Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Obama is Lucky
The U.S. Navy snipers shot the pirates dead. The American captain, already a hero for saving his crew by becoming a hostage, was saved. It was a job well done and President Obama can take the credit -- he's the commander in chief. Obama has good luck and that's good for all of us.
I was thinking of Jimmy Carter, during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, when he launched a secret helicopter raid in a daring rescue attempt. Carter had bad luck. An unexpected sandstorm grounded the choppers in the desert. One crashed, several burned, and the mission was aborted. The hostages remained imprisoned in the embassy in Teheran.
Carter's bad luck lead to Ronald Reagan becoming President. A decent man was replaced by a good-looking actor, and that was bad luck for all of us.
But President Obama has good luck. He didn't talk too much, during the pirate incident or afterward. His defense posture is burnished and strong. Pirates make good enemies, too. They are human. They're in it for the loot -- we can understand that.
It is better to have a pirate for an enemy than a religious terrorist who wants to commit suicide.
But I am a dove on defense, and I hope Obama uses his burnished image to reduce our exposure in the Middle East. I advocate a two-ocean Navy, with one fleet in the Atlantic and one fleet in the Pacific. The Indian Ocean is beyond our capacity to control. Global dominance cannot be our navy's mission. The navy is there now to protect supply routes to our troops, who are fighting in countries where we do not belong. Some say it's not about the oil, but that argument is very labored.
I advocate a more humble and more certain defense posture.
But I'm not a progressive, not by any means. It would be better to call me patriarchal, reactionary, conservative, or traditional. I didn't like the court decision in Iowa granting gender freedom in marriage. I don't agree with that position, and I think I'm smart enough to vote on it, or have my legislator vote on it.
The question of gender freedom in marriage is not a civil rights issue, it is a matter of definition. The law is fair, as it stands now, but it could be changed by legislation.
I oppose gender freedom because it impoverishes our language. To remove all gender distinctions from law reduces our culture to three words -- person, partner, and parent. In this new world, "a person may choose a partner, and may become a parent."
And those are the only words with substance.
Other words become decorative. Words once powerful and meaningful become derivative -- wife, husband, bride, groom, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, daughter, son, boy, girl.
Stripped of any legal bearing, these words become no more than something to play with.
Maybe that's what will happen. Maybe it won't be that bad. New words and new distinctions will arise that might be more appropriate. But I take a dim view of this venture. I'll be riding the brakes on this issue.
A LITMUS TEST. A reactionary position on marriage means that I fail the current litmus test, despite my dovish defense posture. That's just how it works.
POLITICS GETS ME AT ALL SIXES AND SEVENS and sometimes it's better if I don't think about it. I have arranged for leave from my job at the hospital. This is such a relief. For the next two months, I will be working for the Census, which hires people now to do preliminary address canvassing.
It's a nice, dull government job. Good pay. No stress. It's just what I deserve -- for now.
I have dreams of living in California, or spending more time there. Seriously. To be in Los Angeles, because it is a capital of media, and a center for arts. I crave the stimulation.
I'm thinking about such a great artist as Leonard Cohen who lives in Los Angeles. I have tickets to see his performance in Seattle April 23. But I like to go all out. If Los Angeles is good enough for Leonard Cohen, then why not me? I don't need to meet him or even know where he lives. Because it's in the air.
I was in Los Angeles last month for a visit, but I need to return and I am working on a plan to do just that.
It could be that I suffer from ambition, and it could be that I am too old to be struggling to make my mark on the world. I should stay in my rented farmhouse on Fir Island -- which is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in all of North America. Just stay there.
But I am not settled. It's ambition. It might not be a good thing, but I have it.
Or it could be that I am too proud. But if I was in Los Angeles among truly great artists, like Joni Mitchell, Joan Didion, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits, then maybe I could be humble again.