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Kingston, NY, Friday, September 12, 2008

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Light and Shadow
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

IT'S BEEN a difficult couple of weeks in the Pea Patch. Living on the edge of the herd has its pros and cons and lately the cons have trumped the beauty, the calm and the pleasures of minimalism. Times are difficult; no one doubts that we are in recession now, although the Bushies have done their best to convince us otherwise and John McCain's principal economic adviser tells us it's all in our heads, calls us "whiners."

When jobs start to drop away while food, gas and utilities soar, it's the edge that begins to erode first; the problem is the edge is usually hanging on by a shoestring to start with. Things started to slump in this area about two years ago. It's gotten pretty serious around here now, and belts can't tighten when they've already been pulled taut and are hitting backbone. I don't see a lot of smiles in the Pea Patch these days.

Nobody pays much attention to rural America, but poverty creeps. Trouble has come to cities now, with an 80% increase in home repossession this year; nationally, 100,000 homes were surrendered in August. Here in the Patch, we just live around the abandoned residences. Since we don't have cookie-cutter neighborhoods, property values remain pretty constant -- low. One would think that 8 years of failed leadership and national plundering would turn the average citizen's mind to consider Washington, and Republicans, at the root of the decline. Ahhhh, yes; one would think.

I almost titled this piece Buddy, Can You Spare Some Change? A little play on words. Because everybody wants change, but nobody seems to know what it is. Because of that, it's been a troubling couple of weeks for the progressive party, as well. The Democrats are staring down a genuine Paris-Hilton-like phenomenon called Sarah.

In these days of Photoshop and other creative software, it's unlikely there's ever been a politician's face plunked down on so many semi-nude bodies; of course, it's possible that one or two of them are the real deal. I'd bet money she has a bikini, maybe even one with red, white and blue components, and I'd also bet that she isn't camera shy. Sarah's hot, or so say males across the country; women too, although they're more likely to say she's pretty, feisty or "speaks her mind."

The implication, of course, is that she's friendly and approachable, just "one of us." So let me say this: Women of America -- if you consider Sarah Palin just like you, get thee to a therapist!

For all the talk of Hillary Clinton's glass ceiling, Sarah Palin is anti-feminist. She is not your friend; she's Phyllis Schlafly's friend. If elected, she will do nothing to make your life easier and will work hard make it much more difficult. She's the mythical pioneer woman, rifle in one hand and Bible in the other: baby at the breast, and not only shooting dinner but cooking it herself.

She is the poster child for being on your own and loving it with no day care, no childhood health care or early education, no job security or public transportation. You may have come a long way, baby: but if Sarah can do it without any help from "big government," then working mother, so can you! Grab a bootstrap.

Mrs. Palin's spunkiness is just what McCain needed to keep the nation awake and his base ecstatic. Those who don't know her are eager to find out all the details of her "normal family" and "small town life" and they only have a few weeks to do it before installing her as the most reactionary VP in recent memory.

Evidently, the more you know Sarah, the more you like her but probably don't share her values. Even her most personal friends, who say they love her to bits, aren't sure they're going to vote for her. Her mother-in-law, whom Sarah refused to support in her bid for mayor, says she doesn't know what her daughter-in-law brings to the ticket.

And it appears that as interesting as the Governor is, there are many Alaskan's whom she both frightens and worries.

Sarah's views are so radical that she can safely be called a base Republican, a member of the Religious Right and -- yes, I'll say it -- a very attractive and highly appealing wing nut. And although everyone is yelping about how this is really a fight between Obama and McCain, John is lowering his narrative and adjusting his positions to give the base the red meat that they want: change, Sarah-style. Whatever high road Mac planned at the outset, he's trudging the low road with his pistol packin' Mama now.
Let me give you just a few points to illustrate:


It's been the default position of just about every candidate since Adams to exaggerate one's position, and the flaws in your opponent's. That's politics. But outright lying is avoided, due to the possibility of backfire. Sarah Palin has lied repeatedly, is still lying, when she says she opposed pork and earmarks by telling Congress, "thanks, but no thanks" to the Bridge to Nowhere; this was a $233,000,000 earmark project that caught the nation's attention.

Even the mainstream media, in vetting this issue, calls her continuing commentary 180 degrees from the truth. Before she was against it, Palin eventually nixed the bridge but kept the money and built a "road to nowhere," anticipating the bridges eventual funding. McCain looks on, beaming, as she continues to lie; it isn't the earmarks that are so troubling here, it's the outright lying.

McCain has lied about Obama's tax plan; blatantly. Even FOX News has gone after him for that. He's working out of Rove's playbook: if you say it enough times, it will become true in the public's mind. The middle-class will be infinitely better off if Obama cuts from the top, closes tax loops for big corporations and provides help to the middle; the Republicans are calling that the Robin Hood tactic. Hey! Everybody loved Robin Hood; and let's not forget he was opposed by vicious, corrupt King John. Ouch!

Change Agent

The McCain/Palin ticket is attempting to co-opt Obama's message of change. They will, they assert, "take on Washington," and clean it up. In essence, they are picking a fight with themselves. John McCain IS Washington; he's spent 21 years as a Senator.

While he's occasionally moved across the aisle to work with other than his own party, his voting record is clearly with his own. He's supported Bush 90% of the time with his vote, while criticizing and sniping at the handling of the war, except during those times when he was kissing up, praising and hand-holding. Today, Obama called this supposed change "lipstick on a pig," riling up those who loved Palin's Pit bull reference.

If you examine Mrs. Palin's record of governance, you will find that she has the same inclination. She has certainly broken precedent when she had a personal grudge or a political whim, but she has remained conservative to the bone. Both of these people are mavericks in that they bypass their party affiliation to get what they want, but that does not make them agents of change. That makes them undependable as team players, and idiosyncratic as leaders of what is not a new Republican party, but an even more dangerous version of the old one.


How will McCain/Palin "clean up Washington" when they've both built their careers with the help of lobbyists (some of them seemingly more than just friendly,) corporate kick-backs and favoritism?  The continuing number of lobbyists in McCain's campaign structure? Do you know about McCain's hand in the Keating Five scandal , the bankruptcy of a bank that cost the taxpayers $3.4 billion? Did you know that Mac's son was, until just a few weeks ago, director of the 11th bank that has failed this year? He resigned without reason; now we know why.


John McCain's hero status has morphed into an argument for his comprehensive military experience; if you listen to what John says, over and over and over, he got a good deal of that experience in a 4 x 6 room in Hanoi. Doesn't seem very well-rounded to me. John's daughter recently made a gaffe on the Today Show that captures the egotistic exceptionalism of the McCain mythology. She said, "No one knows what war is like, other than my family. Period." She has since corrected her content, but the context is plain enough. To me, the McCain math is obvious: McCain = War. War = Draft. Draft = Death. Ergo, McCain = Death. Add Sarah Palin, and you've got War Death = God's Will.
The pundits have it that Sarah is just some distraction, a blip on the radar that will go away soon; they're wrong about this, in my opinion, because they aren't factoring in the metaphysical quotient. Palin is the Republican anti-heroine, under the protective wing of the Daddy figure and war hero. She is not the anti-Biden -- she's the anti-Obama.

Deepak Chopra wrote a recent article about the mirroring of our national psyche in this election period. He has this to say about the “Palin Effect”:
She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them.

He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.)

I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.
The shadow side of humankind is that stumbling block that lurks in the dark recesses of our mind; the self-sabotage that undermines our ability to be hopeful, that keeps us chained by fears and lies to repeating unproductive patterns. We're looking into the shadows now and some of us are alarmed; others of us are mesmerized, attracted, seduced.
It's an amazing thing how many of us are comfortable in slavery, cozy in our tight little boxes of broken dreams and limited expectations. Absurd how many of us think the stranger is going to get us, when it's actually those we think we know and want to trust that will bust our bones to get their next luxury condo.

On election day, the Uranus/Saturn opposition will pit change against experience; now both parties have a bit of both, although one is a bugaboo and one has the potential to move ahead instead of backwards. The question should still be: are you better off now than you were 8 years ago? Or 12? Or even 18? Well, are you?
Michael Reagan, Saint Ronnie's adopted son, the kid that sought his Dad's approval all his life and now seeks same from the Daddy Party, says that his Dad is back, Sara is Ronnie in a dress. How many times can we suck ourselves into the void that is Morning In America rhetoric when that morning was actually once-upon-a-time in the 19th century? Mom, Dad, apple pie? Bootstraps and rifle barrels? Sons in uniforms and daughters in curls? Well, we're still killing wolves in Palin's America, only now we're strafing them from the air.
Ok -- little reminder. This is the 21st century. We've now lost our edge as a superpower, and must join the world in diplomacy and cooperation in order to assure our safety and prosperity. There are technological breakthroughs awaiting our attention, like the human genome, stem cell research, environmental discoveries that might just succeed in saving our planet. Stakes are higher than they've ever been, from international disturbance across a world now capable of nuclear mayhem to scientific breakthroughs that may, or may not, be in our best interests (like the Large Hadron Collider.)
Over these last months, we've talked about baggage: how to recognize, deal with and release it. We should be pros at recognizing it when we see it, then. The Republicans are offering us their baggage of class war, militarism and corporate irresponsibility -- repackaged, redesigned and wearing lipstick. And remember the piece I wrote a few weeks back that talked about "when you see crazy coming, cross the street?" Cross it now, won't you? The crazies are out in full force. Up is STILL down and black is STILL white and if you liked George, you'll LOVE John.

We need the wisdom of the universe on our side now, but the din of the unaware is what we're hearing. In one of the rare moments off her leash, Mrs. Palin said this week that American's just couldn't afford the drain of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac any longer; these are private financial entities, not government. She didn't know that; which is why they're keeping her off screen, on task and cramming facts in her head to prepare her to at least, debate; and at worst, govern.
Based on age, actuary tables give McCain an 80% chance of getting though his first year without dying; it goes down after that. He's had multiple bouts with cancer and we have not had adequate vetting of his health records; I wonder if they factored that in to the estimate.
What? Are we playing Russian Roulette here?

If we want to visit the Dark Side, the shadow self, there are lots of movies out there that can chill and thrill us; maybe even inform us. My favorite is probably the final Star Wars installment, that gave us Anakin Skywalker, an anti-hero so angry over the death of his wife that he determined to control the world and keep it safe, morphing his persona into Darth Vader: the Republican Dark Side is like that. Keep the nation safe by standing on its neck.

Yes, I think we'd best look at this shadow self very carefully in the next few weeks. The little reality show we're watching has that cult-of-personality immaturity that pushes us all down the primrose path, and time's short. Studying the shadows might just save us from four more miserable, frightening years fraught with daily reminders of how we shot ourselves in the foot ... with Sara Palins gun.

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