Tag Archives: politics

A blue state of mind

I’m a staunch defender of Ohio. In my early twenties, I outgrew the need to see it as a geographic space somehow culturally inferior to others, or too stodgy for real ideas. But I still hear the echoes of that opinion from many who live here, and certainly from many who do not – who have formed their opinions driving across I-70 or the two-dimensional way we’re often cast by the media.

They see strip malls and corn fields and aw shucks values and test marketing opportunities. I see those things too. But I also see the home of the underground railroad and the one of the first colleges to admit women and African Americans. I see the state where the first women’s rights conferences were held and Sojourner Truth delivered her famous Ain’t I A Woman speech.

I see the Kent State shootings and the untold stories of massive anti-war protests at Ohio State. I see Toni Morrison, an author able to bring us to a new consciousness about how we understand history and race and ethnicity.

In my own town, I see James Thurber standing up to McCarthyism. I see many radical feminist collectives that thrived here in the late 1960s. I see the YippiesBlacklisted News and hear the songs of Phil Ochs. I see how we’ve preserved the work of visual poets and cherished the wild sounds of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

For every perception that this is merely a conservative or bellwether state that twists in the wind, that change and progress are something a place like Ohio can’t possibly understand, I know an alternate story. I know what’s in the roots of the buckeye tree, and there is much more than a love of sports and a fear of God.

The chance to be blue again, to think about everything that means and to remember that this, too, is who we are, is another gift this remarkable week has given us.

Sorry to those who got an unfinished version of this in their feed readers last night – this was part of my last post, until I realized it would be better on its own, went to save it for later and accidentally hit publish.

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The world weeply news

I’m so overwhelmed by this new political landscape that I’ve been mostly speechless today. Not silent, just speechless.

I was three months pregnant with Declan on election day in 2004, and I spent the next two days in bed, not believing what had happened, not believing that no one in the media seemed to consider the obscenely long lines the equivalent of a poll tax. In the strange hormonal haze of pregnancy, I gave up my news junkie ways for a while.

I’m usually an obsessively informed citizen, but I had to insulate myself from a cultural climate that seemed to consider someone with my views unAmerican. A lot of headlines simply made me cry, so I looked at them through my fingers, often ignoring them altogether, and reverting into the safety of obsessing about becoming a mom.

Today, the news has made me weepy again, but that’s only made me more greedy for every headline or perspective I can get my hands on. I’ve cried at images of the world’s reaction to our new president. I’ve gone weepy every time I watch someone get choked up over the historical significance of yesterday. I cry when I consider last night’s speech, when I consider Barack Obama’s tremendous handle on history, and his clear understanding of and love for U.S. Constitution. I even get choked up when I watch how many Republican figures seem to want to share in the national pride of the moment.

I cry when I think about how disillusioned by the voting process I felt four years ago, and how relieved that everyone’s right to vote now seems to matter to Ohio’s newer government officials.

Jennifer Brunner has gotten a lot of threats. We should be sending her flowers and thank you cards.

We counted.

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I like the two Americans

Declan’s a fan of Barack Obama. But he also asks about John McCain, aware that he’s the other face we see the most on television these days. I’ve tried to explain what the president of the USA does, that some people like one man and some the other, and how elections work.

He came back at me with “I like Barack Obama. I like John McCain. I like the two Americans.”

You know, if I could only bottle that and put it in the water supply.

I think what that tells me is that I’ve been acting more measured about this election than I feel. In 2004, I liked Kerry, but my negative feelings about Bush were overwhelming. We have our reasons for voting Obama here, but disdain for John McCain isn’t chief among them. In fact, I know I dislike the policies and the ugliness of the campaign strategies, while there is still plenty I admire about the man.

I really hope that if Obama wins today, one of the big lessons is that character assassination campaigns are not only uninspired, their results are limited. (The anti-Obama Reverend Wright commercials just made me ill last night. Seeing them in contrast with news coverage about Obama’s grandmother’s death just highlighted their tackiness.)

I’ve explained to my son that he’s not allowed to vote until he’s 18 several times in the past week. This morning, knowing that his daddy still had to vote today, he told me: “I’m 18.” (His dad worked for ACORN when he was a young man, but we didn’t try to register our three-year-old, I swear.) Declan got dressed enthusiastically and they went to the polls. He’s not angry or scared or even apprehensive about the results – he’s just purely and beautifully excited to participate in this world, in our country, in democracy. He wants to vote for his preferred candidate of the two Americans.

I just got a call that their voting trip was successful, that the wait wasn’t too bad, and that Declan got to press the button for Barack Obama and cast his daddy’s vote.

Here’s a song for my voting Irishmen: O’Bama.

Good luck to those of you voting today.

If you have any problems at the polls, call one of these hotlines:

1-866-MYVOTE1 (866-698-6831)
1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español)

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Go vote

My mom just called me to say that a woman working the desk at the OSU Medical Center told her she wouldn’t vote for Obama because “he’s told everybody that he won’t swear in on the Bible.” I can’t even find that particular rumor online – it’s obviously a conflation of multiple untruths.

Perhaps anyone too lazy to do the 30 seconds worth of research to debunk these patenty false claims is also too lazy to withstand long voting lines, but perhaps not. If you need backup against the uninformed in the next 24 hours, don’t forget to use Snopes and Factcheck.org.

And if you haven’t voted, go do it now. Or plan to take the day off work tomorrow with a book or Gameboy or knitting project or crossword puzzles or exercise plan and some snacks and a minor pain reliever (particularly if you have any joint or back problems). Try to enjoy the company of your fellow voters. Apparently standing in line can even help you burn calories.

Here are some stretches you can do to relieve tension while you wait.



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Dancing in the streets for Obama

Obama Rally from Tracy on Vimeo.

This afternoon in Columbus, in front of the Ohio Statehouse just before Michelle and Barack Obama spoke. It’s hard to hear, but “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” and “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” are inspiring the moves.

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The Confederate ghosts of my neighborhood

In the two weeks between closing on our house and moving in a couple of years ago, I had anxiety dreams about my neighborhood. Once home to Camp Chase, a Union military base and prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers, this cemetery is all that still stands.
I dreamed that the ghosts of these men wandered the streets here at night. And that there were so many of them, I’d have to drive through a fog of gray, opaque bodies just to get home from the grocery store.
We took a walk to the cemetery today — a perfect All Saints’ Day — just after watching pundits on HBO joke that this moment in history calls for a leader, specifically “someone like Lincoln, not someone who’s winkin‘.” It seemed appropriate to pay respects at the graves of 2,260 former countrymen, 2,260 former enemies, 2,260 men supposedly mourned by a “gray lady” at dusk who searches the tombstones for the one with her husband’s name.
The site is crunched between stark emblems of urban life. There is an ugly apartment building full of one-room flats and the “Dari Twist” – an ice cream stand with dozens of soft-serve flavors. A platform area that was likely built as a place for annual ceremonies that honor the dead is surrounded by a moderate amount of garbage and graffiti.
A group of skater punk teens filed in as we got ready to leave, settling in for a visit on the platform. They smoked cigarettes and noshed on Halloween candy. Two of them kissed each other as we took a last look at a cannonball that had been fired in a civil war battle, set in stone by the gate.

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The early voting experience

My mom called me yesterday morning to ask me whether I’d gotten a flu shot or voted yet. I’d feel better when I got those things out of the way, she assured me. So I ticked one off my list yesterday.

The line snaked back and forth like an amusement park ride, only this one was full of people shuffling their feet, text messaging on cell phones, or scratching their names and addresses onto cards while poll workers made sure to give a clipboard and pen to anyone who needed them.

“It will take about two hours,” a police officer told us as we joined the end of the line. There were groans and shrugs, but not one of us budged.

I chatted quietly with two women on either side of me, both clutching Democratic party sample ballots. We made pacts that we’d save each others’ place in line if someone had to pee. We found out that all three of us made a habit of voting no matter what, but we all saw people desert the lines in 2004, unwilling or unable to take the time.

This time, people with canes, people with squirmy, unhappy babies, college students with sociology homework and people in wheelchairs quietly waited in the line. We talked about Florida, where we heard that some people were already waiting in seven-hour lines because they wanted to be counted, just as we did. We talked about how we weren’t going to take any chances by waiting until Tuesday.

We marveled at the massive, diverse crowd – probably about half African-American voters, of every age. It seemed like more than half of the room was carrying Democratic party sample ballots, including one older woman in a white sweatshirt that said “Jesus’ All-Star Team: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Me.” A middle-aged woman reading Night by Elie Weisel used her ballot as a bookmark, as did a young one, her nose buried in Kabul Beauty School. by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson.

One man argued loudly with his car insurance company on his bluetooth headset for fully half an hour, at one point claiming that he was currently driving his car. One of my line companions warned us that we were about to be run over.

We were a little sore and cranky by the time we got in, but it was not quite and hour and a half before we reached the big room, full of private cubes were we could fill out our paper ballots, seal them in an envelope, deposit them into the giant steel ballot boxes and get our ‘I voted” stickers.

There was something gratifying about marking my choices in ink on clear, easy-to-read ballots. I was relieved not to entrust my precious vote to the software of a Republican company. I was relieved to see so many people so hell-bent on voting. I was relieved, because four years ago, I didn’t feel outnumbered by people who disagreed with me, I felt distrustful of and angered by the voting process.

My eyes welled up as I left. I grabbed an “I voted early for Barack Obama” sicker from one of the volunteers in the parking lot and went home.

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Aw shucks, Opie


See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

A few days ago, Jill Miller Zimon from Writes Like She Talks put out a call for some Chicken Soup for the Swing State Soul to help us slog through these last few pre-election days. I’m trying to come up with some, and you should too.

In the meantime, this video by Ron Howard, with special guest appearances by Andy Griffith and Henry Winkler, is just freaking adorable pre-election/Halloween candy for the ’60s or ’70s child soul.

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Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day, when over 10,000 sites turn the conversation toward a single issue. Last October 15, the focus was on the environment (I wrote about the risk of lead paint in homes). This year, the subject is poverty.

I can’t claim to know a lot about poverty, only that I know more than I did five years ago, before I spent a fair amount of time in two high schools with the highest number of low-income students in my city. I reflected upon that experience here.

It seems almost a prophetic choice of topics at this moment, when the world has careened into financial chaos. But I have to wonder if our resistance to honest global stewardship and our unwillingness to shoulder financial burdens together have helped bring us to this point. As we seek to recover, I don’t see how we can expect to have a solid economic foundation unless we reevaluate the way we look at and treat poverty.

Here is a list of web resources on poverty compiled by the organizers of Blog Action Day.

The World Bank has an extensive overview of poverty, including how they measure it.

Here is the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent data on poverty.

Here is the Barack Obama/Joe Biden plan to combat poverty.

John McCain’s web site doesn’t appear to list poverty policies anywhere that I can find, although he did make a statement on poverty earlier this year.

The best blog I read that regularly addresses poverty is one plus two, where Jen often writes movingly about her daily work with homeless people. She also hosts one-third of a monthly roundtable that compiles all manner of “Just Posts” from the blogosphere, alongside partners at Under the Mad Hat and creative.mother.thinking.

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