No, I'm not leaving my husband and coming out as a lesbian. A 'queer duck' is what my grandmother Lenore Lyden Belzer would call an odd person, despite her daughter's, my Aunt Lenore, growing agitation through the 1960's and 1970's as the word's colloquial meaning slowly but steadily changed. Aunt Lenore is not, as we would say today, anti-queer but she worried that my grandmother would be embarrassed by an explanation of the "new" meaning, or that the duck in question would be angry or take offense and confront my grandmother.
Personally, I think my grandmother knew exactly
what she was saying. She just liked flustering her somewhat uptight daughter. Grandma could have a strong shit-kicking streak when she felt like it. Sadly, this seems to be a genetic defect which my father, brother, and I all inherited.
Anyway, what I am coming out as is a queer political duck. I was raised by fairly, though not rabidly, conservative Republicans. The same grandmother above ranted about Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Evil Red Ways almost literally until the day she died at 92. My younger brother is a fairly conservative Republican.
My father's youngest sister, on the other hand, is a fairly rabidly Liberal Democrat. My Aunt Betty strenuously protests the death penalty and just as strenuously supports all the other Democratic party planks (except, I think, on the issue of abortion--as a devout Catholic I think she just does a lot of tongue biting on that subject, politically). Dad's other sister, the aforementioned Aunt Lenore (for those of you keeping track, she was named for her mother, and, for bonus points, I am jointly named for her) is more of an intellectualist. I don't know for sure, because she didn't like upsetting her mother and she doesn't like upsetting her sister, so I don't know as much about her political beliefs. I do know, that she shares my dad's disdain for the, ahem, less intelligent among us, and I suspect that George W. Bush's C+ at Yale wasn't good enough for her. On the other hand, neither was John Kerry's. I do know she liked Bill Clinton, but honestly do not know how she came down on the whole perjury/Monica Lewinsky/Republican Conspiracy mess. 1
What's really amusing about this potluck of political ideologies is that my father is equally disgusted with both parties these days. He still thinks Democrats tend to be sloppy thinkers, but he has been distinctly disenchanted by the Republicans slipping brainpower and ethical problems.
The one thing all these folks have in common is that they're none of them "knee-jerk" Republicans, Democrats, or What Have Yous. They're all constantly re-evaluating what's going on and what they think about it. Now, in some cases, they do keep coming up with the same answer, but they do try, and they raised me to try, too.
To quote an acquaintance of mine who quoted Bill Cosby, I told you that story so I can tell you this one.
Me, I'm an independent. Party undeclared. The queer duck. My mother calls me a fence-sitter. I identified strongly with the Democratic party through the 2004 election. I voted for John Kerry, if somewhat grudgingly
. But like my father's growing disappointment with the Republicans, I am becoming increasingly impatient with the party I had identified with so strongly. Largely for the same reasons I wasn't Kerry's biggest fan. They're worried about looking good and not worried about being good. Now, maybe Medieval Latin and Anglo Saxon have cut into my media time, but I haven't heard about Howard Dean doing much of anything aside from running around, pointing at the Republicans, and generally running his mouth on how awful things are. Yes, things are awful. In every sense of the word. Terrible. Heinous. Mind-boggling. Get away from the inconvenient traffic and tacky drapes concept of the word and wrap your brain around a 300-year-old city melted like a sand castle and complete anarchy--however brief--ruling what's left of its streets. A foreign war that undoubtedly removed a homicidal megalomaniac from power but that was entered into dishonestly. A foreign war in which the arguments for staying and fixing or minding our own business and leaving are equally compelling. Yeah. That
So. Howard Dean. What are you going to do
Who am I to challenge the head of the DNC? Let me tell you, the hardest I have ever physically worked in my life I worked for Howard Dean. 20 hours on my feet. I helped assemble a stage. I organized volunteers. I herded rally attendees. I generally ran around being a human "Blackberry" for the head of the NYC office of Dean for America. Back then, Howard had a vision. He had alternatives. I gave my sweat and a few drops of blood (friggin' stage clamps) and sore feet and a wrenched back and a nifty case of dehydration. Howard Dean, you owe me. Not because you didn't become president, but because you changed politics. Or, rather, you changed politics back. At least for me. As I stood there in Bryant Park two years ago, I remember thinking that this is how people felt hearing William Jennings Bryant speak. Howard, you urged people to stand up,to be counted, to call a spade a spade, and to challenge how things are run. I liked you because you were for
Howard Dean, I am standing up and challenging you to change the status quo. Stop being a mouthpiece for the liberal branch of the Democratic party. Especially when you've never been much of a liberal to to begin with. You said it yourself when you quoted the first Republican president this country ever had.
The biggest lie that people like me tell people like you during the election season is "If you vote for me, I'll solve all your problems." The truth is that the power to change this country is in your hands, not mine. Abraham Lincoln said that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth. ... And you have the power to take this party back and make it stand for something again. You have the power to take this country back.
I'll do my part, but you have got to tell your fellow Democrats that they have to stop playing Karl Rove's games. They can't win. Bless them, they're not mean enough. And if, on chance, one of them is (Kerry sure as hell can be--remember those nasty attacks during the primaries?), all he or she manages to do is look petulant because the DNC yanks the choke chain because the latest poll has said that Americans don't like negative politics. Americans are tired of sex scandals, too, but that doesn't stop newspaper sales from jumping more than 50% when one makes the front pages. Take a page from the most astonishingly successful political career of the last hundred years. Yep, you got it, George W. Bush's. Have a clear message. Have a plan. Stick to the plan. (You can skip the part about staying on vacation when a category 5 hurricane hits, though.) These powers can be used for good. Really.
There's a difference between a compelling, righteous anger and temper tantrums. You knew that, once. Know it again.
Thanksgiving's at my house this year. Come on down. You can talk to my dad.
1. For those of you wondering where my mother and her family are, my mother is a shade more conservative and an entire color wheel more cynical than my father, politically speaking. But she can peg a corrupt politician at 100 yards, whatever his or her party. She was very disappointed when Bill Bradley lost the Democratic primary in 2000--it was going to be the first time she'd ever voted for a Democrat for president. And her family didn't talk about politics much, I suspect mainly because they either all tended to agree on them or were smart enough to ban them from the Thanksgiving table, so they're not getting any air time.