Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I'm reminded of a passage from my book:

"After nine months of idyll, my side of our little Beemer pulsated with silent tension, in time with the clenching of my jaw, as we drove over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. From quiet walks around a lake to blaring horns, overloaded traffic, and the prospect of endless work, I felt the pressure squeeze the minute we made landfall. A couple of weeks later it occurred to me that I no longer noticed; one resets the dial to a different level of normal. No wonder we die young."

A week away from television, internet and, for the most part, newspapers, was therapeutic. Addicted as I'd become, checking email several times daily, visiting an array of political websites at least a couple of times a day, I was worried I'd undergo physical symptoms of withdrawal. Hands shaking, pulse weak and fast, sweat on my upper lip. As I've made fairly clear here, the state of our politics was driving me crazy. Not, I hasten to add, without damn good reason. The inmates have, most surely, taken over the asylum.

Surprisingly, it felt great from the minute I got there, and I didn't miss the information overload one little bit. I relaxed, I hiked, I read three books. Returning home, re-entering the digital world, I found myself recoiling as I scrolled through my favorite (ie, most visited, as opposed to most loved) sites; the physical tightness that had come to be the baseline for the past couple of years rose in my chest, and I stopped the scroll.

It's not as if I was in a complete cocoon. The location, deep into the Sierras, was not unpopulated. In conversations, it became clear I was the only liberal, treated, often, like a sort of oddity worth investigating. The bearded lady, the lobster boy. There were a few strenuous -- if friendly and respectful -- conversations.

I was struck by a couple of things: people spouted the stuff they hear from Glenn Beck as if the truth were self-evident. Confronted with arguments, they were quite amazed. It's as if they had no concept that there were, indeed, other facts. Or should I have just said facts. They'd simply never heard nor thought of some of the things I said. About health care, about the economy. Examples:

Are you on Medicare? "Yes." Do you like it? "Very much." So what's the problem with so-called government run health care? "Well, it's running out of money." Yes it is. Does it seem strange to you that after years of complaining about that, when a President actually tries to address it, the Republican party suddenly screams he's trying to destroy Medicare? "Silence."

"How come Obama never addresses tort reform?" Did you listen to his speech? "No." He mentioned it clearly. "Silence."

"How could we pay for a public option?" Well, there are billions being spent on premiums right now. That money can be captured in several ways: indexed premiums, new taxes, whatever. It'd still be lower than what people pay now, because private insurers take thirty percent in overhead and profits. Tell me what value you think private insurers add to the process that Medicare doesn't? "Silence."

"I worry about all those unaccountable czars." Yeah, you and Glenn Beck. Did you know that several of them were actually approved by the Senate? And that they all have actual titles that don't include the word czar, and that every president has sub-secretaries or whatever you want to call them? It's how efficient government works. "Silence."

So I'm of two minds: on the one hand, it would seem that there's a role -- theoretically at least -- for a voice of reason amongst the madness. On the other hand, it's not as if hearing facts is likely to have had any lasting impact. Stopped them short for a moment. Surely, though, back in their echo chamber it's as gone as the night skies there, high and clear, so filled with stars that words back up and stop entirely, while the soul breathes.

The paragraph from my book describes returning to San Francisco to resume training, after two years in the military the last one of which was spent at comparative leisure, at the edge of a small lake, time on my hands, working undemanding hours at an Air Force clinic; the pressure of training and then of Vietnam as remote as the top of Sierra Buttes, above Sardine Lake.

So I'm asking myself: is it worth my physical health to return to the fray? Re-engaging in the real world, being reminded daily of the insanity of those pissing in their own pool?

We'll see.


  1. Sid, welcome home!

    There is an image I try to keep in my heart; an image of a peaceful being sitting quietly in meditation surrounded by cobras.

    Buddha's message to us is this:
    Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world!

    As he lay dying, he said: "All created things must pass, strive on!"

    He was telling us that until creation ends, the search for light can never end.

    The world needs men of knowledge and wisdom, like you, Sid.

    Therefore be joyful, as you speak and write, surrounded by cobras, as a gift and example to those who strive for a better world.


  2. Welcome Back Sid, did you miss me??
    Was afraid for a minute you were gonna go all Broke Back Mounting...
    Believe it or not, you Commies, I mean Lib-er-als are just as odd..Substitute "Barney Frank" for "Glenn Beck" and you get the idea...
    I mean, how can people NOT enjoy the right to carry a concealed Smith & Wesson just like Dirty Harry? Or that Warm & Fuzzy you get reading about the execution of a particulary nasty criminal?
    And I DO piss in my own pool, ever swim in the Ocean?? Where do you think the Fish go #1 (and #2)?
    Keep pushin that Pubic Option... Seriously, a President and Both Houses of Congress and y'all can't even overturn the Defense of Marriage act...
    But hey, that Afghanistan operations goin well...


  3. aww, keep going sid. though i'd change that broken record. it hasn't had a hit in a long time.

  4. Welcome back Sid, glad you enjoyed the peace and quiet. Also glad you dropped a fact or two into the intellectual wilderness, maybe one of them will take a moment to listen to someone other than Glen Beck as a result.

    I hope you continue with this blog. Kind of heavy going some days stepping through all the broken records I'm sure, but rest assured there are many of us who appreciate thoughtful debate.

  5. Ha Ha, great metaphor Sid, but even a broken record is right twice a day...and who plays records any more?? You checked out these new fangled 8-tracks??? Pretty Neat.
    Keepin up with those Afghanistan Body Counts??? Nahh, they're mostly Stupid Rednecks from Montana and Arkansas...but Ramadans here so it should slow down for a month or so...
    You might not have any choice on weather to go back to work when that retirement fund sinks lower than Ted Kennedys Coffin, you add 60 million newly insured patients to the mix, they'll be diggin up Albert Schweitzer just to supervise the PAs... Hope you Habla the S-Panol...Talk about a Pubic Option..

    Oh its 281 by the way...
    and thats not Ted Kennedy's final weigh in at Jenny Craig, but the ohhh forget it



  6. Wat-eva...
    Go ahead and attack a guy with a learning disability... Only reason its Ass-burger's syndrome instead of Drackman's Disease is I have a thing about goin to doctors...Do I make fun of Your Neuro-fibilary Tangles???
    And I still haven't killed as many people as Ted Kennedy*...in our profession thats sayin somethin...


    * As far as anyone knows

  7. I feel the same way. I tend to encounter people who are either Fox News quote machines or people who have tried to figure out what health care reform is all about and given up because the facts about the plan seem so difficult to pin down.

    Because of what I feel is a lack of information coming from the left, I keep respectfully debating and speaking about the issue to those who express interest in the topic, but my one (respectful) voice against all of talk radio, Fox News, etc does seem a bit inadequate.

    On one hand I hope that my rational and non-emotional approach gives me more power by making me more credible, but on the other hand I know that it's that whipping up emotionally that gains Hannity Limbaugh O'Reilly their supporters, so I guess I'm in the same place you are. -Is it worth my time?

    But so far I've kept at the fight. I just feel like the public debate isn't balanced well enough for me to quit. Why aren't our major news sources or even Obama himself being more pro-active about shooting down some of the lies from the right? I have a feeling they think it's so ludicrous that they don't need to, but they are wrong! Every person I've met has either believed in the death panels or wanted proof that they wouldn't exist before they'd make a decision on supporting or not supporting health care reform. That's disheartening. -They've shouted it loud enough and long enough that it's become truth in (IMO most) people's minds!

  8. You're right to keep up the fight, Erica. It's true that the disinformation seems to have taken hold. What's so amazing (well, among countless things) is the extent to which people have been so easily convinced to agitate against their own interests. They've been played for buffoons by the mega-interests who have such a financial stake in keeping things as they are, and they simply can't see it. Because, in the end, they ARE buffoons. Sadly.

  9. I have to confess I am somewhat disappointed in the loyal Sidsters having never yet commented on the absolute gorgeous beauty of the Sardine Lake scenario...which Sid included as a "click-on" in this current blog. If politics and opinions are more important than what that picture exemplifies, well, everyone is blind. Check it out...Sardine Lake....in Sid's blog here. That scene has been there before Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Josef Stalin, Dwight Eisenhower or even Barack Obama. My point? Real things last...there is stuff you cannot change and you waste your time tilting against windmills... only the rocks live forever. Start letting go, folks! JB

  10. What an exquisite sight to behold! It looks so pristine... and beautiful! :)


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