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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Anne Lamont: A Call to arms

How to handle the fury brought on by this election? Register voters, hit the streets, pray. Stop talking about her. Talk about Obama.

By Anne Lamott
Sep. 16, 2008

I had to leave church Sunday morning when it turned out that the sermon was not about bearing up under desperate circumstances, when you feel like you're going crazy because something is being perpetrated upon you and your country that is so obscene that it simply cannot be happening.

I sat outside a 7-Eleven and had a sacramental Dove chocolate bar. Jeez: Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise -- lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world -- are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms.

When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"

And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian."

I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it. Nor am I going to say the word "lipstick" again until after the election, as it would only be used against me. Or "polar bear," because that one image makes me sadder than even horrible old I can stand.

I hate to criticize. And I love to kill wolves as much as the next person does. But this woman takes such pride in her ignorance, doesn't have a doubt in the world about her messianic calling, that it makes anyone of decency feel nauseated -- spiritually, emotionally and physically ill.

I say that with love. As we say in Texas. (Also, we say, "Bless her heart.")

We felt this grief and nausea during the run-up to the war in Iraq. We felt it after the 2004 election. And now we feel it again.

But since there are still six weeks until the election, and since the stakes are as high as the sky, which should definitely not be forced to endure four more years of the same, we have got to get a grip. There are millions of people to register to vote, millions of dollars to be raised. We really cannot go around feeling flat and defeated, with the need to metabolize the rotten meat that this one particular candidate and the media have forced upon us.

One of the tiny metabolic suggestions I have to offer -- if, like me, you choose not to have her name on your lips, like an oozy cold sore (I say that with love) -- is to check out a Web site called the Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. There you can find out what she and her husband would have named you if you had been their baby. My name, Anne, for instance, would be Krinkle Bearcat. John, her running mate, would be named Stick Freedom. George would be Crunk Petrol. And so on.

First of all, go find out what your own name would be. Then for one day refuse to use the name of these people who are so damaging to earth and to our very souls -- so, "I don't have to understand anything, it's all fuzzy math. Trust me. I'm the decider." From now on, when working for Obama, talk about Obama, talk about his policies, the issues, the economy, the war in Iraq, poverty, the last eight years, Joe Biden. You don't have to mention Crunk Petrol, or his sidekick, Shaver Razorback.

And you sure as hell don't have to mention Claw Washout -- she is absolutely, hands-down the most ludicrous person ever to be nominated. She's a "South Park" character. There was a mix-up. Mistakes were made.

Everything you need to know about how to bear up during these two months is already inside you. Go within: Work on your own emotional acre. Stand still, and hurt, and feel crazy. Then drink a lot of water, pray, meditate, rest. Rest is a spiritual act. Now, I am a reform Christian, so it is permissible for me to secretly believe that God hates this woman, too. I heard God slam down a couple of shooters while she was talking the other night.

Figure out one thing you can do every single day to be a part of the solution, concentrating on swing states. Money, walking precincts, registering voters, whatever. This is the only way miracles ever happen -- left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

As my anonymous pal Krinkle Bearcat once wrote: Laughter is carbonated holiness. It is chemo. So do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor. Rent Christopher Guest movies, read books by Roz Chast and Maira Kalman. Picture Stick Freedom in his Batman underpants, having one of his episodes of rage alone in one of his seven bedrooms. Or having one of his bathroomy little conversations with Froth Moonshine. (Bless their hearts.) Try to remember that even Karl Rove has accused him of being a lying suck.

Reread everything Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower ever wrote. Write down that great line of Molly's, that "freedom fighters don't always win, but they're always right." Tape it next to your phone.

Call the loneliest person you know. Go flirt with the oldest person at the bookstore.

Fill up a box with really cool clothes that you haven't worn in a year, and take it to a thrift shop. Take gray water outside and water whatever is growing on your deck. This is not a bad metaphor to live by. I think it is why we are here. Drink more fluids. And take very gentle care of yourself and the people you most love: We need you now more than ever.


rick allen said...

This strikes me as a little over-the-top. Gov. Palin should not be turned into Voldemort. She needs to be named, discussed, understood.

Seems to me that she represents two of the great weaknesses of democracy. First, she embodies the electorate's love of novelty. I think we have to admit that Sen. Obama benefited somewhat from that quality. But happily it wears off. Whether it will do so in time is the great question.

Second, there is that tendency to vote for people who are "like me." Yes, I know that Gov. Palin is not like most of the people who read this blog, but she is like many swing voters, and many of them would undoubtedly rather go fishing with her than attend a constitutional law seminar with Sen. Obama. The mistake is thinking that that kind of amiability is a qualification for office. Sen. Obama is right to focus on what the candidates would do with our problem, rather than encourage us to treat them as surragates for ourselves. To do so is to utterly distort the principle of representation.

I think we can win this thing, but not by making Gov. Palin She-who-must-not-be-named. That strengthens her, and encourages her most irrational supporters.

FranIAm said...

I love Anne. This was already on its way to being a blog post at my place, but now I will also link it to you my friend.

it's margaret said...

thank you! I needed this....

--it's margaret

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Over the top? I take it you haven't read any of Annie Lamonts other stuff, eh?

the Reverend boy said...

I try not to speak her name either only because it just creates such a visceral reaction at times inside ... and that is a toxicity no one needs.

I did try to refer to her as "she" or "her" and not initiate any conversation about her whatsoever ... but the funny thing is, I find myself saying "she" or "her" the same way my mother used to refer to the girls I dated in high school.

You know the tone.

And I say that with all love towards the running mate, bless "her" heart.

Hiram said...

"Here we are again. A man and a woman whose values we loathe and despise -- lying, rageful and incompetent, so dangerous to children and old people, to innocent people in every part of the world -- are being worshiped, exalted by the media, in a position to take a swing at all that is loveliest about this earth and what's left of our precious freedoms."

If this were written about Sen Obama and Sen Biden, and appeared on Stand Firm, would you call it toxic?

FranIAm said...

Oh dear Rick, Anne Lamott is like Scripture (notice I say LIKE) - to be read with an open mind and heart, to be experienced broadly and deeply and to not be taken with a literal eye.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hiram - well, first of all, no one could possibly say the same thing about Obama because it's simply not true. Lamont is writing what many of us believe about the McCain-Palin ticket which is not, it appears to me and many others, about democracy but theocracy. I think we need to fight that with everything fiber and muscle and bone we have in our bodies.

Don't they scare the Beejeesus out of you? If they don't, then you may need to pay closer attention.

This may not be what is really in McCain's heart, but at 72, this makes his choice of VEEP even scarier. Because she, my friend, IS talking theocracy.

You know, I have never in almost 25 years of ordained ministry, had a political sign on the yard in my rectory or bumper sticker in my car. This is the first year I have desperately wanted to do that. I find myself rejoicing every time I see an Obama sign in the front yard of a house in this town I affectionately call "Republicanville."

Even the life-long, die-hard Republicans are strangely silent and glum, just shaking their heads sadly. They may be conservative, but these are intelligent, well educated people who seem as insulted as I am with their ticket.

So, no. It's not toxic. As Fran says, Lamont, LIKE Scripture, needs to be read with an open mind. But, if you can't do the later, you'll have difficulty doing the former.

I'm sorry you find it so, but then, are you really surprised - either that something like this would be here or your reaction to it?

Hiram said...

On the whole, it seems to work like this:
If you write with vim and vinegar opposing someone I like or who supports the same positions I do, you are being toxic.

If you write with vim and vinegar opposing someone whom I do not like, or with whom I disagree strongly, you are telling the truth.
I read Stand Firm daily, and I find a lot of interesting articles. Some of the comments, however, are bitter or disparaging. Quite a few are filled with humor, and there is a lot of good-natured bantering.

I used to read Father Jake once or twice a week, about as much as I could handle. Father Jake, like SFIF, had many long comment strings. A higher percentage (it seemed to me, at any rate) were bitter and disparaging. I often came away feeling covered in vitriol.

Toxicity may be more in the eye of the beholder than beauty is.

Politically, I am feeling as I usually do at this stage of the presidential campaign: isn't there someone else?. I like Sen Obama; he is a great orator and a very inspiring man. However, I do not agree with some of his major positions. Sen Biden I know little about. My mother lives in Delaware; she is not impressed but thinks that he has been a decent senator.

I like Sen McCain as well, although is not nearly so personally engaging as Sen Obama. He also has some positions with which I disagree. Gov Palin is a very engaging person, and I am enjoying watching her speak. But she seems to have some major inconsistencies in her background and actions, and I am not sure she has the experience to deal with the things she would need to be able to do in Washington.

Of course, no one is perfectly suited to be President. Anyone we elect is going to have flaws, and will make mistakes. But I do worry that the demands of the position are too big to be handled by anyone.

I do not see Gov Palin advocating a theocracy. Even if she wants to adopt some conservative Christian values as the law of the land, she would have to have them framed as laws and persuade Congress to pass them and the courts to uphold them. Neither she nor anyone else can rule by sheer fiat in the name of God -- and that is what constitutes a "theocracy."

Some of conservative types see liberal mainline Protestants wanting a "theocracy," with the values of a leftist vision of Jesus enacted in a semi-socialist fashion.

Everyone has a theological underpinning for their political positions - even if the theological position is that we can not be sure that there is a God or that he has spoken even if he does exist. And some theological conservatives have many socially liberal political values, interestingly enough...

I guess Ann Lamont is an acquired taste.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

hiram - The one thing you wrote that I can agree with is, "Anne Lamont is an acquired taste."

Fatmouse said...

"God hates this woman, too"

And the Democrats have finally joined forces with Fred Phelps.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

fatmouse - lemme make a wild guess here: You're a Republican?

Grace said...

This woman has some deep issues in my opinion, and is definitely over the top. She evidently hates McCain, and Palin. Had to leave church for a candy bar. The sermon must not have been politically correct enough, I guess. Is she a Christian believer?

It's one thing to disagree with someone's political position, even strongly. It's another matter to personally attack, and have a real hatred of the person.

Almost everyone in my church is in the Obama camp. Heck, they even have rented out the church for campaign meetings. I'm not sure I agree, but I"m definitely not about to head out the door.

Our unity is in Jesus Christ, around His gospel, not in whether we agree with every political issue, and candidate that comes down the pike.

God have mercy!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Grace. Always good to hear from you, even if we disagree most of the time.

Suzer said...

Probably far too late for anyone to read this comment, but I am often uneasy with Anne Lamott. I like her writing, and agree with much of what she says. However, she often goes over the top, and alienates even a moderate-to-liberal lesbian like me.

See, when she intimates that God hates certain Christians for their actions or what have you, she loses me completely. I don't think God hates. I do think God recognizes our human frailties and weaknesses. And I often think God weeps. However, I don't think God hates. I've not been able to believe in a God that hates for many years now.

So, Lamott once again (in my opinion) goes over the edge in trying to convince her reader (most of whom already agree with her political positions) that McCain/Palin is an outright scary ticket for the future of our country and our civil liberties (what's left of them).

Grace said...

Good to talk with you too, ((Mother Kaeton.)) :)