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January 21, 2017

Childhood Flashbacks

As I have said many times on this blog, I am a child of the 60s. I was born in the opening months of 1961, and I have been blessed and cursed with a long memory. My earliest memories are of early 1963. I’ve been blessed and cursed with intelligence, so I was processing things faster than some of my peers. And right now, I’m having flashbacks to that era.

Unlike many people, I’m not a fan of nostalgia. The good old days weren’t all that good. My earliest childhood memories of the world are Vietnam, civil rights marches and abuses, National Guards shooting college students and the Cold War. Sure, I had fun playing with my friends, but my bestie and I discussed what we’d do when we learned the bomb was coming. We really thought there was a good chance we’d die. We were going to run to Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic Church and be near the statue of Mary if we couldn’t get into the church. These were serious conversations held by 8 year old girls.

We weren’t alone in those fears. Soviet children grew with fear, too. I know that my Swedish husband had no fond Cold War memories. Vietnamese children lived out many of our fears, of course. Bestie and I were relatively safe in our little New York City suburb.

Things changed. Vietnam ended, civil rights were almost fully codified into law, and the Wall came down. My fears died down, and I moved on to actively trying to change the world and keep the dream of a better world alive. So did my bestie, who after all these years is still my bestie and still fights for human rights and justice and a better America every day. We matured into True Believers and our 60s values of equality and justice for all races, creeds, colors and, a later addition, orientations have just grown stronger. We do not walk alone in this country, but there are far fewer of us than I’d like.

But everything old is new again. Today, the war has moved west to the Middle East, civil rights marches are still needed and happening, government authorities are still killing young people, and I actually saw the phrase Cold War 2 in print this week, written by a professional writer. Today talking to my adult son, I felt myself choking up when relating my flashbacks, because that’s what’s happening. The violence and hatred of that era is alive again. Much of what we fought for, and even in the 60s I fought, is gone.

Those childhood impressions run deep, and my childhood fears are reignited. But I am no child, and I know I must not only fight the fear but help the young ones, as well.

Today ushers in a new era, one that is terrifying me more than Reagan’s inauguration and later GW Bush’s. These are two presidents whose policies I believe harmed America. Lest you think me fully partisan, I also think President Obama’s financial policies harmed America. I shall miss him, but I wrote a fair share of letters of complaint to the White House during his tenure. But I fully believe all three men had a clear set of principles. Pragmatism, as well, and a too-large debt to the wealthy of this country, but principles. I admired them on some levels. OK, admire is strong, especially for GW Bush. Pity has always been the dominant emotion there. But while I feared what might happen, I never thought it a massive turning point in the history of my country. Obama’s election was historic and a great step in our country’s maturity, but I didn’t think it would bring a sea change.

But we have turned a corner and found ourselves back in the Gilded Age.  Almost. America in the Gilded Age had high wages, much higher than Europe, and that brought in waves of immigrants. Well, we do have higher wages than developing countries, which is bringing many immigrants, but wages for our middle class have dropped when adjusted for inflation. I know as a professor overseas, I made a comfortable wage. I’d never be rich, but I earned a wage that allowed me to work one job and use my summers for scholarship and learning new technology and methods of teaching. In the US, I’ve never held a college teaching job that has made that possible, and I’ve even had to turn down three positions because the salaries they were offering were literally not enough to live on in the urban areas the schools were in.

I’ve said it before. If we adjust for inflation, in America, I have yet to make an annual salary equal to what my father, the high school dropout, earned in the decade before he died in 1972. He was a heavy machine operator in NYC, a union man who helped build the original World Trade Center, the Verrazano Bridge, Madison Square Garden and countless New York skyrises. Yes, his job took skill. Yes, his job was dangerous—he operated the cranes up on the scaffolding—but my job takes skill, as well. And education. And in today’s world, it can be dangerous. I have been threatened with a beating by a screaming student (while pregnant), stalked for a while by another angry student, and threatened with murder by a very angry student. As an urban teacher, I’ve taught in schools where shootings have happened on the sidewalks outside our buildings and knife attacks have happened in the school.

And I’m not alone. One of my high school friends is a crackerjack secretary. Her grammar and spelling are above the level of the freshman I teach in college. She’s organized, professional and cool under pressure. Earlier generations of executive secretaries made good wages. She doesn’t. Many of my friends are teachers. Teachers are the lowest paid professionals in the country, and their pay has been stagnant for almost a decade. We have an education crisis because teacher burnout is so high and many people just can’t afford to stay in the profession. Even many of my lawyer and doctor friends aren’t making what they thought they’d make when they went into the professions.

These are the angry people who just want a square deal. But instead of Roosevelt (and I mean Teddy, the Republican, not his cousin, the Democrat), we now have as president Donald Trump.

I can’t tell the future. I don’t like the signs I see, but as the eternally optimistic idealist, I have hope. I’m trying not to worry because worry only makes us suffer twice. But I am concerned about my “kids.” In fact, I’m concerned about all kids. I don’t want any child anywhere growing up in fear. I’m worried about my country.

Today was a surreal day. I’ve avoided social media, only popping on for a few minutes before I left in disgust. Too much hate and nastiness from both sides. In remembrance of my 60s values, I wore my best tie dye.  I also wore my “courage” and “wisdom” bracelets, not because I think they give me anything, but as reminders that what we need are wisdom and courage so that this country that I love so much emerges from this dark period stronger and wiser than we’ve been since the beginning of this century.

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June 8, 2008

Hillary and the Women’s Vote? What’s with that?

Filed under: Democratic primaries,New Broads,politics — by maggiec @ 8:12 pm

As most of the Western world now knows, Hillary Clinton has dropped out of the Democratic primary race.  And now, many pundits are asking, “who will get the ‘women’s vote’ now?”  I think someone forgot to pass me that memo–the one that said I had to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman and I’m a woman.  I didn’t realize that’s the way it works.  Silly me.  I thought I was supposed to vote based on issues and beliefs.  Oh, and in case you didn’t get the memo, either, black people are supposed to vote for Barack Obama because he’s black.

Does that mean that white men all have to vote for John McCain?  That can’t be right!  That would have meant that for the past 232 years of American democracy, only white men could have voted.

Naaaa, that only lasted till 1869 when black men got the vote.  White and black women got the vote in 1920.  So blacks and women have been voting on the issues for the past 88 years.  While it’s nice to have someone “like us” to vote for, I don’t think that can be the only criterion.

Seriously, though, I know that this was an historic primary in the US.  It’s the first time a woman was a viable candidate, and it marks the first time a black man will be a viable candidate–the candidate of one of the two major parties.  I think that’s wonderful, of course.  It’s added proof for my belief that America is finally, finally, after almost 400 years of history, transcending race and gender as issues.  It’s a great “first” for the history books, but do race and gender really matter anymore?  They shouldn’t.

There’s the rub, of course.  They shouldn’t matter, but of course, they do.  I like to think that America has moved beyond race and gender, but one minute’s viewing of television, and I know my country has not.  All I have to do is live my life to see the reality.  But since when has the best of America been about reality?  It’s about the ideal–the “more perfect union.”

To be fair, I have yet to see a place where race, gender, or even class don’t matter,  but that’s not my point here.

My point is that I don’t want to be lumped in the “woman” group.  I’m a woman, but that’s not all I am.  In fact, if you asked me to describe myself in 8 nouns, woman wouldn’t be one of them.  It’s part of who I am, but not all, not by a long shot.

When I used to teach in NYC, when we’d be discussing the triumvirate of educational “hot buttons,” (race, gender, class), I used to ask my predominantly non-white students if they saw me as white or a woman or a teacher.  They almost always answered “teacher.”  But when I asked how they saw me on the first day, the answer was always “white,” with the implied “of course” in their voices.  I would argue that I didn’t see them as their color, and I didn’t, but we came to the conclusion that I didn’t have to.  I was in the power position no matter what their race or gender, so I could ignore it.  But put me in a room with strangers, and I can immediately tell you the man-woman ratio.  I’m not always in an adversarial relationship with men, but the potential danger is always there, and I have to be ready for it.  That’s reality.

I know I seem to be contradicting myself here, and on some levels I am, but not totally.  One-on-one, gender matters.  In terms of safety or power struggles, gender matters.  In administrative decisions?  In who is best to run a country?  I don’t think that gender matters.  Nor does race.

As a woman, I’ve not had the luxury of being able to vote for people just because they are women.  I’ve voted for plenty of women in the past, but I can honestly say that I’ve never voted for someone because she was a woman.  I’m much more likely to vote for someone based on party lines than gender or race lines.

And Obama has had my vote since Kucinich dropped out of the race.  Pundits might have predicted I’d vote for Hillary, but I didn’t.  Of the people who know me, one summed it up best when she said, “Of course, you’d be voting for the dyed-in-the-wool idealist.”  Obama got my vote on the second bounce based on the issues.  Of the people left standing, I think he’s the best for the job.  I still think he’s too young and too untested–he doesn’t have that much experience of politics on the national level–but maybe that’s a good thing at this point.

Today’s CNN headline says that some of Hillary Clinton’s 18 million voters are hesitant to back Obama.  According to a CNN poll, 17% of Clinton supporters now say they will back McCain.  I don’t get it.  Clinton and Obama’s stands were so close that I agonized over my decision.  The deciding issue for me was the war in Iraq.  Perhaps those 17% like McCain’s plan for the war, but I have to wonder if there’s not a more nefarious reason.

I started out wanting to complain about stereotyping and the media lumping people together, and here I am, starting to do the same thing.  Scary.

At the ending of my musing, I get back to Hope.  That word is a key one in Obama’s campaign, and I think that’s what he does represent.  Many of my students don’t vote.  They are vocal about not voting because
“what’s the point–it doesn’t change anything”.  And yes, that’s a quote from students.  Maybe the young people are starting to see that it does make a difference.  Don’t vote for someone because of their race or gender, but voting does make a difference.

January 17, 2008

So much for the little guy–shame on NBC

Filed under: American culture,Democratic primaries,media,New Broads,protest — by maggiec @ 5:44 pm

I’m really getting caught up in this primary, not so much for the contents of what people are saying, but for the freedom of speech and democracy issues it is bring up for me.  I was so pleased the other day when a judge ruled Kucinich had to be allowed in the primaries.  But, nope, NBC got an emergency injunction.

Here’s from IndependentPrimary.com:

Fifteen minutes before the NBC Las Vegas debate, the Nevada Supreme Court granted NBC’s “emergency” appeal and barred Dennis Kucinich from the televised debate.

The court held that the “first amendment rights” of a “corporate media outlet” trumped the right of the American people to an open debate process.

What this ruling effectively says is that private, unelected media corporations can decide who can and cannot appear in an officially sanctioned presidential debate. 

This ruling is an extremely dangerous precedent. 

Amen to that!  Things just keep going from bad to worse in this country.  Or at least I keep noticing things are getting worse and worse.  And what’s scarier for me is that most of America just doesn’t care.  That’s the point, isn’t it?  People get the democracy they deserve.  And if we aren’t active and informed members of a democracy, well, we get what’s served.

Well, slap my face and call me Cassandra.  That’s one of my favorite sayings.  For those of you not up on your mythology, Apollo fell in love with Cassandra so granted her prophecy (or more correctly foresight).  But when she didn’t return his love, he cursed her so that no one would believe her warnings.  And that’s me, Cassandra.  I get so frustrated because no one listens to me!

For years and years, I’ve been comparing the US to Rome, or more precisely, I’ve been comparing all of Western civilization to the Roman Empire.  I see this as the corrupted end of our once-great and still pretty good civilization.  But thanks to moral, intellectual, and even sometimes physically weakness and a far too great a love of the material, we are going to lose the civilization we love.  I don’t mean it will happen tomorrow.  It probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but then things move faster these days.  I swear I should have written a book when I started spouting.  Right now I’m reading Are We Rome?, quite enjoying it, but kicking myself.  Cullen Murphy is an engaging and erudite writer, and I recommend the book to you.

This seems like a diversion, but it’s not.  Are we going to allow our government to become more and more powerful and allow our rights to slowly and surely be taken away?    By barring some candidates, NBC is censoring the message voters are hearing.  The government doesn’t have to do it because the media does it for it.  How convenient.

January 15, 2008

A sensible judge!

Kudos to Judge Charles Thompson of Nevada who promised to cancel the presidential debate in Las Vegas if Dennis Kucinich isn’t allowed to participate.  This is great for Kucinich, but even better for Americans who are being spoon fed “news” by the media.

Censorship is wrong, and it’s fundamentally opposed to what America stands for.  Or what America used to stand for.

I have a lot more to write, but I just wanted to spread the good word that there are still people of sense in authority in the US.

Here’s a snippet from the Los Angeles Times:

A judge in Nevada has just ordered MSNBC to include Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Tuesday’s Democratic Party presidential debate in Las Vegas or he will cancel the forum.

Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson vowed to issue an injunction halting the nationally televised debate if MSNBC failed to comply. Kucinich had filed a lawsuit seeking to be included just this morning.

The judge ruled it was a matter of fairness and Nevada voters would benefit from hearing from more than just Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama. Kucinich had been invited to participate in the 6 p.m. Pacific debate Tuesday, but that invitation was rescinded last week … So set up a fourth podium.

January 12, 2008

Slashing freedom of choice

Filed under: American culture,Democratic primaries,media,New Broads,politics — by maggiec @ 5:58 pm

The more I listen to the television news, the more discouraged I become.  The “news shows” focus on Obama and Clinton, McCain and Romney.  (I think it’s McCain and Romney–you know I am a lefty!)  This means thousands of dollars of free advertising for two candidates.  This is muzzling the other candidates.  Where’s the freedom of speech in that?

Today in my FAIR newsletter (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), I saw a great article called “Humbled in New Hampshire?”  The title doesn’t refer to a candidate.  It refers to the pontifical press who declared Clinton’s campaign to be over.  The media pretty much called the election for Obama days before the election even happened.  Lo and behold, Clinton won.  Egg on faces.  We would hope.

I was just upset about the non-coverage of some of the candidates.  But the article in FAIR pointed out that the press does more than just cover select candidates; it spins the wins and losses of those it’s not focusing on, using loaded language to manipulate voters.

As FAIR points out, “Democratic contender John Edwards defied press predictions by finishing second in Iowa, ahead of supposed front-runner Hillary Clinton. But much of the media conversation after the votes were tallied focused on the disappointing Edwards showing. By contrast, Republican John McCain had a great night in Iowa, according to many in the press– despite the fact that he finished fourth, behind Fred Thompson. The obvious difference is not how well the candidates did but how well they are liked by the press corps.”

And the results of the press meddling is even more insidious.  This is more from FAIR:  “There’s a long trend of media hostility towards so-called “second-tier” candidates (Extra!, , 9/10/03). As a recent Wall Street Journal news story put it (1/10/08), “In both parties, second-tier candidates continue to press on and siphon off votes.” But Broder and Russert were not just saying that non-frontrunners have a duty to get out of the way–they were asserting that a loss in New Hampshire would mean that Romney would no longer be a front-runner. This illustrates an important point about mainstream election coverage: Not only do journalists and pundits devote far too much attention to covering the horse race aspect of campaigns, but when they cover the horse race they generally do a poor job of it.

“Primary elections and caucuses determine how a state party’s delegates are assigned; if a candidate wins enough delegates, they will almost certainly be their party’s nominee. So a reasonably helpful media would focus on this delegate count. But the mathematics of this process are obscured by the media’s obsession with “wins” and “losses” in highly visible contests.

“Consider Barack Obama’s apparently monumental victory in the Iowa caucuses. The distribution of delegates, though, was hardly so dramatic: Obama won 16, Clinton 15 and Edwards 14. In a race to secure a little over 2,000 delegates, the results are of little consequence. In New Hampshire, Clinton’s dramatic comeback netted her nine delegates–the same number awarded to Obama. In the total delegate count tallied on CNN‘s website–which counts a large number of party insiders awarded as ‘superdelegates’–Clinton has more than double the number of delegates as Obama, and Edwards is about 25 delegates behind Obama.”

Now when I took Journalism 101, the first thing they taught us was to always use neutral language.  We were to report the news, not color it.  To color the news is yellow journalism or, even worse, public relations.  There’s nothing wrong with PR, per se;  I’ve worked in it.  But PR is not news writing. 

I’m not naive (I say that a lot in this column, usually when I say something naive–no, not naive, idealistic).  I know that newspapers have never been neutral. They originated as party organs.   It’s impossible for some bias not to get into what we write.  But there were always two sides out there, more than one source of news so that people could theoretically find more than one angle.  But the television news has lost that.  Sure, FOX is pro-Republican, other networks more pro-Democrat, but all the networks are marginalizing too many candidates.

Are news outlets too invested in who wins or loses or is it just plain laziness?  I would hope the latter but suspect the former.  And now what?  FAIR goes into that as well:

“What do we cover now?
“Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw offered some helpful commentary during the coverage of the New Hampshire primaries, suggesting to MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews that reporters put less emphasis on trying to predict outcomes and spend more time covering actual policy:

“BROKAW: You know what I think we’re going to have to do?

“MATTHEWS: Yes sir?

“BROKAW: Wait for the voters to make their judgment.

“MATTHEWS: Well, what do we do then in the days before the ballot? We must stay home, I guess.

“BROKAW: No, no we don’t stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they’re saying. We know from how the people voted today, what moved them to vote. You can take a look at that. There are a lot of issues that have not been fully explored during all this.
“Matthews’ response is illuminating. Does a political junkie who hosts two national television programs really not have any idea about how to cover politics other than talking about strategy, fundraising and polls? Do campaign journalists really have so little interest in the actual policy positions of the candidates?

“As it stands now, the races for the major party nominations are remarkably close. The most valuable service journalists could provide now would be to illustrate the differences between the candidates on the major issues of importance to voters. The press corps seems chastened by their misreading of the New Hampshire electorate, and many are vowing to be more cautious in their assumptions. Will they follow through on their own advice? And will voters ever get campaign reporting that helps them make informed choices about the direction of their democracy? “
 

I recommend the article.  You can find it here.  And I recommend FAIR.  It’s an illuminating organization.

But what do we do in the meantime?  Well, write.  Write to the networks, write to the newspapers, let them know that we don’t like what they are doing.  But I don’t have much hope for that.  And then there’s the internet.  Preaching to the choir again.  If you’re reading this, you’re already internet savvy and know that we have to be active seekers of truth.  But let’s keep fighting the good fight.

January 9, 2008

The news media is manipulating Americans

Filed under: American culture,Democratic primaries,media,New Broads,politics,protest — by maggiec @ 5:45 pm

One thing I’ve definitely noticed since I returned to America is the power of the media.  It’s something I noticed before, of  course.  It’s something I’ve worried about, as well, but the New Hampshire primaries have really opened my eyes.

Like most people, I probably only noticed something was terribly wrong because something I am concerned about is effected.  But last night the TV news on all the channels we were watching were basically writing off John Edwards as a viable candidate for the Democratic party’s nomination.  He got close to 17% of the vote in NH.  They didn’t even verbally mention Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich, though their numbers were on a ticker tape at the bottom of the screen.  They got small numbers, but why does that mean they are out of the race?

 As John Edwards said last night, 99% of the country hasn’t voted yet.  He’s right on that.  Iowa has a population of 3.something million.  NH has a population of 1.3 million.  There are 300 million people in the US.  How dare the TV news tell us there are candidates out of the race already?

We still have three weeks to Super Tuesday, this year on February 5th.  On that day, over 20 states will hold primaries, and over half of the convention delegates are represented.  Maybe after Super Tuesday, it might be OK to call the marginalized candidates, but I’m not even sure about that.

I am very concerned about how the US mainstream media is controlling democracy in this country.  A free press is supposed to help the people, not the corporate structure.  It is supposed to be a tool of the masses, not a tool of the power elite.

I’m not naive.  My first career after college was as a reporter, and it’s something I did off and on for over 20 years.  I know that newspapers are commercial enterprises and television news is even worse.  Of course, I share most print journalists disdain, bordering on scorn, for television “news”.  Infotainment is more like it.  Distract me with pretty images, balloons and talking heads and I won’t realize that I’m not hearing anything worth hearing.

Television news has its place, of course.  Nothing can replace its immediacy, but newscasters telling us things like “its over for Edwards” or “it’s over for Romney” gives that specious opinion the weight of fact.  And that’s wrong.

You all know who I support.  But this isn’t even about him.  It goes beyond the primaries.  Why are Americans allowing this to happen to our country?  When did we get so uninvolved?  This is partly rhetorical.  I complained about this back when I was a budding journalist in the early 80s, but coming back after all those years away has been a shock.

Right now I have no answers.  Right now I’m just blowing steam and issuing a warning.  And if you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir, right?  As I tell my family, just slap my face and call me Cassandra!  I’m issuing a warning, but no one is believing!

January 7, 2008

Shame on you ABC! Let Americans hear for themselves

Filed under: Democratic primaries,Kucinich,media,New Broads,politics,protest — by maggiec @ 7:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As I mentioned yesterday, ABC-News barred Dennis Kucinich from the televised debates Saturday night.  They also barred Democrat Mike Gravel and Republican Duncan Hunter.  Friday afternoon, Kucinich filed a complaint with the FCC, arguing “that ABC is violating equal-time provisions by keeping him out of the debate and noted that ABC’s parent Walt Disney Co. had contributed to campaigns involving the four Democrats who were invited.”

I wanted to know why, so I checked out ABC-News’s coverage of the filing.  This is from them:

“The network set rules to narrow the field. Candidates had to meet at least one of three criteria: place first through fourth in Iowa, poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major New Hampshire surveys, or poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major national surveys.

“Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd took some of the pressure off ABC by quitting the race Thursday night.

“‘In previous debates where the stage was more crowded you had to make sure all of the candidates got fair time,’ said David Chalian, ABC News political director. ‘Here you will have more time to go in depth on the issues.'”

OK, that was interesting, but under those guidelines, Kucinich should have been allowed in the debate.  He wasn’t in the top four, but he has consistently polled well in both New Hampshire and nationally.  But the news is being manipulated to reduce Americans’ choice.

I have mentioned before how Americans are drowning in choice–too many cereals, laundry detergents, fast food places, TV channels.  But when it comes to electing someone to one of the most powerful positions in the world, we are given the choice of vanilla, french vanilla, lite vanilla and vanilla with strawberry swirl.  (This is a pure food analogy–it has NOTHING to do with race.  I’m using vanilla in the sense of bland.)  Most of the candidates are telling us they are another flavor, but the candidates with the strongest flavorings are marginalized by the media.

I am seriously concerned about the United States.  It is a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  But if the people are barred access to information, what happens to our democracy?

Write to ABC and complain.  Write to your local news channels and newspapers.  Get your voices heard!  And turn to alternate sources of information.  The internet is the biggest revolution in communications since television.  Let’s use the power of the internet to get the word out, not just about Kucinich, but about the mainstream media’s manipulation of the presidential elections.

“They” say Kucinich isn’t electable, so why waste time on him?  Why isn’t he electable?  Because he’s twice divorced?  So am I.  For better or worse, the view of divorce is changing.  Who cares if the guy couldn’t stay married?  I’m not proud of my marital track record, but it doesn’t define who I am or make me a lesser person.

Is it his politics?  According to his campaign literature, he wants to bring the troops home, provide health care, control the cost of oil, overturn the Patriot Act, protect the middle class, cancel NAFTA and the WTO.  This isn’t sounding too radical to me.  Sounds like what a Democrat should be saying.

“The only thing that makes Dennis Kucinich unelectable is an electorate that doesn’t believe in itself, doesn’t believe in the power of democracy, and doesn’t believe in the power of the individual vote. Well, I do believe in democracy, and I do believe in the power of the vote. And I do believe in the people of America. And I really do think this is a call to courage, to really stand up for yourself. ” ~Elizabeth Kucinich

I told you she was good.  kucinich.jpeg

Kucinich for President? Yeah, I think so.

If you haven’t noticed this about me, I love my country. As the Massachusetts primaries approach on Feb. 5th, I still hadn’t decided which candidate I was behind. I kept waiting for Al Gore to announce, but he never did, so I was stuck. I have reservations about Hillary Clinton. I have reservations about Barack Obama, similar reservations about their health care plans, actually. I didn’t know enough about John Edwards, and then who else was there? I was a little interested in a Republican’s advertisements, Ron Paul, but I decided it was time to get educated.

Dennis Kucinich, the peace candidate, the guy who says he wants to defend the Constitution, caught my eye. Well, they all say that, but that’s what catches my attention these days. The Constitution is more than “a goddamned piece of paper” as our President has called it. I’d like to see it supported for a change.

So I went to the Kucinich web site and liked what I read. Then I joined the mailing list. Got an e-mail this morning saying there would be a rally today in Concord, NH, right before the primaries. Oh, yeah, Viggo Mortensen would be there. I asked my husband if he was interested, and he said he’d like to see an American political rally. Mortensen got my son’s vote, but then he’s only 17, so it’s the only vote he’s getting.Enlisted to hold a sign

The last American political rally I went to was in 1968. I was seven, and my grandmother brought me to see Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in Brewster, NY. He was late; I was brought home and never saw one of my great political heroes. A few months later, he was gone.

So I listened to Kucinich, and I liked what I heard. He was saying the same thing about health care that I was thinking. Making health insurance mandatory doesn’t help the poor. Then it’s a decision between food and medical care. Massachusetts has mandatory health care, and I think it’s wrong. There should be some kind of subsidized health care if you’re going to have that kind of mandate, or else you’re just doing a favor for the big insurance companies.

I was impressed with him, and even more impressed with his wife, Elizabeth Kucinich. All I knew about her from the media was she had a pierced tongue. You know, the important stuff. She also has a BA in Religious Studies and Theology and an MA in International Conflict Resolution. When she was 18 she went off to India to work at one of Mother Theresa’s shelters for the poorest of the poor, and she’s done volunteer work as a refugee caseworker for the British Red Cross. She’s worked for the poor and disenfranchised all of her adult life. And she’s still only 30.

After the short speeches, I wanted to shake hands with the candidate. I wanted to feel his vibe myself. That might sound a little flaky, but as a reporter, when talking to politicians I learned to trust the vibe thing. First I had a few words with Elizabeth Kucinich. She’s poised, confident, with a keen intelligence shining in her eyes. She’s also devastatingly beautiful. She graciously posed for a picture with me.Elizabeth Kucinich and me

I worked my way to the candidate himself. By this point, I was very intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a busy weekend, and it looked like I wasn’t going to get the chance. A man came up behind me to get an autograph and I was about to walk away when Congressman Kucinich put his hand on my arm and stayed me.

When he was done signing, he turned to me, and I told him, “I’ve found the man I’m going to vote for.”

He thanked me and smiled, then I told him that I haven’t been to a political rally since RFK. I wasn’t just making idle chit chat. As I’ve said, RFK is one of my heroes. Sure, he was flawed; he was human. But he gave people hope. I want to feel that hope again.

I felt it when Clinton was elected. I was ready for change, welcomed it, and felt good about my country’s future again. But he left me and the rest of the country terribly disillusioned for many, many reasons.

Being an eternal optimist, I want to feel it again. I want my country to be as great as I know it can be. I told the Congressman about RFK because I wanted to let him know what I was investing in this.

He looked at me and said. “That is so moving.” He paused, still looking right in my eyes. Then he said, “I’m so touched. Can I hug you?”

So I hugged him. And he told me a story that I won’t share here. Not political, about someone he knew. Then he said he’d sign an autograph for me and asked me to spread the word.hugging

So here I am. I am a good judge of people. I’m a trained listener and as a college professor and writer, I get lied to on a regular basis. I have that gift Hemingway said writers need: a built-in, fool-proof shit detector. I wasn’t hearing shit today.

Dennis Kucinich is a dedicated true believer, and he will get my vote in the primary. He would make a good president. He has ideas to help this country be what it can be. His wife has the potential to be the best First Lady we’ve had since Eleanor Roosevelt. They are the real deal.

I’ve already written to ABC news to complain that he was cut from the televised debates. More on that tomorrow. My husband and I watched the news tonight, the only channel that sent a reporter, and Kucinich wasn’t on the air. Even with a sound bite from Viggo Mortensen! The media is muzzling the elections and making it hard for Americans to make an informed choice. The news covered five candidates: Clinton, Obama and Edwards, McCain and Romney. They showed the three Democrats on their poll, but five Republicans. As I say, more on that tomorrow.

But check out Kucinich. Don’t let the big media companies give you tunnel vision. If you like what he says, great! If you don’t, that’s great, too, because at least you made an informed decision. But in a recent independent poll, Kucinich got 77% of the vote–a far cry from what the corporate media would have you believe.

Oh, and Viggo Mortensen was a treat, too. Erudite, passionate, intelligent. Soft-spoken, but angry as all get out at ABC, and I liked to see that.

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