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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Long Bush winter

Friend and comrade Idelber Avelar, on his way to Brazil and Argentina, writes to try to rouse me from my dogmatic slumbers:

Something tells me that your move from daily to weekly posts on the blog has to do not so much with how busy you must be in this grading and letter-writing season, but with the sadness we’re all feeling. I write to ask you not to let the ball drop on the weekly posts. . . . I haven’t done enough reading on this, but the impact of the blogosphere on the civic movement that we’ve been part of this year has not, I think, been sufficiently studied yet.

Well, he’s right, you know.  I’m more than overdue with my first non-ironic post-election post to this humble and humbled blog.  I wasn’t really in Colorado Springs, after all, as many of you surmised-- that was just my way of declaring a hiatus until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  And I was, in fact, swamped with other long-overdue things:  responses to my students in my Introduction to Graduate Studies course; further work on the book I believed I could finish by August 31 and had promised to finish by October 31; myriad professional-service tasks too trivial and soul-eroding to name; and worst of all, a huge federal grant proposal having to do with disability studies and rehabilitation services.  The grant thing gets to be “worst of all” because although I know something about disability studies, I still know too little about rehabilitation, and nothing at all about the world of writing grant proposals.  Really, nothing.  How nothing, you ask?  This nothing:  right up to the final week before the proposal deadline, November 29 (that would be, uh, yesterday), I had no idea that a proposal had to be vetted by a college’s budget officer, and I learned on the very day the proposal was due (yesterday, I believe) that a form needed to be signed by my department head.  Today, I’m just stopping by the blog to declare an end to the hiatus before I head off to an Individualized Education Program meeting with Jamie’s sixth-grade teachers (who are great) and an English department meeting.

But Idelber’s right-- underneath all the busy-work, I really am crushingly sad about this election.  I have taken Katha Pollitt’s advice to heart, and I have been mourning.  Not that I expected that we would take back the Senate, now-- I thought that was well beyond reach.  But I did think that we’d now be in the business of complaining about Kerry’s cabinet picks and wondering how he was going to be able to govern against the combined forces of Frist, DeLay, and the Heathers.  And I believed this not only because the undecideds are supposed to break for the challenger, dammit (what was wrong with them this time?), but because the nearly-infallible Nathan Newman told everyone back in 2002 that the 2005 State of the Union would be delivered by John Kerry (and when he said so back then, everyone thought he was out of his bird; me, I thought this guy knows something I don’t-- and not for the first time, either).

So I just haven’t had the heart to jump into the Where-Do-the-Democrats-Go-Now debates.  Every once in a while I come across some fool of a “moderate” who believes that Bush will turn to the middle in his second term, and I’ve wanted to write, exactly which alternate dimension have you been inhabiting these past four years?  Bush is concerned about his “legacy,” yeah, but he doesn’t think of it in terms of “bipartisan agreements to move the country forward blather blah blah,” he thinks of it in terms of “how to crush Democrats so thoroughly that the twenty-first century will effectively be closed to them.” But I just couldn’t make my fingers do the work.  It’s going to be a long, bitter, mean Bush winter, and all I can suggest, to those of you who can afford it, is to buy lots of warm woolen socks and Arctic outergear.

I’ll have more to say about this a bit later on in steely gray dim December.  For now I’m taking some small solace in the fact that 55 million of us tried our best to pull the country back from the brink.  We voted against Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; we voted against homophobia (and all the more credit to Kerry for refusing to take Clinton’s advice to travel back to Massachusetts to execute a gay couple and denounce Ellen DeGeneres); we voted against the worst Justice Department since Nixon; we voted against the manipulation of US intelligence-- and the trashing of US credibility-- in the runup to an unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq; and we even voted to try to give our Republican neighbors-- yes, even you good folks in the South-- some entitlement to decent health care.  In 1984, I went around for months feeling like an alien, knowing that my fellow Americans had swept Reagan back into office in a tsunami; this month, by contrast, I’ve felt like we just barely lost one-- and through no real fault of our own.  But by the same token, we’ve learned that millions of Bush voters (that is, the ones who aren’t CHRISTIANs) either (a) have no idea where their guy stands on the issues or (b) have no idea what an “issue” is.  It’s hard not to be depressed about this, and it’s even harder not to think that in some sense these people deserve everything they’re going to get in the next four years.  But there’s really nowhere to go with that thought, now, is there.

Last but not least, I just needed to detach from the blog for a while.  By early November it had gotten to the point where friends were saying to me, “I see you were in Pittsburgh but you didn’t let me know you were coming,” or “isn’t all that blogging taking away from the time you told me you were going to do X?” At first I thought I should simply convert this site into one of those anonymous blogs that are popping up all over academe, but then I remembered, d’oh, it’s called michaelberube.com!  why didn’t I think of that in January? And even if I changed the domain name to Anónymóus.com (les accents aigus being the only tipoff to those In The Know), the family pix would still give me away.  So I’ll just have to keep posting as me, or at least as some version of me.

Posted by Michael on 11/30 at 05:31 AM
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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Focus on something else for a change

Well, as many of you might have expected, I’ve had enough of the Focus on the Family Ministry Re-Education Camp-- though I’m told that if and when these Camps become mandatory for all U.S. citizens, my two weeks’ time will be credited to my account.  I’m heading back to secular life and striking up the blog again.  Thanks for waiting, everyone-- I see we’ve left the half-million-visitor mark in the dust while I was away, but please, let’s keep this in perspective.  A half million visitors in 11 months may be all right for a humble blog, but Focus on the Family gets that many visitors every week.

I’ve heard rumors that some of you don’t believe I went to Colorado Springs at all.  “Didn’t you speak at a symposium at Wayne State and go to a reception with Barrett Watten where you met artists Amy Vogel and Joseph Grigely, and then didn’t you hang out at the Cass Cafe with old friend Mysoon Rizk as well as Charles Stivale and a bunch of other people?” asked one of my friends.  “Yeah,” said another, “and weren’t you hard at work on your book and a mess of other things you were supposed to be doing this fall but couldn’t even think of doing because you were completely consumed by the election?” “Isn’t this just another one of your ruses?” said a third.  “I bet you weren’t even in Madison Square Garden for the Republican National Convention, either.”

What a bunch of doubting Thomases I have for friends!  ("Doubting Thomas” is a brand new expression I learned in Colorado Springs.  See John 20:24-29.) I can tell you from personal experience that the Welcome Center has a three-story corkscrew slide named “A-Bend-A-Go” (see Habbakuk 2:1, “I will stand at the watchpost, and station myself at the three-story corkscrew slide").  And in a way it was good that I was there in November, because November is their “Marriage Theme Month.” Which makes sense, after all, since October was “Homophobia Month.”

But really, enough was enough.  It wasn’t the homophobia so much, or the repeated showings of The Passion of the Christ (not that there’s anything wrong with having an obsessive fixation on Christ’s battered, bleeding, nearly nude body!).  Instead, it was the child-beating.  I’d forgotten about the child-beating.  Which was stupid of me, since before Dr. James Dobson became a major power player in the Republican party (and what’s up with you conservatives trying to claim that liberals are exaggerating about this?  are you all on drugs or something?), he was renowned as a “Christian childrearing expert” who counsels parents to begin striking their children at around the age of fifteen months, preferably with a wooden spoon, preferably on the back of the leg.  In books like Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child:  Birth through Adolescence, Dr. Dobson promoted an entire regime of child torture, starting with the wooden spoons and moving right through neck-pinching, with special tips on how to produce maximal pain on tiny necks while leaving minimal physical signs of abuse.  How could I have forgotten?  So this is why these people didn’t have any problem with Abu Ghraib!

Anyway, Dr. Dobson hasn’t let his child-torture business lie fallow while he’s taken on his larger crusades against gays, lesb***ns, and Arlen Specter.  Focus on the Family Ministries still runs a vibrant child-beating laboratory, informally known as the “Spare the Rod Room,” where spanking implements and techniques are tested night and day.  Wooden spoons of various designs, materials, and swing-weights are rigorously researched for their effects on the tiny, fleshy legs of toddlers and infants, with the parent’s comfort uppermost in mind.  Around here, they say that nothing is worse than developing bursitis or “palm splinters” by using a heavy, unwieldy, or shoddily made wooden spoon when you “dare to discipline” your child!  But the constant thwacking kept me up at night, not to mention the poor little buggers’ piercing screams.  Ah, well, Christ went through far worse, and look where it got Him!

Still, I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest for a change.  And more blogging!

Posted by Michael on 11/21 at 03:45 PM
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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Greetings from Colorado Springs

Hi folks!  It turns out that the Focus on the Family Ministry has a “weekend furlough” program, so I have a spare moment to check in on the blog from out here in lovely Colorado Springs.  They limit us to half an hour on the Internets, though, because here at Focus on the Family, they like to keep the focus on the family.  Actually, our unofficial motto is “it’s the patriarchy, stupid” – but of course I can’t say that in public!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that there’s no cause for concern about me or my state of mind, and that my hosts are treating me well.  Not quite as well as my other conservative hosts back in September– let’s just say there’s a lot less single-malt flowing around these parts– but quite well nonetheless.  And before I go back in for Week Two of the program, they’d like me to say a few words to the readers of this most humble blog.

First, you liberals and progressives and leftists and Communists have to stop vilifying “Christians.” It’s counterproductive and wrong.  Christians are not responsible for George Bush’s election.  Christians are not intolerant; Christians are not ignorant.  Christians are actually filled with agape; they work among the poor and the downtrodden, they give up all hope of material gain in this world, they turn the other cheek when they are struck, and they always do unto others as they would have others do unto them.

So you liberals need to distinguish between Christians and CHRISTIANs.  Out here in Colorado Springs, we don’t have much use for most of that garden-variety Christianity stuff.  Who needs a vow of poverty when you’re trying to establish a media network?  Who needs agape when you’re counting down to the Apocalypse?  No sir, there aren’t any of those Christians around here.  Instead, we prefer to think of ourselves as

Creationists and
Homophobes for a
Righteous
Inquisition of the
Secular
Terrorists who
Infest
America
Now.

In the future, please get that straight and keep it straight.  Lay off the Christians– they’re completely innocuous people.  When you want to criticize the ascendant religious right, say “CHRISTIANs” or “Creationists and Homophobes” for short. We’ll know who you mean.  And then we’ll come and get you.

Second, liberal-progressive-etc. writers like Rick Perlstein and Frank Rich have to stop claiming that we didn’t swing the 2004 election to the right.  Don’t you people get it? It just doesn’t matter if the religious-conservative vote didn’t change appreciably between 2000 and 2004.  No one wants to hear about your fancy-schmancy “number crunching” and your elitist “regression analyses.” That’s exactly the kind of talk you’d expect from the reality-based community.  But the reality-based community is less relevant to American politics right now than Eugene V. Debs, folks.  Here at FOF, we know that semiotically (though Dr. Dobson doesn’t exactly put it that way), we won, and we won big time.  We are Gonna Get Paid (though Dr. Dobson doesn’t exactly put it that way, either) and all you liberal wonks and all your liberal media can go to H E double hockey sticks.

And that’s why– last but not least! – we’re taking back this country.  First, we’re going to take away one of your favorite liberal words.  Ask your George Lakoff if you don’t believe me!  As soon as the election returns were in, Karl Rove began to speak of creating a “hopeful and decent society,” and William Bennett wrote, in the pages of the National Review:

Having restored decency to the White House, President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law.

Do you know what that means, people?  That means we mean we’re going to lock you gays and lesb***ns back in the closet or run you right out of town, right alongside the abortionists in their tar-and-feather overcoats.  And don’t give me any grief about Bill B.’s private little vices.  They’re all right with us, because we know he’s saved.

Now, why did we pick the word “decent” for this phase of our crusade, you ask?  Because quite honestly, we’re sick and tired of hearing you people say to us, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?  Have you left no sense of decency?” I mean, we heard it about Abu Ghraib, we heard it about the Swift Boat Vets, we heard it when Jim DeMint said that gays and lesb***ns should be barred from teaching positions, we heard it every time Dick Cheney opened his mouth.  We heard it every gosh-darn week this past year from you liberal “decency” mavens, always whining about something and always claiming to be “decent people” simply because you have this amoral “liberal” attitude about the sexual practices of consenting adults.  Well, we’re not going to stand for it a moment longer.  Next time you ask us if we have any “decency,” we’re going to say, “darn right we do– that’s why we have an American Decency Association.” And we’re going to make sure– through both politics and law– that we purge this land of degenerates like you.

Oops, my half hour is up.  See you all later!  And don’t forget to repent while you still can!

Posted by Michael on 11/13 at 10:27 AM
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Friday, November 05, 2004

The week that wasn’t

The entire week’s work on this blog-- from the moment it crashed on Election Eve-- was wiped out yesterday while I was at yet another academic-administrative meeting in Pittsburgh.  Kurt managed to retrieve the posts (and once again, I Google-cached them as emergency backup), but all your brilliant comments are gone.  Somehow I find this even more dispiriting than the election of Coburn and Bunning.  I feel like a bunch of friends have disappeared from a photo album.

Obviously, I am not right with God.  The way I see it, all the trouble began last Sunday when I mocked Christian businesses, even going so far as to invent a fictional conversation between God and myself in which I say something wiseass and He smites me.  Well, I’ve learned my lesson, Jesus.  I’m coming home to You.

So, dear readers, I’ll be spending the next three weeks in a seminar for repentant Democrats, conducted by the Focus on the Family Ministries.  When I come back, I hope to be able to use this blog to spread the Good News, instead of using it for irony and evil as I have in the past.

While I’m away, I will be acquiring Moral Values, since this amoral liberal-left “social-justice-for-those-in-need” stuff clearly isn’t working.  I hope you’ll check in with me again when I return, and-- in the words of a legendary rock band-- we hope you like our new direction.

For now, though, I can’t help noting ruefully that I’d basically summed up the election back in mid-January, when this impious blog was only two weeks old.  Soon, however, it will be Born Again.

Open thread, folks.  I’ll try not to lose your comments this time.

Posted by Michael on 11/05 at 06:13 AM
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What next?

First things first:  this humbled blog called it 294 - 244 EV, 50.7 - 48.4 popular vote, and I must say I was pretty damn close to the likely 286 - 252 EV, 51.2 - 48.1 final tally even though I picked the wrong guy.

Second things second:  I lost not only in the Presidential election but even in Rox Populi’s “Best Political Bloggers” contest.  I salute Alternative Hippo, the very worthy winner in my category, and pledge to work together with other blogs to heal the divisions of this long and brutal campaign.

And last things last:  where do progressives go from here?

Don’t believe for a second any Beltway nonsense about Kerry running a poor campaign.  The man got hit with some of the slimiest, foulest garbage ever thrown by the Vicious and Deranged Right, and he kept coming at ‘em, pulling 55 million votes and nearly unseating an autocratic “war president” backed by a fanatical following notable for its chants of allegiance to Dear Leader and its purges of schoolteachers wearing “protect our civil liberties” T-shirts.  Above all, watch where the critiques of Kerry are coming from:  don’t let Al From and the DLC back into the fray so that they can deliver us all into the hands of Lieberman or Bayh next time around.

It should be clear by now that progressives cannot win the presidency by being reality-based.  The reality-based appeal works only in isolated areas of the country with high population density.  Reality-based campaigning draws in highly educated voters, voters who are likely to consult a wide variety of news sources inside and outside the US, and voters who tend to be swayed by demonstrable empirical evidence about the age and the current disposition of the planet and its resources.  These voters are, however, a fringe element of the electorate that we must now cast aside.

Instead, we must devise a “wedge issue” that is as powerful and compelling as the campaign against gay marriage.  And just as the campaign against gay marriage draws its deepest support from conservative rural areas hundreds of miles away from the nearest actual cohabiting gay couple, so too must progressives-- especially urban-identified, “metro” progressives-- seek to mobilize an energetic Democratic base by inventing a chimera that none of us have actually ever seen and cannot imagine anyone actually caring about.

Janet suggested this morning that we try alerting our fellow progressives to the fact that certain farmers in these rural areas are keeping sheep and goats in the same pen.  It is an outrage, no question about it-- after all, these people are violating the proverbial imperative to distinguish the sheep from the goats, one of the most ancient proverbial imperatives in the history of proverbs-- but more important, it has no material bearing whatsoever on the conduct of our lives.  The disposition of sheep and goats on certain rural farms does not affect our salaries, our health care, our children’s education, or the quality of our housing.  It has nothing to do with the debacle in Iraq or the torture chambers of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  It does not diminish or enhance our own civil liberties. It will not affect the ozone layer or industrial mercury emissions; it will not alter the budget deficit or the balance of trade.  And that is why we must denounce this practice. We must denounce it in the coffeehouses, in the graduate seminars, at the wine tastings, at every performance in the Alice Tully Hall-- wherever cosmopolitan liberal elitists congregate.  Until our land is rid of this plague, this promiscuous mingling of sheep with goats in precincts unknown to us, we cannot begin to take back America.

Other suggestions are, as always, welcome.  I ask only two things:  it must be an outrage, and it must have no material bearing on the conduct of our lives.

Posted by Kurt on 11/03 at 09:21 AM
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Putting the blame where it belongs

If only you gay men and lesb***ns hadn’t gone traipsing around the country, tra la la la la, pledging your eternal troth to each other and defiling the most sacred institution in American life; if only you smug secular evolutionists-- yes, I’m looking at you, PZ-- hadn’t pushed your vile descent-from-monkeys doctrine on the innocent Christian children of this nation; if only you millionaire trial lawyers hadn’t used up all the flu vaccine, driving up the price of gas; and if only you liberal-elite literature professors weren’t abusing the privilege of freedom of speech, mocking God in your little “blogs” and sneering at good hardworking people who are just trying to put up some decent resistance to the radical gay-evolutionist-lawyer-lit-professor agenda, then maybe we would be celebrating a great democratic victory today.

But as it is, thanks to all you blasphemers and narcissists, the only thing we can say to the GOP this morning is, all right, do your worst-- you know you want to! Welcome, Senator Bunning.  Welcome, Senator DeMint.  Welcome, Senator Coburn.  Welcome, Senator Martinez.  Welcome, Senator Burr.  A most hearty welcome to Senator Thune.  And let me be the first to welcome Justices Pickering and Owen to the highest court in the land!

UPDATE:  I’m so sorry I lost all the terrific comments on this post when the blog went down for the second time this week.  The only one I could salvage was Doghouse Riley’s, because it got itself quoted on another blog.  And you can’t find a better summation of the Second Bush’s Second Term:

How about Do your best! STFU and start governing? You’ve had effective control of both Houses for almost twenty-five years now, and when you couldn’t swipe the presidential election from a Democrat you tied the country in knots over $40,000 land deals and blow jobs. I want pornography off my teevee tomorrow! I want Jesus back in the public schools, assuming we’re still gonna have any. Get the illegals out of my country. I want my Big Mac prepared by lovely white people. Who’s writing the Sodomy Amendment? Why isn’t Annie Jacobson head of the FAA? Why am I still paying taxes? State lotteries make Baby Jesus cry. Get US out of UN. How many caribou do we need to look at? Why is my water pressure so erratic? Kindly get busy.

UPDATED UPDATE:  No, found another one.  Here’s Chris Robinson’s comment:

The best theocracy money can buy.

Posted by Kurt on 11/03 at 01:53 AM
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