God Rest You

I’m certainly not the first to observe that Christmas, the Season of Peace, becomes decidedly more peaceful after December 25th.  It’s also obvious that this observation was hastened by my transition to parenthood, when Santa performance anxiety is felt most keenly.  But two days out, it seems more and more that this, the calm after the storm, is really what the holiday is about.

I’m a de facto atheist; the pedant in me insists that I not claim to know for certain that all religious claims are false, but I also don’t begin to entertain the idea that my behavior should reflect this cavil.  Nevertheless, I often don pagan trappings if only because I recognize that seasons are important to people, and I like to mark their passage.  Agriculture has had its way with society for a long time, and only in the last century has the most technologically-sequestered fraction of humanity been freed from its seasonal cadence.  So of course now we fetishize the seasons and give them more weight than our great-grandparents did.

I particularly enjoy the frenzy that slowly builds starting with the equinoxes and then abruptly stops upon reaching the solstices.  If sowing and reaping have been humanity’s eternal toil, the solstices—winter in particular—have been our blessed moments of repose.


Dear Darcy

After having spent the past ten years residing in one of the most solidly Democratic districts in the state, I am pleased to be returning to the 8th at a time when you are running for U.S. Congress.  Although I expect to participate in my precinct's Democratic Party caucus, I am aware that your nomination is all but assured, a prospect that does not trouble me.  The choice between your candidacy and that of Congressman Reichert is simple and clear.

Nevertheless, I have a question.  In the year since the return of Congress to Democratic control after the 2006 election, the failure of the Democratic Congressional leadership to roll back or even contain the excesses of Bush’s erosion of civil liberties at home and arrogation of unilateral war-making powers abroad has left us with the dismaying choice between concluding that either the Democrats are too feckless to fight for democracy or they are too cynical to take any political risks prior to the 2008 election (or, perhaps, ever).  That there appears to have been no appreciable change in the Democrats’ behavior as they shifted from the minority to the majority challenges one’s faith in representative democracy.

The most recent and egregious example of this tendency was the revelation that Rep. Pelosi and other Democratic members of intelligence oversight committees were briefed on the CIA’s use of waterboarding in 2002 and did nothing to challenge it.  By accepting classified disclosures of illegal practices by the Bush Administration and failing to bring them to light is a dereliction of their Constitutional duty.  This is the political equivalent of regulatory capture.

Should you be elected next November, you will be a freshman member of a likely Democratic majority caucus in the House, and there may well be a Democrat in the White House.  You will be a female representative in a swing district, and you will be highly dependent upon senior Democrats (and Republicans) for assistance with legislation and fund-raising.  Running as someone from "outside the Beltway" is a tired cliche, and political naïveté is overrated.  Nonetheless, if you would like my vote, I should like you to state, clearly and unambiguously, if you think our national security interests require our government to engage in increased wiretapping and surveillance of American citizens, waterboarding and "enhanced interrogation" of suspected terrorists, military tribunals for "enemy combatants," or pre-emptive unilateral executive war-making (including cover operations).  I would also like to know what you envision your putative Constitutional duty to be were you to discover our government engaging in any such activities.

Thank you for your time.


A Parade Of Horribles . . . And Santa!

Traditionally, a return to blogging requires no more justification than does the absence that preceded it.  In my case, many of the factors are also too banal to report.  Nevertheless, with the solstice approaching, I’m finding myself reflecting on my impatience with the political topics I feel I’m expected to address.  I’m tempted to skirt this by taking refuge in more cultural and academic commentary, but the frustration must find an outlet.  Quite simply, almost nothing on the American political scene has surprised me for the last six years*, and reviewing headlines for blogfodder inevitably results in concluding, in the manner of a mathematician, that they all "reduce to previously-solved equations."  This is beyond outrage fatigue.  This is the malaise that comes from watching thoughtful and observant writers debate who collaborated with the chickenhawks in 2002 or 2004 (or 2006!).  I understand that—in theory—we ought to identify those whose judgment is flawed so that we might properly discount their statements in the future, but when the author of Dow 36,000 is tapped to replace Karen Hughes in charge of the US’s public relations in the Middle East and Alberto Gonzales is named ABA Lawyer of the Year, "Wake me in 2009" loses a lot of its slacker stigma.

The truly depressing effect of the totalizing warmongering by Bush and the right-wing noise machine has been the absolute narrowing of all political discourse, even on subjects unrelated to counter-terrorism and neo-imperialism.  I’m sure net-balkanization has contributed to this, but I often feel like everyone is spending their time and effort pacing off some kilometer-wide Plutonian moon when opportunities for more expansive and useful exploration are neglected.  That these developments have come at a time when I’m struggling with a resolve to become more articulate and engaged is both dismaying and seductive.  To paraphrase Teresa Nielsen Hayden, I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like an apathetic cynical burnout.  I have had impulses toward blogging certain cultural items, but I have let myself be thwarted by the musk of escapism and pretension that inevitably attach to such dilettantism.

So while I can’t pretend that this latest return to productivity isn’t the result of anything more profound than the fitful completion of other personal chores, I have remembered why we started this blog in the autumn of 2002, and it was for more than just personal satisfaction.  2008 promises to be every bit as rancid and disappointing as the preceding six years, but I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. 

* When pressed by an interlocutor for any significant political development that I couldn’t have straight-forwardly projected from 9/11, the best I could come up with was the election of the Governator (although I did manage a clever gag years before Davis’s recall).


BSG — Season Finale

Eric’s comments on "Crossroads, Part 2" (and the rest of the season) are now available through his Battlestar Galactica Fanboy Page.