I let other things distract me again, but I'm back. Sorry, I was too cheap to pick you up any souvenirs again.
But now that I'm back, I suppose I should go ahead and first note that I did indeed somehow manage to win that "Teach Steve to Read" contest over at The Raleigh Quarterly, so that short story will be hitting the internet sometime in September when their second issue goes up. I'll be sure to note that again here when the day comes. (Hopefully I'll manage a good entry or two here before then, anyway.) Having been expecting to only finally become a published author for the first time sometime in 2009 at the soonest with my first novel - assuming I have any luck at all in finding an agent and publisher, anyway - this comes as a pretty huge surprise to me. And at this point, frankly, I'm still just trying to process the idea that I'm finally going to be published - going from dreaming to an actual literary accomplishment in reality such as this, however minor, is one hell of a step forward.
Anyway, onwards to the main focus of this entry. It's time to get political! Because I know you all haven't had nearly enough politics crammed down your throat in the past year and a half already, as America's kept its focus on getting rid of Bush - and it's impossible not to blame them - with enough eagerness to kill at least several small children if not expressed in appropriately reserved quantities.
The "liberal media," of course, was completely focused on the Democratic National Convention this past week, helping to deliver the important message that the progressive wing of politics is finally getting their act together, uniting as one, and preparing to undo the damages of eight years of George W. Bush, no matter what it takes.
Oh, wait, that's actually the last narrative the media was interested in telling. The convention opened with its first two nights headlined by (hopefully) future first lady Michelle Obama and former first lady/presidential bidder Hillary Clinton. Michelle Obama did an excellent job painting more of a picture of Obama's family life for America - something we're obsessed with as a nation, for some reason, since we want our politicians to be paragons of morality, living the kind of life that might give Normal Rockwell diabetes.
(Thus, the conservatives' excessive exuberance in jumping on John Edwards over his own personal scandal just weeks ago. I've met Edwards before, and he's certainly a likable enough guy, who's made a point of standing for some important things politically. While I do think he's been particularly foolish in hiding his infidelity from the public (When even New York Governor David Paterson has been open and honest about his own past extramarital affairs, no doubt especially important in his position after the scandal that brought down Eliot Spitzer earlier this year.), I don't think it's anything that reflects on him as a politician. He wasn't a spectacular senator for North Carolina - though I'd take someone like him over Elizabeth Dole or Richard Burr any day, both of them having been little more than mindless cogs in the congressional Bush administration enabling mechanism, and thus wholly unrepresentative of North Carolinians and Americans alike - but a scandal like this doesn't take away from his own political passions. Nobody goes out of their way to address the issue of poverty like that unless they truly care about it - poverty's not exactly a subject that has a history of winning votes in recent decades, even from the impoverished. The Bush policies of tax cuts for America's richest, shifting the tax burden back onto the middle and lower classes, actually worked better - simply because the very idea of a tax cut is winning, while talk of a tax increase (No matter who it's for, and the lower and middle classes are generally not the focus of tax increases.) can be a deathblow. The American people are not overly fond of voting with their brains, unfortunately - which also played a part in Bush's 2000 and 2004 victories. But in the end, the Republicans don't have a leg to stand on in criticizing a Democrat for infidelity - their own sex-related scandals, which we tend to see far more of, are often worse, looking at Larry Craig and Mark Foley in recent years in particular. And we've certainly seen Democrats continue on after personal scandals and do further good for America - looking at Bill Clinton in the last decade, and even further back, across Ted Kennedy's political career.)
Nonetheless, Michelle Obama reminded us that no matter how much the McCain campaign would like to disconnect Obama from ordinary people in Americans' minds (And let's be honest, how many "ordinary" people ever manage to become a presidential candidate, let alone make it anywhere of note in politics? Aside from the great Charles Doty, anyway.), he still has a background not so different from most of us, he's still a husband and a father, and as human as any of us. Michelle Obama also showed through her words - as she has through her public appearances in general throughout the campaign - her intelligence and strength as a feministic figure, and that she'd be a far better and more interesting first lady than our other main option. (And certainly more so than Laura Bush, rarely seen in public, and virtually never making any statements worth noting or reacting to. Keeping their women down, so to speak, seems to be something of a trend amongst the more conservative crowd - Cindy McCain certainly seems nothing more than a trophy wife as well. But then, the Republican party is noted for their consistency in more misogynistic political policies, and a general track record of oppression of the fairer sex.) After the 8 years of Laura Bush following Hillary Clinton, who herself has been a strong feministic figure as well, Michelle Obama is certainly someone we could be proud to have living in the White House as well.
Hillary Clinton went on to give the sort of strong speech the party - and America - needed to hear from her as well. You could get a sense enough of that she still would have preferred to have been the nominee herself, but she never made a point of stating or rubbing that fact in. She threw her full support behind Obama and party unity, behind progress and all the fields in which we need to focus on making progress and reforms after eight years of Bush and Republican regression. She outright slammed the idea of a McCain presidency and effectively encouraged her voters to get behind Obama, with the similar political stances they've had, given what an incredible mistake voting for McCain out of bitterness would be. And after all that, on wednesday, Hillary herself announced Obama as the party's official presidential candidate following the tallying of the delegates' votes. Another strong act in the name of party unification.
Of course, as the Daily Show and Colbert Report spent the week making light of, the media was having none of that. The only story the so-called "liberal media" was interested in telling was a tale of a party bitterly divided against itself, with an insurmountable chasm between Hillary Clinton and Obama supporters that would invariably assure a John McCain victory by a landslide in November. The media was far more interested in telling the narrative they'd prefer to be reality - that they'd prefer Americans buy into. Along, of course, with the usual insinuations that there must be no way America would be ready for its first African American president, and that the very notion of change - both in that regard and many others - would be too much. But if there's one thing America needs now more than anything else, it's positive, progressive change - and lots of it. If we continue down the current path, as a McCain presidency would take us, our future as a nation is grim. We'd start even more unjust wars (Though if you think on it much, there is almost never any such thing as a just war.), our economy would collapse, and we'd watch even more civil rights simply evaporate. Together, George W. Bush and John McCain represent a wholly self-destructive conservative nation where citizens' freedoms are limited and we exist in a constant state of war - amongst the worst things people could represent in both politics and humanity, and certainly going against the very spirit in which this nation was first founded. (As much hypocrisy as we had within the founding fathers.)
Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard in particular showed himself to be as much of a predictable conservative robot as he's always been in his televised commentary on female Obama and Clinton's speeches, simply blankly characterizing them as "generic." He gave Stephen Colbert some good material to satirize in and of that, being that he's amongst the many conservative pundits who will never even consider a kind - let alone honest - word about someone they don't agree with politically. (While even the Democrats have been acknowledging that you can't deny McCain's military service, no one beyond General Wesley Clark seems to have had the guts to publicly note that said military service does not actually make him at all qualified for the presidency. And while I've mocked him plenty himself, Mike Huckabee praised Obama for breaking the color barrier in the presidential race on the Colbert Report the other night, while also admitting that he still didn't agree with Obama on anything otherwise.) For a newspaper editor, Kristol doesn't exactly come off as overly verbose. Perhaps that's a testament to the extent of his conservativism, however, in demonstrating that he's too conservative to maintain and utilize much in the way of a varied vocabulary. But then again, no matter what Obama and Clinton said in their speeches those first few days, he would have found something negative to say about them. And though that's nothing to the conservatives' advantage in the grand scheme of American politics, even without Hillary as the presidential candidate or running mate, women are still taking center stage in this year's election.
Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry all spoke over the rest of the week, delivering great speeches about where we need to go and what we need to do politically. (Kerry in particular having shown remarkable improvement in the accessibility of his public speaking over 2004.) Dennis Kucinich issued a great wake up call to America in his impassioned address - slightly cheesy in concept, but brilliant in all the truths he told. (And only when you've been a candidate and figure with no real shot at the White House, like Kucinich has, do you truly tend to have the freedom to speak the absolute truth about matters as he does.) And on thursday, prior to Obama's big acceptance speech, Al Gore gave a 15 minute speech addressing a variety of political issues, eight years of Bush, and wholeheartedly endorsing Obama, rallying the crowd and reminding America well what could have been - had we and the system not failed, in the true election results in 2000 being suppressed and George W. Bush taking office - and that he would've been a far better president than Bush ever was. We wouldn't have invaded Iraq, we would have kept our response to 9/11 to focusing on the perpetrators instead of entering this insane proclamation of endless war, we would have focused on going green as a nation actually properly responding to Global Warming, we'd be seriously working on implementing alternative energy plans in breaking our addiction to and dependence on oil, and our civil rights wouldn't be under attack - women being able to breathe more easily in not worrying about someone overturning Roe v. Wade one day or another, or trying to redefine various forms of birth control as abortion to further a literally dangerous regressive line of political thought.
Largely thanks to the ambitions of Hillary Clinton, women are one of the most critically important demographics in this year's election. But there's been a good bit of blowback as a result of Hillary's being neither the candidate nor his running mate. Personally, I suppose Barack Obama's choice in Joe Biden. In just about every way, Biden's strengths complement Obama's personal weaknesses as a candidate - which he's acknowledged in this choice. And as such, he's a far better running mate not only for Obama, but for America as a whole than Hillary would have been - even if Hillary would have likely guaranteed her supporters' votes. (As said votes should be guaranteed already between Hillary's supporting Obama herself now, as well as their politics largely representing the same things as Hillary's.) Joe Biden is an open feminist, who supports women's right to choose, as well as efforts to bring about true equality across the nation. As such, he's earned the support of feminist organizations as a vice president who would look out for women's interests in the White House while serving as an excellent adviser to Obama - filling the Vice Presidential role far better than Hillary likely would have, as Biden himself is certainly someone who would've made a great president too, had he done better in the primaries.
The McCain campaign, on the other hand, has been taking the low road rather consistently for some time now. One day - and many others - they try to use music by groups that in no way support him or his politics as their campaign song (And now we've got Jackson Browne actually suing the campaign for their use of one of his songs.). Then they try to sling mud the next, trying to paint Obama as nothing more than a substance-free celebrity, actually going as far as to try to compare him directly to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. (Not to mention that the Obama campaign actually had to go out of their way to create a website to dispel negative myths about the man.) Of course, Hilton herself ended up releasing a response to this at Funny or Die, which did a pretty decent job mocking McCain, with writing by Adam McKay. (Who wrote and directed Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers.) McCain plays on Americans' fears - and counts on fear votes, like George W. Bush did in 2004 - and makes constant gaffes in the media spotlight, as well as convenient mistakes about what he stands for. Such as his conveniently "forgetting" how much he's stood against birth control in the past last month. And even more recently, conveniently forgetting how many houses he owns and going on to give a ridiculous definition of what kind of money he feels constitutes "rich" He's shown himself repeatedly to be less than reliable in the mental faculties and completely out of touch with the American people, outright denying the American crisis we face. And he's gotten away with every mistake - far more than any candidate would otherwise - because the media and people (Disturbingly enough, looking at the close polls) love his image. That he's a "maverick." (When he's anything but - he's mostly been a rank and file far right Republican for most of his career, and he's only gotten worse in the Bush years.) That he's a war hero. (Who came away from his experiences frequently coming off as someone suffering from PTSD - which should be a major red flag - as well as a supporter of George W. Bush's baseless wars. And he's been very open about his intention to pursue further wars, should he be elected.) He may have served his country, but military servitude doesn't make anyone qualified - let alone "deserving," as he's treated - of the White House.
Most insulting yet? The announcement of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate today. She is no Hillary Clinton, let alone a Shirley Chisholm or Geraldine Ferarro. Is she qualified? You bet she's not. Which is especially funny considering all the time McCain's spent attacking Obama for his lack of experience, in his own choice to nominate someone with far less experience. The Palin nomination is nothing more than a slap in the face to America's women. It's McCain and his campaign saying "You're so stupid and angry over not getting to vote for Hillary that you'll vote for anyone with a woman on their side. Even one who doesn't represent you well at all." And that's exactly the issue with Palin - she's the diametric opposite of feministic figures in politics like Hillary Clinton. She's regressive, openly opposed to abortion, all for opening wildlife refuges to oil drilling, anti-same sex marriage, and has even outright vetoed Alaskan efforts to research alternative energy, being firmly in the pocket of big oil - essentially, while she regards herself as a feminist figure, as a prominent member of Feminists for Life, she stands for all the wrong things. A proclaimed feminist who doesn't stand for women's needs or interests, with intention of rolling back their rights - including reproductive rights - just like McCain. The far more incompetently run campaign of the two has made a terrible, horrifically unqualified running mate choice as an insult to the women of America in hoping to use bitterness over Hillary Clinton. Nothing more. America's women aren't stupid, like McCain and his campaign are now banking on - let's hope that shows in November.
In the end, we need to pay close attention and educate ourselves as citizens in America. This is the most important election since 2000 - and if you need a refresher, check out Recount, which does an excellent job covering what happened back then, as infuriating and disillusioning as it is - and the last thing we need is Americans making political choices out of bitterness, racism, cynicism, and so forth - essentially any excuse to not even take a chance on change. Taking on more of the same after eight years of George W. Bush would only serve the downfall of our nation - we have only two choices here in our ridiculous two party system, but this year the choice is obvious. To cynically elect someone who promises more of the same in distrust of someone who promises the meaningful change our country sorely needs, effectively giving up on things ever getting better, or getting behind that change and electing the right president, right senators, and right representatives we need to fix our broken government and get to work on undoing these past eight years of damage that the Bush administration and Republicans have inflicted upon America and the world. Too many lives have been lost, too many rights have been taken, too much damage to our nation on every level has been done - we can't afford to risk a McCain presidency. And to you, my female readers in particular, if you're even considering voting for McCain in losing Hillary as an option - especially after his nomination of Sarah Palin - please, please, both for your sake and that of all of America, take my words to heart.