Page Two: Opportunity Born Anew
In working together as Americans, there is hope
With a childlike vision leaping into view
Clicking, clacking of the high-heeled shoe
Ford & Fitzroy, Madame George
Marching with the soldier boy behind
He's much older with hat on drinking wine
And that smell of sweet perfume comes drifting through
The cool night air like Shalimar
– "Madame George," Van Morrison
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
whistles far and wee
– ee cummings
In Vermont, sometimes it would snow for days. Few dared travel when storms had entered their second or third day. Even when I was a student teacher in Bellows Falls, during those storms I stayed inside of the red house where I lived, in Putney. My students and the other teachers stayed home as well. Now – most classically by Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, but also in dozens of other movies – the madness of those stranded by storms in small shelters has been portrayed as cabin-fever raging. This was not the case for me. Instead, it was a time of books and music, with all pressures and deadlines artificially removed.
Red House was a farmhouse owned by the college, which had converted it into student living quarters. During the worst storms, I was warm. There were always a couple of cans of Campbell's soup to eat, with Oreos for dessert. There was a pay phone that usually wasn't working because one housemate or another, in a drunken rage, had ripped it from the wall. When I needed to call, I rewired it, but I almost never needed to call.
I did not drink or socialize with my housemates. Late in the year, I emerged from my room one evening, only to startle one of them walking by; he never realized I lived there, or that anyone did.
Being alone during those days of being snowed in was usually fine by me. I was alone a lot then. Most of the time. I liked it. There was sometimes a near-complete silence that could be achieved: so rare then, even rarer now. The silence was of the wood of the house and the snow, of the road almost completely untraveled, and of the fields with no footprints marring their shiny white surfaces.
In Vermont, after the storms were over, when the snow stopped falling, so much had accumulated that everything would still be snowed in for a number of days. I'd leave the house. Step outside. My feet would break through the snow. My snot would cake – not upon the grass, but my mustache. My breath could be seen as almost shiny, rolling clouds. The world was all draped in white, with a dozen shades of dark splashed about. I would breathe in deeply. And sometimes, sometimes just for a minute maybe, a couple of minutes, all would seem clean and pure, with the past severed behind me and the future fresh ahead. This was not a land devoid of all harsh memories, not a candyland of endless treats, only a place where opportunity was born anew, no longer lashed down by experience.
Tuesday night was not a night of quiet. I cried that night, more than once. The world seemed fresh, despite all my instincts not to so regard it. Right now is quiet, but I'm also still tasting Tuesday night.
I live now, as I have always lived, with a deep love of this country and the idea of this country. I believe in it – in the grandness of the ideas upon which it rests, even with all its warts, scars, failures, contradictions, craters, and tears.
I resent those who tell me that I don't really love it because I love it in the wrong way as much as I resent those who tell me that this country is so flawed it shouldn't be loved at all. There are those who claim that they are the real and only patriots who, in order to save the country, must destroy it. There are others who insist the ideas behind the country have been abandoned and it is corrupted, that there is no difference between the two parties because their glorious imaginations shun details, nuances, subtlety, and small movements. Their vision, one of a once-glowing, molten steel truth now covered by a horrible, dark, oozing mass of evil, is clear-cut: There is good and evil; there is black and white.
This is not a vision of a real world. This is a make-believe world – one in which it is declared that "It's time to leave the left-and-right political paradigm behind" – but only for one where the conflict is between an illegitimate and oppressive power structure on top, trying to crush the people and the heroes of the people on the bottom.
This is not a time for gloating, as that would be vile. This is not a time for bragging; there is nothing to brag about. This is not a partisan time – anything but. Now is the time for coming together. Even if this election's results have brought joy and hope, that does not lessen the complex problems and many crises this country faces. Blaming one another only creates more problems while allowing the old ones to grow unattended. In working together as Americans, without name-calling or blame, there is hope.
There are those who don't like our endorsements, who insist we must be deliberately and consciously championing the wrong position. The actual charges are varied and many: that we operate without enough knowledge, that we misunderstand what we know, that we are overtly corrupt and/or unbearably stupid, that we have sold out to reactionary powers or have been corrupted by money and those who deal in it. Some call us names, ridicule our intelligence, and denounce or even deny our reasoning.
Evidently, the idea is that by endorsing a position that some people and groups feel is the wrong one, the Chronicle is practically forcing readers, in locked goose step, into voting the wrong way rather than letting them think for themselves.
Granting these charges any validity means accepting a premise that the Chronicle staff energetically rejects: that readers blindly accept and follow our endorsements. This position is much more of an insult to readers than to us. There is no way in which we try to restrict or discourage readers from thinking for themselves. Rather, we regard them as independent thinkers, many or even most of whom don't agree with the Chronicle on many issues. We try to provide a great deal of information, as well as to make our opinions clear, but that is in order to encourage questioning, dialogue, debate, consideration, and even dismissal, not to blindside those reactions.
(Not to be disingenuous: It's likely that some small number of our readers do follow most of our electoral endorsements, and perhaps many do so on lesser-known, downballot races. They are more than balanced out by those who probably consistently vote the exact opposite of our endorsements, as well as by many who ignore our opinions altogether.)
When those with differing views on candidates or propositions offer valid objections or relevant information, they can be very persuasive. But those who insist our position is based either on stupidity or corruption, while trivializing the actual complexity of the issue, most likely have little effect. Saying there was no downside to Proposition 2, so we must be on the take, for example, is so obviously wrong (there is always a downside) that it probably has the exact opposite impact than the one intended.
Given the size of our News staff and the amount of space devoted to local stories each issue (especially with the topics and issues covered), I would hope that most of our readers realize that, if nothing else, we are sincere. Instead of "gotcha" stories about corrupt politicians, spectacular exposés, or graphic reports on local scandals, most of our coverage is about relevant policies and local issues that are far less sexy but are of concern to the community.
Our endorsements are equally sincere.