Let them figure it out

I have no problem letting Republicans figure out their own leaders, politics, and goals. They know much better than I what they want and how on earth they can believe the things they believe.

So I’m just saying this…of all the theories, and I’ve heard maybe eight this weekend, on why Palin quit a job she promised to do, I don’t care which reason is real and which is spin. What I care is that Canada embraces now the knowledge that I will undoubtedly leave this country if the Republicans choose her as their representative, and that by some stretch of faith, ignorance, or fraud, she gets elected President of these United States.

I’m not opposed to thoughtful, intelligent, inspiring Republicans getting their shot at running things. But I am opposed to that woman, who stands, talks, and walks for everything I find abhorrent in the way our democracy is going, putting her stamp on this nation.

Just saying. In advance. Appropos  of probably nothing.

Voice-activated Hell

Today, even though I felt like death warmed over, TMobile called, and the whore they (don’t) pay to harass me wanted to rumble.

Okay, so I understand why companies are shelving all their workers and turning to computers. Sure, it saves a few bucks. Sure, it helps the American economy by putting money into the pockets of robots, who seem to be taking the high price of oil especially hard. But seriously, communications companies, stop with the voice-activated customer service.

Here’s how computer customer service and I usually get along: the computer asks me what I want to do. I say, “customer service.” My son, who has now noticed I’m on the phone and sets his taser to stun, parrots, “customer service.” I shake off the distraction (is that what we call a small person who needs you and depends on you for everything he’s not able to do himself? a distraction? a Napoleonic dictator? my best little helper in the world? love of my life? Pain in my ass? as alittlepregnant says, “unstoppable arch-nemesis, perhaps.”) Anyway, I try to hold off the deluge of those Kodak moments in which he is possessed by the “hey, mom’s on the phone, which only happens once a week, and all bets are off!” mood of the minute, and wait for the computer to recognize my request.

DCSR (disembodied customer service rep): I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Let’s try again.

Okay, lady, or disembodied lady who spent a fortune in voiceover lessons to get this one gig and get no residuals from every fucking time the computer doesn’t understand me.

“Cus-to-mer ser-vice,” I enunciate.

DCSR: Okay. you want to establish new service, right?

“No,” I say, patience running thin. My son has glimpsed his opportunity to head to the bathroom to relieve the toilet paper roll of its pricey tree pulp. My cats have decided his absence from the room is their window to the one moment of my attention a day. My head is swimming, trying to decide who gets the focus.

DCSR: Please say yes or no.
Me: [small boy is trying to decide which button on the butane lighter will heat the pinking shears to a temperature sufficient to burn cat hair but cool enough to leave their skin unsinged] What was the question?

DCSR: Okay. Let’s start again.

“No, let’s not,” I think. Is it my imagination, or have they hired Sarah Palin for this job? The voice is just folksy enough, just approachable enough to make me forget for a moment that she is a tool of the Dark Side. Then she says something so classically bitchy that I am recalled from the trance in which I want smaller government, even though both Wasilla’s and Alaska’s grew under her reign as prom queen, and lower taxes, dropped just low enough that we force race victims to pay for their own rape kit.

“Customer serrrvice,” I trill, thinking that getting all happy and Southern will get me better service. I can play Palin with the best of them. Except Tina Fey. That woman is freaking genius. Maybe, maybe minus the letting her kid watch Psycho bit, but still.

“Okay,” the Sarah Palin robot computer disembodied nemesis trills back. “You said, ‘customer service,’ right?”

“Yes.” I’m shaking my head, no, at the toddler who is trying to put nail polish on the cats’ toes. Cats are resisting. Silly mortals. Toddler is undeterred. That’s it, boy. Way to pursue your artistic dreams. I believe in you!   Except, please don’t do that. Find something I can support would you, instead of going all “find the netherworld in which unconditional finds a few conditions.”

DCSR: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please say yes or no.
Me: I did say ‘yes or no.’ I said ‘yes.’ Please listen to me, since it’s just me and an almost-three year old and enough people aren’t listening to me today that I just might lose it.

DCSR: Let’s try again.
Me: [whining] No! Let’s not try again!

DCSR: [insistent, implying that I’m a failure for not even knowing how to talk] Please say, account balance, check minutes, send money to relatives in Peru, new credit card, deplete my savings account, or wait endlessly on hold.

Me: None of those. Customer service. Honey, please put that down. That’s a no-touch. Please put it down and we can play with this, instead.

DCSR: You said, ‘deplete my savings account, right?’

Me: [resenting this new turn Sarah Palin’s career has taken, even if it pays a bit better than 365 on per diem at home while your husband attends to government business for you, and almost wishing she was pardoning and butchering turkeys as VP instead of as disembodied customer service bitch] [as clearly as I can manage] No.

SP as DCSR: Please say yes or no.

Me: No. No no no no no no.

At this point, the kid is screaming at the top of his lungs because I’m saying ‘no’, the cats are hiding because they sense that formaldehyde is not on their list of “well, at least this is better than the shelter” activities, my savings account is gone, and the computer cops a ‘tude with me.

SP as DCSR: I’m sorry we’re having trouble. Let’s try again another time.


Okay, you fucknecks. I don’t have time to explain to your computer what I need. I don’t have time to Minnesota/Alaska/Georgia my accent to make myself intelligible. I want the good ol days where the motherfucking computer made me “press one” for self-immolation and “press two” for Kvorkian assisted conflagration.

Today’s was even worse. I’m sick, I’m on crutches, and Spouse is waiting on me hand and foot because every other time in our almost ten year relationship that I’ve been sick he’s been out of town. So he owes me some major tea and honey, some major shared childcare, and some major motherfugging midday naps.

And this TMobile bitch wants to rumble. (Don’t get me wrong. TMobile has been okay, I guess, even though I had no service at my old house and even though they lock me out of the website everytime I try to log on to pay my freaking bill. They did give me the cell phone MP3 player that might be the solution to outsidevoice‘s kindergardener with an iPod problem. But still. They’re fucking with the wrong nasally bitch today.)

T: Please say your account number now.
Me: 5-1-0-achoo
T: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that. Please try again now.
Me: [thinking, of course you didn’t. I didn’t finish.  a person would know that, you robot a–hole; then trying again] 5-1-0 [mommy mommy I need poop!]
T: We seem to be having some trouble.
Me: You said it, Lady. [“Daddy!” (yes, I’ve developed the nasty habit of calling Spouse “Daddy.” Vowed I never would. And every mom does something she vowed she never would, so as long as heroin and twenty-seven hours of tv-babysitter are still off the list, I’m good. “We’ve got a pooper in here!” To which he pleasantly replies, “Do I have a few minutes?” Where do I start?]
T: You said, pay the bills of all my friends and family, right?
Me: No.
T: Please say yes or no.
Me: No. [Achoo]
T: Dice Espanol?
Me: [in Spanish] No.
T: [composed, if robotic] Your bill is wicked overdue. Would you please pay, you deadbeat fucker, or we’ll cut off your only contact with the world.
Me: Look, I just moved, I didn’t know the bill was due, and I can never log onto the web site because my kid sucks my memory dry both of password and of, well, memory.
T: You said, add text messaging, right?
Me. No. [cough cough cough]
T: I’m trying to be patient with you, but it seems you pal around with terrorists.
Me: Oh, please. I met him once. He taught math, I went to office hours. That’s not pal-ing.
T: You said please enflame me, right?
Me: No.
T: You’re taken care of in that department?
Me: Yes, thank you very much.
T: You said please disconnect your service, right?
Me: No.
T: Please say yes or no.
Me: What was the question? [sniffle]
T: Thank you. Consider your service terminated. Now, can we schedule your personal visit with Sarah Palin?

Oh, sweet Mary, mother of my cousins, just shoot me now. I just want to press one for self-immolation.

East coast, left coast, and “wonderful little pockets” in between

According to Sarah Palin,

We believe that the best of America is in the small towns that we get to visit, and in the wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.

You know what? I’m tired of this your-America versus our-America bullshit. Every single citizen is part of the real America–part of the dichotomy between rich and poor, left and right, liberal and conservative, creative and analytical, educated and ignorant, entertained and bored, thoughtful and thoughtless.

Intentionally, superficially divisive politics fit into the latter category.

The real America is also the economic centers of the country. The farms, the factories, the skyscrapers, the theaters, the film backlots, the offices, the aerospace compounds, the retail centers, the universities, the tourist attractions. Cities are just as American as small towns. Small towns are just as American as cities. People are not more American because of their job, their background, their lack of education, or their residence in a swing state.

As Sarah Vowell said on The Daily Show the other day, if New York was American enough for the terrorists, it’s American enough for the rest of us.

I hope that after this election the nonsense about them versus us stops. Because every time politicians stoke that fire (every two years, just often enough to make it a permaflame) instead of focusing on the legitimate disagreements between their ideas, we all lose. Can’t we just have a civil discussion about how really bright minds come up with completely opposite ideas?

Stop pandering and realize that we all contribute. Some a lot more than others. But we’re all still citizens and every single vote should count.

What about the issues?

So the blogoshere and FoxNewsForRepublicans are abuzz with silliness about Sarah Palin’s Newsweek cover. Some are upset that she wasn’t airbrushed to within an inch of recognizability. Um…two things. First, airbrushing the humanity out of women’s faces is part of the problem with the way we, in this country, judge a woman first by her exterior and almost never by her ideas. Second, other persons of political importance have had exactly the same angle and zoom, and have looked just as flawless as she does, and nobody made a stink. How sexist that FoxNews thinks this cover is nasty, just because she’s a woman and presumably valuable for her looks. The cover pictures her face, and we’re not obligated to beautify it–every human face is beautiful the way it is. Sarah Palin’s face on this cover lovely and it’s not the point, because her politics are the point. Get over the fact that we should white glove her but manhandle the three other major political figures of the American presidential race. She gets the same treatment–respectful, full frontal magnifying glass. Airbrushing is reprehensible enough for fashion models and celebrities. She’s not in this game for her face. She’s in this game for her mind. Can we finally have a picture of that, please?

(Wouldn’t that be awesome? Have medical science design a way to measure a person’s intelligence, fairness, logic, goodness, and fundamental worthiness? Then election and marriage and hiring and friendship decisions would be much easier.)

Here’s a blog about the zoom-y cover nonsense. The first response, about a plastic surgeon judging her face is positively offensive. When are we allowed to look like ourselves? Baby photos are Photoshopped for magazines, toddlers are tarted up in full makeup for Little Miss Pedophile contests, teens are mocked for their appearance, and the rest of the country carves themselves to get self esteem.

On a similar note, I was searching the phrase “Sarah Palin is a hater” because after seeing a few clips of her speeches I marvel at how toxic and acerbic her tone is. “Who is the real Barack Obama?” Ah, excuse, me, Madam Governor, but isn’t that the pot calling the kettle an outsider? If his daughter or Joe Biden’s daughter was pregnant we’d be having a different election. If his religion or Joe Biden’s religion was as extreme, we’d be having a different election. If he or Joe Biden had been found by a bipartisan committee to have abused power, we would have a different election. Barack Obama has given hundreds, nay thousands, of interviews. And he has several flaws. But we know about them. Who is the real Barack Obama? Who is the real Sarah Pain? She can’t even name what media she relies upon for her information, let alone give a clear answer (I’m not going to answer that , and will instead answer the question I prepared…I read everything put in front of me…I’ll get back to you on that…it doesn’t matter what I believe about global warming, we just need to fix it). Obama’s Christian pastor said some really eye opening things, and Obama left his Christian church. (Had to repeat that qualifer because there are still people who think he’s Muslim. Not that I would care. Religion or not, I care how people think, not which brand of god they buy.) Palin’s pastor has said some really eye opening things and nobody calls her on it. Seriously, people. When is the superficial lovefest about this woman going to end, and when do we get to hear what she really believes? After the election? She doesn’t believe in global warming or evolution or birth control or government oversight, (until just recently, when it became clear that unbridled capitalism really kind of sucks for the innocent). She believes The Lord is at work in things like gas pipelines and wars (take a look at this article). She believes that rape and incest victims should be forced to have the children conceived in those violent acts, and she believes her daughter is the only one who should get to choose what to do with her own body.

Anyway, I found this blog, which led me to this New Yorker article. Funny, I guess, if it weren’t so scary.

Makes me want to go back to teaching critical thinking, because a good percentage of this country needs some of that skill.

(Speaking of, I heard a fantastic program on NPR yesterday that included a lengthy discussion of Harlem’s efforts to lift children out of the cycle of poverty. An interesting bit, early on in This American Life‘s piece, noted that job training and welfare programs are failing because some Americans aren’t missing one skill, something teachable that, once fixed, will enable them to work. They’re missing dozens of skils, including motivation, financial knowledge, and basic critical thinking. If we give kids positive, enriching environments that teach them to think broadly about problems, we create a future of universal success. Critical thinking might also help us end the cycle of getting the government we deserve, because we might, collectively, vote in our best interests, not in our narrowest interests.)

Palin and Obama and teen pregnancy

I think the most relevant piece of Sarah Palin‘s press release about her daughter’s pregnancy is this:

“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.” Finally, a birth announcement that includes the recognition that this job is damned hard.

Bristol Palin is very lucky to have her family’s support in an unfortunate situation. One benefit, clearly, to having women in policy-making positions, is that they know how hard it is to be a parent. (As usual, I refer you to the very well researched and cited The Mask of Motherhood.)

Barack Obama responded graciously to the pregnancy announcement (the whole affair gives a cadre of nasty bloggers a bad name because they hounded a family into revealing something that’s none of our business). (Note that most media are blaming the ugliness on “liberals,” as though most liberals are amoral jerks who seek only to torment Republicans. Most liberals are downright decent folk. Let’s stop the name-calling. It’s always evidence that you don’t have a good argument if all you can do is call names.) Obama’s response included this empathetic observation:

“You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And how families deal with issues and teenage children — that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics.”

Hopefully, instead of judging the families involved, we can talk about teaching children more than just abstinence, which is 100% effective as a method and abyssmally ineffective as an educational policy. Teen pregnancy is on the rise since Republicans have silenced science in our classrooms. And now, with Bush trying to classify birth control as abortion, we have a whole generation of girls and boys who will wind up young parents and young STD statistics because they don’t know they have options for keeping themselves safe and healthy.

In addition to opening a dialogue about the failures of abstinence only as a policy, this announcement should shift the discussion away from Palin’s family and toward this country’s need to improve quality of life for mothers and infants. We should be talking about exactly that which Sarah Palin will offer her daughter and grandchild: support. Since this country ranks near the bottom of industrialized countries for support for young mothers, working mothers, mothers in school, and breastfeeding mothers, we should all talk more about what we can do to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to support those who decide to have babies.

*  “Babies born to teen mothers are more likely to receive poor health care and live in poverty,” notes a cnn.com article.

Luckily for Bristol Palin, her baby will probably get good health care and not live in poverty. Let’s make sure that’s true of every child in the United States, and eventually the world, starting now.