Friday, November 5, 2010

Post Morten on the Body Politic...and Then

My previous blog was meant to cushion the blow. I have a way of rehearsing bad news turning it into old news when it arrives. It could have been worse. At least the lunatics are not running the asylum …………in every state or every chamber. The defeat of two thirds of the Palinoids has to count as a small accomplishment.

Now that the American voting public has once again delivered a near-fatal blow to itself one might ask the coroner what was the cause of near-death. Forensically speaking, what accounts for the self-inflicted wound? Small turnout from Progressives? Disinterested, low-information Independents? Angry white males? Aroused Tea-bertarians? Tons of corporate money? Poor communication from the White House? The economy, stupid? All of the above, I suspect.

If I watched CSI I might milk that metaphor further but I’ve never sat through a program. Maybe the more relevant question is what we are going to do now. Voltaire famously said to tend our own garden. Friend, Mel, wrote immediately that he was watching over his tomato plant. I’ve been partial to orchids myself. I keep listening to their wagging tongues for a message from beyond. Then there is the basketball season or winter trades in baseball and the crop of year-end movies to keep us distracted for a few months.

Voltaire’s advice came in Candide written in mid 18th century Geneva where he was exiled. It has layers of meaning. The operative word seems to have been, tend or cultivate rather than, one’s own. Tend is what he did. He was tireless in protesting the abuses of the Church and the monarchy. Twice he was imprisoned in the Bastille for leading the charge against the inquisition and barbaric torture practiced at that time.

Some interpreted the word, garden, to mean, field, which gives it a broader reference. However Adam Gopnik rejects that translation. He argues that the reference is to a garden, the place we build by love and generosity, not that ground we must toil in. In this way it is an expression of Enlightenment thought based upon personal responsibility.

In fact Voltaire employed two master gardeners, twenty workmen and twelve servants to tend his garden while he watched. The other essential to a garden is the presence of a gate. He kept out those pests, human and otherwise, with corrupting influences. His proclamation also suggests that we look inward and stop finger pointing.

It all boils down to staying engaged but not despairing. Live globally and act locally is the slogan of the World Health Organization. In fact we do live, for the most part, in the momentary micro while not losing awareness of our place in the macro. Acting locally suggests living out our principles, backing away from reckless consumerism, buying locally grown produce and living our days congruent with what we profess, in ways we interact with each other.

Obama needs to feel his constituency has his back. We can not allow the Reptilians to own the narrative and suck the oxygen out of our garden. The carnival (as in carnivorous) of election politics will soon be upon us again. Let's hope we don't wilt from the smoky air and acrid rhetoric we are about to inhale.


  1. As an eternal optimist, I think the minorities and the young people will turn out as they did in California to re-elect Obama. You heard it here first. Jack

  2. I heard today that there will be 1.5 million new Latino voters alone....and possibly that number of old Republicans will have checked out.

  3. I waited with great expectations for this blog. As usual, a well written intelligent piece but disappointing that in addition to insulting the voting public (rightfully so) there was no mention of Obama's mistakes so allow me to add them.

    1. Although some major gains he bit off more than he could chew.
    2. His priorities were misaligned. Health care was hi major concentration should have waited till the economy was improved.
    His administration mis-read what was most important to the voters and the opposition jumped on that.

    Those are the reasons the Dems, who never painted a clear picture of their economic achievements to the unemployed and under employed middle class is what caused the "shellacking."

    Now we are in for a period of grid lock and to quote Mitch McConnel "The primary fight will be to stop Obama being re-elected."

    Sad days ahead indeed.