Tag Archives: politics

Thumbelina, Thumbelina, don’t dream about a cow*

I ran for 30 minutes straight for the first time yesterday in yucky pre-rain humidity.

I’ve discovered that once animals realize that you’re not running after them, they find runners fascinating. A pair of deer scared the bejeezus out of me the other day on the trail, but once they had scampered about 25 feet outside the path, they stood there and stared at me. I said “hey dudes” and waved and still they stared. When last I saw them, they were still staring at me. When I run in my urban neighborhood, the squirrels do the exact same thing – they jump into a nearby tree and gawk. They fill their mouths with giant nuts and jump onto a tree and gawk. If Columbus’ squirrels are among those who tweet, at least one of those “stares” was for me today.

I’m kind of amazed that I’ve been able to stick to this Couch to 5k program. I’m not reclaiming any former glory here, or even any former glorious body. I’ve never been remotely a jock – more of a sometimes walker, late-night dancer who attended a lot of summer day camps, one Outward Bound (repelling is fun!) and used to be able to put a basketball through a hoop without hitting the rim. When I was nine, I saw a coach about running on a regional team and he put me through my paces for a day, but the post-run rubdown positively creeped me out and I quit.

For Couch to 5K, I’ve followed the schedule to the letter. This is my approach to most things I try (as long as they seem reasonable to begin with) – I suspend disbelief and put my faith into the idea that all will work out as I’ve been told. Once I’ve done it for a while, or the intended duration, I make my own modifications. In this case, I have been amazed by how well I’ve been able to feel my progress every third run or so. This is my ninth and final week – three days of running for 30 minutes (or 5K). Who knew this was possible? Seriously!

I don’t have a ton of weight loss to show for my efforts, but there has been some and most importantly, I feel entirely different. Like my determination to eat less meat and more local food, it feels like I’m making changes that I have a better shot at sustaining. I just read that sticking with running this long officially makes me a runner, but that I ought to hang here for 2-3 months so my bones and connective tissues have a chance to catch up with my new, stronger muscles. That works for me. I’m not dying to win marathons. I just want to be healthy.

Yesterday I watched Obama’s speech to kids with my son. He was kind of excited that the president would talk to kids until he heard the president mention that he was there to talk to kids in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Having a year of preschool left, and several older friends and cousins makes you painfully aware that you aren’t in Kindergarten yet. As I listened, Declan sat on the floor and flew a plastic policeman through the solar system. Sadly, this policeman died and had to be buried under the letter P. He was later resurrected, so perhaps there is a cult forming around him in an alternate dimension.

By the end of the speech Dec was meowing like a kitty (if we’re connected on Facebook you may know this already). In fact, every time I have asked him what he thought of the speech since, he has meowed like a kitty. So, while I have found the accusation that Obama is trying to brainwash children into becoming liberal automatons utterly baseless, I now must face the possibility that he might be trying to turn them into cats.

Here are some of my favorite posts on the speech subject, by the way:

The Bad Astronomer hilariously points out how crazy is being mainstreamed.

Corporate Babysitter reminds us how many marketers have unfettered access to our children.

Charlotte-Anne Lucas posted a Wordle of the top 50 words used in the speech.

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids quells our paranoia once again, with humor.

And Emily wrote the president a note.

Peace out, kitties!

* Declan modified the lyrics Danny Kaye sang in the movie Hans Christian Anderson (which his dad was watching) because he had one of his recurring dreams in which he tries to get out of bed, but some bloviating bovine blows him back. It was a better post title than anything I could come up with, so there it is.

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Things I find unforgivable

A couple of years ago I was at a Fourth of July potluck outside of town. Some inebriated in-law of a cousin of a friend of the host showed up and, as I spooned tabbouleh onto my plate, began lecturing to several people around me that all people of Middle Eastern descent need to be deported from the U.S. He didn’t stop there, insisting that those of us who didn’t happen to believe that the country should bomb other parts of the world into the stone age were ignorant and sure to be slaughtered.

Now, I’m a person who, in my more adventurous reporting days, did things like take a handgun class with NRA members, and spent hours in personal conversations with Fundamentalist Christians – two groups that may as well have been Martians to me, ethically speaking. But those reporting exercises put me past knee-jerk disdain and into a place where I could sometimes locate some hard-won common ground. I’ve had mostly civil conversations with Republican relatives and friends, even if I sometimes walked away with my ears burning. I sought out extremely different opinions from my own when I began to interact with people online in 1997. I try my best to get angry with actions and policies, not people.

With a checked-shirt man advocating genocide and racism at an Independence Day picnic, standing feet away from my toddler son, I didn’t keep my cool so well. I felt this anger rising from the pit of my stomach and I simply bellowed at him:

“PLEASE GET YOUR DISGUSTING HATRED AWAY FROM MY SON. NOW!” (I did say please.) He moved away a little, though not enough for me, and I took us as far away from him at the party as I physically could. Being tolerant of political difference, in my view, does not require me to be tolerant of a person advocating violence or fear.

Earlier this year, when we went to a public venue where we could look at stars and planets through telescopes, a woman started speaking heatedly to one of the resident scientists, who maintained a remarkably calm and polite demeanor.

“This world is going to end,” she hissed at him. “Armageddon will be here soon and you’d better get yourself right with God before that happens.”

She spoke of floods and earthquakes and hurricanes and rapture while standing maybe five feet from my almost four-year-old who I think deserves to have faith in the fact that the Earth has a future, no matter how tumultuous. He deserves to have his dreams of piloting spacecrafts unimpeded by some self-righteous person who had no thought in her head that the things she was yelling could frighten the crap out of a small child. Thankfully, he was so wrapped up in a computer that takes you through the universe that he didn’t absorb it (now that he’s truly four and dealing with mortality questions, he would). Luckily, the conversation stopped just as my husband asked her to quiet down because, you know, if you want to convince your children that this world is a goner and isn’t worth participating in beyond stepping up to the next level, that’s your faith and your business and God bless. Please don’t make it mine.

This week, I took my son to the Health Care Reform Now rally because I am sick of this bizarre impasse our country has skidded into and sick of struggling with our current system. The first sign I see as we drive in is a swastika with Obama’s name inside and I turn into Aunt Mildred and I stick out one finger and I tsk tsk tsk at the crowd. Shame on them. That sign, to me, is just a subverted way of advocating violence against our president wrapped in the guise of free speech. Because of the first amendment, you can make it and parade it through the public square. And because of the first amendment, I can say “shame on you” and “I think that’s a subverted way of advocating violence against our president wrapped in the guise of free speech,” and that’s not me censoring you, that’s me countering your opinion.

I’m sick of the media giving “balanced” time to groups of thirty versus a group of over 1,000. The fourth estate should be giving more time to those who are better equipped with research, facts or true stories about actual people instead of covering every political rift with less depth than they give the average football game. Seriously. I sat there and I listened to a story about a 17-year-old girl who can’t get health care coverage because of her parents’ medical conditions. I listened to promises that the public option is not negotiable, which I hope is true because my family is counting on that. But almost all of the coverage I found gave the 30 people outside the same amount of time or column space as the much larger group inside.

What are people thinking, anyway? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had their health care insurance costs get jerked up and certain costs turned down arbitrarily for years – and unless we’re independently wealthy, it’s cost us way more than any of our taxes. Recently I had a lovely experience when a $500 bill showed up in my mailbox from a doctor’s appointment I had about a year and a half ago. In one conversation with the insurance company way back when, I was told that nearly all adult preventative care had been dropped from our policy (take heed if you have OSU student health insurance, ladies, a pap smear or illness is all you’re allowed), so a blood panel, and in fact, my whole appointment wasn’t covered, even though it resulted in a referral to a surgeon and eventually, surgery. My doctor’s office communicated that there was actually medical treatment for an illness on this visit, and suddenly, after all this time, the insurance company decided to pay an additional $15.00 (why even bother?) of the bill and pass the rest back to me. Now I have more arguing to do, or I have to pay a bill I really didn’t expect or think that I should owe, which makes me feel sick.

So, stop telling me that the fact that I want universal health care makes me anti-American. The free market has zilch for health care choices. The ranks are closed – if you are an American like myself, who has been resolutely independent for most of my career, you are basically screwed by the current system. If you are like my husband, who has a preexisting eye condition and has also always worked for himself, screw you too! When people like us are lucky, maybe our local chamber of commerce will offer a plan with premiums less than the size of our mortgage payment or we can stick to catastrophic coverage.

We are all most free to work for big corporations that have little or no loyalty to employees in order to get insurance from corporations that have shown us their priorities – getting out of paying what you pay them to take care of is more important than anyone’s actual health. That’s…. freedom?

It seems to me to be as awful or worse than, say, taxation without representation. I have to pay corporations that I didn’t elect and that I can’t vote out of office. Corporations have more rights than me! The government won’t make it more bureaucratic. It simply can’t possibly get more bureaucratic than it already is.

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Be the fireworks

Have you read the Declaration of Independence since you were in school? Do it now. Preferably out loud. With friends. It’s fun. I speak from experience.

Read The Constitution or the Bill of Rights to your resident barbecue expert as they baste and turn.

Interpret these beautiful documents through dance, song or finger paint.

Happy Independence Day.

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Guerrilla commentary

I did some work at a coffee shop the other day, and this marked-up newspaper ad was laid on a counter directly across from the station where you pick up your order, clearly meant to catch the attention of passers-by:
Click either image to make it larger if you can’t read the handwriting.I sense a little Guerrilla Girl action in the capital city.

What images in your local landscape would you like to rearrange?

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A poignant, uncomfortable prayer

This opening prayer for the inaugural festivities, given by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, was left out of the broadcast yesterday, apparently due to a miscommunication between Obama’s planning committee and HBO. To make up for the mistake, it will be rebroadcast before tomorrow’s ceremonies (at least for the couple million people who are at the event).

In case they don’t share it on the networks tomorrow or you miss it, here’s the YouTube version. It’s a sobering, poignant and uncomfortable prayer:


And here’s something precious to think about on this National Day of Service: 30 Things I Believe by a little boy named Tarak McLain who has already become quite a community activist at age seven. I recommend listening to the brief broadcast so you can hear his voice.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Martin Luther King Day. Here’s a look back at a little mural in an urban Columbus neighborhood that shines a little light on the hopes that Dr. King and our new President have inspired.

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Weird Barack Obama art

Growing up in a Catholic household the 1960s, my husband says that most of the living rooms he visited as a child had pictures of Jesus and JFK hanging on the wall.

As a child of the 1970s, I don’t remember any presidential administration that inspired that kind of iconic reproduction. Things have changed. The stream of Barack Obama faces printed on clothing and hats since early summer festivals this year has been steady to overflowing, many using design elements that intentionally evoke Bob Marley, Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. Apparently, we like wearing our new leader, putting forward our faith in his abilities.

Meanwhile, weird art has been emerging from all corners of the Internet, putting forward its own agenda:
A lot of pundits claim that voters have unrealistic, Jesus (or Fabio)-like expectations of our new President. On first view, this illustration seems to underscore that idea. It was actually intended to poke fun at Obama supporters in Portland, Oregon this past May.
This one comes from Dan Lacey, Painter of Pancakes, who mostly paints political and celebrity figures with pancakes on their heads, although he also has some of famous figures donning jock straps, carrots and “Minnesota” toast” on their noggins. If you poke around his site, you’ll find that there are a couple of other nude Obama with unicorn paintings, including a revision of this one with a leaner president-elect.
An Indiana man who calls himself the “Taco Werewolf” created a series of “Obama Taco Underwear” paintings. Over the summer, when he finished his shifts at a Mexican restaurant, Mr. Werewolf would nosh on free tacos in his underwear and watch Obama speeches, which filled him with such inspiration he was moved to make these paintings.
Last but not least, here’s a camptastic one (pointed out to me by my mom), from local artist Paul Richmond. It is available as a Giclee Print on Etsy.

More pieces, strange and mainsteam, have been dutifully catalogued on a couple of blogs: the Art of Obama and The Obama Art Report.

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School Funding Awareness Week

Back when Ohio’s system of funding education was ruled unconstitutional in the mid-1990s, I wrote about it for a local alternative weekly. There were astonishing stories about what poverty meant to education statewide — like the one about a rural school building that sat on a hillside, its foundation slowly slipping over a gas main. Many other country schools were dangerous, some with less dramatic-sounding health risks like peeling paint and bad plumbing. Resources like libraries were woefully out of date, often housed in bookmobiles or on-site trailers with little or no new material.

In our cities, structures were falling apart and creating potential health problems for their students. It was going to take billions of dollars just to bring the buildings in our poorest districts up to code, let alone begin to improve the quality of education to help students in those areas succeed.

In the time since, the ruling was upheld through appeals and lawmakers have wrangled with new funding structures, but the system remains broken. Our Governor Ted Strickland, who has made education reform one of his signature issues, is preparing to unveil his own plan early next year. I’m anxious to find out what he’s set to overhaul, especially when it comes to this long-standing, fundamental problem.

This is school funding awareness week, so School Funding Matters is promoting a letter-writing campaign to the media and state representatives. They have lots of good background information about school funding’s history and current conditions on the web site, so check them out.

(This initiative comes from KnowledgeWorks Foundation, which recently published a lengthy piece I wrote about education reform at Brookhaven High School that you can download here – more to come on that later.)

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No justice, no peach

An artist friend of ours sent out an email saying that he had taken down the handmade “Impeach Bush” sign from his front porch, and replaced it with a new one that says, simply: “PEACH!”

I think that’s the right disposition for this time. In between every cataclysmic financial headline I read, there is another about the way our country will change in January that fills me with hope and relief. Today I see plans for the closing of Guantanamo being made. What wrongs will we begin to right tomorrow? And what will we begin to aim for that is about building anew, not just fixing broken things?

I am honored to be among those included in the October Just Posts today. In a time of real change, the nurturing of these ideas becomes more important than ever. Go on over and click on a few of the inspiring posts. You won’t regret it.

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Paint it purple

Another thing that made me weepy as any this week was watching people I disagree with politically — be they John McCain, Condoleezza Rice, Karl Rove and even the current president — weighing in on the historical significance of the moment, complimenting Obama on running such a positive campaign and expressing their pride in our country for crossing this threshhold. It made me hopeful that this really could be another chance for the unity that we seemed so open to, but failed to achieve in 2001.

Given a few days, there’s certainly been plenty of vitriol as well, but here’s a site about healing from zefrank. They are messages from the 52 percent of the country that voted for Obama, addressed to the 48 percent that voted McCain:

From 52 to 48

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