Last night the air shook with thunder and the flash of lightning.
This morning the world has fallen silent.
Cold rain falls and the sky is the color of gunmetal.
This seems fitting to me. This quiet melancholy day, leeched of color.
For this is the day we Americans are supposed to pause remember those many who have fallen in battle.
Memorial Day isn’t about honoring veterans.
No, it’s not.
Not the living ones anyway.
Memorial day is about the dead.
This is the day some dutiful Americans visit the graveyards and the military cemeteries to place flowers and flags and to remember husbands and brothers and wives and mothers and sisters and sons and daughters who wore the uniform and came when called and gave the last full measure. My own father lies out there, under the cool white marble of a military cemetery, and today I dearly wish I could stop by for a visit – but it’s a thousand miles away and too far. Dad would understand.
Today is a day when we will lay the wreaths and sound the lonely trumpet and shed a tear and a salute for those comrades long gone.
Today is about the cool gray ghosts who still wander the countless battlefields of America, from Lexington to Antietam, from the Ardennes to the Chosin Reservoir, to Tet, to Basra, to Kamdesh, and all the terrible battles yet to come.
And come they will.
Oh yes, come they will, those new battles, in this endless and unending war.
For that is our nature, we Americans. This is who we have become, a nation of endless war.
Once this day was called Decoration Day in honor of those who died during the American Civil War.
Later the holiday became a day of remembrance for those killed in all conflicts.
Today, Memorial Day supposedly marks the passing of those who died in uniform, both in peace and in war.
Today is supposed to be about those who gave their lives for freedom and liberty, for justice and right, for the ideal of a more perfect union.
But in reality, it’s not the soldiers we remember. It’s the endless war.
Do you realize that it’s almost two decades now, now since those terrible days in September of 2001?
Seventeen years of war and death and sacrifice and the supposed Global War on Terrorism.
For our children, this most recent generation, the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war.
They have never lived in a nation at peace.
Think on that. No, that’s not a rhetorical statement. Think on that. Think on how this conflict has shaped them, this generation, how it defines their worldview during the most formative years of their lives and how this world will shape the one they create a decade from now for their own children.
For them, this new generation, war has become so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that it’s simply business as usual.
For them, war simply is.
For them, war is just another aspect of American life, like plumbing and electricity and the flow of money, invisible and all around. The dead come home from conflict invisible, hidden, silent, returned to their grieving families in quiet ceremonies far away from the public eye, unlamented and unnoticed by a nation grown jaded and bored with slaughter. America does not see the dead, not until days like this one, when the bodies are safely hidden away under slabs of white marble and fields of green manicured grass and draped in words of patriotism and valor.
For them, this generation, war is normal.
And those of us born in the 1960s? Well we certainly can’t tell them that this is wrong.
We certainly cannot tell this generation war is not the normal state, that normality is peace without conflict.
See, because we grew up in a nation at war too. By the time I was seventeen, America had been fighting in Southeast Asia for my entire life. The media was daily filled with images of blood and death, body counts, mangled and maimed soldiers, of burning helicopters and a terrifyingly incomprehensible enemy. We were told we would go next, that we had to, or the enemy would come here, to America, and slaughter us all.
Back home? Well, back home, the streets were filled with violence and unrest and it seemed that America was about to tear itself to pieces in a clash of violently opposed ideologies – because no matter how much the enemy might despise us, we hated ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow Americans, even more.
And how did that shape our worldview, the world we have given to our own children?
For us, war is the normal state of affairs too.
And our parents?
They remember a brief period of idyllic America, the perfect peaceful 1950’s, sock hops and ducktails and white picket fences, providing you lived on the right side of the tracks, providing you were white – while Korea raged unseen and ignored in the background and at home they dug fallout shelters and waited for the Soviet bombs to fall and saw commies hiding in every shadow.
Their parents had World War II, and before that … well, the list goes back a long, long way and perhaps war is a normal state of affairs for us Americans after all.
There are a lot of dead to remember on this Memorial Day.
And so it goes, this endless cycle.
Today there are those who instead of picnicking with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous corners of this world. They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of central Asia. They’re out there right now standing the long watch on and below and above the seas. They’re out there in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the blistering heat of the Middle East, in lands so remote you’ve never even heard of them – and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did. They are out there right now, as far away as a cold airless orbit high above the Earth and as close as local bases in their own states and the armories of their own home towns.
Some of these men and women will not live out today.
Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams ash, soon to be just another restless ghost in America’s legion of the dead.
Today, there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the crowded and forgotten wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or grilling out today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it.
Soon too their last battle will be over.
Today there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the nightmares of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battlefields you’ve never heard of. They are the walking dead, killed in action only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict, poisoned by nightmares, by pills and alcohol and poverty, slowly fading away.
And today, of course, there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember. They lay entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, the Somme, and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty-four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America. They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows. Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered.
Today, here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty-six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite, my own father among their brave company.
Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.
They, all of them, came when called, some of their own free will and some not, and did their duty and no one, no one, can ask any more of them.
For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, for those who will fall tomorrow, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.
Remember those cool gray ghosts.
If only for a moment.
That, I think, is the ethos of fan cons.
The bus rides there and back were fine, and I remembered to get the name of that one taco truck at the gas station I swear I saw last time I took the bus to Pittsburgh. At the convention, there were a good balance of fandom-specific and fandom-general panels, and I don't think I've ever been to a vid show before where it just started. No trouble or A/V fiddling required. I never quite got the hang of how to play to the judges for "Cards Against Humanity" but maybe next time I'll have some idea, and I bought the absolutely most delightful necklace in the dealer's area. Which led into probably the most intense twenty minutes at the convention discussing the source show. Which was fun.
It was such a small con this year - first year, odd time of year, plenty of good reasons and a couple of excuses - that pretty much every panel could have been a round table around a small table. Maybe a long table for the bigger fandom panels, like the Buffy one, where we ended up moving from how we got into the show and preferred pairings into how fandom platforms change, how that leads to the loss of content and fanworks, and the necessity of central archives and open communication between fans. Even Star Wars, where we talked about merchandising and the shifting of approved canon versus official discontinuity, weren't that heavily attended. Simply because there weren't a lot of people.
That didn't mean it couldn't be intense. The round table for Stranger Things had a lot of laughter, a lot of heady discussion on long-form serialized media as a storytelling platform and how it can be most effectively harnessed, and much delight over nostalgia and future possibilities. Classic ships veered into displays of emotional intimacy, and frustrations over social expectations of prescribed heterosexuality and its seeming contradictions with genuine affection. There were a lot of good murmurs around the room in "Fandom as Genre" though it was a little hard to keep the focus, and I know I should have written stuff down before the disability in media panel to help keep activity levels up. But even so. It was all good time spent in the company of fans.
I got to see new faces on old friends, and hugged people I'd never before been able to. I didn't win at arm wrestling but I put up a fight, and I made a lot of people laugh. So all in all, a pretty fabulous time.
Stumped on this one, so I'm going back to Northampton days, when I used to drive across the state to see Light. Dragula by Rob Zombie. But when I'm not listening to audiobooks while driving, it's usually something lightly embarassing like Jessie J or Pink.
I could tell that the weather wasn't going to be getting any drier for some hours because Kheldar was firmly asleep on the end of the bed. I just wasn't expecting the rain to get torrential halfway through hacking off another branch of the birch before next door complain about it. I am a very soggy lurkingcat now. Kheldar woke up just long enough to give me his best "Stupid, stupid human" look and then went back to sleep. It's one of those days...
Pairing/Characters: Draco Malfoy/Harry Potter.
Word Count: 100 x 4
Challenge: Written for draco100/draco100's prompt 18: Ritual.
Warning(s)/Genre: Dark themes.
Disclaimer: The characters contained herein are not mine. No money is being made from this fiction, which is presented for entertainment purposes only.
( Heart's Desire )
Originally posted at OrgTheory.
Let us start with some basic data.
First, the Democratic party has won the plurality or majority of the Presidential vote 6 out of 7 times since 1992. Yet, they won the Electoral College only 4 out of 7 seven times.
Second, the Gallup polls shows that the Democratic party has a modest advantage in identification, with Democratic identifiers and leaners getting about 46% of the population vs. 40% for the Republicans. Yet, the Democrats only control 32% of the governorships (16 out of 50) and they control 29% of the state legislative chambers (29 out of 99). In the national Congress, Democrats do OK. Senate 48% (48 of 52) and House 44% (194 of 435). If we assume that non-party identifiers evenly split, the Democrats are somewhat under-performing, but just a little.
In terms of party control, it is only in Congress where Democrats perform as expected (or maybe slightly under-perform) but in the Presidency and the states, they really do lose more than they should.
And, please, no, it is not gerrymandering – the Presidency and the governorships are not gerrymandered. Gerrymandering has a modest effect at best. There really is a consistent under-performance.
I’ve been reading a few books that shed light on this really big structural feature of American politics. Each book offers a discussion of an issue in party politics and when you piece them together, you see how the Democratic and Republican parties differ:
In Local Party Organizations, Douglas D. Roscoe and Shannon Jenkins report on a survey of 1,220 party officials at the state and local levels and they ask a number of questions about the operation of local parties.
First, how did state parties help locals? GOP advantage – website development, newspaper buys, campaign expenses, social media; Democratic advantages – computer support, record keeping, staff. Second, GOP local parties were more likely to have “clear strategic goals” and a well managed organizational culture. Third, GOP organizations are more likely to have a complete set of officers, by laws, and headquarters, whiles Democrats are more likely to have a phone listing. Also, Democrats also tend to focus on labor intensive actions, like door-to-door and voter registration. Fourth, these activities often (but not always) correlate with electoral success.
Bottom line: GOP organizations appear to be a little more focused, organized, and strategic. Democrats seem to concentrate a bit more on things people can do (door to door, for example and record keeping).
In Asymmetric Politics, Matt Grossman and David Hopkins delve deep into the culture of the GOP and Democratic parties to argue that they are very different beasts. The GOP is ideologically driven and policy oriented, while Democrats are more oriented toward group solidarity and coalition maintenance. The book is massive and presents lots of data, such as public opinion data, voting patterns, and publications by interest groups and think tanks. Even though I disagree with some points, it is well taken. Democrats have a diffuse ideology and work on the coalition, while the GOP is more “mission oriented.”
David Ricci’s Politics without Stories is a study of political rhetoric and it has a simple message. Look at the philosophers, wonks and orators of the Democratic party and you see nuance and sophistication. Look the the GOP and you see more direct narratives. To quote the great Kieran Healy, Republicans “fuck nuance.“
What do we learn from this overview?
From top to bottom, the Democratic and Republican parties show important and consistent differences. Not just ideological differences, but qualitative differences in how their parties are organized and how they behave. Democrats, to simplify, are “people oriented” and focus on social practices and ideology that fits that general perspective. In contrast, Republicans are a little more task oriented, which translates into more focused and digestible rhetoric and more of an institutional interest in concrete results. There is probably more to this story, but this is a good start.
Fabio Rojas, PhD is Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. He is the author of From Black Power to Black Studies and Theory for the Working Sociologist, and co-author of Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11. He has also written an advice book for graduate students and tenure track professors called Grad Skool Rulz.
Ways to Give:
firesidoni linked to a fundraiser for osunism, who has just lost one of their jobs and the car they need to get to the other job. They're also offering commissions as well as fundraising; you can read more and help them out here.
riverofwhispers is struggling to cover their bills after being laid off, and is raising funds to move to a new city where there's a better job market and a bigger community for them. You can read more and help them afford the move here.
digitalwave is raising funds to cover family medical bills, including some CT scans and an echocardiogram. You can read more about the situation here; they've listed items for sale on eBay, and are accepting paypal donations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
sotto_voce's friend Heather is moving to Canada to get a degree and begin her new career in physical therapy. New US policy has made it very expensive to move, so they have a fundraiser here to help with moving costs.
capeandcowl linked to a fundraiser to found a scholarship for at-risk youth in honor of Tony Crisafi, a professor at UCF and Valencia, who recently passed away. You can read more about this extraordinary teacher and support the scholarship here.
localfreak linked to a fundraiser for the victims and families of victims of the bombing in Manchester; the Evening News has partnered with the Red Cross to raise two million pounds to support them. You can read more and help out here.
vanathema's friend Valen and his girlfriend need help covering this month's rent, due this coming week; Valen is recovering from surgery, and his paycheck may not arrive on time, plus his insurance is not covering essential medication, which is why they're short on cash. As far as I'm aware they don't have a post up, but their paypal address is email@example.com.
rilee16 is still struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and hasn't been cleared to return to work, thus can't earn money to cover basic living costs, let alone the bills they've received, including a recent rent increase. They are frequently running out of money for gas to even do odd jobs for pay. You can read more and help out here.
News To Know:
Carter linked to information about the upcoming Leverage Big (And Mini) Bang, which will be opening for signups in August. You can read more at their tumblr, leveragebigbang and they're trying to generate as much interest and awareness as possible!
iamshadow21 linked to a kickstarter for Short Order Crooks, "a comic about crime, cooking, and bad decisions" which I'm putting in News To Know mainly because while they look super cool and I think you guys would enjoy it, they've reached their fundraising goal, so the comic at least is funded. You can read more and buy in here!
And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
A while back I was solicited to contribute an essay to a volume on modeh / modah ani, the morning prayer of gratitude, edited by David Birnbaum and Martin S. Cohen, to be published by Mesorah Matrix. Longtime readers of this blog know that modah ani is one of my very favorite prayers; I said yes immediately!
The volume is part of a ten-volume series from Mesorah Matrix, of which six books have thus far been published. I just received my contributor's copies, and wow, am I delighted.
I'm in some phenomenal company. Here are glimpses of some of the essays about which I'm most excited:
David Ellenson wrote about Modeh Ani and the gifts of gratitude and awareness. Elliot Dorff wrote about how the prayer helps us awaken to the new day. Rebecca Sirbu wrote about how the prayer can have a personal impact on one's life. Aubrey Glazer wrote about the prayer in the context of Shoenberg and the Kotzker Rebbe.
Dalia Marx offered a contemporary Israeli perspective on the prayer, juxtaposing it with Israeli pop songs. José Rolando Matalon wrote about it in the context of Odeh la-El, a sixteenth-century piyyut. Shulamit Thiede wrote about the prayer and gratitude for the presence of death. Orna Triguboff wrote about the nighttime journey of the soul.
And I wrote about the prayer as a four-worlds tool for personal spiritual transformation.
You can page through the book online at the Mesorah Matrix website if you are so inclined.
The volume is available on Amazon for $36 -- not cheap, but I think it's absolutely worth it: Modeh Ani: The Transcendent Power of Gratitude. Deep thanks to the editors for including my work!