Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Is the Story You Tell Yourself? The Election Blog

Who Were You When You Woke Up Wednesday Morning?

It's been quite a week. Quite a couple of weeks, what with election outcomes and a hurricane and a nor'easter and the locusts. I feel as if, in all this, we've drifted apart, you and I. Forget Wednesday. Forget Tuesday. Think about now, and who you are at this moment. If you were to describe yourself to your Miss O', what would be the first five items on your Self List? Go ahead and take a moment to compile it. I’ll wait here. (As long as there's whiskey, I'm never alone.)

In these post-election days and nights, Miss O’ has been thinking about how we define ourselves, and wondering about the story we tell others about ourselves, as the results of election week settle in. I'll start. Here are the first five things Miss O’ says about herself, just now, as I type:

Five Things from Miss O's Story of Herself

·      The apostrophe is both the bane of my existence and my most defining characteristic: From bank accounts to billing questions, I must forever have the receptionist (or teller or tech support person of the moment) type in or else delete the apostrophe, after which gesture I will hear, “Oh, there you are!” (According to the Wiki, my last name has this origin: O'Hara is an Anglicized form of the Irish name Ó hEaghra. The apostrophe indicates possession, some say, as in “son of” or “family of,” but I can’t find any real evidence of that in all the searching I’ve done.) In addition to serving as a mark in my name (though seen as #ph%39 or something like that on Firefox, for example), the apostrophe also indicates missing letters, as seen in contractions. Possibly my apostrophe indicates something in me is missing. What I do know is that when I started writing my initials many years ago, I wrote “LO’H” instead of “LLO.” Even my ol’ bartender at Mustang Harry’s, George, called me L-O-Haitch, without me ever sharing my way of writing my initials, so I think there is something defining in my apostrophe even to those apart from myself.

·      My life is defined by the cast of characters who inhabit it, and within seconds of meeting another person, that person will learn about some player in The Miss O’ Show, including family members, friends, and colleagues, with first and last names and defining characteristics, revealed through the narrative arc of a story. The result is immediate intimacy with strangers, and in fact I am as comfortable with strangers as with people I know and love well.

·      I love language, preferring to speak through it rather than merely speak it, if you see what I mean, and storytelling is the way I make my way in the world.

·      Laughter—being made to laugh and being a source of laughter for others (either as a wit or the butt of a joke)—feeds my soul.

·      Passionate connection to all of life—the personal, the political, the planetary, and the picayune—to say nothing of the potent potables—more or less pours out of my pores, along with copious amounts of perspiration in the warm months. (As you might guess, I p(ee) a lot, too.)

In sum, I’m a flagrant, physical, unfettered fucker of a storyteller. Did I say storyteller? I meant truth seeker. And I just can’t seem to stop my mouth or my typing fingers from keeping to that path, much as I’d like to abandon it most times and just dance naked in deep woods beneath the bright, full moon, screaming like a blotto banshee.

Instead I blog, which may amount to the same thing, now that I think about it.

Fear of Truth: The Stories The Republicans Told Themselves

Following the decisive re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden—a win projected in nearly every poll, and distilled clearly using sturdy, real math by statistician Nate Silver in his blog Five Thirty Eight (which is the total number of votes in the Electoral College) in the months leading up to election night—right wing pundits, voters, and politicans were falling all over themselves at 11:15 PM Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning wondering what could have happened. For example, in a segment on MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell program called “Your Moment of Gloat,” O’Donnell showed this montage of clips from Fox “News” showing myriad moments of pure, unadulterated delusion leading up to election day:

The other story behind that story is the story that the Republican media pundits have been telling their American viewers and listeners, that Obama is the antichrist, that the nation will be in burning ruins because of his victory, even as the President stands there with his beautiful family, smiling and waving, and as he goes on to deliver a gracious victory speech that mentions including Gov. Romney in discussions on America's future. It’s like watching middle school bullies at the lockers after having been bested by the bright, funny kids: The bullies suddenly look pathetic, silly, and toothless.

Satirical site The Daily Currant imagined pundit Pat Buchanan’s response to the election, discussed with disgraced politico and latter day lunatic radio host G. Gordon Liddy, and it was epic:

PB: "White America died last night. Obama's reelection killed it. Our 200 plus year history as a Western nation is over. We're a Socialist Latin American country now. Venezuela without the oil."

GGL: "With what you just said right there...You seem to imply that white people are better than other people. That's not really what you're saying is it?"

PB: "Of course that's what I'm saying. Isn't it obvious? Anything worth doing on this Earth was done first by white people. Who landed on the moon? White people. Who climbed Mount Everest? White people.  Who invented the transistor? White people. Who invented paper? White people. Who discovered algebra? White people. And don't give me all this nonsense about Martin Luther King and civil rights and all that. Who do you think freed the slaves? Abraham Lincoln. A white guy!"

We can imagine this to be a true recording (Miss O' took it seriously, and thanks for the catch, Shawna!), because we hear actual conversations like this on TV all the time. (The Onion has practically nothing to top it lately.) The Whites did it all! (Tell it to the Chinese, the Japanese, the Southeast Asians, the Arabs, the Indians, the Africans, the Native Peoples of Earth. Because it just makes so much sense.)

The Romney Revelation: Against Is Not as Powerful as For

Here’s a response I wrote to a friend’s post on Facebook, concerned as she was about the sudden tide of long, vitriolic commentary and anti-Obama screed-writing that occurred on the walls of right wingers in the days following Obama’s re-election, or, for them, Romney’s stolen opportunity, a.k.a. defeat:

Curiously, the Romney voters among my friends saved all their personal FB posting energy for defeat. Some were gracious, some the height of melodrama. It's telling. After months of random pre-fab anti-Obama posters, a weekly "like" on the Romney page, and lots of photos of cute puppies and kitties, only in defeat did they have anything to say, all of it negative toward Obama and Dems--nothing about how Romney would have lifted the nation, for example. I would so much rather fight for and post about and share the ideas of a candidate I truly believe in than pound my chest because an opponent won--and won honestly by majority vote. It's what democracy is, what voting is for. I'm sincerely grateful for the way the election turned out, was gracious in the win--because I read and researched and posted, and fought and battled to the end. It was thrilling.

Even former Bush speechwriter David Frum has had it with them. Here are some excerpted remarks from the conservative chat show Morning Joe on Saturday morning: :

Since the loss of the election, we have heard an enormous amount of discussion from Republicans on television and newspaper columns about immigration as an issue...but all of us who are allowed to participate in this conversation, we all have health insurance. And the fact that millions of Americans don't have health insurance, they don't get to be on television. And it is maybe a symptom of a broader problem, not just the Republican problem, that the economic anxieties of so many Americans are just not part of the national discussion at all. I mean, we have not yet emerged from the greatest national catastrophe, the greatest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. And what are we talking about? The deficit and the debt. And these are important problems, but they're a lot easier to worry about if you are wealthier than you were in 2008, which most of the people on television now are again, if you are securely employed, which most of the people on television now are. But that's not true for 80% of America. And the Republican Party, the opposition party, needed to find some way to give voice to real urgent economic concerns held by middle class Americans. Latinos, yes, but Americans of all ethnicities.

This is the story the right wing tells itself about the rest of the United States—that is, the story about what the white, older, male (and some female) segment of the population has been taught to fear to the point of mouth-foaming, which is to say, all humans of color, of the female gender, of homosexual bent, of college-level education, of high social consciousness, of scientific persuasion, or in impoverished circumstances. It’s a horrifying story called, in all caps, naturally, “KNOWLEDGE EVIL, MONEY GOOD.” How many times has Miss O’ said that it’s a story as old as Eve, as old as Midas? If Fox and its money-hoarding fear-mongers were to go off the air for one entire month, the nation might begin recovering. As it certainly will never go off the air, we have to ask ourselves why we as a nation allow any television network to define our beliefs and tell us who we are supposed to be. I thought the Vatican was supposed to do that.

(P.S. My Republican cousin Bill’s final response to all my posts, celebrations, and gracious amounts of informed context: “Down girl!” And there, in one pithy retort, is the capsule of Republican political irrelevance in America in 2012. Thanks, Bill.)

Real Time: Reality as It Really Is, with Rachel Maddow

Miss O’ can’t really add anything to what the most trusted name in American news, Rachel Maddow, had to say on her Wednesday night show. Here is the link:

And here is her summary statement about the outcome of the November 6 election:

"Ohio really did go to President Obama. And he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is, legitimately, President of the United States. Again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to oversample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake projections about the election to make Conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing Math. And Climate Change is Real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And Evolution is a Thing. And Benghazi was an attack ON us, it was not a scandal BY us. And nobody is taking away anyone’s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually, and Saddam Hussein did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the moon landing was
real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps, and UN Election Observers are not taking over Texas, and moderate reforms on the regulations in the insurance industry in this country are not the same things as Communism…[but] if the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement and the Conservative Media are stuck in a vacuum-sealed, door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good, and denying the factual, lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing, feasible ideas about real problems. Last night, the Republicans got shellacked. And they had no idea it was coming. And we saw them in real, humiliating time, not believe it even as it was happening to them. And unless they are going to secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble they have been so happy living inside if they do not want to get shellacked again. And that will be a painful process for them, I’m sure. But it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center. You guys, we’re counting on you. Wake up. There are real problems in the world. There are real, knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those, and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.” — Rachel Maddow, 11/07/12

[Update November 14, 2012: Perhaps you're one of those Red State people who wants nothing more than to secede. Miss O' has been fascinated by the petitions for secession, signed by tens of thousands of citizens in 30 states, fueled by years of histrionic, ratings-boosting lies and delusional ravings on Fox "News," grandstanding by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who has distanced himself entirely from this latest movement) in 2010, and general Southern anger over the loss of the War of Northern Aggression back in 1865. Forgive me if this is the only thing that comes to mind as I read of the Right's pain and suffering at the election of a decent, capable, caring politician with real integrity, a model husband and father, too, who is trying to stop corporations and the rich from destroying the lives of the vast masses of American people, the way a good parent would put the breaks on an unruly child:]

Norman Rockwell, The Runaway, Sept 20, 1958,  from The Saturday Evening Post

And Finally...

Allow me to add to your reading the brilliant analysis of Frank Rich in New York magazine:
Frank Rich’s Closer:

"For all the hand-wringing about Washington’s chronic dysfunction and lack of bipartisanship, it may be the wholesale denial of reality by the opposition and its fellow travelers that is the biggest obstacle to our country moving forward under a much-empowered Barack Obama in his second term. If truth can’t command a mandate, no one can."

The Biggest Loser: Big Money (a poem for the occasion)

The whitest of old white men
And their wads of cold, hard cash
Invested into SuperPACs
In a cross-the-nation dash

To spend those wads in every state
To buy the votes they’ve earned
By making hoards of capital
When a business overturned

To hemorrhage liquidated assets;
From the equity compounded—
And from laid-off workers’ livelihoods
Came big bonuses, unbounded!

By contrast, an election
Seemed an easy thing to steal;
The networks, owned, told story one:
“The Dems give no good deal:

“Our man Mitt Romney is the guy,
The shapeless leader none foresaw—
He’s entitled. Do you hear us?
(This voting’s so bourgeois.)

“O! Fuck! O! Fuck! The votes are in—
The black man won the day!
O! Hellfire! O! Damnation!
Blood money pissed away!

“The billion dollars spent to save
More money for us rich—
Was stolen by—spit—voters.
Each gay and every bitch—

“STOLE the nation, TOOK IT,
GOD, O, FUCK! The end is near!”
(All true—
Unless you’re filled with human love,
Perspective, and a beer.)

The Biggest Winner: Truth

Integrity counts. Honesty matters. Honor is stronger than dishonor. Shame is still a viable concept, whether or not people most in need of feeling ashamed are capable of it. (There is nothing more dangerous than a human being who does not experience healthy shame. For example, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have no idea what I am talking about.) (Note: Humiliation is not the same thing: That emotion is driven by wounded ego, not by a recognition of having been unethical or immoral and being called out on it, which is shame. There is something to ponder in the way people use those terms.)

That said, there’s a hell of a lot of too much denial out there—denial of actual, real problems that must be solved for life to continue and to improve. We all have to look in the mirror. We’re not as young as we used to be. We’re going wrong, we’re gaining weight; we’re sleeping long and far too late, as Billy Joel has reminded us. Perhaps you’ve loved these days, but Miss O’ has been exhausted by them.

That said, there’s no time to lose. It’s time to get up and at ‘em, time to do this thing, move this nation, this world, forward. What about reinstating the Fairness Doctrine in American news?
Remember the days when, if you called yourself a "news" organization, you had to give equal time to all sides of the issue? Those were the days when we valued learning stuff about stuff. And when you look at what Rupert Murdoch has done world wide to tell HIS side of every story, you might want to think about it:

So: Who are YOU in all this? What do you love? What do you believe? What matters to you? If you hear what I’m asking about your story—what I don’t want to know about is what you hate, or what you fear, or why you are full of rage. But if that is your story, if it's all that comes to mind when you define yourself this week, you might want to turn off the TV for a while and take a nice, long walk in the woods. It’s November, now: Wear blaze orange. And maybe, this time, find a new path to take as you head back home.


  1. I'm laughing while singing your song aloud in a country voice. And now I see your apostrophe as a little dash o' burden on your shoulder, but I'm just going to pinch your little cheek and pat your curls and say - oh it's just so you! Also, thank you for YOUR election coverage. Remember, as long as there's whiskey, there's Diane Sawyer!

    1. I'm slurring even as I'm giggling with delight that you enjoyed the blog! Oh, Scott, you are so encouraging. Wait a minute...Diane needs me to top her off! XXOO