Wednesday, May 14, 2003

In Re: William Jefferson Clinton
(important note: this is being written under the influence of Benedryl AND Nyquil, so only God knows where I am going!)

What is it about Republican media types, male persuasion, and Bill Clinton?

I mean, honestly. Bill Clinton is on my short list of people I would love to invite to dinner, because I think he can be trusted to keep the conversation lively and informed. On the other hand, I wouldn't trust him emotionally or sexually as far as I could throw the Empire State building. Any emotions I have expressed about l'affaire impeachment have to do with what I believe was the violation of every constitutional, political, and ethical principle this country should hold dear (I would have been just as pissed off if Democrats had tried it on a Republican president). Bill Clinton as an individual seems neither here nor there to me, a bright guy full of virtues and flaws, brillliant sometimes and dumb as a post others, much like the rest of us but in a bigger canvas.

But the Republican media has built up this mythical Bill Clinton, so amazingly powerful that he has corrupted the nation unto the fifteenth generation and set us on the path to the end of the world. Everything, from the North Korean crisis to gingivitis is considered the result of Bill Clinton's misdeeds. This Bill Clinton straddles America like an evil colossus that must be brought down in order to cleanse us of our sins.

It seems to me that all that emotion cannot be summoned by reason. Watching erudite and articulate people drag Bill Clinton by the heels into every conversation, however inappropriate, and turn into foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics at the very mention of his name, leaves one with the impression that their hatred of the man is a personal thing. This is especially true of male media conservatives, who seem to react to the former president like Don Jose does to Carmen in the last act.

Actually, there may be a better literary comparison. The conservative male media types remind me of Jonathan Harker in Dracula. Do you remember Jonathan? He's the stalwart hero who destroys the big bad count. The thing about Jonathan, though, is that he had been nearly seduced by the vampires:

was afraid to raise my eyelids, but looked out and saw perfectly under the lashes. The girl went on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one's flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer. I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there. I closed my eyes in languorous ecstasy and waited, waited with beating heart. (chapter 3)

Then, of course, having survived the seduction and properly recoiling from all that sexuality, Jonathan becomes a vampire hunter. He's going to destroy that which nearly had him enthralled. Under the tutelage of old Van Helsing, he goes on to destroy Lucy Westenra (a not-so-good girl who really, really enjoyed it and therefore deserved death), and finally to the count's coffin and the final stake. Now safe in his bloodless daylight world, Jonathan can go on to become the perfect proper Victorian gentleman.

Thing is, I have a sneaky suspicion that Jonathan always regretted, just a little bit, his vampiric coitus interruptus...

Now before somebody starts gibbering, let me say that I am not suggesting that Limbaugh or O'Reilly are repressing unhealthy lust for Bill Clinton (please God, help me get that picture OUT OF MY HEAD!). I think Bill Clinton represents the Dionyssian side of Western culture to them, and they fear that as much as they fear Hell and hope for Heaven. Bill Clinton's unrestrained appetites, his ability to break the rules and "get away with it", his appeal to common folk, his simple joy in the business of day to day living, threaten their sense of propriety and social structure, not in a cold intellectual fashion, but in a visceral gut-twisting revelation of their own limitations. And I think that, deep in the darkest places of their souls, they envy him.

The Bill Clinton they portray in their diatribes tells us more about them than it does about him.

By way of Theresa at Making Light, a story in The Boston Globe, telling us that at least a portion of the books belonging to the Iraq National Library are safe.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Disgusted and Disheartened, And Yourself?
Let's see here: the economy is in the tank; social services are being cut back everywhere; the FCC is giving away all our airspace to the highest bidder; Buffy is over next week; Al-Qaeda is back with, you should pardon the expression, a vengeance; the economy is in the tank; there were, or so it seems, no WMD in Iraq, but there might be a whole lot of radioactive stuff bouncing merrily all over the Middle East and parts west and north and...; a national magazine puts a man in blackface on a cover discussing diversity; China is still shooting craps with SARS; the dollar is doing the fandango in the international currency markets; twelve million people in Ethiopia are starving to death; the Peronistas are back in Argentina; did I mention the economy is in the tank?; the bastards in Myanmar are systematizing rape against ethnic minority women; Sharon is still pissing all over the "roadmap to peace"; criminals are turning Rio de Janeiro into another Beirut; George Stephanopoulous is till on tv.

No, I didn't link to anything. You all know these things are true.

We might all fall back on prayer.

Except I'm told that God's getting ready for this Armageddon thing.

Short-shorts, Blog Style
Ever since I started blogging, synchronicity has taken up permanent residence in my life. Two posts below I blogged about the new "designer" seeds being produced by Monsanto and other agribusinesses. So what do I see at Skimble today? A story about one of those farmers being sued by Monsanto.

Cowboy Kahlil directs my attention to an e-mail address at the Holiday Inn in Ardmore Oklahoma where the Killer Ds are "hiding". Send them a thank you note! I have been a fan of the Texas lege since I read Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? But I will admit I thought some of her stuff was just a little over the top. Now I've come to the realization that, if anything, Molly was being restrained and ladylike about it all!

On the FCC front...well, by way of MB at Wampum, I found Lisa's all over it. Start at the top and read your way down. It's worth it!

A couple of people have asked me why I haven't blogged 'politically' lately: well, as far as I am concerned, I had my say here and here. And as far as I can see nobody has taken my advice.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

My Mother
I want to tell you about the woman I admire the most: my mother.

But let me start by saying that she drives me crazed. Temperamental, demanding, overwhelming at times. She has been my goad and my lash for as long as I can remember, pushing me to achieve, insisting that I finish what I start, foisting her own interpretation of my life on me. Throughout my teenage years, our relationship was toxic, and we still can fight like--well, I was going to say cats and dogs, but our fights are actually more like bullfights, with the two of us taking turns being the bull and the matador.

So why do I admire her? Let me tell you a little about her first.

My mother was born the third of eight children, two of whom died in childhood, not uncommon in the 1930s. At the age of eight she was stricken with polio, and spent several years in a wheelchair. When she managed to stand up, sometime in her early teens, she became my grandmother's main helper in making money for the household; my grandfather, although he supplied a roof and staple foods, had this charming habit of spending his discretionary income on mistresses, so my grandmother took in wash and raised animals to sell to provide clothes and other essentials for the house. At fourteen my mother was washing the clothes of cane cutters--so full of dirt and soot that they had to be soaked and boiled in giant vats to clean them. Playtime and toys were something she lusted after but never had. To this day, my mother's favorite presents are dolls and plush toys, and she has accumulated a huge collection over the years.

She married my father at 21, much against the wishes of both families. My father was only 19 at the time, and unemployed; his grandfather, angry at the marriage, had denied him an introduction to a wealthy relative who could help him find a job. They lived with my father's family in a small bedroom housing themselves and their newborn baby (me). They were down to their last quarter, not even bus fare to Havana, when my mother heard on the radio that the Marquis de Portago had been killed while racing the Mille Miglia in a Ferrari 315s. She played that number in the bolita china and won 80 pesos, enough to get my father a much needed suit and get him to Havana for an cold-call on an American pharmaceutical company looking for reps. He got the job.

They saved enough money to buy their own land and have house plans drawn up. But by that time it was 1960, and Castro nationalized all the land belonging to those "greedy capitalists" who already had homes; since my parents lived with my father's family, their land was seized and they were again reduced to their small bedroom in the big old house. When my sister was born I was moved to share my great-grandmother's and aunt's bedroom. It was a crowded life, made very uncomfortable for her by some of my father's relatives's hostility.

After we received permission to leave Cuba (a seven year oddysey I'll tell you about some other time) she gave away all her jewelry and clothes to family and friends because otherwise they would have been seized. We arrived in Miami with one change of clothes each, and we moved to Chicago a month later, carrying those clothes, a few gifts from family and friends, and fifty dollars from Catholic Relief charities. On the plane, my mother's luck struck again: she insisted that the stewardess change the seating arrangement so that my father, herself and my sister occupied the three seats on one side of the aisle and I sat on the aisle seat on the other side. The gentleman next to me struck up a conversation in understandable if accented spanish. When I told him my father was a draftsman, he asked me to switch seats with him; the following Monday my father had a job at one of the largest engineering firms in Chicago.

My mother loved Chicago. She found Cuban friends.To supplement our income she ran a daycare in our apartment (it was easier in those days) and cooked Cuban specialties for nostalgic immigrants--those papas rellenas and arroz con leches paid for more than one winter coat and boots. She made our clothes and taught my sister and I how to sew and embroider, so that we always wore the latest thing, whatever it was. She opened her house and her heart to all our friends. She never learned to speak English, but somehow managed to learn to understand it very well; we were about the only bilingual kids who could not switch to English to escape our mother!

My mother was a feminist before feminism even entered into our vocabulary. The limitations foisted on her by her lack of education and her consequent belief that she could not learn drove her to educate her daughters. The example of her mother, dependent on an unfaithful man and unable to divorce him, made her insist that her daughters be independent and earn their own money, so they would not have to tolerate such behaviors in a husband. A woman must be able to support herself, she would preach regularly, no matters how much you love someone, you must be able to survive without him.

After fifteen years in Chicago, she was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis, and my parents moved to Miami for the warmth. My father found a job with an engineering firm, but after a few years, the firm went belly up, taking my father's job and his retirement fund with it. At his age, he could not find a job in his field; younger and cheaper workers were crowding in. I was working my first adult job, and ended up supporting the family for a couple of years while my parents again dusted off their pots and pans and started to cook for strangers. They built up a catering business that kept them afloat until she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had to stop because the chemo made her too tired. By that time, they were both retirement age, and my sister and I convinced them to just retire and start drawing on ther social security.

Retirement hasn't really slowed her down. My mother has a voracious appetite for information about the world, and is always reading spanish-language newspapers and magazines. She's a gifted gardener, and the human equivalent of Spielberg's ET: anything my mother touches grows as if by magic. She still embroiders all our pillowcases and many tableclothes, and learned to paint ceramics when my sister got her certification as a Duncan instructor.

I admire my mother because she's that rara avis, a magnificent survivor. She has survived illness, human malice, and financial disaster, while retaining her fighting spirit, her sense of humor, and her unshakable belief in the goodness of God and most people. By all rights she should be bitter. She never saw her mother again after leaving Cuba, and couldn't even attend her funeral. She lost her country, her dreams, and her money. And she stil laughs.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.