Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sounds Like A Plan

A friend called from Florida. He’d moved there three years ago, but he’d kept a condo in Killington where he went winters to ski, then spring, summer or fall to bike. “How’s the weather up there?” he said.

“Oh, you know,” I said. “Cloudy, drizzly, around fifty to fifty-five. But we have had sun and a few glorious days.”

“Thought so,” he said, his voice flat. And in that flatness I heard, Better you than me.

What I didn’t say was that as I walked the dogs this morning, Lucy and Sam, my two standard poodles I’d noticed buds opening on the apple tree at the end of the driveway, that as we walked out the dirt road, a hedge of forsythia bloomed along the perimeter of a neighbor’s yard, that the in the woods the fiddleheads were growing taller, holding onto just their end curls, that in the marsh green spears of cat tails were pushing their way through last year’s dried stalks, that I came out of the woods at the base of a hilly lawn where clumps of daffodils bloomed their heads off, that I’d stopped to watch a cedar waxwing perched on an out lying branch of a red maple, the bird singing, apparently oblivious to my presence, the branch tottering, its nascent leaves as delicate and perfectly formed as an infant’s hand, that along a swath of grass the dogs romped among snowdrops and violets, that back home I checked on my small vegetable garden near the pool where sets of lettuce were nearly ready for picking, that soon I’d see shoots of arugula, carrots, peas and spinach, that my parsley, oregano, lovage and tarragon had wintered over and were thriving, that the two lilac bushes I’d planted in memory of my parents, first my mother, then my father were unfurling their heart shaped leaves. I didn’t say that anticipation and promise were in the air.

“I think I’ll come up at the end of August. Maybe by then the rain will stop.”

I smiled to myself. “Sounds like a plan.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's No Joke

Seeing the Tea Party protestors in brief glimpses as I watched television the Sunday Congress was voting on the health care bill, I was struck by the awfulness of their signs, the portrayals of President Obama as a Nazi, as the devil, the name calling: Communist, liar, traitor, thug. I wanted to dismiss those protestors, call them fourth grade playground bullies, but I couldn’t. There was something chilling about their rally, their own evocation of the Third Reich. I am a woman of a certain age. I am Jewish. I know that propaganda can incite, know that mobs are dangerous. Then, I saw John Boehner, waving from a balcony. Yikes, I thought, this is serious.

To me the health care bill was a watered down version of the reform I’d hoped for. No public option. Thirty-two million more customers handed over to private insurers. No coverage for illegal immigrants. The powerful interests had had their voices heard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for passage, grateful for Obama’s legislative victory, thankful for reform. Yet, on that day, I wondered at the rage of the protestors, their racial and anti-gay slurs, their hatred of President Obama, of Nancy Pelosi. Their venom seemed disproportionate to what was actually in the bill. I couldn’t figure out what was driving them. Then, this past Sunday I read Frank Rich’s piece in the Sunday Times.

“To find a prototype for the overheated reaction to the health care bill,” Rich wrote, “you have to look a year before Medicare, to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both laws passed by similar majorities in Congress; the Civil Rights Act received even more votes in the Senate (73) than Medicare (70). But it was only the civil rights bill that made some Americans run off the rails.” Rich goes on to say that what was at stake here was a law that that signaled “inexorable and immutable change in the very identity of American, not just its governance.” Think of a tapestry in which color changed design.

According to Rich, had Obama chosen climate change, financial reform or immigration as his legislative priority, each would have triggered the same reaction, for what we had and have is a confluence of “a black president and a female speaker of the House—topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman….” And when I read his words I knew that Rich had clearly and succinctly identified the force behind the rage. These Tea Party folks were afraid. Mostly, they saw themselves as a dwindling minority. When they held up signs saying they wanted to “take our country back,” the obvious question would be, “From Whom?” From those who were not like them, blacks, Jews, Latinos, gays, but demographics would not and will not let them.

The Tea Party Movement, along with the attendant Militia Movement, is a force to deal with. Perhaps, though, a greater problem is the support they receive from mainstream politicians, those who speak at rallies, those who egg on the demonstrators. And what of the politicians who fall silent? Silence is complicity. So I’m calling on my two senators from Maine, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, smart women, supposedly independent women, to speak out against the lies, the propaganda, the anti-Semitism, the homophobia, the racism and the awful signs that link our president to Hitler and to the devil. If they can’t find their voices, who will?