Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On Yesterday + On Today + On Election Day in November

On Yesterday
Yesterday I didn't take in almost any of the 9/11 coverage. I didn't listen to it on the radio, I didn't really watch it on TV (though I did have the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, which featured a panel discussion (that had almost no people of color and few women!), on in the background, but I wasn't paying much attention to it), and while I skimmed a few blogs that discussed it movingly, I felt like I didn't want to dredge up and write up my memories of that day, which I've recited to people--to family members and friends, to students, online--more than a few times, so I'll leave it to others to give their accounts and their current thoughts on their experiences then.

I still believe my best written response to the attacks was a brief piece I published back in 2002 or so in Ulli Baer's 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11 (NYU Press). At the time I wrote the piece, called "Pariah," I was struggling with a profound sense of limbo--I was commuting up to Providence from New Jersey, staying in a little inn that was homey but not really a home, and wondering what the future, my and C's futures, the City's and New Jersey's futures, and the nation's held, especially after the horrific attacks. Almost instinctively I knew that George Bush would plunge us into a disaster of his own making, and yet though I wanted to capture this in prose or verse, I couldn't. Until one night, lying on the bed in the guest house in Providence, I envisioned a transcript of a sort that I now think could have been recorded in one of the secret European prisons or on a plane by one of the people dragged onto and drugged on one of the rendition planes, and I just wrote, until I realized I couldn't go any further. Thus was "Pariah" born. I saw it then and still view it as part of a larger piece, which I haven't yet been able to complete, but hope to, though I have incorporated the form and style into another piece which functions as a fuller work of fiction. Of course one epitaph can hardly suffice for the complex web of emotions and memories of that day or of all the days that preceded it--I still find myself telling people at times that on a clear day or night, for six years, C. and I could see the twin towers, along with the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, from our front porch at our former apartment in Jersey City, or that only the year before, I'd read in the Barnes and Noble with Asha Bandele, and the televised version of that reading ran for months on a New York public access channel, but right after 9/11, I worried about them ever running it again, because it struck me as being macabre for words, an emanation from a gravesite--just as the little animated gif I created back in 2001 hardly can either, but, in my case, for now, they must.

Primary Day
Today is primary day in nine states, and there are several high profile races I'm watching carefully. In the US Senate races, incumbent Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton faces token opposition from a genuinely progressive candidate, Jonathan Tasini. She is going to win a landslide, and will be easily reelected, but Tasini's platform, which includes a strong critique of Iraqmire, has gotten her attention.

In Rhode Island, DINO Senator Lincoln Chafee is struggling to hold onto his seat against a strong challenge from the right, in the person of Steve Laffey, a businessman and former mayor of Cranston, who has support from the extreme right Club for Growth. The Republican National Committee has dumped millions into this race to save the patrician Chafee, even though he has regularly opposed Bush, even going so far as to write in George H. W. Bush's name in the 2004 election (and Poppy would be an improvement over Junior). The Republicans desperately want to hold onto the Rhode Island seat to maintain their majority, because if Laffey wins he's sure to lose to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the general election, while Chafee is just "liberal" enough to be competitive. I wish Chafee would switch parties and be done with it; he'd be to the left of Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and a handful of other Democrats, and he'd be assured of reeelection till he retired.

In Maryland, Democrats Congressman Ben Cardin and former Congressman NAACP director Kweisi Mfume are vying with 16 other candidates for the nomination to face Republican Michael Steele and replace retiring liberal Democrat Paul Sarbanes. Steele, one of a small cohort of Black Republicans running in national and gubernatorial races this year, has been faltering in the polls of late, because of a series of gaffes, but he would still be competitive against Mfume, while his chances against Cardin look bleaker. Were either Mfume or Steele to be elected, they'd be the first African-Americans popularly elected to the Senate from a former slave state since Reconstruction, and a Mfume win would also mark the first time a Black Democrat had won a national race in the South. Both Mfume and Cardin are on the left of the Democratic party, but Mfume's harassment scandals while heading the NAACP may give Cardin the edge, though the counter to this is that Maryland's large African-American and African voting population may give Mfume the edge. Either one would be an acceptable replacement for Sarbanes, and would help to shift the Democratic Senate caucus further left.

In Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar is leading the Democratic challengers to replace the very rich and somewhat cuckoo Democrat Mark Dayton (he attended that bizarre, inexplainable Washington "coronation" of Unification Church cult leader Moon a few years ago). Klobuchar's politics are progressive and she's leading in the polls. In Arizona, wealthy businessman Jon Pedersen is the leading Democratic candidate to face incumbent Republican Senator John Kyl, who has consistently voted on the far outer right reaches of his party.

In other races, New York's Democratic primary pits populist attorney general Eliot Spitzer against the Quixotic Nassau County executive Tom Suozzi. Spitzer, whose battles against corporate malfeasance have been hugely successful, has a huge lead in the polls and if he wins will rumba to victory, since his Republican opposition is non-existent. In the race to replace Spitzer, political heir and former Clinton Cabinet member Andrew Cuomo faces former mayoral candidate Mark Green. I still resent Green's racial politics in his run against Mike Bloomberg, which backfired and led his loss, so I hope Cuomo triumphs; either man has the inside track to the job. In a Minnesota race for a House district seat that includes Minneapolis, a Muslim, Keith Ellison, who has the party's backing, is facing a tough challenge from three other Democrats. (Would he be the first Muslim elected to the US House? Does anyone know?) Also, Washington, DC is selecting a new mayor today. I'm not familiar with either of the candidates, Adrian Fenty or Linda Cropp. Neither name rings a bell from the time we lived in Virginia and regularly caught the DC media.

Republicans argue for GOP loss this fall
I came across a link to a provocative Washington Monthly forum, "Time for Us To Go," which features prominent Republican and right-wing thinkers publicly criticizing not only the Bush administration's failures, but arguing for the defeat of the Republican-led Congress in November, on various grounds. Some of the pieces are quite sharp, though their characterizations of Democrats sometimes are unfounded or descend to caricature and stereotype, and in any case, I'm very suspicious and skeptical of anything penned by any self-described contemporary American "conservative," and especially ones named Richard Viguerie or Jeffrey Hart. Still, I recommend these pieces. Christopher Buckley's could even give the Democrats a few useful talking points and ideas.

Drawing: Man Reading, Factory Café

A man reading at the Factory Café on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.

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