Thursday, October 21, 2004

I'm angry and disappointed.

Just picked up a copy of this week's Globe and found myself seething as I drove home from the library! Wanted to go back and pick up every copy and put them into the trash barrel! Should have asked to see the copy once edited, but felt that the first segment had fared fairly well and it was alright to assume that the rest of the series would do likewise. It's a disaster.

What started out to be a column on the tragedy of withheld respect of a people turned out to be an attack upon Henry J. Kaiser. The intent of the article was lost by the editor's need to fit copy to available space, I'm guessing. Had I thought this might happen, I'd have asked that the column be held back a week. There was no reason to run it at all if 50% had to be "cut to fit." That's about what happened. The entire meaning was eviscerated and what was left made a statement that was not intended. Now I know how real writers feel about their work.

Will talk with the editor later today and ask that the balance of the pieces be pulled unless I have the right to see the edits before publication. There are two more to go. I submitted them all at the same time (error #2).

I'm aware that I've begun to withdraw into myself in anticipation of the upcoming national election. I'm afraid... .

Always in the past I could feel the adrenalin coursing through my veins and by now I'd have my windows rich with signs and my datebook blocked out with polling data and phone banking appointments. Not so this time. I'm quietly in dispair -- and have no idea how to deal with it. I tune in less often to the news -- except for CSPAN -- and worry that, though I've probably contributed more of my meager funds to political campaigns this year than ever before in my life (again to this morning), I fear that it simply won't be enough to balance off the stampede of the Bush supporters to the polls.

Maybe old age is finally settling in, though I doubt it. Lack of interest in all things political? No. I continue to believe that this is the best country in the world and that we are all essential elements in its greatness. I firmly believe in the democratic process, but this time there are the obvious signs of facism embedded in the mix with its many faces hidden within the climate of greed that has always been evident in our system of capitalism.

I long ago lost faith in organized religions and there seems less and less reason to re-think that position. The current administration's craven use of the faith community to bolster its claim to the black vote is maddening. Watching the simplistic appeal to simplistic religionists while complexity goes unaddressed is frightening. Our lives may well depend upon more than 10 Hail Marys and 5 Our Fathers intoned while fingering a rosary. It will take more than prostrations -- a bow to the East at dawn, or the sprinkling of holy water to get the homeless off the grates of the country or unwanted children out of questionable foster homes and juvenile halls across the land. It will take much more than the burning of a few ceremonial candles to find the cures for HIV-AIDS and/or the one-in-four children now suffering from childhood asthsma and diabetes. And, it will take more than George Bush's "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" while on his knees in the Lincoln bedroom to get the guns off the streets of the ghettos and barrios, yes, and from suburban school lockers. It will take more than gregorian chants, the burning of incense, or the lusty rhythmic singing of gospel songs to protect our ports and harbors from a suitcase dirty bomb or anthrax attack.

I guess my deep fear is that -- our leader is clueless about the complexities of life as it is lived in most of the world. I suspect that his measure of an acceptible level of existence is limited to everything within five miles of his ranch in Crawford, Texas!

About Kerry?

The most important things about this man may be that he has a handle on what he doesn't know and an impeccable sense of where he might find some of the answers. I suspect that he is highly intuitive. My guess is that he has enough humility to see himself as only one part of the whole, and that he will seek proper counsel in order to match the challenge of the office of the presidency. That is - if this country has the collective wisdom to elect him to our highest office.

Maybe that's all I demand of this man. The rest is buried in media-speak; gets garbled in "style" and "delivery" and "spin." But I'm gambling on the fact that what we need is there ... to be slowly unearthed in the years to come as he and his cabinet strive to recover a country that we have all but lost to those who would sacrifice this wondrous experiment in governance to greed and an insatiable lust for power.

Too strong? Perhaps. But it's precisely how I'm feeling this morning. I feel better for having choked it up, and maybe now I can get out the tape and hang my signs, and join a phone-banking team tonight. After all, I have a city council member to help to get elected ... .

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Two new commitments loom large over the next few weeks; both will require at least some minimal preparation. Though I'm finding that as long as I'm not having to deal with acquired knowledge -- but am simply drawing on past experience, I'm okay.

On October 30th I'm scheduled to do a presentation before the California Geneaological Society (in Oakland). That should be fairly easy -- just tuck my binders and vintage photographs under my arm and wing it for an hour or so.

The second is a re-run of the day spent with those young teachers from the charter school that I believe I wrote about. The director called yesterday to say that they've received funding for the purpose of re-creating the experience for 40 teachers who will visit the Rosie The Riveter/Home Front Historical National Park (too long!) on November 11th. They will come from all over the nation by invitation, I believe. They will visit the Rosie Memorial, the Archives, and spend a couple of hours with me in a Q&A -- as we did a couple of months ago. I did enjoy them, so it will be pleasant and interesting, I'm sure.

It's odd that they've chosen a national holiday, which means that special arrangements will have to be made with the National Park Service as well as the city -- since the NPS offices are in city hall. The council chambers will have to be opened up on a holiday which means extra custodial costs, I suppose. But it may well be that this will be a part of the Veterans Day observance.

Am being treated more and more like a "relic" these days! Don't feel like one, though, and I guess that's all that really matters.

Lunched yesterday with a university historian half my age. She brought along some reprints of relevant history she was sure would interest me. These were pages reprinted from an old publication that had photos of the old union hall I'd worked in during WWII, with pictures of my co-workers. I wasn't among them. It was also sobering to note that everyone viewed was now deceased. Then it occurred to me that at the time I might have been the youngest member of the staff, and of so little importance that I would probably have been skipped over at picture taking time.

I need to get back to work! Living in the past is a deadly occupation -- and for one who has remained contemporary over a long lifetime -- this could become the beginning of the slide into non-relevance ... and death. One cannot make a career of past lives -- even if they WERE lived simultaneously. I'm far more wedded to NOW! THEN has never appealed to me.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Articles on the African American experience on the Homefront in WWII started last week. Have had almost no feedback from readers and I'm not sure how to read that ... did I miss the mark? Was it simply of no consequense in a world sated with dramatic headlines and war news? Did it get overlooked due to the impending national election? Is it too soon to judge how it was received by the public? Or, will interest build as the rest of the 4-part series unfolds?

Spent the last few days studying the ballot in preparation for installing my ballot window at our Berkeley store. For years I've filled my front windows with newsprint upon which I write in indelible markers, "This is how I will vote this time." What follows is a replica of the state, county, and city candidates, measures, and inititatives boldly scrawled -- with my signature at the bottom.

My theory is that I have no wish to tell others how to use the franchise, but if the California ballot is as confusing to the rest of the community as it is to me, we can use all the help we can get! I figure that I probably give more attention to the measures and initiatives than most, and when I'm in doubt -- I say so. There is always at least one initiative that I leave with a question mark so that folks will know that I'm not all that sure about everything, but that's no reason not to vote, right? Also (by design) I show at least one change of mind by having a "yes" crossed out and replaced by a "no." I'm hoping that shows deliberation. Guess we might call that a "Betty spin."

Over many years the community around our little store has become used to my window ballots, and it is not uncommon to see people lining up in front at the curb -- marking their sample ballots accordingly.

It's all complete (phew!) and ready to post. I'll drive in to Berkeley with my rolled up giant ballot and tape and do the honors. There ought to be some ceremony, but I'm not sure how to initiate that.

The goal has never been to presume to be all-knowing, and to gain a following (though that has happened from time to time), but to encourage the vote. It matters less whether I've influenced the outcomes than that I've increased the numbers of those going to the polls each year in that community. That's the point. That feels good.

The approaching election promises to be a cliff hanger, though for the life of me I can't imagine why that should be. The present administration is so blatantly bad that I'm mystified at the numbers of citizens who continue to support it. What does that say about us as a people? And in light of a world that has judged us as increasingly cruel and oblivious to the pain of others (i.e., Abu Graib).

Last night Al Gore gave the speech of his life (CSPAN), at a MoveOn.Org event on the east coast. I felt the fear building as I listened to the litany of abuses and errors in judgement of this sitting president that he spelled out to that audience and the country. Might we be on the threshold of civil unrest unlike anything we've seen before -- should the election be as tumultuous as signs indicate?

I watched a video of Arandahti Roi for a while this morning and again marveled at the wisdom of this feminist leader, and wondered if the disconnect between East and West in these awful times is exemplified by the intellectual and moral gulf that lies between this inarticulate president and the incisive wit and wisdom of this beautiful woman?

The posting of my Betty Ballot pales beside the desperate need for positive leadership that our times demand.

But it's all I have this morning ... .