The observations of a 50 something with lots of experience in politics, government, life and learning.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Inherit the Wind

I only went to see Inherit The Wind up in Bennington because our good friend Rick Driscoll was playing the mayor. Our son had had one line in the play ten or fifteen years ago at the WTF when James Whitmore performed so it was a bit of nostalgia too.

Nostalgia, hell. It made my skin crawl.

There right before my eyes was the US in the year 2005. People "labeling" others because of their religious beliefs, teachers afraid to speak out because of the backlash, well-meaning friends cautioning that there were consequences to being a nonconformist. It was as if 80 years hadn't passed.

The production at Oldcastle Theatre was incredible, so that helped add to the verisimilitude. In fact, we'd probably be better off if Bill Frist and Harry Reid were a bit more like William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. And although I love Tom Friedman, I'm not sure anyone would compare him to H. L. Mencken.

But the bottom line was I FELT LIKE I WAS WATCHING A CONTEMPORARY PLAY. If I had shut my eyes and not looked at the costumes, you wouldn't have known the difference. Science is suspect, faith is all. Don't think about things, it will just confuse you.

Like Henry Drummond in the play, I am a person of faith. I even participate in organized religion although that often seems more like a penance than a gift. But my goal is always to live my life according to the precepts of my faith -- feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, do unto others as you ....Not easy, but not impossible. And I don't wear sackcloth and ashes. I have a reasonable number of material possessions, but do know the difference between "supporting the troops" and driving an SUV with a "support the troops" ribbon on the back.

As a child, there were two pieces of history that I could not believe that my parents had stood around for. Not that they had participated, but they hadn't STOPPED IT. One was the Holocaust and the other was the McCarthy period. In my own life I have seen all of us stand on the sidelines while the innocent suffered. And we have watched the worst sort of character assassination and buffoonery given a pass because "well, it's just politics."

And then people wonder why a decent human being has second thoughts about throwing her hat in the ring.

It is hard to feel like a stranger in your own land. I don't want to live a life where I only travel to blue states. We don't learn from one another without dialogue. But I am at a loss to figure out where the dialogue starts, who starts it and when.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rock Stars

I had no intention of writing anything's been one of those "it was the best of times ...." kind of days and I wasn't going to "put myself out there" anymore.

But then at the suggestion of my friend Michael Wilcox I looked at Fred Clarkson's and Aldon Hynes' comments on the MA State Democratic Convention, a subject near and dear to my heart.

That was about 9:45 this evening. Ninety minutes later I'm close personal friends with both of them and "talking" to someone in Seattle. The world is an amazing place, truly flat, and cyberspace is that to the power of ten.

We've been talking about Deval Patrick having "rock star" qualities but now I FEEL LIKE A ROCK STAR. Someone actually paid attention to something I said.

You think this is weird, right? Try being an "outspoken" (this is NOT a compliment) woman in a small New England town. "But" you say "you live in an ACADEMIC COMMUNITY!" Hold on to your hats folks, but academics on either end of the spectrum can be narrow-minded, stuck in a tower, afraid of change and living in the 19th century. I learned more about the world at UMass in grad school that I did in 20 years living in Williamstown. And that's the truth, as Edith Ann would say.

A sad aspect of this is that I realized this today as I thought about my nascent political action committee (MargePAC). I started it to change the world, one small office at a time. But today I realized that MONEY TALKS and that there will be some people who will only shake my hand because I may be capable of donating $500 to their campaigns.

The good part is....I remember who was willing to talk to me BEFORE I started doling out money....and perhaps there won't be anything to dole, because all the people I solicit will think I'm a whacko. Some close personal friends will probably indulge me. The test will come next year when we see if there are repeat donors and donors that I don't even know or barely know.

Every new idea starts with a single step. My blog and my PAC, they comfort me. And maybe they WILL change the world, if only by one iota.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Alice in Wonderland

I had the true pleasure of having coffee with my friend Walter this morning. I had not seen Walter in months (I tend not to climb the mountain in the winter....) and so it was a real joy.

However, I wasn't really there to have coffee with Walter. I was there to get a cup of coffee and work on my "program update." Had my laptop and was all set. But then living in a small town, I know a lot of people and because I don't WORK in the small town, it's often weeks and months before I see old pals. So having coffee took more time than it should have.

This would have maybe been fine (I have lots of comp time built up) except that the PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF MY AGENCY was at the coffee shop too! Fine for him...he's retired! So I immediately pointed to my laptop and ASSURED him I was working. And, in fact, I emded up (or "landed up" as my friend Sue would say...) doing outreach on health insurance to three different people in the coffee shop.

So I finally open the laptop and I'm behind schedule. So I knock something out that will give me a start on my project, pack up and head to the Post Office.

And of course when I got to the Post Office, that couldn't be a three second transaction either....My friend Jeanne was there, putting out a mailing for the League of Women Voters. We had to discuss that, and my political action committee (for which I was buying stamps...) and then Felicia came in so I had to catch up with her (although we didn't really catch up...I have no idea of how her kids are doing, and that is the bare minimum definition of "catching up.") and then by that time there was a line, but luckily Joe came out so I didn't have to wait any longer....

and then I rushed out, because now I was 20 minutes late for my appointment, and who should walk by but WALTER! "Walter, I'm still trying to leave town!" "Margie" he said "your life sounds like the opening scene of Alice in Wonderland!"

And so it did. And it does.

But the hour on Spring Street reminded me of the real definition of "community." It's living in an environment where you depend on others and they depend on you. It's where people recognize you in good ways, and you also can't get away with anything because maybe the Board President is in the coffee shop. So you're on your good behavior. (Which is why SOMETIMES you have to go to Kingston NY and dance anonymously....) It's where it's important to "catch up" so that you keep hold of the threads of friendship that make life in a small town special. It's where one person can make a difference if she says she'll be the president of the League of Women Voters.

Maybe we should demand that the United States Senate take two weeks off and organize a Meals on Wheels Route. They'd have to decide what to serve, buy the food, prepare it together, package it and deliver it. And look into the faces of people who receive the meals and remember that they (the Senators) are fortunate to have a steady job, health insurance, enough to eat, a guaranteed pension and people to sit around waiting for them to decide if they need a ride somewhere.....

Just a thought.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Music from Big Pink

You know, this blogging stuff is just frankly egomaniacal, but what the heck. I'm trying to get over the fact that all of America is not posting to this site...on the other hand, since I am telling the truth, I probably want to limit the audience to people who can "handle the truth" rather than people who will use it to my detriment.

But I digress.....

I hope you all are jealous that I spent the weekend in the environs of Woodstock, NY (the town, not the eponymous concert venue fifty miles away.) I was with my dear friend Kay who, back in the olden days, was a "groupie" with The Band. We listened to the Levon Helm Band in Kingston NY at "Armed Forces Appreciation Day" an event that we PROBABLY WOULD NOT HAVE ATTENDED in 1969....

It was the only sunny day all weekend, and we "danced like no one was watching" and listened to Levon and Amy and Little Sammy Davis on harmonica and generally had a grand old time. And then the next day we looked around Woodstock, went to Maria's for lunch and saw the "Big Pink" house in Saugerties and discussed Bob Dylan's prediliction or lack thereof for the truth. Also nuclear power and nanotechnology...and I'm NOT MAKING THAT UP.

They say old friends are the best friends, and this weekend certainly proved that. We are old, hitting 55 and over, but 30+ year friendships mean you can cut through the b.s. and get down to basics. A real joy and gift. The other goal of the weekend was to take care of ME, since I had been spending so much time taking care of others. It was a good idea and I commend it to you all.

So, with fond memories of succulent crab imperial and good times all around, I return to my daytime existence, grateful for the time away and looking forward to future opportunities to carve out three days of R & R in an increasingly hectic world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Good morning, world!

When my son was a baby, we'd pick him up out of his crib in the a.m. and look out the window and say "Good morning, world!" Well, when you get to be my age and there aren't any grandchildren to pick up (the dogs REALLY don't count here, and yes, I DO know I'm going to have some grandkids someday so I'm not lobbying anymore....) then in some sense this blog is my "baby" and helps get me up in the a.m.

I went to bed with all sorts of thoughts whirling in my head, but at first light none of them seemed compelling enough to write about. Ok, so my daughter didn't vote in the LA mayoral election yesterday. But when I got to my SECOND question, "do you know who's running?" I could hear her bristle. "Duh....Hahn and Vila....(sorry I have to nail this spelling down)....Hahn has the negative commercials and Vila what's his face has 60% in the exit polls." So my work hasn't been in vain.

And then I thought about writing about the traditional New England town meeting. Ours was uncharacteristically short (the main articles proposed by the Selectmen were finished by 8PM or so) and then the traditional horse's ass gets up and starts on the Patriot Act. I probably would have voted for the resolution, which is anti-Patriot Act (because of the library stuff), but listening to him pontificate not only bored me to tears but made me wonder WHY the rest of the people were sitting there letting him do it. We are SOOOO polite. So I left. For nine years I've been held hostage up at the front table. No, that's not true. I loved every minute of it and in fact I learned last night that sitting on a bench on the side, with no water pitcher and no candy passed out from Town Counsel makes the meeting much less palatable. BUT YOU CAN GET UP AND VOTE WITH YOUR FEET, which I did. What a freeing experience. It had the additional value of allowing me to take a pass on the question of whether MA should pull National Guard troops out of Iraq (not that anyone asked us.) As active as I am in state and national politics, I have traditionally been against putting things like this on the town meeting warrant. Conversely I have a real problem when anyone on the Democratic Town Committee implies that we should get involved in local issues (H's A has proposed this too....). So I'm an equal opportunity naysayer.

But I digress.

So, Margie, this is about how you weren't going to write anything, but you're writing. Isn't that a CONTRADICTION IN TERMS? Yes, but I'll tell you why.

Because I remembered how I spent part of yesterday.

In a meeting hearing some very talented and, I'm assuming, well-paid consultants say something I said after one month experience with the situation. (They've been around on and off since December.) On the one hand, I wanted to shout "Right On!" when they pointed out some verities. On the other hand, I could have screamed, knowing that if I had said the same things, they would be dismissed out of hand.

In part this is my fault (BLAME THE VICTIM!) You see, I would have calmly sat down and pointed out (well, I would have been calm at first but then my animation would have gotten the best of me) where the disconnect was. And then expected the audience to go "Right on!" If I were to be a successful management consultant (which I wasn't) I would listen to b.s., stroke my beard or smooth my $500 well-tailored suit, and begin a long slow process of getting the client to see the error of his ways, all the time supporting him/her in their view of themselves. And I am emotionally and constitutionally incapable of that.

So here's one of my plans for retirement. I go in and work as a temp in an organization for a week to a month. At the end of the month, I go into the head poobah and say "you want to know what's REALLY going on here?" Hell, this is a reality show! Am I stupid! My daughter works in LA...I'll get her to start writing the treatment IMMEDIATELY!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

So Why Am I Doing This?

Women's voices. Carol Gilligan. Mount Holyoke College. The collapse of civilization as we know it.

Pick one.

So let me give you a ferinstance. I spent Saturday this past weekend at the state Democratic convention. While it was an issues/platform convention, not a nominating convention, it still held interest for those of us who are true political junkies. I spent the first part of the morning with the wonderful John McDonough from Health Care for All and a panel that included former Gov. and presidential candidate Mike Dukakis. Mike may SAY he's 72 but his ideas are fresh, well-presented and badly needed in this era of the "lowest common denominator" being what seems to sit in the "corner office" as it is lovingly referred to....ok I ended with a preposition. Sue me.

We go to the convention and hear a good speech by Ted Kennedy, mundane prosaic speeches by Galvin and Reilly and inspiring speeches by Howard Dean and Deval Patrick, the contents of either of which could have been headline material the next day.

So what is the headline in the Berkshire Eagle? "Democrats pass gay marriage plank."'s the law of the Commonwealth, last I looked. It also took up MAYBE three seconds of time. It would have even been ok if the headline said "Democratic Party stands up for civil rights" or "Democrats battle discrimination." But NOOOOOO.

This subject has now become tiring. I've said my piece.

In any case, I'm doing this because I'm tired of hearing from the usual suspects. I'm frustrated with the lack of vision in this county, this Commonwealth, this country and this planet. I am downright SCARED that we are at risk of entering a McCarthy II era where people are afraid to teach evolution or admit they voted for the "wrong" person or dare to criticize demogoguery.

No "side" has a monopoly on this. Yes, the right wing is worse, but the left DOES have contempt for people of faith (of which I count myself as one) and an inability to listen to people who don't toe the line, who aren't pro-choice or who don't hold college degrees.

I leave you with this bizarre but simple thought. At the convention on Saturday people up in the vendor area talked right through the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. People on the floor were speaking during the benediction. Not only was this RUDE, but frankly is one of the reasons why some independents think we're godless Communists. Some of us apparently DONT share the same values, and throwing in a few biblical quotations isn't going to convince someone that you share their faith.

Should they be ASKING that, or requiring that? I don't know. But what I do know is that voters want to know who you are inside, whether you are comfortable with yourself. Whether you understand their triumphs and tribulations.

And you can't fake it.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Let the Games Begin

Thank you to Nancy Bunting Carey (MHC '71) for suggesting that I start this blog...while I have ALWAYS had opinions, they were usually confined to a cocktail party, a Selectman's meeting or the local twelve-page newspaper.

In a discussion about "women's voices" on the op-ed pages, Nancy urged me to get back out in public and stir some people up. So blame her.

And then she came up with the idea of a blog. First I thought.....who me? Blog? I'm WELL OVER 50. But then I realized she was I have joined the 21st century.

Margie Ware