Friday, October 03, 2003

I guess It's Our Turn
The conservatives are having a little trouble with librarians these days. As it's axiomatic in rightwing political discourse that if you don't have any substance launch a smear, we are under attack.

A correspondent points me to an article by someone over at Townhall, Rich Lowry by name (don't bother, I don't link to Townhall. However, the article is titled The Ideological Librarians.) The gist seems to be that because librarians allow homeless people ("vagrants" in conservative speech) to enter the hallowed halls of the libraries, they are "one of the country's main centers of thoughtless and unreconstructed leftism" and--by the by--their opposition to the Patriot Act is a silly reflection of their fuzzy thinking.

Mr. Lowry begins by making the charming suggestion that all librarians should be murdered (first paragraph). One bit of advice, Mr. Lowry: don't bring Shakespeare into it so early. Your own prose can only be considered defective by comparison. Of course, most people's prose suffers in comparison to Shakespeare's, but the rest of us are aware of our own lack. Besides, the whole threatening liberals thing is been done. I've read Ann Coulter, and Mr. Lowry, you're no Ann Coulter.

Mr. Lowry proceeds to bring out the tired stereotype of the tight bun librarians (second paragraph). A second bit of advice, Mr. Lowry: it's obvious you haven't been near a library in a very long time...or if you have, it's one that reflects your...limited...view of society. I suggest--say, Saturday afternoon in any branch of your choice, preferably in a working-class neighborhood. You will see that librarians come in all shape, sizes..and GENDERS. Now, mind you, some male librarians do wear their hair long, but it's usually a ponytail not a bun. One librarian I know--female, five-foot-nothing--has a buzz cut and volunteers in the press office of NASCAR racing; another regularly places high in the Iron Man competition. It's downright gauche to refer to the librarian's hair these days. Of course, you do gauche so well, you shouldn't let reality stop you.

Then Mr. Lowry takes on librarians that (gasp!) presume to want to help the homeless. Reality check: these days the homeless are not only smelly old men who mumble to themselves and drool on their shirts. The homeless include a sizable portion of the working class who--silly of them, I know, but what do you expect from those people--would like to have a safe place for their kids to spend the day while they go off to work. Or for that matter, they are unemployed and looking and come in to check the job ads. And yes, sometimes they are old and tired and want a place to keep warm. But of course in your well kept reality these people are told to "move along" and not soil your nostrils or your eyes. It must be nice to be one of the Privileged Young Things, even if you have to heave your compassion over the side to join the fraternity.

Mr. Lowry also trots out the old and tired screed about "pornography in the library". This is the one that rightwingers throw around every time they want to get their fundamentalist base in an uproar. Of course, it ignores the fact that the majority of kids who look at pornography on the internet or access adult chatrooms are doing it in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Even so, libraries lucky enough to have facilities that accomodate separate children rooms have begun to use filters in those computers, but with mixed success: try this, a little suprise I found while trying to settle down a group of madly giggling third graders. Turns out they had wanted to get here, and hey, everybody knows everything in the Net is a .com...

And of course, there's nothing to this whole freedom of speech thing. Nah, never mind, people unlucky enough to have to use the public library don't have any...

As far as opposition to the Patriot Act, we are in good company: from city councils to the NRA, a large number of Americans have expressed their concerns about the secret powers it confers on our government. And I would think it unlikely that you could describe the NRA as "one of the country's main centers of thoughtless and unreconstructed leftism". Mr. Lowry's implication that ONLY those crazy leftists oppose the Patriot Act is criminal assault upon the truth.

But truth was never the issue here, was it?

Let me clue you in, Mr. Lowry. Librarians run the American gamut from right to left. Some of us have major issues both with the leadership of our association and with each other. But the one thing that a librarian stands for is the free access to information for all Americans. We don't go around checking their pedigrees, their wallets, or their voting cards. We also don't go around prying into their lives.

You are correct in saying that there are instances in which a library's records can be subpoenaed. But what the Patriot Act does is to allow anyone in government to go on a fishing expedition...and allowing the establishment of such precedents against the rights of individuals is a dangerous thing.

It's funny that a liberal has to explain that to a conservative.



Thursday, October 02, 2003

On the Times of My Life
Someone once said to me if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

I have been amusing God for a very long time.

I will be 47 in five days. I'm more contented than I have ever been; not happier, just more contented, attuned, comfortable in my own skin, adventurous, experimental.

And yet NOTHING I ever dreamed of has come true.


The 2003 Television Season: Karen Sisco
I don't know about this one.

Karen Sisco is a bit of a chick show: a competent intelligent woman who keeps picking losers; as she seems to be the only female character of any presence in the show, the female audience gets to play the part of the wise girlfriend: shit, girl, not again!.

On the other hand, she seems to be a pretty good cop (Us Marshall, actually). And she's based in Miami, which will give her plenty of story lines.

Still, there's the chick angle: I get so TIRED of competent-women-who-can't-find-a-man-and-when-she-finds-him-she-can't-keep-him crap. After a while, you want to bang your forehead rythmically against the wall--not to mention hers.

Deserves a second look, though.

The Little Woman
If I were Valerie Plame I would be Very Pissed Off.

It's not enough that a highly successful career spanning three decades (funny, I didn't have any difficulty understanding what the guy meant) has just gone down the drain; or that people she recruited and trained--or even came into innocent contact with--in some really, really awful places in the world may be under the hammer; or even that there are a lot of idiots out there in blogtopia (ysctp!) who seem to think themselves entitled to speculate on her life.

She has to tolerate being considered nothing but an adjunct, the "little woman". Valerie Plame, experienced CIA operative, expert on weapons of mass destruction, has made the news because some assholes wanted to punish her husband.

We haven't come a long way, baby.





Sunday, September 28, 2003

Trying to Explain One More Time
When I suggested to a conservative friend (I do have them, you know!) that if President Bush knew beforehand about the outing of Valerie Plame, he was breaking the law and therefore subject to impeachment proceedings, she asked me why, if Bill Clinton perjured himself during the investigation into his affair with Monica Lewinsky, thereby breaking the law, I was opposed to impeaching him.

In order to answer that, I have to tell you a story:

We have a distant cousin who is one of the world's mensches. A hard worker who has made a fortune after arriving in the US with nothing but a change of clothes. His employees hold him in great esteem: some of them have been in his employ since he started thirty-five years ago, and have brought their children into the business. His family adores him: he was always there for school pageants and teachers' conferences, took time to listen and teach, has put all his kids and several nephews and nieces through college, and helped them get started in business. He remembers everyone's Christmases and birthdays, at least with a phone call or an invitation to lunch. He's the only guy in the family who doesn't have to be nagged to attend christenings and weddings.

His wife is much envied among her friends. She has a beautiful home here, plus an apartment in Barcelona. She drives a lovely late model sedan. They travel every year. Her jewelry is legendary, as are her parties. The two of them function as a team, in the raising of their kids and the running of their business.

This lovely, wonderful guy has had a mistress for over 25 years. Everyone knows about it. His wife knows about it, and has known for a long time. His kids may not have known them at one time, but they certainly know now. It's an open secret in our family and our social group. She is a widowed, childless businesswoman, big on charity work, intelligent, well-read, and a great conversationalist. She does not interact socially with his family, but when they meet up at some large event, everyone nods civilly and goes on their way.

This situation, odd as it may seem, works for all three of them. As I am not their confidante, I don't know what emotional accomodations they have made. I do know that forcing the situation out in the open where society's expectations about marriage and the proper behavior of the "afflicted" party and the "other woman" will pressure them into unwanted roles would only cause misery. They are happy, lovely people. Who are we to rain on their parade?

In spite of what conservative Christians would have you believe, marriage is a damn elastic institution. Over millennia people have entered it for reasons that have nothing to do with love and faithfulness and have been remarkably successful at it. Many who have entered it in full expectation of love and faithfulness have made a shocking mess of it. Each marriage is as individual as the fingerprints of the two people in it.

And whatever accomodations, or tradeoffs, or concessions they have made to make it work are none of our goddamned business.

What bothered me about the Independent Prosecutor's investigation into the sex life of the President was that it was none of our goddamned business. If you read the Starr Report (and if you ever need a fast emetic, I recommend it), you realize that, in spite of all the fast shuffling and the weasely adjectives, the only crime the President committed was to lie about his sex life. Which we should not have asked about in the first place.

That is why I could not support the impeachment procedures against Bill Clinton. They were based on a personal matter which was taken to the level of a crime by people desperate because they could not find an actual crime to charge him with.

Was he a sleaze? He sure was. Was he an idiot? Damn right he was. Did lying about a blow job rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors"? Hell, no!

I hope that makes it clear.