Everyone I speak to or email with is fearful and anxious. The other day I made some phone calls for ACT's PA trips - the response has been so overwhelming, organizers needed help getting back to everyone who had signed up. All I was doing was giving people info, but a good dozen people took the opportunity to talk about their fear and anxiety.
I do believe we will prevail. Organizers on the ground in OH, PA, Oregon, Colorado and other battleground states are feeling strong and confident. Thousands of polling-place monitors and attorneys and democracy-friendly judges are standing by to protect the integrity of the votes. An army of volunteers will be getting out the vote.
But of course, we don't know. We don't know if enough of the public knows the facts (as opposed to the lies), and will vote in their own self-interest (against W). We don't know if the election will be fair. I believe we will win, but we don't know.
Everyone on the planet, minus some 48% of registered American voters, wants the same result. The world holds its breath.
Kids On Wheels is the first-ever resource guide for young people who use wheelchairs and parents and professionals who interact with them. There are two editions, one for kids and one for adults. I wrote the sports chapter and some other profiles for the kids' edition. If the book is successful, a magazine will follow, and I'm hoping to get a regular gig with that as well.
It's a great fit for me, since I have more than a decade of experience writing about disability issues and a life-long love of writing for young people. Writing the sports chapter, I had the opportunity to speak with kids all over the country who use wheelchairs and are doing sports. I had a great time, and I remembered how much I enjoy writing for kids.
Also in print, Allan did several interviews while the Red Sox were shutting down the Yankees and the Cardinals. There were a few good radio spots, including WFAN, the big sports-talk radio station in New York, and an ESPN Radio affiliate in North Carolina. Fortunately, others are in print, and you can read some of them here.
Congratulations doesn't seem like a strong enough word. For years Allan and I have talked about what it will be like in New England when the Red Sox finally bring home a championship. Now we will find out.
Some Red Sox fan neighbors stopped by last night for hugs and champagne, and told us that their Yankee-fan friends are depressed and angry. Like a Yankees fan has anything to be depressed about. And you know I say that as a lifelong fan - minus 1.5 seasons.
My favorite Yankees fan, Matt, called around midnight to congratulate Allan. Now that's class. Matt and I watched most of the 1986 World Series together; he was 5 years old. Allan was still living in Vermont. We go back a ways.
I'll stop now, as I generally try to keep this blog somewhat focused, and I sense I am babbling. Check out Allan's blog for complete celebration coverage.
And now on to the next victory, the one the whole world awaits.
32,000. The number of phone calls made from one ACT NY call center to Florida voters yesterday. That's from one center, on one day. I'm told NYC is logging more calls than many national campaigns. I love New Yorkers!
41. The number of electoral votes in Pennsylvania (21) and Ohio (20) combined. All going to John Kerry.
85. Days left in the George W. Bush presidency. (Also known as days until John F. Kerry is inaugurated.)
1. The number of wins the Red Sox need to win their first World Series in 86 years.
ACT Ohio and ACT PA have changed their outlook from "optimistic" to "confident - as long as we do the work between now and Nov 2". Let's do the work, folks. Here's what to do, in order of priority:
- If you can take four days off, go to Ohio. Free transportation by bus, free hotel. If you want to fly or drive, you can still get the free hotel room.
- If you can't take four days, go to Pennsylvania. Free round-trip buses Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
If you do either of the above, be sure to get your absentee ballot in right away!
- If you can't travel, join the phone-bank marathon at the SEIU call center. We'll be there from 9:00 a.m. til 11:00 p.m., doing get-out-the-vote calls in every time zone. There'll be a TV on to watch returns, food, people, energy, passion and fun. Join me!
Meanwhile, the Red Sox need two more wins. I think Massachusetts is going to be celebrating big-time.
This might seem amusing to many of you reading this, but to me it was very serious. I don't give my loyalty lightly, don't change hats as a team rises and falls in the standings. My team loyalty runs very deep. Being a Yankees fan has been a big part of my identity. When the Yankees won the World Series in 96, 98, 99 (etc.), people I hadn't heard from in years left messages on my answering machine. Casual acquaintances know they can always ask me how the Yankees did last night. (I always know.) Add to that the peculiar circumstances of my home and relationship – that Allan and I have always been diehard fans of rival teams - and the identity grows even stronger. (Somehow the word "rival" is too small to describe the relationship between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Are the Palestinians and Israelis rivals?)
The circumstances that combined to drive me away from the Yankees and into the arms of the Red Sox are complicated and difficult for me to articulate. My friend Regina asked me about it recently, and I stumbled over an answer. She said it made perfect sense, so I'm giving it a shot here.
In no particular order...
The atmosphere at Yankee Stadium. I was tired of being yelled at for not standing for God Bless America, tired of the jet flyovers, the moments of silent prayer, the military marching bands. I was also beyond fed up with the commercials blaring at ear-shattering volume, the "make noise" and "get loud" and TV trivia (and etc. etc. etc.) that makes it impossible to enjoy a ballgame at the Stadium, or for that matter, to talk to the person sitting next to you.
This didn't drive me away from the Yankees, but it did finally stop me from attending games. I used to go to about 15, 20 games a year, plus as many post-season games as I could get my hands on (usually three or four, sometimes more). In 2003, I went to two games, and both times came away discouraged and disgusted. In 2004 I decided not to go at all. (I complain to the team every year, by the way. Not that I expect it to do anything, but they should at least know that many fans feel this way.) Yankee Stadium, where I have experienced so much joy and happiness... and now I hated it there. It made me feel awful.
The 2003 and 2004 Yankees. The Yankees don’t feel like a team to me anymore; they feel like a collection of individuals wearing the same uniform. The 1998 Yankees, team of my heart, were a core group of home-grown players plus a few judicious acquisitions. The 2003 Yankees, and even more so, the 2004 model, is a bunch of name-brand acquisitions doing the job they are paid to do, going about their business, seemingly without bringing any heart or spirit or enjoyment to the task.
The irony of this, of course, is that I used to love Alex Rodriguez. We're talking major crush. When Seattle, and then Texas, would come to town, I'd go to the Stadium with my binoculars: Alex Cam! Thank goodness he doesn't look so good with that receding hairline. Plus he's turned out to be a jerk. Ah well.
The fans. The ignorant, arrogant, egocentric, pigheaded fans who think that the Yankees are preordained to win and the Red Sox preordained to lose. This is horseshit. Also horseshit: that only the Yankees have history, or only Yankees history is worth recounting, that the baseball season ends when the Yankees stop playing. It's not unlike the people chanting "U-S-A" and blindly, stupidly believing the hype called "this is the greatest country on earth".
All fans are, to some extent, hypocritical. Allan can't stand the pro-Yankee announcers on YES, but the NESN announcers refer to the Red Sox as "we" and blatantly root for the team, and that doesn't bother him. Mets fans were up in arms over Clemens beaning Pizza Boy, but they'd give anything to have Clemens pitch for their team. (Not that Roger wants to pitch for a minor league team.) (As you can see, not every shred of my Yankee soul has been expurgated.) Most Yankee fans didn't mind Alex slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove, but oh my god, if Varitek had done it...!
But even given this, Yankee fans take the hypocritical cake. If the universe doesn't move in their favor 100% of the time, they are howling "it's not fair" and trotting out lame excuses. The last straw, for me, was the hype on the "classy" Yankees fans and the "classless" Red Sox fans. That was just too much. I've seen more games of both teams in more parks than any Yankee fan I personally know. Let me tell you: the fans are the same. There are good and bad of both. Red Sox fans can get ugly, sure – I'm not crazy about the "Ro-ger, Ro-ger"-style pitching taunts – but if you don't know that Yankee fans can get ugly, too, you've never been to Yankee Stadium. If it came down to a tie, I'd give Red Sox fans the edge for sheer loyalty, and Yankee fans the thumbs-down for arrogance.
After the Pedro-Zimmer incident – which I thought was hilarious (as did some other fans I know) - a supposed friend, a former Yankee buddy, railed at me for not being sufficiently outraged. In a rabid email, he ranted: "You can't be on both sides, you have to choose!!!" He said this was a "highly emotional" time and if I had any shred of sympathy for the Red Sox I had better not tell him.
That did it.
That kind of talk should be saved for things like a stolen election, a senseless war, or the death penalty – all of which this guy supports. But THIS – THIS was an outrage! And I had better watch what I say.
Actually, I never really understood Yankee fans' hatred of the Red Sox. I never hated them. (Well, maybe in the late '70s, but I was a kid, what did I know.) Why hate a team that always finishes second to you? I understand Red Sox fans' bitterness towards the Yankees, that makes perfect sense, but why all the anger and bitterness from Yankees fans, if the team is supposedly blessed and will always finish in first place? I hated Seattle (1995), Cleveland (97), ARIZONA!!! (2001) and the Mets (always). But the Red Sox? Why bother?
And then there are the Red Sox. Late in the 2003 season, the team just started to win my heart. The crazy late-inning comebacks, the loose, happy feel, the hugging (as contrasted with Yankee fist-touching), the heart. I love Pedro. What can I say? I just do. Even more amazing to me, considering he was on that evil 1997 Cleveland team, I love Manny. The list goes on. They just grew on me, and I got attached. By the time the playoffs rolled around, I was blatantly – though secretly – rooting for them.
I wanted the Red Sox to win the 2003 pennant as much as I've ever wanted a team to win anything in my life. I wanted Allan to be happy. I wanted all the Yankee fans to SHUT UP. I won't say the Boone home run crushed me as much it did Allan, that's obviously not possible, but it hurt.
But I continued faking it. Along with my long-time Yankees buddy, Matt, I went to the first game of the 2003 World Series, but my heart wasn't in it. When they showed the Boone home run on the scoreboard, I felt sick. I mean literally. I almost started to cry. I hate Grady Little. I hate him for breaking Allan's heart.
But that was last year. I thought it was a short-term illness. When the 2004 season rolled around, I fully expected to return to my normal pinstriped state. I read my Yankee spring-training stories, and settled in on the couch to watch YES while Allan watched NESN in the other room.
I was bored.
I started zoning out during my games, wandering in to where Allan was watching, asking about the score. Before long, we no longer needed a second TV. Yes, after living together nearly 18 years, we are now cheering for the same team! It's been weird, but man, has it been fun.
When the Red Sox were down by three games in the ALCS, I thought, if any team can come back to beat those odds, it's these Red Sox. I took to saying that just because something has never happened before, doesn't it mean it can't happen, or never will. "Never happened before" is an observation about history, not a predictor of the future. My team gave me so much joy for so long. I wanted Allan to have that joy, too.
The only thing really difficult about cheering for the Red Sox in this post-season? Curt Schilling. Or, as I call him, Blabbermouth. A pitcher beats my team in the World Series, I hold a grudge for life. This is a bit confusing.
I don't feel as if I truly deserve to share in the joy when the Red Sox win the World Series this year. I feel a little peculiar, cheering along with fans who have suffered so much for so long. But there I am. I don't know how long this will last. Maybe after we move to Canada, I'll wear my NY cap with pride. Maybe I'll be a fan without a team for the foreseeable future. But for now, "we" (we???) are two wins away.
* * *
Oh, one more thing. Matt: I apologize. I lied to you. I was so confused. I didn't know what else to do. I'm such a nut about this team loyalty thing, I was denying my true feelings even to good friends. If you're reading this, now you know.
If a certain former co-worker is reading this, jumping up and down screaming, "I knew it! I knew it!"... don't burst a blood vessel. Perhaps you can take some comfort in knowing you're part of what pushed me over the edge.
If you have shared those thoughts with me, or if you've had similar thoughts yourself, could I ask you to elaborate? What type of plans are you thinking of? If BushCo is elected, how will you personally change your life? What will you do differently?
Please feel free to leave comments here (anonymously, if you wish) or to email me (link to the right). Thank you.
They would ask for John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, Tom Paine's Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, or the United States Constitution.
Each day, they were turned away: No Coloreds.
They made it clear to the powers that controlled Atlanta that they would not be giving up. As they were discussing what steps to take next, a phone call came: they had won the battle.
Zinn writes: "I have told about the modest campaign to desegregate Atlanta's libraries because the history of social movements often confines itself to the large events, the pivotal moments. Typically, surveys of the history of the civil rights movement deal with the Supreme Court decision in the Brown case, the Montgomery bus boycott, the march on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the march from Selma to Montgomery, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Missing from such histories are the countless small actions of unknown people that led up to those great moments. When we understand this, we can see that the tiniest acts of protest in which we engage may become the invisible roots of social change."
On September 11, 2001, teams of hijackers flew two passenger planes, loaded with jet fuel, into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, and the ensuing catastrophe killed close to three thousand people who were burned or crushed to death as the buildings burst into flames and collapsed.
Like so many others who saw those events on television, I was horrified. And when President George W. Bush immediately announced to the nation that we were now at war, I was horrified again because solving problems with bombs has never worked. It seemed clear to me that this was exactly the wrong response to the act of terrorism that had just occurred. And when, soon after, the United States began bombing Afghanistan, I considered that, if terrorism can be defined as the willingness to kill innocent people for some presumed good cause, this was another form of terrorism -- one I had seen up close many years ago after meeting the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who also suffered needlessly for an alleged 'good cause'.
In this book I tell of my experience as a bombardier in the Second World War. I describe how I came to the conclusion, after dropping bombs on European cities, and celebrating the victory over fascism, that war, even a "good war," while it may bring immediate relief, cannot solve fundamental human problems. Indeed, the glow of that 'good war' has been used to cast a favorable light over every bad war for the next fifty years, wars in which our government lied to us, and millions of innocent people died.
Howard Zinn, from the preface of You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train - A Personal History of Our Times.
Later, the brilliant and ever-inspiring Zinn continues:
"Considering all this, I might be incurably depressed, except for other experiences... What did I learn? That small acts of resistance to authority, if persisted in, may lead to large social movements. That ordinary people are capable of extraordinary acts of courage. That those in power who confidently say 'never' to the possibility of change may live to be embarrassed by those words. That the world of social struggle is full of surprises, as the common moral sense of people germinates invisibly, bubbles up, and at certain points in history brings about victories that may be small, but carry large promise.
* * * *
The willingness to undertake such action cannot be based on certainties, but on those possibilities glimpsed in a reading of history different from the customary painful recounting of human cruelty. In such a reading we can find not only war but resistance to war, not only injustice but rebellion against injustice, not only selfishness but self-sacrifice, not only silence in the face of tyranny but defiance, not only callousness but compassion.
Human beings show a broad spectrum of qualities, but it is the worst of these that are usually emphasized, and the result, too often, is to dishearten us, to diminish our spirit. And yet, historically, that spirit refuses to surrender. History is full of instances where people, against enormous odds, have come together to struggle for liberty and justice, and have won -- not often enough, of course, but enough to suggest how much more is possible."
To say that Howard Zinn is inspiring is not a hollow or trite tribute. He inspires me every day - not just to continue The Struggle, but to continue with hope, and with optimism.
Let's have a Massachusetts vs Texas World Series. MA can make a clean sweep: first the World Series, then the White House!
And while we're at it, let's sell some books!!
Zogby, Gallup, NY Times/CBS, Newsweek/MSNBC... on and on it goes. Those that look too scary, I discard. Those that look hopeful, I cling to. It's ridiculous, because I believe they are meaningless, manipulated, media driven. What's more, we're going to do what we're going to do, regardless. It's not like I'm going to quit in the home stretch because some guy named Rasmussen tells me W is ahead by a statistical sneeze.
But still, I gape at them.
Two weeks to go.
Two weeks - and two games?
To that I say a quiet but emphatic Go To Hell.
The behavior of most Yankees fans these days absolutely disgusts me. (As did the Red Sox fans chanting "Where Is Roger" in 1999.) We've had so much winning, the Yankees have given us so much to be proud of, yet it seems that most fans can only spew bitterness and hatred. Given the historical lopsided outcome of the rivalry, I don't know what there is to be so mean about.
Red Sox fans' hatred of the Yankees - that makes sense. I'd feel the same way if I were them. But why so much meanness towards the team that has placed second to you for so long? The joy of winning is not the same thing as glee over the other team losing.
Fools of Fortune goes back to the library today, and I'll start Pat Barker.
Sigh. I swore this wasn't going to turn into What I Did Today. But it seems that once one is blogging, the impulse to record more about one's life is very strong. Also, it's already an easy and convenient way to update friends I don't see or speak to often, even before the move. So it seems I have succumbed.
I will, however, keep these entries brief, and give them an easily identifiable headline so they're easy to skip over if they bore you to pieces.
So what am I doing?
- I'm leading (along with another wonderful volunteer and generally cool person) an ACT phone banking crew every morning except Monday. It's terrific - very upbeat, I get to be around liberal or progressive activist/volunteers every day, and it gives me an outlet through which to channel my zeal about the election. All that while helping Kerry win the all-important state of Ohio. Great stuff, I highly recommend it.
We're doing a get-out-the-vote marathon on Election Day, calling every time zone. We'll be there from 9:00 am until 11:00 pm, and I'll be there all day if I can talk Allan into watching the returns from the SEIU call center. (If not, I'll leave at 5:00.) Callers are signing up for 2- or 3-hour shifts.
- I'm glued to the playoffs. Right now the Yankees are up two games to none, and most Yankee fans have the Red Sox dead to rites. I am not among them. In 1996 the Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series at home, then went on to win the next four. In 1986 the Mets did the same, though it famously took a fateful seventh game in that one. If any team can pull this off, it's the 04 Red Sox. We shall see.
- Buster has a problem with his eyes. After several trips to the vet and countless tubes of antibiotic ointment, we took him to a veterinary ophthalmologist and learned he has dangerously high pressure in his eyes, putting him at high risk for glaucoma. In an amazing coincidence, the symptoms he was experiencing were unrelated to this! Typically with glaucoma, there are no symptoms until it's too late to save the animal's eyesight. Wow, scary.
He also has uveitis (inflammation) in both eyes, also not good, but not nearly as serious as the pressure. It was the uveitis that caused us to see the specialist, and that's how she found the high pressure.
Poor B, it was such an ordeal for him, being in a strange place, the doctor doing all kinds of tests and scary-looking things to his eyes. One exhausting morning and $850 later (ouch!), we are administering two different eyedrops three times a day, and waiting for a follow-up appointment. His blood test results came back negative, which means there is no underlying disease causing the problem. I am hugely relieved about that.
- I bought a new desktop computer, my old one showing signs of imminent demise. It's fast and zippy, I finally have a flat panel monitor, and I love it.
- My handheld organizer is dying. Again. It's the third or fourth Wizard I've had. I love them but they are not durable. Also, I'm hot to get portable wireless internet access. My good friend Alan K (and who is anonymously quoted several times in this blog) is helping me choose a "pocket PC". He is, in his own words, foaming at the mouth about his, a true evangelist, and I am an enthusiastic, if somewhat ignorant, disciple. I shouldn't spend the money, given the two expenses above, so I'm a little conflicted about that. But you know me, the Queen of Rationalization. If I want to do something, I'll find a way to feel ok about it.
That's about it.
Needing a break, I read two young-adult novels by the terrific YA writer Chris Crutcher: Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes and Ironman. Like a lot of good YA novelists, Crutcher's work becomes a little repetitious if you read too many at once, but presumably young readers are not doing that.
Since then, I've been casting about, novel-less. I started Reading Lolita In Tehran, a gift from a friend, but couldn't get into it. It looks very good, and I love the idea of exploring the relationship between fiction and our lives, but it's not the right time.
On a break from work today, I went to the library and took out three novels: Fools Of Fortune by the wonderful and under-rated Irish author William Trevor, Double Vision by Pat Barker, who wrote the Regeneration Trilogy, and The Road Home, by Jim Harrison.
Last year, during the run-up to the US's invasion of Iraq, I was thinking (as I'm sure many people of conscience were) a lot about war. Not in political or theoretical terms, but trying to imagine the reality of war itself. I kept thinking of the line from the civil rights and peace song "Down By The Riverside": ain't gonna study war no more. That stuck in my head: study war. I thought I would.
I read Pat Barker's trilogy about World War I, known as the Regeneration Trilogy: Regeneration, The Eye In The Door, and The Ghost Road. Barker explores the psychological after-effects of war on both soldiers and civilians, the erosion of civil liberties at home during a war abroad, class issues, and how a civilian population is manipulated to approve of war. In England, WWI also saw rampant anti-gay hysteria that associated homosexuality with the German enemy; there's a gay theme throughout. These are three excellent books.
I also read All Quiet On The Western Front, the quintessential anti-war novel. It's almost too brutal, too heartbreaking, to bear, even more so since it's told from the "enemy"'s point of view. I didn't think I was truly a pacifist (against all wars for any reason) but this book made me examine my beliefs further.
The final book in my war series was Graham Greene's The Quiet American, which deals with the roots of US involvement in Vietnam in the late 1950s. It is a positively chilling view of what a CIA-backed coup might look like on the ground level. When I think of all the lives lost from the US's various wars of conquest and containment... well, that's how this blog came to be.
ACT is America Coming Together, the largest voter mobilization project in history. (More info on the national organization here.) It is very well organized and efficient, using volunteer power from all over the country to target the 17 battleground states. Put in your zip code and a reasonable "miles from" number, and all the different options in your area will come up: phone banking at various times and locations, letter writing, road trips, fundraising ideas and so on.
The Scranton Report. Our trip to Scranton, PA this week was exhilirating, exhausting, somewhat frustrating and ultimately very successful. We had some problems, but that's almost a given when doing this work. More importantly, we registered 140 voters and increased awareness of the need to register and to vote. Also, 36 like-minded people traveled together - selflessly donated time and money, shared information and laughs and support, exchanged email addresses - and so became comrades in the battle to reclaim our country. Everyone was extremely appreciative of my organizing efforts. That really meant a lot to me.
So listen, there's only 30 days left. GET MOVING!!