Saturday, March 20, 2004

Am working on polishing the first draft ...

of our convention center proposal while in the background my radio is carrying a remote broadcast of the Stop The War demonstrations taking place in San Francisco. Feels strange to not be a part of the action. Not sure whether I'm beginning to withdraw from age, or, whether somewhere deep inside I've given up on the effort as useless? I've noticed that I'm beginning to flip the remote away from newscasts when the war is shown. The list of pundits that I avoid is growing so that -- unlike earlier times when I felt a strong need to hear from both sides -- this is no longer true. My senses have crystalized into a single view of reality, and I've become a part of the polarized state of the union. The outrage is beginning to fade -- a bad sign - and in its place is a growing sense of futility. Is this what others are experiencing? Isn't this what breeds apathy? Maybe these are the danger signs that need to be recognized and resisted. If I begin to lose my sense of urgency, it will mean that I will also begin to squander whatever influence I've acquired that helps to shape the opinions of others.

There's a presidential campaign and election to be lived through over the coming months , perhaps the most important in my long lifetime. The possible outcome is frightening to me, since the recent election in my state. I was so sure that George Bush could not be elected, or, that my state would ever be governed by Arnold Schwarzennegger! Found myself staring in disbelief yesterday while watching him speak of the amending of the constitution so that those not born in this country can aspire to the presidency. His examples, "...look at the fine work of former Secretary of State, Madelyn Albright and Kissinger!" To watch him speak those words with the awareness of what this weightlifter has already managed to achieve gave me chills!

This continuing public adulation of image combined with the monopolization of the world media, encourages the "empty suit" system of running the world. The extension from the image of handsome movie star that launched Ronald Reagan and now includes Arnold may suggest the simplistic way we may be choosing our future leaders. It's like the pretty blonde as the dominant prototype for the most desirable of women. It suggests a system that encourages the dominance of handsome charismatic male (movie star?) that is the most acceptable to a homogenized and dumbed-down society that can then be manipulated by a Corp-ocracy (or is this a word?).

I'm reminded that -- of all of the presidential candidates who appeared at the California Democratic Convention last summer -- John Edwards was the most handsome and least impressive. He was actually booed by the delegates as he defended the US's invasion of Iraq. After seeing him there, I watched him in the months that followed in disbelief, as he rose higher and higher as the potential Democratic nominee, and saw him sharpen his "acceptibility" while improving his delivery and "nice guy" image until he is now seen as a possible vice-presidential nominee along with John Kerry. "He's turned out to be a fine campaigner," say the pundits. I heard little in his speeches that would justify his ascendence to the highest office in the land and the world. And I am reminded (after spending some years in speech-writing that placed words in the mouths of leaders), that those carefully crafted campaign speeches were the products of others who fine tuned every thought he and others expressed. I'm influenced by the thought that -- as an obvious intellectual and man of principle -- John Kerry's speeches will have been, if not actually written, are necessarily endorsed and approved by him, personally. I'm certain that, when possible, he is his own chief writer.

John Edwards honed his generic speech so that it needed little change as he moved from state to state and crowd to crowd. It was an all-purpose speech built upon Democratic universals primarily created by Howard Dean. May I add that John Kerry also wisely borrowed generously from the same source. All owed candidate Dean an enormous debt for the shaping of the Democratic response to the Repubican administration's choice of directions for the future of the country.

I remember sitting in awe as John Kerry appeared before Congress in protest of the Vietnam War many years ago. Hoped that one day he would be precisely where he is -- on the threshold of the White House. His Lincoln-esque appearance is surely helpful to his candidacy, and I am certainly hopeful that he will be our next president -- but this is again the yielding to "image," is it not? He happens to share the monogram of JFK (a subliminal clue) and is clearly an intellectual and a man of deep moral courage. It took months for me to fully appreciate this over the obvious daring and strong conviction shown by Howard Dean -- a commitment to those things that I hold non-negotiable. I'm one of those who wavered between the "Anyone but Bush" movement and a strong pull toward Dean. At this point I'm completely satisfied with Kerry as nominee and will give it my all, but I'd feel a lot better if I didn't have the feeling down deep that the entire process may some day be turned over to Central Casting!

While I'm continuing to do the online things like signing petitions, emailing my representatives, sending small checks to support those who are closest to the centers of power -- I'm feeling less effective. This all feels too easy, somehow. Will probably shut down this keyboard and join with others tomorrow in the continuing street actions. Guess I really do need to be in the middle of those marches in order to recapture the fervor, a sure cure for growing apathy. That's contagious, and can't be simulated by sitting comfortably in front of my television set or sending off emails from the solitude and safety of my den. The confirmation that I'm not alone has to be reinforced by live action from time to time -- if only as a frame of reference for those times when I can't join with others of like mind.

Today I'm experiencing some guilt at not being among my compatriots on the streets of San Francisco. Pretty evident, wouldn't you say?