Looking for me, Jody Bilyeu? I have a new blog where I hope to share some thoughts about editing and writing. Come see me, won't you?
adj 2. Open to arguments, ideas, or change; approachable.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Monday, November 03, 2008
I should be honest and say I still like and have some respect for John McCain, despite all the crap he's done to try to get elected, and I think he would make a decent-to-good president. But he would not be as good a president as Barack Obama, not by many orders of magnitude. And if McCain is elected and doesn't survive his term, may the dear sweet Lord please, please help us all.
Obama will be a better president than McCain would, not just because his policies would be better for the country, and not just because his approach to politics would be better, but because he's on the right side of the most important issue, which surrounds the most important crisis, that this country now faces. One reason, which kicked in pretty early in the campaign, why I couldn't seriously consider McCain as a candidate for president, and why I hope you stop considering him too, if you haven't already, is that he went against his better lights, against his former practice, and probably against his personality and considerable sense of honor, and sold out on this issue during the campaign. It's an issue you won't find on the platforms or in the press, but it's still the most important.
The issue is how narrowly we envision both the battle we're in as Americans, and who gets to be on our side in that battle. Another way of putting it is this: Who gets to be an American?
Americans make a mistake if they draw the boundaries of their philosophical country in any other way than these:
First, Americans believe in the rule of law, that it both prohibits and protects everyone equally, from the homeless dude to the CEO, from the basest sinner to the basest preacher, from the most disenfranchised hippie to the most engaged politician, from the CIA agent to the detainee.
Second, Americans believe in equality of opportunity, and the freedom to pursue the opportunities one chooses, within the rule of law, obviously, and believe that this opportunity, the American dream, must be continually extended in order for it to survive.
Therefore the only truly American battle is against anyone who holds himself, or his tribe, however he envisions it, above the rule of law, or who seeks to inhibit someone else's opportunities and freedoms to advance his own. A cop, or politician, or CEO, or radical student, or activist, who thinks it's okay when he or his fellows trample on the law, while condemning people from other tribes for doing so, is less than American, by that definition. Terrorists--well, they are the anti-Americans, in that larger sense, even if they're pro-American. Bin Laden to McVeigh. Follow me?
There are un-American laws, by the way, by this definition, which we Americans have, by creed and tradition, often been duty-bound to try to change, resist, or disobey. And there's fifty miles of elbow room for disagreeing about which laws and policies can make America more American.
But, by way of example, some things that by definition don't make you un-American, that don't merit turning you from an "us" into a "them," when we're thinking about what it means to be an American:
How rich or poor you are.
Who your parents were.
What color you are.
Whether you think there's a reason to go to war or not.
Whether you think guns are ginchy-cool or the worst thing ever.
Whether you're as straight as Rock Hudson or as gay as Rip Taylor. Yes, I know. It's a joke.
What your religion is.
Who your momma was. Yes, I'm talking about your momma. I happen to like her. Say hello for me.
How liberal or conservative you are, whatever the hell that means anymore.
Whether you are artsy-fartsy or nascar.
Whether you're a Republican or Democrat (see below).
Where you were born.
Whether you speak English well, or at all.
I'll also point out that you can be fully American by philosophy and allegiance and live in some whole other country. I have no doubt that there are people around the world not born within the bubble of our abundance and freedom who understand it and appreciate it better than people who have lived their whole lives here.
Do you have to be a Democrat to embrace this vision of what it means to be an American? Of course not. Does being or supporting a Republican mean you don't embrace this vision? I know some great Americans who are Republicans. I call them Danforth Republicans. They are Republicans because they're fiscal conservatives, or because they like some policy or other that Republicans usually like, or used to like in the 70s.
However. It happens to be some influential people within or at the fringes of the Republican party, and a certain kind of conservative--the "core," or the "base," some people call them--who are the ones right now launching the most serious and insidious attack on American ideals and beliefs, who are drawing the reddest lines between "us" and "them" where no lines, apart from those of accident or personal preference, should be drawn--people who take their ideals, issues, and style of discourse from talk radio instead of from the founding fathers, or somewhere higher. If you, as a Republican, want my support, you'll have to do a heck of a lot better job telling those very angry, extremely certain people to buzz off. You sure as shootin' shouldn't choose someone to be the vice president of this country in order to appease that set. I hope it will soon be true that candidates will have to do a better job of telling the few, the angry, the certain, to fly a kite, not just to get my vote, or yours, but in order to win a national election. I hope the people who have a narrow vision of us, of America, become ridiculous and passe, as they deserve. I thought maybe McCain was the kind of Republican who could make that happen, but instead, he pandered. I hope, pray, and trust, for the sake of the future of my country, that it was a losing bet.
After the September 11 attacks, before our soon-to-be-former president had started drawing the battle-lines his way, there were billions of people around the world who extended their compassion toward us, and were ready, if even in a small, probably temporary way, to be Americans. A lot of people were jarred by the disaster out of that silly, easy way much of the world had at that time of blaming and judging America and Americans, and were reminded again by those terrorist cowards what a bright hope this country represents, and how beautiful our ideals are.
The incompetence and lack of moral vision with which George Bush surrendered his American-ness and trampled this opportunity is the worst thing he did as president. We had to go to war, sure. But if we had had a truly American president, one who respected the rule of law and the equality it protects, there was a very real possibility that we could have gone to war as part of a coalition that included European nations, Arab nations, and Israel, a coalition that included former enemies and fence-sitters, a coalition the very existence of which could have changed the world--a coalition that could have made the world more American, in the best sense.
Instead, Bush chose to cave to his dark side and lead many of our countrymen back to a point in our cultural history right around Beowulf, stomping off with his chest out, pretending to be humble, to avenge himself on the King who disrespected his father and his tribe.
That's a comfortable place to sit, strangely enough, with your tribe drawn out for you by the superfluities of culture like color, dress, and religion, and all clinging together, uttering throaty cries.
Appealing to such fears and such ties in an election for the presidency of this country is wrong, and that's why McCain deserves to lose, even if he would make a decent-to-good president.
But Barack Obama wouldn't just be decent-to-good, he would be one of the best presidents this country has ever had. Bold words, I know, but I'm feeling it and seeing it so I'm saying it. Right now I'm convinced you are looking at the sort of intersection of moment and man you get maybe once a century. It's an opportunity we can't afford to waste on fear, or party allegiance, or any other of our many smallnesses.
Barack Obama gets it, and he has articulated the best, brightest, most real and most durable vision of who gets to be an American, and perhaps more importantly, what things don't matter in that calculation, better than any politician has for a few generations. That vision alone lays the ground for better decisions and management. He has the temperament, knowledge, and experience to be President, but most importantly, he believes in America in a way few presidential hopefuls have. And when he says he'll fight for you, and for America, he's talking about the big battle--the real battle.
Vote for Barack Obama, friend, do. And as to my friends and yours who are accepting their vision of things from talk radio or from populist politicians, or from somewhere deep in the fight and flight centers of their limbic system, don't hate on 'em. Just root for them to become more fully American.
Posted by Jody Bilyeu at 3:06 PM
Saturday, March 22, 2008
I've been thinking about Them intermittently since William F. Buckley died. It all started with Bill Kristol's column in the New York Times about Buckely.
Here's how Kristol's column started:
In my high school yearbook (Collegiate School, class of 1970), there’s a photo of me wearing a political button. (Everyone did in those days. I wasn’t that much dorkier than everyone else.) The button said, “Don’t let THEM immanentize the Eschaton.”
There you see an example of the influence of Bill Buckley, who died last week at age 82. For it was Buckley who had promulgated this slogan, as an amusing distillation of the thinking of the very difficult historian of political philosophy Eric Voegelin. I’d of course not read Voegelin then (there’s a lot of him I still haven’t read, to tell the truth). But the basic thought was: Don’t let ideologues try to create heaven on earth, because they’ll deprive us of freedom and make things a lot worse.
I are them. (I suppose it's grammatically correct to say, "I am them," but I prefer the incongruence of are.)
But the point becomes this really makes me think somewhat about my own motivations and the motivations of those people I find insufferable. Or perhaps I should refer to the people that everyone finds insufferable. THEM.
Perhaps I am not Them. But I may have been them from time to time and find myself in danger constantly of becoming them.
I feel at risk of blathering on. A separate story.
I was talking to a friend about the Peace Corps recently. She said the people who had the toughest time of things were the people who felt like they had to make the biggest difference. The people who felt everything depended on them.
I fear I am rambling on. But I want to discuss this. We can't immanentize the eschaton. But that doesn't mean we can't do good. But how to do good?
Posted by bl at 6:52 AM
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Ralph Nader is irrelevant.
Michael R. Bloomberg is not.
Thus, Democrats - and supporters of both Obama and McCain should be thankful - that Bloomberg is not running for president.
That's because, in my eyes, all three men at a core would have offered the same vision - independent political thinking that crosses boundaries.
Over the past year, I have been working to raise issues that are important to New Yorkers and all Americans — and to speak plainly about common sense solutions. Some of these solutions have traditionally been seen as Republican, while others have been seen as Democratic. As a businessman, I never believed that either party had all the answers and, as mayor, I have seen just how true that is.
In every city I have visited — from Baltimore to New Orleans to Seattle — the message of an independent approach has resonated strongly, and so has the need for a new urban agenda. More than 65 percent of Americans now live in urban areas — our nation’s economic engines. But you would never know that listening to the presidential candidates. At a time when our national economy is sputtering, to say the least, what are we doing to fuel job growth in our cities, and to revive cities that have never fully recovered from the manufacturing losses of recent decades?
More of the same won’t do, on the economy or any other issue. We need innovative ideas, bold action and courageous leadership. That’s not just empty rhetoric, and the idea that we have the ability to solve our toughest problems isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream.
Hmm. What we need is not some pie-in-the-sky dream. Sounds like he's leaning towards Obama. Bloomberg says he will endorse in the race and I look forward to seeing who he chooses.
Posted by bl at 4:24 PM
Eric Zorn is my favorite Chicago Tribune columnist. It might just be the way that the Tribune organizes it's daily e-mail with headlines.
But I had to chuckle today when reading his column about people using Barack Obama's middle name and whether it's over the line. He went all the way back to Alan Keyes' doomed-from-the-start Senate campaign against Obama.
Keyes, the banty Republican imported from Maryland to heap invective on Obama, seemed to have few limits. He called his opponent a "hard-line Marxist" and a supporter of infanticide. He said Obama was "absolutely determined to make the world safe for criminals" and openly doubted Obama's Christian faith. But he never publicly snarled the words "Barack Hussein Obama."
"We warned him away from using the middle name," replied Bill Pascoe, Keyes' former campaign manager, when I checked with him to see if my colleagues and I had missed something when coming up empty after plumbing our memories and the news archives.
Pascoe told me he and former top Keyes consultant Dan Proft had steered him away with the admonishment that such a gambit would be "rude, uncivil, needlessly provocative and incendiary."
The most salient point though is that it's irrelevant. A person's name is always irrelevant to their policies, personality and beliefs.
Also, today in the Chicago Tribune, columnist John Kass uses one of my favorite phrases: "Lewis is right."
Does context even matter? It was a column about crowds applauding when Obama blew his nose and Lewis, some Clinton campaign functionary complaining about the debate.
Just some thoughts this morning, while it's still morning.
Posted by bl at 10:45 AM
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Somebody told me a rumor the other day. It had to do with me. Somebody said I'm running, as a Republican, against state rep. Charlie Norr.
That was funny.
Then I realized, I am a Republican.
Eight years ago in Kansas I registered as a Republican because I wanted to vote for John McCain.
I don't think the primary even happened because by the time it was Kansas' turn to vote, everything was over. Well, this year I'm in Missouri, but I'm not voting in the Republican primary.
I'm voting for Barack Obama.
In some ways, Obama's approach to politics reminds me of McCain. Maybe this is silly, but that's just the way I see it.
Can you see where this is going?
If I were forced to pick a political party I identify with, Democrat without a doubt.
However, if I were forced to pick between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, I couldn't do it right now. I'd have to do a lot more research. And if I just went with my gut, I'd vote for McCain.
I expect Hillary to win the Democratic nomination, even though I don't want that to happen. I'm also hopeful McCain would win on the Republican side because, in my mind, he's the best Republican running.
I'd like to vote for a Democrat for president, but I'm not sure Hillary is the one.
Posted by bl at 8:08 AM
Friday, January 25, 2008
So I was looking over classified ads just now when one caught my eye: High-profile talent agency needs five-star Receptionist with the wow factor!
Wow factor? Looks like another way of saying ugly women need not apply. Is that sexist? Or is it just how things are done in their countries?
Here's the rest of the ad ---
Receptionist is needed to be the face of the company at this high-profile talent agency. The agency represents actors and actresses, and so you need to deal with the odd celeb coming in and out!
They need someone exceptionally capable as it gets very busy, and you will also be covering agents' assistants from time to time so you need the flexibility to step into other people's shoes. This will start off as holiday cover and ad hoc support but could really grow! The Reception side will cover all the front of house, meeting and greeting, administration, and generally being a fantastic multi-tasker!
If you can offer commitment there is the chance to move up further down the line, and its a great buzzy place to work with lovely offices! You will need to be articulate, have perfect spoken English and a stylish manner wouldn't go amiss!
Salary is starting at £17K apply now for this great opportunity.
Posted by bl at 5:49 PM
Friday, January 18, 2008
I really don't think Barack Obama wants to be the first black president. I don't think that's a priority for him.
The mountain he's trying to climb isn't the one of race. It's the one of partisan bickering and division and yesterday's slash and burn politics.
To talk about his candidacy in terms of race may resonate for a small segment of the population, but that's not what he's really about.
He's about a new way of doing things. Neither black nor white, but both and better.
These are some things I've been thinking about. A headline on a Charles Krauthammer column, Black Dreams, White Liberals prompted me to write this. I don't even know what Krauthammer is writing about yet.
But we'll see.
To be continued (perhaps)...
Updated --- I read the first few paragraphs of Krauthammer's column and had no desire to continue on to the end.
Posted by bl at 7:36 AM