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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wading Back In

Thanks for all the comments.  I don’t think anyone crossed the line of civility.  If the left can’t abide debate this mild—while passionate—it’s in more trouble than I thought.

For starters, I don’t disagree on substance with any of the respondents.  We’re all in the left wing of the Democratic Party.  The much harder thing to recognize and accept—and even embrace if possible—is that the Party has to be able to contain members with fairly significant substantive disagreements.  A smaller, but more unified, party would guarantee itself minority status for a long, long time to come.  I think the Republicans might well be headed in that direction; I’d hate to see the Democrats ape them in that regard.  We need to be bringing people in, not drumming them out.  I’m a big tent Democrat.

On one level, the disagreement registered in the comments is about interpreting the political landscape.  Some people believe that the Republicans are not headed to disaster, but have strengthened themselves and gained their current ascendancy through sharper self-definition.  The Democrats, this position avers, should take strong leftist positions, thereby garnering the respect of centrist voters and the passionate energy of partisan activists.  It will gain more votes by this strategy.  Gains among the apathetic, the disenfranchised, and the committed will outweigh any loss among wishy-washy centrists. 

I disagree, but the evidence for either position is hardly overwhelming.  I point to the Democrats’ having won when they ran to the center in 1960, 1976, 1992, and 1994.  Each of these victories was a squeaker, so we can’t afford to alienate swing voters.  The other side says “look at 1964.” That was the only Democratic landslide since 1944, and it was based on unapologetic liberalism.  The Democrats need to have the courage of their convictions. (I will pursue this debate in a subsequent post because it interests me for a host of reasons.)

But there is not just an interpretive disagreement here. The responses to my post about Democratic campaign strategies are a version of a debate that rages within both of the major political parties—and, no doubt, within every smaller political group as well.  Let’s call it the debate between the “people of principle” and the “rhetoricians.” I’m firmly in the rhetorician camp.  Here’s why.

I do not think a party that wishes to win an election in a democracy can do so without considering the opinions, prejudices, values, and commitments of the electorate.  But, even more crucially (should I say, “as a matter of principle”?), I think that’s a crucial part of what democracy means.  Democracy is a two-way street.  The party can’t just lead (that’s Leninism); the party should also (probably more than less) be shaped by the people.  Democracy is, to a large extent, the reining in of leaders, of the elite, and of the government by the led.  And that’s the way it should be.

Take the Republicans as a first instance.  W. won because he sold the “compassionate conservative” image and then won the second time because he sold the idea that the Democrats couldn’t be trusted to provide security and would allow gays to marry.  He never took the Iraq war or Social Security reform to the people in his own presidential elections.  He did, to a certain extent, take the war to the people in the 2002 Congressional elections, and he has taken Social Security reform to the people in a non-electoral campaign, after denying outright that he had any designs on Social Security during the presidential campaign. 

He got the Iraq war because the president’s war-making powers have been just about absolute since Congress abdicated on its constitutional obligation to declare wars.  (How quaint!  Who declares war anymore?) He isn’t going to get the kind of Social Security reform he desires because the people have no desire to be led in that direction.  That’s democracy in action. 

We need more democracy, not less.  I can’t choose the most dastardly among the many outrageous things the Republicans have done, but their assault on democracy ranks high on the list.  Democracy is messy, inefficient, and full of compromises because it spreads power around, thus encouraging endless wrangling.  The Republicans hate the democratic process; their agenda is all-in-all to them.  The hope (that word again) is that the people will see what the Republicans are doing—and vote them out of office. (More on the Republican assault on democracy in a subsequent post.)

The Democrats, of course, have the pedagogical task of dramatizing this assault upon democracy.  Just as they have the rhetorical task of moving the voters toward grasping the moral and practical disaster that is the Republican disregard for civil liberties and prisoner abuse.

But I’m with Madison and Arendt in believing that absolute truths—moral or otherwise—have no place in politics.  Liberalism is about trying to limit the damage that such truths do in the public realm.  The Republicans are split between their self-righteous religious right and their pro-business wing.  They have never nominated an outright Christian right candidate; they haven’t gone that far yet.  Our very democracy would be at stake if such a candidate won, because politicians who act from moral certainty, from the sense that any and all opponents are beyond the pale because morally reprobate, have no patience for and no commitment to democracy’s limitations to power, its provisions for compromise by its inclusion of different viewpoints at the table, and its commitment to the legitimate right of all contending political factions to be in the majority in some instances.  (I will take up this crucial point more fully in a subsequent post.)

So I would hate to see the Democrats assume a morality-based politics of their own.  Yes, politics cannot avoid moral questions; but it must submit such questions to the same messy democratic processes as every other kind of question.  Yes, there are times when the individual should say: “Here’s something I will not be part of.” Times when I have to say the majority is wrong.  At such times, I—and those who agree with me—undertake the rhetorical task of convincing that majority that they are wrong.  And, if I am part of the institution that is doing wrong, I should resign.  Unfortunately, we do not have the British tradition of resignation in this country. 

In order to resign, however, you first have to hold office.  W. E. B. DuBois says somewhere that a teacher must begin from where his students are.  Certainly, my experiences in the classroom confirm that simple observation.  The Democrats have been terrible teachers.  They have become as out of touch with the experience of working Americans as the Republicans claim.  They need to start their pedagogical campaign (their rhetorical campaign) where their constituency is: in the everyday struggle to make ends meet in a society where job and pension security is a thing of the past and where education and medical care and housing get more and more expensive even as the government claims that inflation is running at 2% a year.  If we can get Americans to realize how completely Republican policies hold them in contempt, think of them as dispensable and disposable, we then have a chance of moving on to showing that there is a continuum between this disregard of working people’s lives and the treatment of prisoners. 

If you don’t start where your audience is, but come to them from an utterly alien perspective, you quickly descend into the schoolyard mode of swapping fervent assertions of “I’m right,” “No, I’m right”—or the teacherly mode of hectoring a sullen captive audience. Such encounters may do wonders for convincing each of us of our personal rectitude, but they do nothing to enable the two-way, transformative possibility of democratic dialogue.  Certainty on the left or the right leads pretty inevitably into name-calling and excommunication.  Passion, yes.  Conviction too.  But fallibilism, always. 

In sum, watching the polls and being influenced by them is an essential part of democracy. There are other lines of communication between the populace and its elected officials (elections, for one—and direct address for another), but the polls are a legitimate and important source of feedback in a nation with a population as large as ours.  (Recall that all the traditional political theorists believed democracy could never be sustained in a country much larger than a city-state.) In fact, thank god for the polls and their influence on politicians at a time when well-financed interest groups (through professional lobbyists) have such a disproportionate (in terms of the percentages of the population they represent) influence. Politicians who don’t take public opinion into account are not participating in democracy’s two-way street as well as very unlikely to win many elections.  As they shouldn’t.

Posted by John McGowan on 05/28 at 12:56 PM
(30) Comments • (739) TrackbacksPermalink

Friday, May 27, 2005

Appendix postscript

We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you the backstory of the emergency appendectomy, along with this update: I’m doing fine.  Thanks to everyone who’s written to me with get-well wishes; they seem to be working.

There was no drama leading up to the surgery itself.  On the contrary, I was in very little pain and had no other symptoms: no nausea, no fever, no nothing.  Perhaps, I thought, I have a high pain threshold (I once played the final five minutes of a hockey game with two broken fingertips), but, as I learned when my dressing was changed on Saturday and when my Jackson-Pratt drain was removed on Tuesday, my pain threshold isn’t all that high.  Anyway, it wasn’t as if I was wheeled frantically into an operating room while I writhed on a stretcher in mortal agony.

Instead, all the drama—and all the scariness—of the episode unfolded in retrospect.  For the important thing about last Thursday was this: I was supposed to meet about fifteen of New York City’s finest bloggers for dinner and drinks at seven that night.  The May meeting of the MLA Executive Council took place last Friday and Saturday, and a couple of bloggers—chiefly Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged and Seth the mysterious Talking Dog—got in touch with me to set this thing up.  For weeks, I was eagerly looking forward to it.  (I also had fun plans for Saturday afternoon and evening as well.) I even got all my suits dry-cleaned for the occasion; I was going to pick them up at 11, drive to Harrisburg to catch the 1 pm train, and be in Penn Station by 4:30.  And then off to Chelsea for some fine food and absinthe with bloggers I admire and have long wanted to meet!  What’s better than that?

My first sense that anything was wrong came on Wednesday afternoon, in the form of what felt like a little indigestion.  It was so mild, however, that it did not stop me from doing my full-dress two-hour workout that afternoon—a workout that begins with three sets of 390-pound leg presses (I have a T. Rex body, if you must know, unlike all the other guys in the gym, who have frog bodies).  Obviously, if I knew that my appendix was the size of a summer sausage and was going to burst its casing within twenty-four hours, I would have avoided the gym altogether.  I was a little puzzled when I got home and felt bloated rather than honed, but it didn’t stop me from playing baseball with the boys in the backyard—and, crucially, pitching overhand to Jamie for the first time.  (Thanks to everyone who suggested I do this, in response to my post about Jamie’s Little League.  He resisted mightily at first but then found to his delight that he was hitting balls over the hedges and onto the roof.  A real breakthrough!) The rest of the night was uneventful, and I didn’t think about my gut again until 2 am, when I suddenly woke from sleep with the realization that the pain had gotten sharper.

Still, I had no intention of missing my train.  The next morning, I thought I would cancel my cardio workout and ask to see a doctor instead; I was still thinking I’d be free by 11.  No doctor was available, so they told me to come into the ER—which I did, but not before putting away all my laundry and packing my travel kit.  I was in no hurry.  Then I drove myself over to the hospital, hoping I could be out within the hour.  Only after they made me drink a Big Gulp-sized cup of contrast dye and sent me in for a CT scan did I realize that I wasn’t going anywhere that day.

The point is that if I had blown off what felt like an upset stomach and only gradually resolved itself as a sharp pain on the lower right side of my torso, I would very likely have been on Amtrak train 42 somewhere around Trenton when the crisis finally hit (and my surgeon assured me that my appendix was an “ugly” thing; maybe, he said, I had a couple more hours, but no more than that).  And that would have been really, really bad.

So I’m sorry that I missed dinner with everyone—Elayne Riggs has pictures of the event—and I’m especially sorry that Janet’s phone messages to Julia didn’t get through, so that no one realized I was in surgery until they’d been at the restaurant for some time waiting for me (at which point Julia checked her cell phone voice mail).  But on balance, I’m very glad I didn’t go to New York last Thursday.

Just a few observations about my hospital stay (this was my first major surgery):

-- Morphine is the shit.  I weaned myself from it by Saturday afternoon, but long before then I had come to appreciate its extraordinary and fast-acting powers.

-- It is physically impossible not to sit on your IV tube when you crawl back into your hospital bed.  I tried everything, including wrapping the tube around my neck three times, but it was like something out of Alice Through the Looking Glass:  the harder I tried to avoid sitting on my IV tube, the more of it I wound up covering with my butt.

-- I have learned that I am quite shy about urinating from the side of the bed when there are strange people in my room.  This is not a critical insight, and I don’t think it says anything important about me (after all, I clearly have no inhibitions when it comes to blogging about urinating from the side of the bed), but it was critical to my well-being on Thursday and Friday, because unless I started producing more than the piddling 50 cc I’d managed to that point (being shy and all), I was going to be catheterized.  They actually did an ultrasound to determine that yep, my bladder was full (and I could not resist asking whether they could tell if it was a boy or a girl), and would have to be emptied one way or another.  So for the next 48 hours, I played a fun game called Avoid the Catheter.  But every time I clammed up upon hearing someone on my roommate’s side of the screen (he was recovering from hip-replacement surgery, which made me feel rather like a wuss), I would have to unplug the damn IV machine from the wall and shuffle over to the bathroom.  This proved to be so tiring that by the time I was released on Sunday afternoon, I could let fly with 400 cc from the side of the bed with the best of ‘em.  I hope this comes in handy later on.

-- For all their hideousness, hospitals have moments of eerie calm.  In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I lay in bed wide awake but without moving a muscle for about half an hour, eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply.  Suddenly I felt a cool rushing sensation in my left arm, as if a wave had rolled over it, or more precisely through it.  Alarmed, I opened my eyes and looked over at my IV machine—and found that the mefloxin (antibiotic) drip had run its course and that I was now getting straight saline. Holy shit, I thought, I felt the switchover.  The rushing sensation no doubt had to do with the rate of the drip—the mefloxin was set to 100 ml/hr, the saline to 175—but the feeling of being “watered” was distinct. And I lay there for about another half hour, acutely aware now of my circulatory system and hearing the gentle fluttering of the IV as if it were some kind of paper helicopter hovering over my bed.  How could I go to sleep with all this excitement going on?  Actual saline coursing through my bloodstream and a gentle fluttering noise by my bedside?

As for the present:  I’ve been walking a little bit each day, but there will be no weightlifting until July and very possibly no hockey all summer.  So much for my dream of playing as an NHL scab next fall.  The staples, all nine of ‘em, come out this afternoon.  They tell me this is no big deal.

Thanks again to everyone who’s wished me well, and to all you fine New York City bloggers for sending me that cute card.  I think I’m going to extend my blogging hiatus a week, into mid-June.  Reading the news is vexing beyond measure, so I’ve consumed more novels and movies in the past week than I’ve managed all year.  Which reminds me: yet another thanks to Janet, this time for buying me the portable DVD player that made my hospital days so much more tolerable.  And thanks to the English Department colleague who visited me last Friday and brought me the hilarious travel guide to Molvania, even though it turns out not to be a good idea to laugh just after you’ve had abdominal surgery.

Posted by Michael on 05/27 at 09:30 AM
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Plotting a Campaign

Here’s how I think the Democrats should approach the 2006 and 2008 campaigns.  I don’t think I’ve got everything completely worked out here, but that’s the beauty of the comments section.  I’m confident that, together, we can work our way toward some useful—and usable—ideas.  Then we’ll mail then off to Howard Dean.

The Democrats need a unifying theme, a plot, some strong images, and a good mixture of negative and positive talking points.  They cannot, as every one keeps stressing, merely run a negative campaign.  True, their base will come out to vote against the Republicans.  But they need more than their base to win.

The unifying theme of the campaign should be “work” and “fairness.” I know that’s two themes, but the point is to articulate them together.  I’m not a PR guy, but the slogan should be some variant of “You Get What You Work For” or “Working for America, Working with Americans.” The basic message is that the Democrats will work to give every American access to a decent job and that they will work to protect the ability of working Americans to afford health care, retirement, college for their kids, and a decent life during their working years. 

The negative side of the campaign obviously comes from emphasizing how Republican policies threaten all of those basic amenities.  The “fairness” theme has to show how we are becoming two nations, the privileged and the scorned.  Start with the basic fact that Congress would never subject itself to the kind of inadequate health insurance that most Americans must accept—if they are lucky enough to have health insurance.  Move from there to comparison of pension plans for the wealthy compared to what the average worker has to look forward to.  Then show how the groups who can afford hiring full-time lobbyists and to make large-scale campaign contributions get special favors.  And, finally, explain how the Republicans want to dismantle the safety nets of Medicaid and Social Security.

As a party on the outs, the Democrats have a limited ability to set the agenda of a campaign.  That’s why I think they need a plot.  They should develop a timeline of one theme or issue per week.  Each week they should unfold a different critique of the Republican agenda or piece of their own alternative one.  Yes, they must respond to events as they occur, and to the Republicans’ campaign maneuvers.  But I think way too much emphasis has been put on rapid response teams.  Give the Republicans something to respond to.  Take the campaign as a pedagogical opportunity.  Under the rubric of fairiness, lay out the multiple ways the Republicans have skewed the playing field to favor the most fortunate, the most privileged.  Appeal to Americans’ sense of fair play.

The images of the campaign should be ordinary Americans.  There should be a person connected to each week’s story: the United pilot who is about to lose over 50% of his pension; the elderly American who is squeezed by increases in Medicaid co-payments and who has found the so-called prescription drug benefit unusable; the textile worker whose job was sent overseas and who doesn’t get the “severance package” provided for the executive who also lost a job in the move; the lobbyist who insures that the company that locates its corporate headquarters in the Bahamas continues to avoid paying American corporate income taxes; the plaintiff who was screwed by a right-wing judge’s decision in favor of a corporation in an environmental or working conditions suit.  This should be a campaign of stories—tales of people who are worse off because of this government, or unfairly better off because of its favors.

The positive parts of the agenda are, in many cases, straight-forward enough.  A minimum wage bill; various small steps (for starters) to address the problems of health care and outsourcing of jobs; funding for education instead of grand-standing rhetoric about it; repeal of the various loopholes that reward companies and individuals for economic actions that harm the community as a whole.  The Democrats have to dramatize Republican priorities—and blindnesses.  Over forty million Americans without health insurance and the Republicans don’t plan to address the issue at all in Congress this year or in the foreseeable future.  Instead, they want to spend their vaunted “political capital” downsizing Social Security, even though its deficit won’t appear until 2042. 

Along with promising legislative attention to the needs of average Americans, the Democrats should also stress successful government and citizen joint initiatives.  Gar Alperovitz had a great column on this topic recently over at Tom Paine.  The Democrats need to tell these stories as a way to begin rehabilitating Americans’ image of their government.  One of the biggest problems the Democrats face is the loss of faith in government.  Americans know that our health care “system” (I guess it qualifies as a system within the confines of chaos theory) is broken.  But they are also convinced that anything the government does to fix it would only make things worse.  They would rather muddle through with the devil they know.  The Democrats need to tell stories about successful government action—places where the government enabled people to do things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, or government worked hand-in-hand with local citizens to accomplish something. 

In sum, then, a vision of America as a place where people can work together to provide prosperity and security to everyone who joins the effort.  A unifying vision as contrasted to Republican divisiveness which separates the rich from the poor, ostracizes gays, and casts aspersions on the patriotism and morality of everyone who doesn’t see the world in exactly their way. 

Can a politics of unity and hope win an election when pitted against a politics of divisiveness and fear?  I don’t know.  But as everyone keeps saying, the Democrats have to stand for something—and the latest polls do suggest that many in this country are finding the Republicans increasingly distasteful, even scary. (So, yes, the Democrats do have a fear element in their campaign—fear of personal economic hardship.  The pension issue is huge—as this Slate essay by Daniel Gross makes clear—but has gotten surprisingly little play so far.  The Democrats need to connect corporate irresponsibility to Republican policies that hurt the economic competitiveness of any company that actually tries to do the right thing by its employees.) Maybe the moderate center that blocked the nuclear option in the Senate (at least temporarily) can hold over the next eighteen months—and point a path away from rightist extremism.  The opportunity is there for the Democrats to articulate clearly that there is a different way to do politics and a different set of priorities we can choose as a nation. 

You will have noticed, of course, that I have said nothing about foreign affairs and homeland security.  The “fairness” theme does work, to a very limited extent, in these realms.  I think the Democrats need to show how much of homeland security has been a pork barrel feeding frenzy in which the public treasury has been ripped off by businesses that fund Republican campaigns and golf junkets.  There are plenty of dramatic stories that can be told there.  The Democrats should also tell the story of how our soldiers overseas are under-equipped, underpaid, and treated unequally (the National Guard troops get shafted in relation to regular service personnel), while private contractors in Iraq and elsewhere are raking in Pentagon dollars.  The Republicans have shown no desire to address such abuses; they turn a blind eye to them because they are fully implicated in them.

But the theme of fairness only gets the Democrats so far in this arena.  On Iraq, I think the Democrats have no option except to take the Colin Powell approach.  The war should never have been started and it has been mismanaged from start to present, but we can’t just abandon ship now.  We broke it, so we have a responsibility to get it back into working order.  Can the Democrats claim to have a Nixonian “secret plan” to achieve that desired end?  Not plausibly.  The argument just has to be that the Democrats could hardly do worse.  A Democratic candidate should say, quietly but firmly: “The war was a mistake.  But there’s no point in trying to rewrite the past.  We are there now and have to do our best by the Iraqi people and by our soldiers in the field.  The current group has never shown the least ability to get the job done, so they should not be elected in the name of continuity because that only means continued failure.”

On homeland security, the Democrats should walk very softly.  That there have not been any domestic deaths since 9/11 should be praised as a great achievement and the Democrats should make it clear that they will support and enhance all the government work that has contributed to that achievement.  I am deeply troubled by the fact that the public appears, at best, indifferent to the civil liberties issues of the Patriot Act as well as slightly hostile to any serious prosecution of those responsible for abusing the prisoners we hold in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba.  The Democrats have nothing to gain (unfortunately) from saying much about these matters. 

Posted by John McGowan on 05/25 at 10:03 AM
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Paul Ricoeur

Good to see that pain doesn’t negate Michael’s sense of humor.  I want to pay tribute to another writer whom I admire today.

I do promise to return to the topic of how the Democrats should position themselves in the upcoming elections of 2006 and 2008.  But I’m postponing that discussion to write about French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who died on Friday at the age of 92.

I wrote, at the end of the Introduction to my first book, that “the spirit, more than the content, of Paul Ricoeur’s work, might be called [this book’s] guiding genius.” And I remained a Paul Ricoeur fan even when I disagreed with almost everything he had to say about narrative in the three volume work, Time and Narrative (1984-88), that the obituary in Le Monde highlights as his masterpiece.

I always learned a tremendous amount when I read a book by Ricoeur.  His method was always a painstakingly thorough examination of the previous luminaries who had addressed his current topic.  Hence The Rule of Metaphor (1977) is a one volume guide to the philosophy of language as well as an argument for the sentence as the site of linguistic action and metaphor as the agent of transformation. 

What particularly marks these exercises in the history of an idea is their inclusiveness.  It is not that Ricoeur had read everything; so, for that matter, had Derrida.  It was that Ricoeur, most fully of any 20th century philosopher, exuded the Hegelian conviction that every manifestation of the human spirit contained an element of the truth.  His readings of others’ work was always generous, always emphasized what he could learn from them.  But that generosity did not, in fact, rest on Hegelian foundations.  Ricoeur was not a dialectical thinker, even if a dialogical one, and he did not believe in a unifying Spirit even though he believed in a Christian God.  Ricoeur, I think, is best understood as a modern-day Aristotle, which is not surprising given his pre-World War II education in France.  But, perhaps because he was born a Protestant, Ricoeur imbibed his Aristotle without taking in very much Aquinas.  The result was a philosopher with an abiding fascination with the human and natural world.  Nothing was foreign to Ricoeur; he possessed that wide-eyed wonder that Socrates thought was the starting place for philosophy. His philosophical task, like Aristotle’s, was to organize human knowledge so that it best reflected the richness of the found (natural) and created (social) world.  Any help he could receive from any quarter was gratefully accepted.

Almost alone in the fervid atmosphere that accompanied the poststructuralist assault on humanism, Ricoeur retained his good humor and his good sense.  Even in his famous repudiation of the “hermeneutics of suspicion” (in the opening chapter of Freud and Philosophy [1975]), Ricoeur associated that aggressive hermeneutic with three figures—Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud—whom it would be absurd to attempt excluding from the intellectual heritage of every practicing humanist.  He acknowledged a varied and conflicted tradition that generated a varied and conflicted contemporary conversation—and his intention was always to bring everyone into the room and to listen to every voice in the conversation.  He never impugned the motives of his adversaries or imputed evil designs to them or questioned their right to say their piece.  All disagreements were assumed to be honest disagreements.  And I don’t know what would have counted as rendering those disagreements dishonest since Ricoeur, to the last, took each and every printed word that he read and susequently discussed utterly seriously.

Nothing disturbs me more in current intellectual work than contemptuous and peremptory dismissal, which produces a tunnel vision by justifying not paying attention to whole swathes of the intellectual landscape.  “That’s not my field” is bad enough, but “those people have nothing of worth or interest to say” is much worse.  Ricoeur showed us, again and again, another way of doing our work.  His work embodies the conviction that understanding the world is a communal enterprise.

Posted by John McGowan on 05/23 at 03:02 PM
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Mister Answer Man:  Special Surgery Edition

Dear Mister Answer Man:  In the most recent post to this blog, guest blogger John McGowan wrote that your wife, Ms. Answer Woman, described your emergency appendectomy as “hairy.” What, exactly, is a hairy appendectomy? —R. Hagrid, Hogsmeade

Mister Answer Man replies: Thank you for asking!  In its never-ending battle against postmodern jargon and all forms of fashionable nonsense, this lucid blog encourages all its readers to question unfamiliar theoretical and medical terms that serve primarily to obfuscate a clear understanding of things as in themselves they really are.  But in this case, a “hairy” appendectomy is actually a fairly transparent description of an appendectomy in which the inflamed appendix ruptures as the surgeon is removing it from the body.  Because the appendix is filled with millions of fine cilia that, under ordinary circumstances, aid in the digestion of foods such as quinoa and burgoo, its rupture results in an operation that is quite accurately characterized as “hairy.” Fortunately, due to the development of hand-held vacuuming devices such as the Dust Buster® and the Dirt Devil®, cleanup of “hairy” appendectomies is now a much simpler, safer affair than it was in the days when surgeons had to pluck all the stray cilia out of the peritoneum with a pair of tweezers.

---

And now for a serious word or two.  Thank you all so much for writing in with good wishes and get-well-soons.  It was a most cheering welcome after a scary and weird four days.  I’m now home and mending, though I still have a cute li’l Jackson-Pratt drain sticking out of my stomach (it comes out Tuesday).  I’ll be back when I have more energy and self-possession, but in the meantime, please give a big shout out to the remarkable Janet Lyon, Ph.D., former R.N., and world-class caregiver, and to Nick, for stepping up when some stepping-up was much needed.  And, as always, hugs to Jamie, who wisely advised me to come home right away.

Posted by Michael on 05/22 at 08:24 PM
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Emergency Appendectomy

To all of this blog’s faithful readers:

Michael had an emergency appendectomy yesterday that his wife, Janet, has described to me as “hairy.” So he’s currently in the hospital, prognosis good, but not expecting to be back up on his feet for a while.

I will be out of computer range for the next 2 plus days, but will get back on Sunday night to give you an update on Michael’s condition and continue our communal efforts to get the Democrats’ act together. 

Posted by John McGowan on 05/20 at 08:17 AM
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