Tag: Perception

Reform’s Inside Game and Outside Game

The weariness has taken hold.  Years of recession inevitably produces, pardon the phrase, malaise.  We may not be falling farther down, but neither are we observing new growth.  Though our tastes, as well as our ideological stances greatly differ, every tree that does not produce good fruit has been threatened to be chopped down and thrown into the fire.  What constitutes “good” from “bad” is the very nature of our disagreements.  Once upon a time, we complained heavily about high gas prices.  Now we accept it with gritted teeth.  We recognize now that our problems go well beyond the cost of crude oil.  Nonetheless, the perceptible excitement once so prominent in earlier days is nowhere to be found.  Disappointment laid upon disappointment builds upon itself prodigiously.  Like the foolish man, we built our houses and mortgages upon sand.

Two War Movies

I watched two war movies this weekend.  The luminous 1944 movie: Since You Went Away, a movie chock full of old fashioned Hollywood stars (and good ones at that) and a gritty 2010 movie,The Green Zone. Both these films were excellent, put me in a contemplative state and impressed me once again of the power of moving images with sound.

Since You Went Away, directed by John Cromwell (a journeyman studio director) and produced (and written for the screen by David Selznick) from a novel by Margaret Buell.  The cinematography of shadows and flickering, filtered soothing light was Stanley Cortez’ and Les Garmes’ and it is something to behold. (Cortez won an academy award) I’ve seen the film before but it seemed to be in pristine tones this time, so the film may have been salvaged and restored – and a glorious restoration it is.  Keep in mind that WW II was a necessary war (black and white war, one could say)- and in 1944 the tehnical skills of that medium was at it apex.

It starred Claudette Colbert as Anne Hilton, Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple as her daughters, Joseph Cotton as Lt. Commander Tony Willett, Monty Woolley as Col. William G. Smollen, Robert Walker as Corporal William G. Smollett II and Hattie McDaniel as Fidelia and the bitchy stand-in for all immoral, hoarding, selfish, unpatriotic Americans and the necessary dark shadowy female – Agnes Moorhead.

I’ve never seen Claudette Colbert better – never.  Her role as a central force, a touchstone of the family during the dark years of conflict was an exercise of empathy, elegance,  relaxed confidence and quiet determination to keep the home as “normal” as possible even with the background of war.  There was no clanging patriotism in this movie – only quiet scenes like Jennifer Jones’ work with the wounded boys at the nearby hospital as she worked as a nurses’ aid.  Her growth from a l7 year old schoolgirl to a young woman witnessing the aftereffects of war on young men not much older than herself is clearly registered on her young, innocent face and in the kind of sympathy only a child can evince.  Because the two adults in the film were muted and strong at the center – Jennifer becomes a better young actress before our eyes.  While in the beginning Jennifer was somewhat overwrought – that changes completely.  Shirley Temple was the younger sister and the weakest of the cast but she played her role well enough – a ’40s young teenager, funny and quirky.

Joseph Cotton (whom I liked very much for once) played the stock character role of a male suitor who lost out to the husband who is away at war and remains a bit in love with Anne.  But he puts a bite into that role – a dangerous bite and his welcome charm and playful sophistication (hiding a deeply patriotic naval officer – he has a Navy Cross we discover) are a welcome force in the household of four women.  He looked pretty good in those whites. (Not as good as Redford in The Way We Were, but who ever did) Heck, I welcomed his presence myself.  At times, I considered myself a fifth woman in the home.  If there is a heaven, I’d like to visit Anne some day – show up spontaneously in her l944 life.  Offer myself as a new neighbor, with a cake or pie (I saved my stamps for the sugar) and in the hopes she would offer me a cup of coffee.  Of course, she would and I could enjoy that comfortable home.  The family is upper middle class – but not in today’s sense   but in that time when the home seemed just about right, not over the top but furnished warmly with those beautiful white billowing curtains and lovely chairs covered in chintz.  Ever notice all those chairs in the 40’s films.  Think it may have been because people actually sat around and talked instead of watching television.  

To Be Continued

Meeting Candidate Obama, Three Years Later

I met Barack Obama in September of 2007.  Before I go any further, I need to qualify that I wasn’t granted much more than a handshake.  Still, at the time I remember being quite excited at the prospect.  The venue was the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta and as one of several volunteers I was assigned specifically to crowd control.  A large gathering of people being correctly corralled and directed into the room where the event would be held, I settled in like everyone else to enjoy the presentation.  After a lengthy number of speakers that came before Obama, most notably the R&B singer Usher, the candidate himself finally appeared.  Unsurprisingly, he was as good as advertised and I found myself nodding along with every point he made.  Oprah had but recently endorsed him, though he was still very much in a distant second place to Hillary Clinton.

Health Care Truths, Not Health Care Myths

Having passed a long-overdue Health Care Reform Act, expect the media to dust off long-composed narratives it kept in cold storage until this point.  The instant President Obama signs the bill into law in a massive ceremony full of important people, flashbulbs, and saturation coverage, there will be many who will seek to make the gravity of the event better understood by means of analysis and interpretation.  Contrary to what some may write, I am not entirely convinced that Health Care saved Obama’s Presidency, though it would certainly have removed the last of the luster around him had it failed.  There will be many contentious fights to come, but the passage of the bill will likely limit GOP gains in next year’s Mid-Congressional election.  It will provide momentum to force through other reform measures and will be a face saving device to aid vulnerable incumbents.  But like much of politics, the ultimate impact of it all is indebted to future understanding and events yet to come, of which none of us is privy.  

Also to be found in copious quantity are the requisite gross of stories lamenting the end of good cheer among legislators of different parties.  One would think that this health care bill has ushered in a golden age of distressing polarity, but it has not.  Most people are terrified of change.  Many will sign on to change in the abstract, but once the concrete is poured, their opposition hardens.  Trusting in the known is much like betting on the favored horse, but trusting in the unknown possibility comes with it 50-1 odds.  Most people are not riverboat gamblers, but if they were, they’d often reap the rewards of taking a chance for the sake of positive gain.  This truism has no allegiance to party or ideological affinity.  Nor is it an American institution.

While the Senate has always been structured to foster some degree of collegiality by its very makeup and its relatively small size, one mustn’t let the myth obscure the facts.  The Senate may be a family, but it is a strangely dysfunctional one, and the House equally so.  This is, we needn’t forget, the same collective body where Representative Preston Brooks savagely bludgeoned Senator Charles Sumner with a cane on the latter chamber’s floor.  At other crucial points in our nation’s history, decorum has been replaced by nastiness and I think perhaps our latest group of elected representatives do not remember or have not studied precisely what happens when measures this large and all encompassing are further hyper-charged by massive displays of public sentiment and outcry.  Regarding this subject, Senator Orrin Hatch strikes back at us in the blogosphere for daring to hold his feet to the fire as well as the feet of other legislators.  We ought to take this as proof of a job well done and aim to keep it going.  

I am also not particularly sympathetic to Representatives and Senators who have complained about the extended hours needed to pass this bill.  If they had resolved it in a more timely fashion, then this matter would have been dealt with long ago.  Republicans have used stalling tactics and obstructionist procedural measures, but as we all knew, the Democratic party itself was the real enemy at work.  Attempting to pacify various factions within itself to hold together a fragile coalition is what took so long to reach resolution.  Moreover, if this is what it takes to achieve true fairness and equality, I wish they’d be in session every year and even up until Christmas Eve, if needed.  It is, of course, true that Senators need to spend a certain amount of time campaigning, raising funds, and observing for themselves the nuts-and-bolts of the policy issues upon which they will propose and vote.  However, too often these are excuses cited for not being in session at all, especially when needed legislation is allowed to die a needless death or is tabled in committee with no re-introduction ever intended.

It is true that,

[f]or more than 30 years, the major parties – Democrats and Republicans – worked every angle to transform politics into a zero-sum numbers game. State legislatures redrew Congressional districts to take advantage of party affiliation in the local population. The two-year campaign cycle became a never-ending one.

Politics, however, has always been a game of knees to the groin and leaps to the jugular.  When contentious matters and contentious times existed, collegiality was the first thing to be discarded and shed.  In times of plenty with few especially pressing matters, then party lines could sometimes seem obscured or unimportant.  The so-called “Culture Wars” are a partial explanation for that which we have been facing.  In truth, the Republican party began to take a sharp right turn beginning with the Contract with America in 1994 and then culminating in the election of George W. Bush.  When Bush played directly to the Republican base at the expense of the middle, this caused a correspondingly swift and sharp reaction in the left wing of the Democratic party, which the Progressive blogosphere correctly considers a call to arms.  Returning to the idea of truth versus saccharine sugarcoating, yet again, it is tempting for all of us to invent our own mythology, particularly when it suits our cause, but this is a compulsion we must never adopt for whatever reason may be.  The truth will set us free, but freedom is often pricey, especially when we remove it from circulation.      

Hallucinate without drugs

Just for fun:

A Discussion for Thought

The following is a short discussion, abit of a long read, by two Vietnam Veterans, on a VFP/VVAW, group board. The first post is a copy of a question asked and answered by another Vietnam Veteran. The two posts following that are a reply to the original than an answer to that reply.

I would hope that it might help our present Brothers and Sisters, serving in Theaters of War and when they return from, to help find the answers to any questions that may be.

With the Mutiple Tours, Extended Tours, ever Changing Reasons For, and the initial ignorance of what type of Conflict they were led into, as this countries military had already had a long running battle with Guerilla/Insurgent warfare and those lessons still aren’t being applied, there will be many more questions that need answering than even we ‘Nam vets have been seeking answers for, to the closed ears of our Government and the People of this Country.