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November 27, 2003

Food for thought

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! When you've finished your turkey or tofurkey or whatever is on your holiday plate, how about filling your mind with some incredibly satisfying thoughts. Here are a few:

First, an interview with Studs Terkel, author of Working and many other "memory books," including his latest, Hope Dies Last. If you don't have time to read the whole thing (and really, it's worth your while), think about this little bit:

There's a poem by Brecht: "Who Built the Seven Gates of Thebes?" When you ask who built the pyramids, the automatic answer is: the pharaohs. But the pharaohs didn't lift a finger. I was told, by Mrs. O'Reilly at McKinley High School in Chicago, that Sir Francis Drake conquered the Spanish Armada. He did? By himself? Brecht in the poem says that when the armada sank, we read that King Philip of Spain wept. Here's the big one: "Were there no other tears?"

To me, history is those who shed those other tears. Those whose brains and whose brawn made the wheels go around. I hate to use the word "the people." The anonymous many. But they're it. I know that the Internet has all sorts of democratic possibilities: That's how Howard Dean came up so fast, isn't it? At the same time, there's a fear of so much in the hands of so few.

I was also going to talk about the perversion of our language: To go more "moderate" means to go more toward the center, and to go toward the center means to go toward the right. If you could see me now, I could do a demonstration: If our physical posture followed our political posture and the perversion of our language -- I'd have to act this out -- we'd walk around leaning to the right. That's the normal way of walking. And then, the guy who's walking straight: "Look at that leftist!" Or if the guy who's walking straight leans a little bit to the left: "He's a goddamn terrorist!"

In a similar vein try listening to Christopher Lydon's interview with Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. (Scroll down; links to the mp3 files of the interview are near the bottom of the page). Trippi discusses many of the reasons why people like Midge Farmer, a proud representative of the great state of Wyoming, are supporting Howard Dean. (This comment on Farmer's letter from the Kiwi Cowboy is also pretty good.) There's too much in Trippi's interview for me to transcribe; just listen and you'll see what I mean. He basically argues that if Dean can win the nomination—and then the Presidency—without being bought out by corporate interests, his election will be revolutionary because it will break the stranglehold big money has over politics.
So far, Dean's proving to be a people's candidate, not a party candidate:

He rarely smiles during his 30-minute stump speech, which he delivers without notes. He does not make small talk, does not open with cute quips and does not engage in self-deprecating humor. He does not talk about himself, nor does he tell members of the audience how wonderful their questions are. He does not pretend to feel their pain.

But Dean still has an incredible amount of work to do. For example, check out what New Hampshire cab driver David Berthiaume has to say about the election:

"I'll tell you where my vote's going: to our president. I'm not a Republican, I'm an Independent. And I'm pro-choice. But I think he's done a good job, and so does at least 51 percent of the country. Fine, he might have been misled about Iraq, but it needed to happen anyway. We kicked Saddam in the teeth, and now he's gone. We should all be happy about that."

Dean's probably up against countless numbers of people who think just like Mr. Berthiaume, and it's precisely this kind of thinking that is unlikely to be changed by tv ads or newspaper articles. The only way to reach people like this is in person, one on one, listening to their thoughts and concerns, and explaining why Dean is a better solution to them than Bush could ever hope to be. If you listen to Trippi's interview, you'll have a much better idea of what I'm talking about.

Today I'm thankful for many things, but foremost among them is that I think Terkel is right: Hope dies last. But we can't just hope that our world will become a better place; we have to work to make it happen. The pharoahs didn't build the pyramids, Sir Francis Drake didn't defeat the Spanish Armada, and George Washington didn't win the revolutionary war. People did that. People like you and me. And it's only people like us who can change the direction our country is headed today. I'm thankful that for that, too.

Posted November 27, 2003 01:58 PM | general politics life generally

Great post, thanks. Made my day!

Posted by: transmogriflaw at November 29, 2003 03:21 PM

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