Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Blood-Dimmed Tide Is Loosed!

Satisfyingly poetic: only days removed from my tirade about Yeats Abuse, I watched No Country For Old Men again. (Third time, I believe.) Whaddya think? Does Cormac Freaking McCarthy get a free pass to loot well-worn poems for his novel-titling purposes? I guess I'd decided that he did, without really thinking too hard about it. I was never even a huge fan of Corky McC's, but that's really a pretty good title. I wouldn't have been able to resist it either, if I wrote novels. And there's well-worn and there's well-worn, after all. It's not as if he called it Beauty Is Truth. Or, uh, The Sound and the Fury.

Is the title exactly spot-on appropriate? Eh, not so much. The title of the novel/film seems likely to refer to Ed Tom Bell, virtuous sheriff, the Tommy Lee Jones character from the movie, and to the "old-timers" whom he wants to emulate. He's freaked out and unmanned by his world's seemingly arbitrary descent into savagery--it's no longer any country for him, as you can tell from his increasingly haunted expression in the movie. The speaker of "Sailing to Byzantium" seems a bit more conventionally crotchety and snobbish. He just hates the young because they're constantly singing and having sex, and have no respect for Culture in the way that he does. Hence he's getting the hell out the West to go someplace Old and Religious. If you happen to be under sixty and a fan of "sensual music," it'd be easy to snicker at the guy. But that's what poetry is for--it's allowed to just be right, whatever might be absurd about what it's actually saying. Who's gonna argue with freakin' Yeats? Consume my heart away; sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal / It knows not what it is... Not me. Nice words. Pretty words. Keep saying words, Mr. William Butler sir.

Haven't even said anything about that movie. Pretty fine movie. No Lebowski, certainly. I'll get back to it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, wait! We *do* still suck!

Damn these people to hell. (Sorry. Is that shrill?)
The tragic news casting a pall over the Obama victory last night is the passage of constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage in Florida, Arizona, and, it appears, California. In Florida, a state that went for Obama by a 51-49 percent margin, 62 percent of voters pulled the lever for the gay marriage ban. That means that the hardcore religious right, which fueled the placement of these bans on the ballot in all three states and spearheaded the campaigns for their passage, succeeded in not only mobilizing their followers -- who were led to believe that gay marriage would spell the end of religious liberty for Christians -- but in casting the issue in a way that appealed to more moderate voters as well.

I guess we can hope that this is a healthy slap in the face, a cold reminder, here in our Finest Hour. We might be living in the Future, now, but we can’t pretend it’s an unrecognizable place. They’re all still out there, the hardcore conservative true believers, with all of their vicious banality. The era of their freakishly hypertrophied power is done with, but they’re not going to go quietly or cleanly.

But damn. Think about all those eighty-year-old black people turning out to vote for Obama. They got born into a world where they were the objects of smirking contempt and hysterical fear—but redemption, they knew, was just around the corner. It was gonna be okay; Langston Hughes said so. Then skip forward a few depressing decades, and these same people are still thinking well, maybe in another generation or two it won’t matter so much. The ones who lived to see this morning are happy now, if “happy” is even the word for something like that. But there are other people feeling that bitter resignation all over the country this morning. Oh, well. Maybe our kids will get to marry whomever they feel like.

Well, that worked out okay.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!
Wm Wordsworth

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
Some Arrogant Jerk

Come on if you think you can take us on…
You forget so easy
We ride tonight.

First thoughts, late:
The triumphalist narrative is that the nation has at last Redeemed Itself for all that slavery stuff—and that’s a bit over-the-top, but I’m all too happy to go with the exuberant moment. (You don’t get too many of them, after all.) But this redemption goes all the way down to the prosaic level, which makes it more satisfying. The popular and electoral vote margins are much higher than either of Bush’s. My state, which was National Shame Ground Zero four Novembers ago, has put the shame behind it—almost matching the national popular vote margin. And though I can barely believe it, my county, as white as the day is long, except on its state university campus, has surpassed the statewide margin of victory, and maybe the national margin. Too soon to tell.

And yeah, of course, like a certain number of other people embarrassed and appalled by the result the last time, I managed to do a couple things this time around to maybe improve that outcome a little. I’m not gonna take all the credit. But I parked cars for Senator Biden. And I canvassed the home of Major League Baseball manager Jim Leyland’s…nephew. There.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Let this be my annual reminder...

...we could all be something bigger.