Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Dear Governor Palin,

I just watched your conversation with Sean Hannity, and I want to tell you as one mother to another that I, as one of the wee-wee liberals you disdain, am not telling you to shut up. I am asking you to turn down the volume.

I've noticed that you and I have something in common--a love of referencing folksy, personal stories. So let's pretend we're neighbors, and not neighbors like that creepy so-called journalist who rented that house next door to yours last summer and then pretended like he didn't do it to irritate you. What if you and your family were playing your music too loud after midnight, and I called to ask you to turn it down? How would you respond?

I hope you wouldn't respond by telling me that's too bad, but you have the right to play your music as loud as you want, any time of the day or night, and that as a matter of fact, you're going to turn it up louder, because darn it, this is America, where people have gone to war and died to earn the right for the rest of us to do what we want when we want to. Because I actually had a neighbor tell me that when I so rudely interrupted his loud hot-tub party at one a.m. to ask him to quiet down. No matter that he and his friends had so rudely interrupted my sleep during my sixth month of pregnancy. Somehow he turned it into that I was raining on his parade.

"Tell that to the police when they arrive," I said, turning toward my house to make good on my promise.

Here's another story I think you'll relate to, as a hockey mom: At a soccer match for second-grade boys, I asked a parent who kept walking in front of me as I sat on the sidelines to please not walk in front of me during the game. Of course this begged the question, why wasn't he sitting in a chair like all the other spectating parents were?

He got so angry so instantly I was afraid he was going to hit me. His responses are in quotes, mine (real and imagined, I'll let you make the call) in parentheses. "Who are you to ask me to stop?" (Uh, another parent watching my son's match.) And "Everyone knows our team always sits on this side of the field." (How would I know that? I've never laid eyes on you before in my life.) And my personal favorite: "You could have asked nicely." (I did. I was very direct, and as polite as I could manage, given that your pacing was ruining my view of my son's game. Maybe next time I'll say, "Can you please sit down and shut up, asshole?")

But wait, that would just be throwing fat on the flame. I wouldn't want to be irresponsible or anything with that hard-won right to free speech.

I've learned when people are determined to be aggressive, they will resist all efforts to restrain them in any way. It sounds to me like that's where you're coming from, Governor.

No one knows better than me how tough it is to practice what you preach. But if you want the right to express yourself freely, it works both ways. You'll have to expect some sassy responses from wee wee liberals, the lamestream media and anyone whose opinions differ from yours. That's how I understand America's commitment to free speech.

So are we going to be happy neighbors, or are we going to be at odds?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adults, please

Just listened to Neal Conan's program, Talk of the Nation, on National Public Radio. Neal devoted the first part of the show to the Tucson shootings. One of his guests was Randy Graf, a former Arizona state house rep and Giffords' Republican opponent in 2006. Mr. Graf spoke of how politics is a tough business; how Sheriff Clarence Dupnik stepped over the line when he described Arizona as a focal point for overheated rhetoric and bigotry; and the NRA platitude, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Yes, politics is a tough business. Things are said. Policies are going to offend at least half the electorate. I hope Mr. Graf isn't lumping the toughness of politics in with assassination, attempted or otherwise. 'Cause it sure sounds like it.

Again, at least half the electorate agrees that political rhetoric is overheated. Sheriff Dupnik is a law enforcement officer. That he made these remarks after a shooting rampage seems perfectly appropriate to me. And it's not like overblown rhetoric creating a hostile environment is a new idea--people have been talking about cooling it down for a long, long while. Why is it so outrageous to say it after a shooting? Does it mean that Mr. Graf and others want to keep open the option of throwing rhetorical flames? Is what Sheriff Dupnik said more outrageous than the conditions leading up to the shootings, or the shootings themselves? As in when the governor of Arizona makes the statement that many headless bodies have been found in the Arizona desert and which she later has to retract?

And as for guns killing people--ay, yay, yay. I'll quote a caller to TOTN, who said in response to Mr. Graf's recitation, "Try telling that to the mother of the nine-year-old girl."

Music Man

I'm almost finished reading Keith Richards' autobiography Life. It confirms almost everything that I knew about him--that he's talented, funny, pugnacious, curious, generous, chock full of joie de vivre, and intelligent. This last trait cuts both ways. As he writes, "Like all geniuses, [the producer Rob Fraboni] can be a pain in the arse, but it goes with badge."

Right back atcha, Keith.

I love this man enough to hang in even when he gives what I expect will be a geeky Keef guitar clinic early in the book. I was tempted to skip it altogether and get to the juicy bits about Anita and Brian and Mick and the drugs. But I'll be damned if I didn't keep reading because he explained it in a way I could understood, that I cared about, and that gave me insight into his skill as a maker of music. The guy hears sounds in his head--it might be harpsichord or taiko drums--and translates those sounds onto the strings of his guitars.

When he wrote that feminists hate the Stones, adding "Where would they be without us?" I got defensive. I consider myself a feminist who is also a big fan of the Stones, and Keith in particular. What's wrong with supporting equal rights for women? I sat with his question for a little while. Of course he's sort of pulling our leg--sort of. But he's also right. Where would the women's movement be without fighting against the sentiments expressed in "Under My Thumb"? While I'm not gonna thank the Stones for that, I'm also not going to pretend that the Stones invented it. Or that we'd all be in Paradise if sexism never existed.

In almost all cases, Keith is characteristically direct about his memories and his feelings. Though the journalist James Fox co-wrote Life, it is Keith's voice that blazes forth. Except in one instance, when he recalls his infant son Tara's death. It felt to me that Keith hid behind a curtain (for one of the few times in his life) and let Fox or someone else write it. Check it out for yourself. It's on page 386.

I didn't buy his rationalization about driving under the influence, about the time he crashed his Bentley with eight people inside, including his seven-year-old son. It was along the lines of what the Rain Man said, "I'm an excellent driver." And "Nobody got hurt." Except that his son recalls a bloody handprint he'd left on the dashboard that remained there for decades after. The best you can say about Keith's recollection of the crash, or his recounting of the obsession for arranging fixes, is that he didn't try to hide anything. Keith's addictions were clearly in control.

That's really no surprise. When you're as gifted a person as Keith Richards is, it's easy to believe you're in control. Maybe even that you're a god, or a damned good rival for God Himself. After all, Keith makes sounds people haven't heard before. He can go into a studio and make recordings that millions of people will pay good money to listen to

I'm one fan who's glad he kicked the most lethal addiction and has lived to pursue the real fascination of his life.