The Broad is Back!

January 13, 2017

Fasten Your Seatbelts…

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about politics, so I have to start today’s post with some backstory. Sit back and relax. This one’s been brewing for about a year. I’m gonna be wordy here.

The first time I came back to America to live it was 2007, and the country was gearing up for the 2008 election. I blogged quite a bit back then about that race. I was a Kucinich supporter, saw him speak on the campaign trail, spoke to the man myself and really believed in him. Didn’t think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the party nomination, but I’m a self-avowed idealist. The good thing about the primary elections in America is that we don’t have to vote strategically.

How the press marginalized that candidate showed me a lot about how things worked. When he finally quit the race, I moved on, reluctantly, to support Obama. His inexperience and relative youth (I’m 6 months older and knew I was too young to run America), were the major problems I had with him as a candidate. But I am much more left than right, as impossible as these labels are, so most times I’m gonna vote Blue on the national level.

I blogged those first four years, but by the time of the 2012 election, I was jaded. I don’t always agree with President Obama’s policies and choices, which is to be expected, and frankly, it is politics as usual in Washington. Gotta play the game. He did it well, but faced incredible racism and obstructionism. Anyone who says race wasn’t an issue must live in white bubble of ignorance about race and privilege. That’s not meant to be an insult. I geographically live in one now. There are so few people of color here that race issues aren’t “real” for most folks. Coming, as I do, from a large, multicultural city, I have a different perspective.

I’ve taught in poor New York City community colleges for many years. I’ve seen systematic, entrenched racism up close and personal, thanks. Those students are mine. I love them and want the best for them. The obstacles that are built in to block their success are things I take personally as well see as insults toward what I think my great country stands for. So to see it at the highest levels, while unsurprising, was enervating in a way.

I left the country again during Obama’s second term, and was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to be here for the 2016 election. I really didn’t see anyone I wanted to support, and being half a world away makes it a lot easier to avoid American politics. Unfortunately, I had to come back to the US to live. I love my country, but love being an ex-pat. And I was here for the worst political campaign in my memory.

Trillions of pixels have been spent talking about the divide in our country this past election exposed. My candidate didn’t win the nomination, but I switched over to HRC for expediency’s sake. She wasn’t who I wanted. Sorry, fellow feminists, but I don’t support women because they are women. HRC has done a lot for women, and she’ll go down in history, which I hope will be kinder to her than America has been, but she’s politically coming from a different place than I am.

But the prevailing Republican candidate made me wonder what had happened to my country. This was worse than 1980 when Reagan got the nomination. People joked that a bad actor had gotten the nomination, but at least the man had political experience—he’d been governor of one of our largest and richest states, one with a diverse population and warring needs. He had some experience, and while not a genius, he was no idiot. He had principles and morals and loved America with a strong patriotism. No one ever thought otherwise.

But this one? Our new POETUS? As a New Yorker, I’d been subjected to tabloid headlines about this man’s self-centeredness for the past 30 years. He’s shown himself to be sexist, racist and morally corrupt for decades.

He’s a master showman and an expert in smoke and mirrors, I’ll give him that. As good at creating a national fantasy as he was in creating the worlds designed in his casinos, places purposely constructed to keep reality at bay and fleece the suckers. No one ever beats the House. That’s a maxim as old as gambling dens themselves. He sells a dream and gives enough of a taste to build a need.

His promises to America will be as hollow as his promises to Atlantic City. He will suck out the life, destroy the middle class, make the poor poorer and increase crime. Don’t believe me? Look at Atlantic City today. Ask people from there. The casinos promised prosperity. They created it, too, and it was sucked out by the owners who lived anywhere but Atlantic City. Organized crime moved in with its drugs and its prostitution, its corruption. But today, organized crime is the least of America’s worries.

This is a man who has never shown the smallest amount of compassion for his fellow humans, who calls heroes stupid, and glorifies the worst traits of this nation: ignorance, self-glorification, anti-intellectualism, false piety and self-aggrandization.

I don’t actually hate him, though. I pity him. Because while he’s a master showman, he doesn’t run this circus. I truly believe he’s the tool of masterminds, people much better at the game of manipulation than he is. He’s so out of his depth, he even looks lost. He’s not the first US president to have “handlers,” or even a power behind the throne. But I do believe he’s the first to be handled by a foreign power. He’s a puppet. A bold, brash, self-serving puppet, but a puppet in the hands of people so much smarter, so much more in control of themselves and their actions, that our country is in the worst danger it’s been in years.

Rumors about sexual peccadillos and pettiness? Smoke and mirrors. Thirty years of poor education has created an American voting populace with no critical thinking skills. If you’ve read my writing, you know I’ve been singing this song for the past 10 years. A large percentage of American college graduates cannot tell the difference between a fact and an opinion. And they are the “educated” ones. Many Americans don’t know how to find reliable information on the internet. 

Another problem is that our press is no longer free. It’s in the hands of too few controllers.  On top of that problem, reporters too often see themselves as the shapers of news narratives instead of the people tasked with reporting it. The job title kind of says it all.  In Journalism 101, I learned rule one of writing a news story: get verification. Have none of today’s reporters even watched All the President’s Men much less read it? Woodstein went to great lengths to verify, verify, verify. Ben Bradlee, where are you when we need you?

The salacious bits become the focus, comedians mock the politicians (which is part of their job) then the reporters pick up the jokes as news. It’s an endless cycle that leaves many Americans morally outraged or entertained depending on their worldview yet unaware of what’s really happening. The American press has been a weapon of mass distraction for going on two decades now.

Sadly, over three years ago, I wrote about how the American people had to rise up and take control again.  And someone else sensed this need, this anger, this frustration, and tapped into it. An “outsider” who was relatively new to politics, though he had run for president before. A showman, quite literally, who is an expert at “give the people what they want.” But this time, unlike his 2000 run, he had expert backing. Millions and millions of angry, frightened people flocked to his campaign.

Folks who decried the “softening” of America enjoyed his taunts, his violence, his hate, his pettiness. Here was a tough man who put women in their place, knew that “retarded” was an all-purpose taunt, and didn’t take shit from no one. And he was a TV star! He made them laugh and always gave a good show. He didn’t rely on boring facts to make a point. He echoed their desires with his pithy soundbites.

He probably wouldn’t have won if it weren’t for some help from people who needed a puppet in the White House. This man’s narcissism played into their hands perfectly. There were plenty of other, more qualified Republican candidates—one of them surely should have gotten the nod. Ted Cruz was more experienced. And he also had the “angry outsider” schtick down pat.  Marco Rubio was more photogenic and appealed to many of my students. Why not them? Was it just the will of the American people? How long has outside influence been at work? Frankly, I didn’t think the poor Republicans had much of a choice going in, but their ultimate choice surprised many.

So now, instead of healing, the crack is getting wider.  Over 65 million Americans out of 200 million registered voters are terrified about what will happen next week. Another 63 million are mostly jubilant (though like Brexit voters last year, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse being reported). And 80 million registered voters didn’t bother to vote, so who knows what’s up with them.

We’re in for a bumpy ride. I do believe there are ethics violations already in place. The word treason is also not too strong for me. Others, with more powerful voices, agree with me. We wonder what will be done.

Unfortunately, I’m a scholar, far too familiar with history not to have some uncomfortable moments. Things I see happening in my nation’s capital have me deeply concerned and writing my representatives. As I live in a Red State, I know this is like spitting into the wind, but like I said, I’m an idealist.

I will be blogging in the future. Change is coming. Real change. Often terrible change. I tell my students I want them to use their voices. I have one to use, and I will.

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April 29, 2011

Best Wishes, but I am so glad it’s over!

Usually, after the last toast has been made and the last piece of cake played with (I mean, really, who ever eats wedding cake?), the bride and groom’s families are heartily relieved the thing is over and done with. Anyone who has ever had a family wedding knows this–from the smallest backyard do to the grandest ballroom extravaganza, weddings are taxing. It seems that everything revolves around that one day for months and months beforehand. And once it ends, people kick off their shoes, heave a sigh of relief and start speculating about babies.

Well, for William and Catherine’s wedding, I think the whole world is heaving that sigh. It’s over. We can stop talking about it all the time.

Because it seems the whole world went crazy. I don’t really understand why. One blog I read (can’t remember where), attributed it to the “Diana factor”–that people are interested in William because of his mother. Maybe.  That might have been part of why I watched, but then I’m an 18th century British literature scholar by training. I think I’m contractually obligated to be interested in British pomp and circumstances.

But back in 1981, Diana fascinated me because we were the same age. I was far too young to be serious about a guy at that age, and there she was, marrying a prince. Cool. Odd, but cool. Then came William.  I was working as a reporter for a news service at the time, and my boss was covering the Saratoga horse sales, a big annual event. She always sold a lot of stories about it, so she invested some good money to stay there for the week and get lots of details.  She came back from that trip so mad she was sputtering. “All that investment, and that damn baby had to come and blow the horse sales news out of the water.” Papers were full of the new royal heir with no room for horse stories. I wonder if she’s forgiven him yet.

When Diana died, I was actually dating a man who had worked at Highgrove, Charles’s country estate. He had known her and was devastated at her death. Totally gutted, actually. He had told me stories of young William that made the prince seem more like a person to me. But more than that, I lost my dad  at 11, so I knew what it was like for the two young boys to lose a parent so suddenly and so young. Frankly, it is horrible. Yet, I was also a mom, so my heart went out to them from the adult perspective, as well.

But the boys grew up fine, more or less, and frankly, I don’t really care about them either way. I wish them no ill, but I don’t pay much attention, either. But as I wrote last week, a wedding is a wedding. So yes, I was up at 5AM watching the arrivals and then the ceremony. Just as the bride and groom arrived back at the palace, I had to dash out to work.

Frankly, I can understand dishing about it now that it’s over. That’s the fun part, the rehashing and the looking at the pretty pictures. But why did the world go so mad? Are we so overwhelmed by all the bad that’s happening that we have to get caught up in other people’s lives? Have we become such a celebrity-driven culture that a Windsor wedding, at the top of the celebrity heap, so to speak, draws all focus? Is it the Diana factor? Probably a mixture of all. 

I can understand the British going mad, but why did the American media whip up such a frenzy? I remember the first time I “experienced” a royal wedding.  It was Princess Anne to Mark Philips in November of 1973.  There was enough mention that a 12-year-old girl in America knew about it, but  back then I was also a huge Tudor geek.  I was obsessed with the Tudor family for some reason, so royalty interested me. Oh, and I saw a picture of the bride-to-be’s younger brother, Andrew, who was just about my age and, in to my 12-year-old mind, cute. So I got interested. I got up early and watched the wedding (and to my everlasting delight, Anne’s dress was an Elizabethan design–cue the Tudor fan-girl swoon).  But what’s the big deal to Americans? Why the unrelenting press coverage?

Princess Victoria of Sweden’s wedding barely made a splash over here. And she’s just as pretty as Catherine. And she’s next in line to the throne, not third like William. Why do Americans worship the Windsors? We certainly don’t understand the least thing about royalty. I was looking at People Magazine’s coverage of the wedding (pictures!), and was struck at how many nuances of royalty the reporters seem to miss. OK, and I was struck at how much I actually know.  But why the madness? 

Is it jealousy? Do we want royalty? I don’t think so at all. Based on talks I have with people and what I hear, most Americans have no idea of what it really means to be a subject, not a citizen. A hereditary head of state goes against everything we believe in as a nation. And really, this obsession is a relatively new phenomenon. Maybe it is the “Diana factor”.

All I know is I’m glad it’s over. Back to the every day. Back to the bad news–there’s a natural disaster than needs attention in America’s southland; there’s a space shuttle launch this very afternoon. So time to get back to real life.

But before I go, here’s the dish: loved her dress. Classic style beautifully done. The hats! Really, Beatrice, what were you thinking? The sermon was lovely–full of my favorite words–love, future, hope. And Prince Andrrew is sooooo not cute anymore.

Best wishes to the happy couple. a long and happy life together.

June 6, 2009

Weighty Matters

Filed under: media,New Broads,overweight,Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 8:05 pm
Tags: , ,

One thing that has bothered me about American culture for years is its obsession with bodies. We attack celebrities for being too heavy or too thin. Who is just right?

Since I’ve come back, I swear it’s gotten worse.

Women’s magazines inevitably have a diet featured on the front cover. Just looking at some magazines in my room I see: “Lose up to 14 pounds!” and “Have a Bikini-Ready Body by June!” and “Better than Gastric Bypass! Lose 9 lbs a Week”.

But those same magazines also have stories on easy treats–Boston Cream Cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and “fun party cakes”.

And one  magazines that published recipes for an everyday meal totaling 1065 calories and 55 grams of fat, also carries ads for Hydroxycut, Super Dieter’s Hunger Control Slim Mix, Apatrim and Xenadrine RFA-1. In fact, there are only three other ads in the magazine, so that’s a pretty overwhelming message to readers: You’re too fat!

And we are.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 66% of Americans over 20 are considered either overweight or obese and 24% of them are obese.  That’s a frightening trend.

In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned that when I returned to America, the shapes of some Americans frightened me so much that I lost weight.  Luckily, that trend has continued.  I’ve lost 40 pounds since I’ve been back.  That’s not an amazing amount over two years, but at least I buck the national trend of gaining weight every year!

By no stretch of the imagination could I ever be considered not overweight, but there are days when I’m riding the subway in NYC, especially when I’m not in Manhattan, and I look around and think: “I’ve got the smallest butt in this car!”  That breaks my heart!  Seriously, it does.  When I see young people, male and female, severely overweight, it frightens me.  Once in the grocery store, I heard a little girl, no more than 10 years old, talking about her high cholesterol with her mother!

What’s going on? Part of the problem is the complete and utter junk that passes for food in the country.  There is also the portion distortion that we hear about in the news.  In an effort to lure in customers in these financially lean times, fast food restaurants are offering more and more grease and carbs for your money.

Even nicer places are doing the same.  My family went to a seafood restaurant, and my sister and I took home so much of our dinners that we each got two more lunches!

One thing I do find worrisome is how weight is such an accurate class marker, especially here in New York City.  Riding the subway in the Bronx, I can feel pretty good about myself.  Once I cross over into Manhattan, people are radically smaller and healthier looking.  It’s no surprise that more money means better nutrition as well as better education.  But being able to eat healthily should not be a privilege of wealth and education.   That’s just a national shame.

I have no solutions.  It’s just a scary trend I see now that I’m back in the States.  And since I have so much to say about so many things, I thought I’d start with some scary observations just to get them off my chest.

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

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