Johnny Goes Marching Home

Just to prove that I am not completely self-involved and oblivious to the rest of the world, I thought I would take a minute to comment on some recent happenings in the news. This post does contain some political opinions, so if that icks you out or makes you want to debate loudly and heatedly, maybe you should just check back later.

Nicole Kidman pregnancy – Awesome. Good for her. Please gain some weight already and spend some time in the sun. Not too much, but remember Days of Thunder? You are becoming vampiric.

Gwen Stefani pregnancy – Ugh. Must I go through this with tabloid photos of you looking so chic and attractive and put together the whole time? Could you not have waited just another couple of months? Or send me some of your maternity clothes and the fabulous life style that goes with them?

Special Congressional Election on March 11 – This hasn’t really happened often, but I happen to know one of the candidates personally. And honestly, he’s a great guy and he has my vote and I think he’s going to do a bang up job and I believe this so deeply that I am even going to contribute to his campaign. He’s a Republican, but if you honestly think that the incumbent dynasty is a model of how government should work, and that it should continue at any cost just to keep the district blue, then perhaps we disagree on more than we realize.

And on to the primary subject of this post: John Edwards is withdrawing from the presidential race today. Hopefully Giuliani will do the same, but that’s an entirely different matter. Truthfully, I like John Edwards. I like that he’s worked hard to put himself in touch with the poor. I like that he’s finishing his campaign the way he started it – working in New Orleans to un-fuck the government’s largest cluster-fuck in years. Most especially, I like his wife. She is a tough cookie, and she has been through some shit. Not everyone has, you know. Not everyone understands terminal illness or the death of a child or the relentless attention of the media. The part where they’ve been through this together and still seem to like and support each other is pretty impressive. Wealth does not insulate you from tragedy. It just makes the bills less painful.

Of course, I can’t just let this sit there without pondering it into something much more complex. Clearly, his opponents have a lot going for them. Barack has all that glittery magic sparkle dust, Hillary is a Clinton, for gosh’s sake. What intrigues me is that on the surface, John looks a lot like both of them. More experience in politics than Barack, a lot more money than Barack in the beginning. He’s very pretty, one might even say prettier than Hillary (which is not an insult – her attractiveness isn’t more important since she’s a woman in my book. Remember Dubya? Not a looker). He is relatively scandal free and doesn’t carry the taint of right-wing conspiracies, disastrous health care plans or, heaven forbid, impeachment. His policies were pretty progressive and he was the first one out of the gate with them. So what gives? Is he just too safe? Not controversial enough?

Or are we that uncomfortable and nervous about tragedy that we can not elect a leader who’s experienced it personally? Does that hit too close to home? Is John Edwards too involved in the needs of his family to run the country? Is that the real reason why we find it so difficult to elect a woman? If Chelsea Clinton was still living at home, how far would her mother’s campaign really go? Honestly, I think we are looking for a president the way so many of us worship celebrities. Show us something shiny. Something better. Let us pretend that we are like you – privileged, intelligent, hard working, like the version of us we would be if we had the right chemistry and attractiveness and brilliance and scholarships to Harvard or Princeton or Oxford. People who have vast networks of supporters and helpers and people who believe in our dreams.

I just don’t think anyone wants to see themselves in a man who lost a teenage son and is about to lose his wife. No one wants to answer the question – would I have what it takes to run the country when my decades long marriage is snatched away from me? If my teenage son died, would I make the decision to have more children even though it would require expensive infertility treatments and run the incomprehensible risk of shattering my heart even more completely? If building a 28,000 square foot house was the thing that would bring my wife back to the land of the living, even though it might actually be extravagant and wasteful, would we go ahead?

I wonder what our country might look like if there was someone in office who actually understood these things. Who might be able to actually sympathize with their electorate, to experience just how broken our health care system is even when you are insured. As much as I have serious issues with the Southern Baptist church, Mike Huckabee seems like the next closest thing. He won’t get my vote, but I wonder if the degree of separation he has from experiencing tragedy himself is part of what’s driving his campaign forward. He can empathize without running into the sticky identification problem. John McCain seems like a front-runner, but who can really identify with being tortured and held prisoner? Doesn’t it make you wonder if he’s really as strong and healed as he seems to be? Wouldn’t he have some lingering PTSD? I don’t know. Maybe those types of heroes really do exist. But I’ll put my money on them being very, very rare.

As I’m continuing to work on the closet cleaning and sifting through the accumulated crap of 2007, I think I am looking back and seeing that having a heart for those who are suffering is a gift that is usually acquired through suffering of one’s own. I’m not entirely settled with this yet, but I think I see it coloring my views of things in ways I am just starting to understand. Conversely, it’s dramatically changed my tolerance for some things as well. I have no patience for people who live on the surface. Denial is public enemy number one. As a nation, I think we have serious problems with both of these habits. What I am hoping and praying for, as much as I can pray any more, is that the leadership of our country is as authentic and connected to humanity as they can be after we put them through the plastic machine. That if they make mistakes they are mistakes made from the heart, out of compassion. That they are able to love fiercely, and protect that which they love while remembering that the enemy is loved too. I know that’s a long shot, but here’s hoping.

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