minded responses, with many citing the Bible or religious basis for their positions. A large number expressed compassion for gays, but while not opposed to civil union, insisted the time-honored definition of marriage remain.

These findings are not surprising given the self-selected audience, of course, but the eloquence of the personal expressions was touching and will be useful in my book. I just read over one survey where the writer's answers broke my heart--the psychologist in me kicks in! I want to personally respond to so many of the comments--I hope on Wednesday when I guest-host the third hour of the Michael Medved radio show, I'll be able to have a dialog about some of these issues.

I can argue the reasons why gender differences are the crux of marriage but the passion and sense of the comments I've received adds dimension and vitality to the discussion.

I feel honored so many people took the time to complete my survey, and if you did, I hope it was personally beneficial. Please share the questionnaire with your spouses and friends (and especially, refer liberals!) This isn't just about a book project or a political proposition, it's about the very essence of our most central and intimate relationships, a topic always worth exploring.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How Do You Mesh the Roles of Husband and Wife? Take My Survey!

As I've mentioned before, I'm in the midst of writing a book on the fact that marriage can only be the unique combination of male and female.

As part of my research, I've devised a questionnaire that I hope you'll complete by clicking on the following link:

Click Here to take survey

The survey has only 18 questions, and asks about how tasks are divvied up between the husband and wife. Clearly I have a position on what marriage is, but I want to know how it works for you.

I think that completing the questionnaire will not only be enjoyable, but illuminating. And your responses may also be beneficial for those reading my book. I know the survey can't be considered scientific, and I'll present the results honestly as such. Still, the more input I have, the better, so please feel free to invite friends and family to participate. I'll only be running the survey, called "How Do You Mesh the Roles of Husband and Wife?" for a couple weeks. I'll be discussing it this Wednesday as I guest-host the third hour of The Michael Medved Radio Show, if you'd like to call in to share your thoughts!

Thanks in advance--I'm eager to see what you have to say!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There are Two Seasons in Seattle: August, and The Rainy Season

We've entered "the rains" here in the Northwest, and for the past week or so, with the exception of a few hours Monday afternoon, we've been engulfed in a shroud of showers.
People living here experience SAD (seasonal affective disorder), as many who work in offices drive to work in the dark and leave also in the dark. Add to that the dank, given that the sidewalks grow mold and trees drip moss. Seattleites don't carry umbrellas; instead, we ignore the rain. If we had to open and close umbrellas, we'd waste precious hours.

Seattle joke: What did the Seattleite say to the Pillsbury Doughboy?
--Nice tan.

I have a lightbox. To those of you in southern climes (lucky ducks! Oh wait. We're the ducks...) that's a cringingly bright light that you sit in front of so that you don't go crazy. My desk lamp is a "full spectrum" florescent that ostensibly simulates the soothing rays of sunshine. Doesn't work. My kitchen light is a long "solar" bulb. I nearly wrote "blub." Like I'm underwater.

I remember emerging one afternoon from my office, looking out on the foliage and asking aloud, "what's that white stuff?" It was sunshine. I just didn't recognize it.

However, I do get some practice now and then. We have something known as a "sun break." It's part of the weather forecast, whenever possible. "Rain, then showers." "Drizzles, then rain." "Cloudy, Afternoon rain." Then, our hopes go sky-high: "Rain. Chance of sun-breaks."

Sun-breaks, you would think, are like coffee breaks anywhere else. Here in Seattle, home of Starbucks, we get them together. A "sun-break" means a little space between the clouds when the sun peeps through. If you're in a crowd, you'll hear someone yell "SUNBREAK!" and everyone drops what he's doing and runs outside to turn his face to the "white stuff," craving a mini-dose of Vitamin D. At that welcome word, you hear people formerly with cell to ear saying, "'Callya right back!" and joining the herd heading for the nearest balcony. Even a window will do.

Seattle is a great place to live. It has the highest per capita book purchasing. It is a movie mecca. It has ubiquitous coffee dens with fireplaces. Reading, movies and hibernating--sounds like winter. Ten months a year.

Oh, there's skiing. But my husband won't let any of us try it. Too dangerous. Remember Sonny Bono...though I heard some suspect he didn't ski into a tree after all. That's another story.
Don't think this is just a soppy k'vetch, though I've done a good job of it. What I wanted to say was how happy I am every morning to be able to see the rain-reflections on my patio, and the sheets of gray outside the window, and hear the pecking raindrops on our metal roof and skylight.
I decided a while ago that depressing as this constant cold, dark and wet is to this Southern California girl, I was going to make the most of it.
It's Jewish tradition to "wake up like a lion to the service of the Lord," and after a few moans in my warm down-comforter sleep-number bed, I force myself. "Modeh ani," I recite, the traditional expression of gratitude for being allowed another day. And then, I look outside.
"And ANOTHER gray day in the grayest region on God's green earth!" I leap out of bed like a lion groping for her slippers.
Truth is, I didn't really see much more than the color outside, because before inserting my contact lenses, the world is fuzzy. But after throwing on my gym clothes, I finally pop in my vision and take a look.
"...Pokayach ivrim." That's part of the morning blessings: Blessed is God...who gives sight to the blind. And that's when I don't mind the rain at all.
On the way into the gym today, leaves fallen from two trees, amber and crimson and gold, mingled on the startlingly green grass to create a collage that sparkled with the rain. I was surprised by its beauty. But I didn't pause too long. Because, without an umbrella, I was getting drenched.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

$200 Blue Jeans? I Hope Somebody's Buying

Comments like, "This is exactly why we need to take money away from rich snobs like you and give it to people who need it to buy pizza-level cuisine -- hold the ambiance -- and see if it trickles UP for a change."

Actually, most of the negativity surrounding my piece was directed toward Michelle Obama and her, um, novel election-night dress, or Sarah Palin's alleged $150,000 wardrobe upgrade.

But I want to make clear that I'm on the opposite side of the clothes-buying continuum. Almost everything I wear is from Target, or, more likely,a hand-me-up originally from Target or Forever 21. (Definition of "hand-me-up:" Something daughters consider so out-of-style or shrunken from washings that they can only give it to their mother. And their mother, who paid for it in the first place, can't bear to give it away when it's still perfectly good, so she wears it.)

From my husband's occupation, some people might assume our family lives high on the hog. Of course, the hog isn't kosher, and given the way I was raised, living high isn't acceptable either. I admit we are blessed to live comfortably, due to my husband's hard work. But if you've ever read the best-seller The Millionaire Next Door, you'll learn that vast numbers of people whose net worth ultimately grows into a lot of money do it by living frugally. That's why the millionaire is next door--he doesn't get a fancy house or eat at 3-D-food restaurants or buy $200 blue jeans. He has values that emphasize thrift and modesty and self-sacrifice and prudence.

That's what my parents taught me, and we've endeavored to teach our children. And that's why I've never owned a pair of blue jeans that cost more than one tenth of $200. That's right. In fact my "good" jeans were indeed from Target, purchased six years ago. My everyday jeans are hand-me-ups from Old Navy. Our shoes are from Payless, and when my son needs clothes, we go to JC Penney's. If he wants something from, say, Hollister or Apostale, he pays for it out of his own earnings. He's great with kids and earns most of his cash babysitting.

My husband is what most observers call "sartorially-challenged." His corduroy pants are so "broken in" they have no wale. The joke about "ties older than you are" started with him. And extends to his shirts. We have urged him to relent a little and let us at least augment his antiques with a few newer additions. We buy them (on sale). He refuses them.

By the way, frugality is a way of life that extends way beyond clothes-buying. We host Shabbat meals for a crowd every week, the menu based on sale circulars from our local markets and the coupons I've clipped. A "shopping spree" for me is the occasional trip to Big Lots or Dollar Tree, where I buy cleaning supplies, toiletries and sometimes splurge on something for our Shabbat table. (My creative outlets are fanciful tabletops and digital photography). Our meals out (about twice a month at most) are limited due to the dearth of kosher restaurants in our area, none of which are what you'd consider fancy--or even serve meat.

OK, I feel better. When someone as cheap as I am is accused of wearing $200 jeans, I get a little defensive.

My point stands: Even though I don't patronize them, I still care about the many posh and upscale stores and restaurants I see. I want them to prosper; I want people with means to patronize them, and enjoy their beautiful products and refined dinners. This downturn is causing big problems, and not just for the elite Wall Streeters who are laid off or laid low, but for the retailers who depended on the patronage of middle management, computer techys, and professionals of all types who are being trimmed from suffering companies, big and small.

When I've walked around our local mall--on the way to JC Penney's--I've often wondered who patronizes the stores I consider expensive. I seldom see more than a few customers browsing, and often the stores are empty. White House/Black Market. Ann Taylor. Coldwater Creek. Express. I'm sure each of these stores have sales where their merchandise is marked way down, but even at sale prices, the apparel sold there is usually more than I'm willing to pay. And now, with the downturn, customers are staying away in droves; even the ones who could continue shopping upscale are holding back out of guilt and embarrassment at their conspicuous consumption.

The decline of these glitzy stores is reality but the question remains whether a new President Obama (writing that was tough) will exacerbate or resolve the problem. The reason why I'm worried is because the kind of approach he promises requires more federal programs and thus more taxpayer support. Instead of cutting taxes on businesses that hire lots of people, Obama hopes to tax them further (ask Joe the Plumber), reducing their ability to keep employees and inventory.

As I said before, business is not the enemy but the source of recovery, if we encourage it. The government should cut taxes on profit, and offer workers the option of an 18% flat tax on income. History has shown that lower tax rates bring in more revenue, as citizens have less motivation to hide or weasel around federal demands. We need to re-empower customers to buy, and reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit of those in the marketplace.

And maybe my husband would even accept some new pants from Nordstrom Rack if he thought it would help the economy, though they better be far less than $200.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Reassurring Election Result

The good news in an otherwise disheartening slate of returns was that voters in California, where I was born, raised and lived until moving to the Northwest a dozen years ago, confirmed their previous declaration that marriage can only be defined as one man, one woman.

After four-and-a-half months of gay marriage, sanctioned by only a one-judge margin (4-3) in a case negating the citizens' 2000 ballot initiative and a law that defined marriage traditionally, a majority inserted the time-honored definition into the state constitution, where it cannot be dislodged.

Though this may tear asunder the use of a particular word for gay couples, it does nothing to change their practical status, as California law already gives those in civil unions complete parity of rights with married couples.

And of course, gays always had an equal right to marry, the same right as any other adult, to choose one of the opposite gender. All that's happened is something linguistic, but deeply significant. It is a message that there are indeed gender differences that must be recognized, and even more importantly, that there is one combining of those differences that we hold as the highest, and for most, God-sanctified means of building connections, raising children, and creating a stable society.

This is extremely meaningful for me, as my husband had suggested I put my work on hold pending California's vote. I'm doing a book explaining the importance of marriage as the uniting of opposites; if Proposition 8 had failed, it would have opened the door for national gay marriage and symbolized Americans' indifference toward my subject. With Barack Obama's pledge to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, nothing could have stopped state reciprocity and the generalizing and devaluing of the institution. Now, I'll write with greater urgency.

And what about those same-sex couples who thought they'd married? There's no way to know how many people this affects, since shortly after the mid-May ruling, wedding licenses in California began listing "Party A" and "Party B" for "bride" and "groom." A study released last month by UCLA's Williams Institute looked at the differences in marriage rates between pre-and post-gay marriage rulings at the same times of year, and assumed any increase was gays. Using that questionable standard, they announced that 11,000 gay marriages had been performed. Williams' Gary Gates says many of these are couples who traveled to California for the ceremony, since the bulk of the weddings occurred at top tourist destinations.

By comparison, Massachusetts, the only other state legalizing gay unions, records 10,385 such couplings in four years --since May, 2004, according to a recent LA Times article.

The big fear was that Californians, like the proverbial frog boiled in slowly-heated water, had grown used to the idea of gay marriage, and, given big donors to the No on 8 campaign like the Service Employees International Union ($500,000) and the California Teachers Assn. ($250,000), would roll over and accept it. This outcome reassures us that no matter who's at the helm of the political wheel, our basic values will keep our nation turning the right direction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins--But Will the Economy Lose?

As I walked back in the nip and chill of the evening,far too early and dejected, from the hotel where Republicans celebrate with their candidates, I looked at the tony stores lining the boulevard--and feared for their survival.

I'd just watched on a huge projected TV Sen. McCain's gracious and generous concession speech. Our nation lost the leadership of one who is temperate, dedicated and moral. And my mind turned to the likely consequences of that loss.

Stocks tomorrow and the rest of the week are likely to tumble, at the prospect of serious taxes on businesses already jabbed by the credit squeeze and weak economy. Many will have to contract. I looked at the swanky shops in the newly-expanded shopping corridor: Ex Officio offers "performance" wear for "enhanced comfort," and enhanced price. Nearby, 7 for All Mankind, Eileen Fischer, Rag ("Men's Style"), LaCoste and Free People just opened up. Blue jeans for $200? Not likely this year if taxes skyrocket among the more affluent who are the entire customer base of these stores.

How about the chi-chi eateries offering 3-D dinners--referring to the stacked presentation of items on the plate, as well as the triple-digit charge. A dozen bistros offer lovely ambiance, luscious cuisines of every kind--but they're likely to lose even more profit (restauranteurs report a 10-20% decline since the gas crunch a couple months ago) if gas goes back up, taxes restrict patrons' disposible income and they, as employers, have to kick in for their workers' health plans.

It's not a pretty picture.

Why did Americans let themselves in for all this tsuris (that's Yiddish for trouble)? Easy: emotion trumps logic. I've said it before, and it never fails. Obama's entire strategy, his encompassing approach, and indeed the typical pull of liberals is--well, that famous bleeding heart. "Taking care of you; taking care of others," the sad anecdotes featured on Obama's pre-World Series Infomercial, the dying Grandma whose only wish is to see her grandson become president...compassion, caring, hope and change! It was irresistible.

Sure, the Iraq war had dragged on, and we got used to feeling safe again. And George Bush had acted like a Democrat, expanding federal intrusion into education, and spending up a storm. It was a climate ripe for emotions to dominate.

Enter the economic crisis. The tired pun is that Americans felt over the barrel when it came to filling their tanks to drive to work, at $4 a gallon. Higher gas prices reverberated to everything that required transporting--and that would be everything. Spaghetti that used to cost $1 a pound now is 50% more. Lettuce and flour and pickles and juice all went up. It was a squeeze. Blame Bush! It hurts! Blame Bush! He's an old white guy...we want a young black guy!

By the time the election got close, Obama's policies were immaterial. When you look at him, you see--change. "Ninety-five percent of you are going to get a tax cut!" How? From the rich guys. Relief.

What can solve the economic crisis? First off, it's already easing--but this would instantly revive the economy: Flat tax of 18% across the board on incomes above $25,000, no deductions. Slash business taxes, slash taxes on capital gains and profits. Reward entrepreneureal risk-taking, and more businesses will re-invest what they earn from those risks, hiring more employees, and taking further risks. Our productivity and innovation grow.

But this is not about logic, remember. This is about caring, and caring is important. The question is--what kind of caring is most effective in stemming social problems? Dems don't like the term "trickle down," and yet they want help and aid to trickle down from huge governmental programs. Better is compassion on the personal and local level (which is much more responsive): Extended family, churches, civic groups, communities exemplifying values that encourage personal responsibility--for oneself and for others--and pride in one's daily performance. These are motivators for productivity.

Lots of Americans still champion these qualities. But when the government becomes the teat from which the little helpless ones suckle, only a very compelling factor can wean them from that free, intoxicating nectar of dependence.

And that's why the cold autumn air matched my dampened mood. Who's going to buy all the designer jeans and fancy purses and layered scallop dinners when the wealth is redistributed and the free market is fraught with expense? Who will be left to shop when all the well-to-do must flee? Our nation will survive, but we may be in for some tough times first. Hold on (to the ones you love) and keep praying.

Don't Tell Me Who Wins--Yet

Hope you got your free Starbucks coffee. Starbucks said they would provide a free cup if you voted; this morning I heard that protests of unfairness caused our coffee giant to offer brewed java free to everyone.
I wrote the following earlier. Right now it's just about time (5:41 on the west coast) to start getting some early results. I am not eager.
It's 1:30 pm here in the Northwest, in the overcast, rainy season, and the polls are open. Wide open. Empty, in fact, since 80% of the electorate votes via absentee ballot, like I did. We've got some crucial issues on our ballot, most notably, the election of Dino Rossi, who was elected three times in the LAST gubernatorial election. He won. He was challenged and won again in recounts two more times. Not satisfied, current Gov. Christine Gregoire demanded a THIRD recount. In that recount, 125 provisional ballots, all for her, were found "lost" in the back of a sofa. The election was overturned, to our state's detriment.

We've got other important issues on which to vote, not the least of which is for President. But with the battleground states in the east, and Washington state solidly Obama-land, the election will be "called" in a couple of hours. Long, long before our polls close at 8 pm, we'll "know" the outcome of the Presidential race.

Not much of a motivator to go vote, if you're one of the 20% who still shows up in person. And it confirms that we in the west are second-class-citizens. My husband is in Phoenix, and will go to the Biltmore for the Republican she-bang, where John McCain will appear to either concede or celebrate.


Oh, he'll be there, but there may be no results. This time, it's quite possible that the final determination of the election--one that looks historically close--might not be known for days, even weeks. Lawyers across the country are salivating, looking for means they can reverse an outcome that doesn't match their preferences--or defend against challenges when their guy wins.

But that won't stop pundits and statisticians from announcing the outcome tonight, or, from my perspective, this early evening. I'm planning to go to the Bellevue Hyatt, the traditional site where all the area Republicans gather to watch election returns. Dino Rossi will be there along with the senatorial and local office candidates, local talk show hosts (I was invited by one to come) and die-hard politicos. We'll be there awaiting local news, but will be either buoyed or depressed by a backdrop of national results already widely disseminated. We'll have wall-sized TVs reiterating everything. But I wish they weren't there.

We think we're so advanced because of our instant media and sophisticated polling, our plethora of pundits and analyses. But all this noise interferes with the basic message that in our nation, each person who votes in a booth or mails in a ballot, no matter his location, is equally respected. Our west coast choices are just as important as those made in an earlier time zone. Just keep your projections to yourself until you open my envelope and count my vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In God We Trust

I stayed up very late last night going online researching all the candidates and measures in order to complete my mail-in ballot. I feel confident I made the best choices, given four hours of fact-checking and argument-analyzing. I only pray other voters take their enfranchisement as the solemn duty and privilege it is. As the election accelerates to a close--one hopes, not a whimper--the nervousness falls aside and a calm replaces it as trust in God and His wisdom, as well as a recognition of the history of blessings He has provided our nation, prevails.

I loved these photos from Meghan McCain's blogette, taken by her photographer, Heather. To the right, a humble Sen. McCain graciously accepts the appreciation of his audience, with Joe the Plumber, Meghan and Cindy. It is his complete subjugation of self to the good of our country that strikes me, in blinding contrast to the attitude of his opponent. I do think the real One notices such things.

I Always Hated Numbers--And McCain on SNL

Today was Shabbat, and my husband was out of town, allowing me the perfect opportunity to catch up on my sleep...and my newspaper pile. As noted in a post below, I'm increasingly weary and wary of the news, which seems to have crept into nearly all sections of the paper. And this weekend, as the election draws perilously close--or, relievedly close--the intensity is gut-wrenching.

The bias in favor of Obama in my three newspapers seems to be even more obvious and forthright, even as newscasters lament the election overkill and the almost humorously one-sided coverage. I supposed I should have guarded the sanctity of the Sabbath and concentrated on this week's portion of the Torah--Noach, where the world is destroyed for its immorality--but that simply returns my mind to the election. There's no escape.

Then, immediately after the conclusion of the Sabbath, I got a phone call from my husband, who announced cheerfully--"Did you hear? McCain's ahead by one point in the Zogby poll!" My cynical little heart was not comforted, after an afternoon of journalistic depressives. Two hundred stories touting Obama, and eighty stories bashing McCain had done their work.

So, I decided to confirm in my brain the good news--McCain was ahead in a poll! I couldn't get into the Zogby site, since I don't pay the $75 to be a member, and every other reportage on McCain's lead was stifled by negations. The USA Today "On Politics Breaking News" site had the following: "Gallup just released new national tracking results that may calm Democrats who got jittery this morning about a new Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll and whose jitters were front-paged today in The New York Times."

They don't actually quote the Zogby poll there; they just discredit it. Then they go on to say, "Gallup's latest numbers show Democrat Barack Obama leading Republican John McCain 52%-42% based on both the traditional definition of likely voters and a new one that includes more first-time and infrequent voters.
The margin is 'the largest Obama lead among likely voters to date' in the traditional model and it matches the largest in the expanded model. Gallup also says today is the first time the two likely-voter numbers have been the same."

Well, whoop-de-doo. It's true, USA Today is not the standard of journalistic objectivity. But can McCain actually overcome a TEN POINT trail in Gallup? Is it true that people are shy about admitting to voting for McCain (lest they be labeled racist)? Am I crazy to be looking at this stuff?

Of course, the answer is yes. But I fear that the average voter, the ones who aren't as wrapped up as politics as I am, hear those numbers, and are influenced by them. I read a statement by pollster Zogby that today, Nov. 1, the numbers are way back in Obama-land: "Obama has consolidated his lead over McCain. His single-day lead today was back to 52%-42%."

He went on to break down that lead and ended his statement with the following admonition: ""Remember, as I said yesterday, one day does not make a trend. This is a three-day rolling average and no changes have been tectonic. A special note to blogger friends: calm it down. Lay off the cable television noise and look at your baseball cards in your spare time. It is better for your (and everyone else's) health."

I'm not Zogby's blogger friend, nor do I have a collection of baseball cards, but he's right--at this point the only thing to do is pray some more and throw some parts of the paper into the recycle bin, unread.

For something more upbeat, I looked online to find John McCain's performance on SNL tonight (we don't own a TV). I thought his show opening, where he and Tina Fey as fake-Palin did a QVC infomercial that included products like Joe action figures (pull the ring on the Joe Biden and he talks for 45 minutes), and McCain Fine Gold (with Cindy showing the necklaces) had its moments, but was dominated by a Fey solo where she disses the veep candidate with a "Palin in 2012 t-shirt," suggesting the Alaska governor is an opportunist.

The Weekend Update where McCain reveals his unworkable campaign strategies was lame except for one "bad strategy" that made me laugh: "Sad Grandpa." What the clips showed was what a great sport John McCain is, and how easy he is even when being insulted under his nose. The guy is intensely likeable, the personification of integrity.
Now if only the nation can vote with its head instead of its emotion, which is...aarrgghh...unlikely, we can start reading the newspaper again.