Friday, November 07, 2008

That’s the anthem

My grandfather, born in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, raised in Khartoum. Would he, a Greek exegete, be a "Muslim" to the neo-con email juggernaut?

I’m sitting in my lovely office, with chilled feet, trying to resist the anti-environment desire to crank the electric space heater. Even in Chattanooga it gets cold eventually. The colors are beautiful here, and every day, as I drive up my favorite twisting hill to Haven Crest I’m glad I live in a place where God deigns to turn the leaves gold once a year. The light pouring through the leaves turns the whole world yellow. Then I remember that I’m probably just conditioned by evolution to think that orange and gold and red leaves are beautiful, rather than there being any objective standard of beauty. Then I come home and listen to Bob Dylan and bake and try not to think too much about anything.

Although I can’t help thinking and talking about this historic election, as so many Americans and bloggers seem to be doing these days. No matter one’s politics, one has to be delighted by this triumph of the American dream, the fulfillment of what feels like an eternal battle against racial inequity. I, for one, am thrilled that there will be an American like me in the White House. By “like me,” I mean an American who was raised internationally, with a global citizen’s perspective. That was one of many things that convinced me this time around, that Obama spent many of his formative years in other countries. Maybe I’m prejudiced in favor of third-culture kids (okay, yes, I am), but we have unique perspective on world politics and this country’s responsibility for leadership. I suspect it’s why Obama has proposed diplomatic rather than violent solutions to the world’s crises, and why so much of the world is thrilled with his election.

I admire John McCain as a great American, and I’ve never been more impressed by him than during his concession speech. He deserved better than the boos he received. I’ve admired him for years, but he lost my vote when he, a victim of torture, backed down on his anti-Guantanamo Bay stance, the very same day he received President Bush’s endorsement as the Republican candidate for president. Maybe he makes a better Senator than President, and I believe both him and Obama that they’ll work together for bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems.

And the nation’s problems are great, especially here in the south. On Monday evening, in a suburb of Chattanooga, each neighborhood mailbox was stuffed with a note that read, “Get your dogs and get your guns, because a c**n is going to the White House.” I was stunned when I heard that. Stunned to hear that that brand of existential racism still exists anywhere, and particularly here, in an ordinary mid-sized southern city, where people buy organic groceries and ride their bikes to work. Great wounds exist in this nation. I pray that President Obama will be able to heal some of them.

I have fear, especially as someone who has occasional anarchist tendencies. I have doubt, about the abilities of bureaucracy and government to solve any problems. But I also have hope. Isn’t that more important than anything else?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The only thing a gambler needs

Autumn cheesecake, with late-summer southern strawberries

Yesterday was Keatsmas, the anniversary of the birth of my favorite poet, John Keats. I generally celebrate by a recitation of this, his autumn poem. Today I celebrate by retyping it in its entirety.

To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Merry autumn everyone.