Holiday mornings

I love quiet mornings. Usually, I roll out of bed, shower and shave, and bust right out the door. My drive to work gives me a few minutes with NPR or CBC, but it’s a short drive until I’m neck deep in medicine. Thankfully, I love my work, but still it’s nice to spend a morning sitting in the kitchen sipping coffee.

It won’t be long until PalKid stumbles down the stairs, not quite as much a morning person as her father. She was born at 6:40 a.m., but even I was tired by then. She took her time arriving (of course, it was a bit harder on MrsPal than anyone). She was born the year that the CIA admitted there was no threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, eleven states banned gay marriage, the U.S. assault weapons ban expired. A tropical cyclone formed in the South Atlantic for the first time in recorded history.

Like most parents, I hope for a good future for my kid. I hope she and others of her generation do some travelling. She will come back from Asia, Europe, wherever, and see how different we are.  We live in a remarkable country, but one in which people live in fear of illness, not because of poor sanitation or nutrition, but because millions of us have no access to care. If she bothers to go to a train station, she’ll see how old and run-down ours seem.  She’ll see a crumbling infrastructure, one where roads, bridges, public transit, and other public works are primitive.  She’ll see how some countries (no, not China) are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, building mitigation of climate change into their daily lives. She may fear pickpockets but won’t wonder if someone will pull out an assault rifle in public and mown down shoppers, students, whomever.

Maybe her generation will try to pull our pan out of the fire.

If she goes to Europe, she’ll see how well we in the U.S. have succeeded in separating State and religion without oppressing our religious citizens. Perhaps her generation will extend our religious tolerance to include the growing number of Americans who never bothered to believe in institutionalized superstitions.

I’m not so optimistic or naive to believe we’ll change that much over the next couple of decades.  The Democratic Party, the only viable Left in the U.S., passed insurance reform un-ironically calling it healthcare reform, but it will nevertheless give millions more Americans access to health care. But they’ve also continued infringement of basic civil and human rights in the realm of surveillance, torture, war.  They are, in a word, hopelessly moderate.

The GOP hasn’t been what it thinks it is in decades. Since the introduction of racist politics in the 60’s and the embrace of reactionary Evangelicals in the 80s, the “Economic Republicans” have been pushed into a little corner, one where they can play with their little toys at their little country clubs and continue to convince Americans that the party they no longer control can somehow make American more American.  They have used their own party’s racist, sexist, gay-hating, xenophobic core to scare a large portion of the public into their arms. They inveigh against “class warfare” while vilifying those who haven’t yet managed to bootstrap themselves to success. Fear is often more potent than hope, and they know it (but it probably won’t become their motto any time soon).

Any party that creates a “Big Tent” that excludes gays, atheists, civil libertarians, and scientists isn’t a Big Tent—it’s a hermetically sealed echo chamber where American ideals bounce around, chipping apart until all that is left is a core of hate.

Study American history and you’ll see that there is nothing that uniquely hostile about contemporary politics, but the stakes are still high. America has always been an innovator, but if we continue to allow religion to trump science in our classrooms, we will quickly lose that edge to emerging nations, large ones without battles over whether to teach superstition rather than science. If we close our borders to new people, ideas, and motivations, our engines of innovation will quickly stall. If we continue to breed hate in the name of political gain, we will become a sad reminder to the rest of the world of why the 20th century was so dark and deadly.

All parents hope that their kids will save them from their own mistakes. But maybe we shouldn’t wait quite so long.


  1. Old Geezer

     /  September 3, 2012

    Superstition creates fear. Fear creates intolerance. Intolerance creates the party platform that you saw adopted last week. I have no idea what created the idea to talk to an empty chair.

  2. James

     /  September 4, 2012

    If this diatribe of shrill hyperbole were true, Santorum would have been nominated, not the former governor of one of the bluest states. And certainly the “racist” Tea Party would not have favored Herman Cain over his melanin-challenged peers.

    I for one thank God President Obama and the Democrat leadership eschewed their political rhetoric and taken a balanced approach – kept enhanced interrogations and the Patriot Act intact. Don’t see anything moral in seeing children blown to bits because of paranoid fears of a police state. Fear mongering, it’s a useful tool for extremist on both sides of the political spectrum.

    Perhaps your leftwing sensibilities won’t allow such thoughts, but I will say it. Those people crossing the border have a tendency towards those qualities you despise. Prejudice and superstition. Including and not limited to homophobia and seeing the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast. Let’s not use our need for talent and brainpower as an excuse for carte blanche immigration. If we were still an emerging nation it would be a different story.

  3. Old Geezer

     /  September 4, 2012

    Gosh James, don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think. Of course down here on the ground, your ivory tower message may have just been garbled a little bit by the wind from the clouds. I’m assuming that is what the source of the wind was.

    It is hard to take your message seriously when it includes such concepts as “Those people…” in one sentence and “Prejudice and superstition.” in the next. I assume you meant these to be counterpoints? I assume, as well, that you were referring to only one particular border, the one that divides us from the folks who don’t look just like you? And if you came down from that tower for a few days you might find that some of the folks whose Grandparents were born right here in the Deep South (a place you may never have visited out of a fear of mingling with the “other”) see both the Virgin Mary and Jesus on trees, toast and kitchen counters. “They” are all around us and “they” are us. Well, maybe not you.

    You can use twenty-five cent words like “diatribe” and “hyperbole” as well as “eschewed” and “melanin-challenged” (my favorite), but you just can’t bring yourself to use the word “torture.” Saying “enhanced interrogations” is nothing more than hiding behind – what’s your word for it? – shrill hyperbole. Waterboarding is O.K if done to others.

    Take your closing line, “If we were still an emerging nation it would be a different story.” to any European, Asian or African nation that has existed for thousands of years and you would be laughed off the street for your arrogance.

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