Sunday, September 21, 2008

Out of Leadership, er, I mean GAS, I mean...What do I mean?

As I arranged myself for a 30 minute stationary bike ride through another chapter of "End of Faith", I got a call from my sister. She was explaining that Nashville found itself at the epicenter of embarrassing human behavior yet again.

Nashville ran out of gas.

Yes, it's true. Nashville ran out of gas. But what is more telling is not that this rather isolated western Tennessee city ran out of gas, but that it's Mayor has not spoken a single word to the public about it. Not a peep. At least not as of this writing, a good day and a half into the crisis.

Sis proceeded to tell me that she sent the mayor a little note, suggesting that perhaps had he taken the initiative to say a few words about what is really going on, there wouldn't have been two-mile lines from the 15 percent of gas stations in middle Tennessee that had any fuel left. You know, like, maybe if he said a few words of wisdom, like, "Don't drive if you don't have to, we'll have things back on line soon, we're working on it..." or, you know, something.

What we decided is that Americans who support McCain or even those who simply support his VP Nominee have absolutely no idea that this is precisely the situation that would repeat itself over and over if the GOP ticket takes office in January.

Everyone would do well to read this essay, for example, by Sam Harris. Before I saw this, I was pretty down in the dumps this morning, thinking that so many Americans simply have gone batshit crazy to think Sarah Palin would actually make a good Vice President. SHE HASN'T DONE ANYTHING RIGHT. Good LORD, what is the matter with people? And I am damn tired already of hearing about whether she is a good mom, rides a four-wheeler, or is, give me strength, sexy. I'm sorry, but any man who finds that woman "hot" must be the kind of man who would enjoy suddenly finding his balls in a vice.

It's not that this blog is about politics, or anything, but when my sister told me what happened, I thought, "How is this possible?" But it is. My sister, a well-educated woman, mother, professional, organic gardener and all around good gal, is not endowed with any particular influence over public policy any more than the rest of us. So why, on a Sunday morning, is it necessary for an ordinary citizen to point out things like, "You know, Mr. Mayor So and So, it might be a good idea to plan so that Nashville doesn't find itself in a situation where it has to evacuate the city and has no fuel to do so."

This is part of what makes me angry. While 80 percent of America sleeps off the election, the other 20 percent of us who still give a shit are scrambling to figure out whether we should get passports or just hunker down. And we spend a lot of time, an inordinant amount, pointing out basic things like this to people who presumably hold the offices they do because they convinced enough other people that they were endowed with the intellect and common sense to take charge of difficult situations. In other words, Mr. Mayor, YOU ARE MAYOR SO I DON'T HAVE TO BE.

According to everything I've read, every situation Palin has taken charge of, she either has FUBAR or sent mysteriously packing. If she doesn't like something or someone, she turns to her Bible, finds a passage to justify her action, and it is then "handled." Her frightening fundamentalism notwithstanding, she's absolutely and completely unqualified for this job, and is simply a miserable excuse for a nominee. I'm ashamed and embarrassed that someone with McCain's experience has lowered himself, and frankly, his entire party, Lincoln's party, to such a base level. Worst of all, the fact that his choice has been wildly popular reflects just where that party, and a lot of Americans, really are. A lot of Americans evidently enjoy having a mouthful of sand, because that's where their heads are buried.

I mean, this is not brain surgery. As Harris points out, and as just about every thinking person I've talked to about this has been saying over and over, should McCain have an aneurysm in the bathroom or choke on a chicken bone, this woman, whose only public offices were as Mayor of a one-horse town and Governor of a state that has fewer people than Manhattan, who claims that she's qualified to drive foreign policy because she can see Russia from her house, who referred to Obama's defeat of Hillary as "Sambo" beating "that Bitch," will be the Commander in Chief of the United States of America. If we're lucky and McCain does not die from some sudden illness or injury, she'd still be in charge while he's incapacitated. Still plenty enough time to do a whole lot of damage, like, appoint someone to the United States Supreme Court. The next time someone says to me, "I'm not voting because the Office of the President has no effect on me," I may just have to violate my personal commitment to nonviolence.

When I am in Nashville a couple weeks from now, providing it's still there, I know that for the most part, people are there to concentrate on their work as musicians and enjoy the show as fans, but I know too that it will have been more of a hardship this year for people to get there, and I know the election will be discussed on stage and off. I remember my first FanFest in Kentucky and I remember thinking, "Oh boy, this is going to be tough," and then I saw a bunch of Kerry/Edwards stickers on instrument cases. But Kerry and Edwards are both white, and one is from the South; I don't think the same majority will be pulling for an educated black community organizer from Chicago. I hope I'm wrong; I might be. All I know is that I hope Americans step back and start thinking seriously about this election and all that's at stake.

Here's a tune from the late, great John Hartford. It's a live performance from a tribute concert a few years back. It talks about settin' and watchin' the Ohio river just roll on by. And how people can do that and nothing happens, because sometimes that's what people do, whether it's sanctioned by some invisible Supreme Being or one's interpretation of moral law, or not. I miss sitting at night on my mother's porch on a warm night and hearing the boats and the barges go up and down the river, sometimes with only a stitch or two on. Something tells me if we're not real careful, a chance at that kind of simple life for you, for me, for our kids, for anyone who wants it, will be gone.

Watchin' the River Roll By

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