Palin, Voldemort 2012

Palin, Voldemort 2012

Joy almost unconfined when I read then news this morning. Hope at last! Big rally in Washington held by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. For once a halt to all those endless reports about mad hatters at tea parties, with Sarah Palin as a malevolent Alice, and Fox TV talking up the ‘patriots’, giving their events and issues attention they’d never normally have achieved. Maybe it’s not accidental that it’s been hard to pick up on sane America in the UK because we have to put up with the Murdoch Times, Murdoch Sunday Times, Murdoch Sun…with other natural tea party supporters in the Mail and Telegraph.

This suddenly is the America we remember from the Obama campaign and inauguration, that doesn’t get reported – and been there all the time. They’re disappointed, yes , that more hasn’t happened, critical of banks, health reforms (too much or too little), Afghan policy and much more, but aware that the American way shouldn’t involve all that confrontation and nastiness, opposition to any compromise or middle ground, the hatred of opponents… The Tea Party is a legit movement, but it’s got out of control.

‘Palin, Voldemort 2012’ was the slogan of the rally. A few more (courtesy of the BBC):

I’m a little annoyed but I’ll get over it

Somewhat irritated about extreme outrage

I’m pretty content actually

We have nothing to fear but fear itself and spiders

A few more:

Hyperbole is the antichrist

Obama – re-open NY subway toilets now

One nation under Aqua Buddha

Fox keeps fear alive. (Shades of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and all those chickens.)

Aqua Buddha…. being interested in Buddhism I thought I’d check this out. Tea Party senate candidate Rand Paul, son of Ron, apparently ‘kidnapped’ a girl back in his college days and took her off to be inducted into the Aqua Buddha sect…all very unChristian, and Paul has had a lot of flak for it. Now we all want to know more about Aqua Buddha.

Stewart at the end of the rally:

We live in hard times not end times….. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing…. We hear every damned day about how fragile our community is – on the brink of catastrophe. We work together to get things done every damn day.

The last comment prompted the loudest cheer of the day, reports the Beeb.  And it is the best. The simplest of messages but with all the screaming going on around you the easiest to forget. They scream, you scream, we all scream. Ted Kennedy and John Macain had a better way when in the Senate of not long ago they worked together if the occasion demanded.

A plea from over the pond

Obama is not up for re-election next week, but he might as well be as the crazy US electoral system could well impose a Republican Congress upon him, or at least a Republican House of Representatives. All we read is about the disillusioned masses, Tea Parties, Main Street rebelling against Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street. (Who would be a road these days?) It’s crazy to blame Obama for the crash and the housing crisis, but it goes deeper – it’s seen as battle for America’s soul, and Fox TV and others have tried to ensure that race and parentage cast Obama outside the pale of true Americans. It’s all been pretty vicious stuff, and I’m not certain I’d enjoy being out on Main Street listening to all the anger and vituperation.

The sad thing is – Obama is still Obama. The guy who wrote Audacity of Hope, who bared his soul in Dreams From My Father, hasn’t changed. His ability to do what he wants has been terribly constrained by the crisis, and a social liberal is not going to endear himself to the Sarah Palin right, and, well, the heathcare bill was always going to be massively divisive.

Out on the left of the Democrats we have people who wanted more, and blame Obama for that. By holding back their support they will get less instead. Strange how people’s political psyches work. 

On the right, if we had only an inkling before of what the backwoods were capable if we know better now. I can relate to the small town, the backwoods mentality. I want the state off my back. Give me a stretch of the backwoods and maybe a view out over the canopy, and a log cabin, comfy bed(!) and log fire I’d be happy, for a while at least. But there’s a real global world out there, and unless we get on board in both political and economic terms we’ve had it.  It’s the old argument: if you’re on board you can change things. (Likewise over here with Europe.) . If you’re not, they pass you by, and you’re left waving for the train to stop, and if you’re  lucky they’ll pull you up on to the last coach…

So get out all you Democrats, all you undecideds, students, anyone who looks beyond the small-town palisade – and VOTE.

Wish I could, but I guess I’m quite happy being English.  Less stressful ….

Shadows in the sunlight

Walking in the October sunlight, in Richmond Park, the colours hardly changing, still the banks of green woodland as backdrop to sparkling water. A time of peace, which I then seek to analyse. It’s as if I am asking myself – what are the component parts of this peace? There is harmony of colour and form, but whence comes our appreciation of such harmony? At such times we feel good toward others, good without any prior motivation, so whence comes this altruism?  It was as if I must understand what I saw and heard before me, before I could appreciate it fully, and as I did I emptied out not all but some of the beauty. 

I then concluded I was over-analysing. Did Wordsworth do this in the Lake District two centuries ago, or Bach fifty and more years before that, or Yeats in all the turmoil of the Troubles?  No, they knew where they stood in relation to their world, they avoided self-consciousness,  and found a higher form of expression not least because they didn’t analyse.

Best on such autumn days just to enjoy the knowledge beyond words. The words will come in their own time. 


The greatest art comes when societies are shaking off bonds and discovering their identities, Bach born thirty years after the Thirty Years War, Wordsworth reacting intensely against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and Yeats embodying that remarkable self-discovery that marked the Ireland of a hundred years ago. What have we in our own times? Less than 50% of Americans now believe in the American dream, we have a sense of a broken not a big society in our own land, we find identity in football not in any sense of our own creativity. So it’s not surprising that our art is valueless, and mimics the absence of identity and substance it finds around it. Arguably, in that sense it’s successful, but is success which merely confirms the disjunction we see all around us really worthy of the name?

And yet, taking this same fractured society, if we were only to view it, ourselves, and others, in a different way, see what binds rather than destroys, we might find we were living in a golden age.