bloggingboomer

A fine WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “Philip Roth”

Being Here

The other night at supper, a friend suggested that there was little point to the Women’s March. He said, “The women should wait until there is something to protest, like a bill or an action.” 

 I disagree
.

As a huge presence, the women were saying I am watching. We are witnesses. Of course, they did not want to have to take action and did not want to be violent. But they had to assemble peacefully.They did what women do: they gather together: to support, to console, to make themselves known as a huge body who wanted to assert and proclaim their power as an entire gender that does not support the politics all ready lived and dictated by Donald Trump.

Historically significant, the point was to send a message. Ironically, the women who massed together likely had not voted for the candidate so they had been unable to change the presidential results. So in spite of their numbers, they had not tipped the scales away from Trump at election time.

There have been peaceful marches before such as the 1963 Martin Luther King on Washington, Gandhi’s salt March to Dandi in 1930, the Selma to Montgomery March, all forms of civil disobedience to goad oppressors and declare there has been mistreatment in the world. However, the march may be the first to be a “ Women’s March”, although there is no doubt the suffragettes had gathered too: referred to as the suffragette “ parade” in 1913 in Washington, the word, of course, deriding the seriouness of the protest to a show or spectacle.
And on television last Saturday in San Diego, there were scenes from old age homes where grannies unable to physically join the march declared they could not believe how the attitudes towards women have been so set back.They sat besides their daughters and granddaughters, incredulous at the president’s tweets and twitters and offhand banter towards their gender.

Young girls today scoff at Feminism, laughing at its origins, but I recall Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug and even Marilyn French’s Ladies Room book when suddenly women were loudly pushing back, burning their bras in protest and demanding parity of pay ,opportunity, respect and control of their own reproductive functions. In Washington last week Gloria Steinem, now in her 80’s!, encouraged those who had come, to be there with their bodies as a statement against the policies that will decry and limit women’s rights.

Margaret Wente in Tuesday’s Globe wrote,

“But will this weekend’s march change history? Not a chance. Women’s solidarity is a mirage. Forty-two per cent of U.S. women voted for Donald Trump. Among white women, it was 53 per cent. The people we saw on Saturday simply reflected the Democratic base: big-city urban and suburban professionals, overwhelmingly white, along with people from minority groups. ”
I often read but do not agree with Wente although she presents another opinion, not an “ alternative fact” , and not necessarily a truth, although it may be her ” truth”. We used to be encouraged to listen to, not silence a diversity of voices so that one might ponder, or weigh their thoughts and perhaps come to a conclusion, or even consider there might be room for expanding or re- thinking  one’s original rumination.

 In the past , strides towards women’s rights were made slowly and even if the glass ceiling has not been broken, we did edge forward with more women doctors, lawyers, engineers,CEOs” leaning in”. I recall my own Aunt Marion involved in VOW, Voice of Women, an international group in the 50’s, protesting above all- nuclear bombs.Once when I travelled with her to Norway, we met with a member in Norway and I caught the passion in their voices as they discussed world issues. With David Muir, Trump trumpeted, “The world is a mess.”And how will building walls, policies of protectionism, isolationism, refusing refugees safe harbour, water boarding improve the state of affairs? Maybe if we stare at pictures longer and repeat the same slogans enough times, people will be brainwashed into accepting that repetition of untruths somehow converts them into truths. Shades of Clockwork Orange, Handmaid’s Tale and 1984.

To be repudiated, mocked and seen as fodder for sexual groping from the President of the  United States returns women  to the dark ages.It is demeaning, and infuriating- for oldsters and the future generations. Yet, that so many places in the world protested along with those in Washington recalls Helen Reddy’s song “I am Woman…see me roar”. Would that we didn’t need to roar, although we demonstrated yesterday it can be done civilly, quietly , with dignity, uniting all women.

As uplifting as it is to witness the rise of women power is the flip side: that it is necessary in the 21st Century to have to take these tactics towards a repressive 50’s minded male- in spite of Ivanka’s declaration that Look at me; he’s not like that. Just ask Rosie O’Donnell or the victims of sexual harassment. It makes you want to cry or scream out that the same stupid games are played over and again and that so many can turn away, wipe away the facts and ignore the reality that has matched forward.

 But the thinking goes along with the jingoism of America First. Where we thought we shared a global village, that we were all our brothers/ sisters keepers, and that together we are stronger, Trump has perpetuated the image of carnage, the Hunger Games, TS Eliot’s terrible post war vision of The Wasteland.

In all places, there is poverty, disease, brutality and sadness, but the idea of the American Dream had been a leitmotif that has underpinned what has been seen possible and the best in America: from education to financial stability and security from oppression and the rights that accompany democracy. Above all, rather than mongering fear, Barack and Michelle Obama offered hope for the country, reaching out and with their efforts, returning people to work, and making the White House, the People’s House, as it became to be called.
That green light at the end of the peer, beckoning.

In truth, I’ve always thought the idea of the American Dream a fantasy. Reading Philip Roth’s American Pastorale, I have stated that if Gatsby’s green light marked the symbolism of the dream, the forests of decay  in Roth’s novel signified the end. Yet people need something to move towards, to believe their hard work and dreams will amount to something more than a slavish life, corruption, and that at least as they yearn for those far shores, that the lives of their children will be improved, their potential realized. That vision and the freedoms we cherish have motivated others, extended a life line: likely  dead to those suffering in war ravaged countries.  What hope do they harbour now? 

In case, Trump has totally smeared the Obama years, The Washington Monthly lists some of Obama’s achievements which I quote here:

1.$787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to spur economic growth amid the most severe downturn since the Great Depression.

2.The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to re-regulate the financial sector after its practices caused the Great Recession. The law tightens capital requirements on large banks and other financial institutions,  

3.Obama led six nations in reaching an agreement with Iran that requires the country to end its nuclear weapons program and submit to a rigorous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections regime in exchange for lifting global sanctions. This blocked Iran’s pathways to building a bomb, slowing down the development time for a weapon from three months to one year if Iran were to break its commitments.

4.Global Agreement on climate change was also achieved.
..

Wente again believes women’s rights will be safe. Once more, she writes,

“As one protest sign read, ‘We Not Go Back Quietly To The 1950s.’But that’s not going to happen. Cultural norms have changed too much. The laws have changed too much. Women’s gains are too entrenched. Women are no more likely to go back to the kitchen… ”

Would that be so, and there are enough thinking people who will refuse to turn back the clock, even as the Doomsday one pushes forward. Still in these times of fear and words that are easily bantered rather than carefully conceived and spoken aloud, we need as my friend Anne insists, something of beauty, upon which to dwell. And if that beauty has been clouded over by the darkness of Trump’s policies, at least the Women’s March took the pussy image and transformed it into a pink pussyhat.
And gave us a tickle, a smile .

In the 4th Century, Phrygian Hats, soft conically shaped provided the symbol for freedom for slaves from Europe.During the French Revolution, there was the bonnet rouge and for those old enough to remember Dickens’ Tale Of Two Cities, there was Madame Dufarge, one of the knitters who sat beside the guillotine. Ian Brown in referencing the symbolism of hats brought this character to mind as he referred to the sea of knitted hats that provided wave after wave of cat ears and colour , conflating both slurs and women’s reproductive organs. Besides the seriousness of the image, it also suggested a lightness, a way to reduce the repulsive intrusive comment used by Trump.
I can image Madame Dufarge holding her needles aloft, streams of pink pussy eats cascading over the heads of the marchers.

In deed, my daughter at an appointment last week, observed her doctor emerge from surgery wearing such a little hat.

Still, I cannot but hold that dark picture of the tricoteuse Dufarge in the novel, head bent, silently knitting as the heads rolled. The women in  the Women’s March  refuse to be silenced and sit quietly by the side of the guillotine chopping up the hard earned rights of the past. Like the pussyhats, they are essentials voice in a democracy to be taken seriously .

Advertisements

Here I Am :Jews in America

Books that have Jewish connections have always appealed to me. As early as kindergarten and only subliminally aware what being Jewish even meant through family dinners and Sunday school, I was drawn to stories that featured families that somehow conveyed to my developing brain that there was a connection, something “yiddishkeit.” Early walks with my mother to the library resulted in finding scary tales of the holocaust and children who were abandoned or hidden. Soon followed Anne Frank and her bravery. Eventually Bernard Malamud, Chaim Potok, Saul Bellow, E.L. Doctorow, Joseph Heller, Elie Weisel and Philip Roth, among many others were my predilection for gleaning the face of Jews of the diaspora, these authors American who had lived knowledge of the “Der goldene medina”–the land of gold.”

Canadian versions of immigration from my parents’ quiet talk concerned a subtle anti-Semitism with shocking references to “ dirty Jews”, number restrictions in the professions and an alignment with any who had broken through the Jewish barrier to be acknowledged without any slur to their religion. Forest Hill-where I attended school although our store was perched at the farthest edge of the public boundary- celebrated more Jewish holidays than I knew existed and the population was almost 100% Jewish. So in spite of the wealth and airs of the country club kids and their summer camps, there was a safety in numbers and a push towards the student body making their mark in the world and not being defined by religion.

For whatever reason, Roth spoke to me of a contemporary American (and Canadian ) experience relatable to my personally alienated condition of life. Goodbye Columbus presented the misfit, the worries, the search for the American dream, all part of my own growing up and awkwardness. My Jewishness was not overt, but it was there. Brought up with traditions that forbade mixing milk and meat, eating pork, being a mensch, giving anonymously and feeling insecure, particularly about my curly hair, along with a need to know who might hide me should another pogrom or holocaust erupt, Roth’s scenes felt familiar. So throughout my life, I followed Roth, sometimes growing away from his exaggerations and hyperboles, but occasionally embracing them. In deed, much much later, I was caught breathless when he published American Pastoral, now a film I refuse to see- lest it dislodge the strong images he has engrained with words in my imagination. What shook me in American Pastoral was his depiction and the demise of The American Dream. If The Great Gatsby was the apostasy of the dream, American Pastoral was the crushing ruin of broken America in pieces, perhaps our own contemporary reality of the ruination of unattainable dreams, racism, and discrimination. In shock at the dissolution of the family and by extension America, I grieved for the loss.

Jonathan Foer is a worthy successor to Roth. His most recent book Here I Am is much like the proverbial stone that ripples outward and poses so many essential questions, wherein personal crisis stands in for the public one. Jacob Bloch, the protagonist is first an everyman representative of the metrosexual who is a sensitive, loving, a hard working screenwriter. He too is a Jew, a Jew in America whose Jewishness is as familiar to me as is his privilege in society, his wisecracking irreverent humour ( he wonders if the Germans will run out of “ guilt and lampshades”), his listening to NPR podcasts, his support of civil libertarianism, his Vitamix, his Ball & Farrow paint, his upscale home in Washington, D.C. There he espouses the markers of Jewish life: bar mitzvahs, the two days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur at synagogue, family suppers celebrating minor holidays, a certain lapsing devotion to one’s parents, kvetching, questioning, sarcasm, and a loose relationship with Biblical stories from Hebrew school. He is a familiar face of a certain kind of non-observant Jew still governed by the tales and traditions of his faith.

Somewhere between the holocaust and the creation of Israel as the safehaven for the Jewish outcast and the wandering American Jew stands this story, the novel caught between a sadness for the relatives one can never know and Israel the tenuous land where one will never live. Foer’s ripples extend from Jacob’s progenitors to his sons and then on to his cousin Tamir, a sabra who lives in Israel.

What does the Jew in America look like? He is indistinguishable from anyone else. He eats bacon and shrimp, protests unjust causes, cares deeply for his children, is careless about his email, ponders putting down his dog, and worries a lot. But because his heritage is Jewish and Foer the writer is too, there is an embediness of Jewish schtick, the Woody Allen angst in much Jacob does. He is a likeable man in spite of his technological sloppiness and his self awareness that makes him try over and over again: to get it right. Much like Sisyphus, he rolls the stone up the hill, only to be dragged back down to the bottom of the heap. He confronts his fears, as early as the night before his own bar mitzvah, jumping into the lion’s den at the zoo like the Biblical Daniel, the intensity of the moment surpassing almost all others. Yet he laments to Tamir, regretfully,“ I am smaller than life.”

He wants to believe that his son Sam has not written inflammatory words in Hebrew school and champions him. He engages in truthful conversations with his other sons, attempting not to scare or scar them. With Julia, his estranged wife, he practices how to explain the marriage separation to the boys. Unable to fulfill Isaac’s, his great grandfather’s, last wish to be buried in Israel, Jacob sits beside the corpse for days, a responsibility usually fulfilled by Jewish others at the funeral home. He assumes the burden of putting down Argus, rubbing the animal’s stomach to ease him to sleep. And because Foer adores lists, when Jacob tells the reader about the times he will not forget, the last “times” the tiny details of our lives are noted, they resonate with our experiences, particularly with our children as babies, toddlers, and adolescents: the last bath, the last bedtime, the last bedtime story, the last whiff of an infant’s head.

But this is more than just a story about Jacob as it moves outward into America and gives us Israel. Like Roth, who teaches interesting information in American Pastoral such as how to make a glove in his factory in Newark, New Jersey, so Jacob a student of language also tutors us. He tells us that a group of swans are a “lamentation”, hummingbirds a “glittering,” orioles a “radiance.” After all, he is a storywriter, but also an enquirer, curious and wanting to learn, even writing a novel based on his family.

The stories of Jews are here too. At Isaac’s funeral, the young rabbi in running shoes with laces undone, surprises Jacob with his insight and visits to his grandfather, his eulogy focused on the Bible: what did Moses do with the broken tables hurled down from the mountain when he saw the golden calf used for worship? Why did Pharaoh daughter spy Moses in the bullrushes? What is Jewish crying like?

We learn there are three ways to mourn: with tears, silence and song, each proper in its own time and place. The word Israel comes from the root “ to wrestle”, a theme that we attach to Jacob’s manner of dealing (or not) , and are reminded that Jacob’s name in the Bible was changed to Israel when he wrestled with the angle; and even in Max’s bar mitzvah speech, he reflects, “What we don’t wrestle we let go. Love isn’t the absence of struggle. Love is the struggle”. The emphasis on words, writing, miscommunication, word games and the need to communicate paramount in this novel.

Later when the prime minister of Israel summons Jews from around the world back to the homeland, he picks up a shofar and blows. The Biblical story of Abraham having to choose between sparing his son or responding to G-d is the backdrop to this novel. When G-d calls out to Abraham, he answers, “I am here”: the same words that are the title of this book. Abraham willingness to sacrifice what is dearest to him is also recalled by Jacob’s admission that he has too much love for happiness, that his love overpowers being happy for his children. Cousin Tamir asks,” You find such complicated ways to say such simple things”, but life for Jacob is incredibly complicated. And there are so many questions that this novel does pose: do we maintain tradition just for the sake of it? Are words so much more powerful than deeds that they should destroy a marriage? What role does Israel actually play for the Jew of the diaspora? Is it neurotic to love one’s children so deeply? Which choices are the right ones…

The novel is a meditation of sorts on loving one’s children, and how we must let them go. Sam’s bar mitzvah speech works out a compromise as he explains that unlike Hamlet’s question, to be or not to be is NOT the question. The question is “to be” AND “not to be”. The carefully drawn children are believable as they disregard their parents, mock them, experiment and find themselves. Sam’s extensive explorations into masturbation with rice pudding, “alien green aloe vera” among other substances and his desire to construct ( and demolish) a synagogue through the machinations of his female alter ego avatar on the internet’s, Other World, are likely the stuff of adolescent boys, even recalling Roth’s Portnoy’s fantasies.

The seemingly calm Tamir, Jacob’s cousin is his foil. Hairier, less worried about social niceties, out right brash and concerned for the fulfillment of the present, especially Israel, Tamir puts his own life on the line in the fight to save his country as does his son Noam. Tamir and Jacob, along with Sam and Noam, are two sides of the same Jewish coin, the one who stays; the one who goes, repeating their fathers’ and grandfathers’ legacies. In spite of the macro-conflict occurring in his life, Tamir patiently and kindly listens to Jacob’s micro-conflict with his wife, the destruction of the family paralleling the bombardment of Israel by a united Arab front when an earthquake happens there to destabilize the country.

Alex Clark in The Guardian speaks to “ the fetishizing their inner lives… that flirts with taboo and exposure.” In this way and others, I think of Jonathan Franzen’s books, most recently Purity in a desire to connect with one’s family, the intrusion of technology, casual relationships, over indulgences in today’s world, and an over-engagement in meta analysis. At the start of Foer’s novel, Jacob and Julia play word and mind games, wanting to identify what is bigger on the onside than the outside. Likely it is this over thinking, the abundances of thinking about too many choices and their consequences that leads them into the dark night of separation: regretfully, this is our society today, one that lauds multitasking and unriddling riddles, with a backdrop of oldsters, the baby boomers, wishing for a simpler time: when kids could cross the street and not worry about the pedophile or car rage- or the absolute best face cream or nursery schools for their kid.

Foer’s novel has been criticized but also praised, and by non-Jewish critics as well. It touches a deep chord on more than one occasion, promulgating the “ what ifs” and causing the reader to reread or lay the book down and actually think about something that Foer has thrown into the “eruv”, what he describes as a space in Hebrew as cordoned off, differentiated from the public into private. I like how Foer teaches me stuff, even Bible stuff. He’s not a self-hating Jew, or a particularly Jewish Jew. He’s an American with Jewish problems. He is a representative protagonist in American literature who deserves more than a glance, Jew or not.

 

 

 

 

Revisiting The Little Prince

“Taming means more than the literal act of domesticating an animal; it’s about experiencing , be it romantic or platonic, and the perils and rewards that come with it. Once you grow close to someone else, you risk experiencing loss, “How the National Ballet brought Le Petit Prince to life. “Globe June 4, p 1.

The widespread attention to Antoine de Saint- Exupery’s novella seems to have burst everywhere this spring- from movies to games and ballets. Martha Schabas’ criticism in The Globe and Mail of the performance suggested a commercialism as opposed to a focus on the ballet, akin perhaps to the National Ballet’s production of Alice in Wonderland ( also  revived everywhere in film and theatre) which there was an emphasis on entertainment, surprise contraptions rather than highlighting the pas- de- deux. Setting and costume were lauded, dancing as well, but this season I cannot know.The ticket prices soared to $175 for Prince and the actual availability was sparse, so I will have to await responses from friends fortunate enough to have seen the production to speculate.

***

I do know and cherish the book. It was a mantra that caused me untold happiness because it was introduced to me by my first real friends at university.It fortified an emotional girl often ridiculed for being “ too sensitive”: that only with the heart that one sees correctly. It designated that one must meet on a regular basis to truly engage in the process of knowing someone else, setting out specific parameters and demands. It disparaged the pursuits, ignorance and arrogance of diverse classes of people; and it encapsulated what I had always believed,cementing my philosophical view on life. I had read Machiavelli, agreed with Pascal’s Pensees, even been enamoured by St. Augustus; however, the simplicity of The Little Prince, seared my soul in a way that no other had. It was my cadre’s secret book in the 60’s a guide against the rich and snobbish.mIt just cut through so directly to what I recognized to be wisdom. 

Much like coveted books,there are those phrases and sentences we make our own through reading, or possibly bon mots from films, and we keep them close, sharing them when they are suggested by events or scenes in our life; they resonate and actually echo in our heads, enlivening and enhancing the moments that stand alone and provide pause.The lovely Philip Roth sentence regarding surface is one , my husband treasures.  

That is the way with poetry too. As elementary school students, poetry was intended to test our memories so, in grade 4, we had to accumulate a certain number of lines by the end of the year, practicing out loud in front of the class, allowed to select long passages or several rhyming couplets as long as we fulfilled the magic number. To this day when I see a grey squirrel, the image that jumps at me originates from those days and reminds me that the grey squirrel is like a teapot, ( although he is NOT).. Similarly a loud noise evokes Vachel Lindsay’s”Boomlay, boomlay,boomlay,boom…”. And the sweet delicacy of Louis MacNeice’s “spit the pips” from his poem Snow are the bits that flutter into my consciousness,totally unbidden. 

When I had to select a poem to teach as a beginning teacher I had vague memories of Henry Reed’s Naming of Parts and the contrasts of the recruit enchanted by flowers in the midst of having to memorize the names and functions of gun parts. In my mind’s eye, I envisioned the lank and gawky body of a languid boy gazing at japonica outside his window on a spring day. Reed laces killing and procreation as the juxtaposition of bees and swivels, slings, bolts and safety- catches, underlining the contradictions to be faced by the youth. 

Throughout life, William Butler Yeats’ lost love of Maude Gonne and Pied Beauty  by Gerard Manley Hopkins have been my companions reinforcing some of life’s lessons: beauty in difference ; we will not always be loved back by those we desire; and there is an intrinsic beauty between form and function . Poets and artist give us the handles, providing us and expressing our emotions bigger and best than we mere mortals could.They wrestle with to commandeer the words to describe and symbolize what we hint at and feel, making them loom larger and helping us put outside our mere selves the ideas. I never thought while daydreaming in those stodgy leafy classrooms that I would be so imprinted by images that have become my walking companions. They have spoken for me, held me up, given me a place to hear what often were tangled, confused and painful emotions. 

Alternately they have been a way to sing out, a catalogue of people and observations, a stream of delight. Best of all, I loved Walt Whitman’s words”Do I contradict myself? Very well,I contradict myself…” for, as we are all full of opposing views,contrary notions, complicated cares, thoughts and emotions that do not coalesce, we often do not make wrongs into a right.So if I contradict myself, well, so be it. 

As the years flow by, we stand on the shores surveying what we have collected over time. The possessions that have contributed to our sense of self, taught and reassured us- often as we have stood against a popular tide. Once we looked to the books that lined our shelves that reflected where we had gone and what had contributed to our growth. Today those tomes are dwindled as Kobo and Kindle give us a page that disappears once our eyes have passed over it. The evidence rests in our hearts and minds and if we want to revisit, we must search on Google, should we be able to pinpoint the phrase, the word, the idea.  

Life changes, but the longing to hold a book in one’s hand and escape somewhere new or different does not. I assume Gatsby also yearned for the multicoloured backdrop of books, even though his were covers with blank pages. I suppose he felt they attested to his character. Perhaps now the reverse is true; however, coming upon a line that has demarcated in an old book or noting a comment beside a sentence brings one back to a time and a place we might have truly forgotten. I think that making a mark is important , the actual act of stopping, considering and responding before the thought has slipped away meaningful.Perhaps that is why I love art. Making the mark records and connects a person to something else and that connection can spark a revelation. 

For me, I will always treasure the words of the The Little Prince- and welcome its journey back from the shelves where it was not lost, but hiding. 

Moving to Canada

Just last week I read that Frank Gehry was seriously considering returning to Canada after years in California. He’s in his 80’s and his anguish must be pretty intense if he is thinking that he might leave this beautiful climate for the cold north. But people always say that: “Oh, I’ll move to Canada”- and in the last two weeks, friends have insisted that if Trump is elected, they’ll pack their bags and hightail it out. 

During the Vietnam war in the 60’s, we actually got our slew of draft dodgers. I was at university and there were protests,meet- ins, teach-ins, demonstrations, marchs, musical emissaries and Timothy Leary and pacifists all uniting against their government’s actions. Most recall potently the use of Napalm, attention elicited primarily by the naked child Kim Phuc who ran screaming through the streets. She was sadly the terrible precursor of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child washed up on Turkey’s shore after fleeing with his family for his life. The light of the disenfranchised recalled for me,None is Too Many, the Abella- Troper book that chronicled the fate of holocaust victims not allowed to our shores. Images in both written but printed formats stick, provoke, shame and induce the public to put pressure on governmental policies. So frustrated by policy and terror, some victims eventually arrive here, motivated by preserving limb and life. But I truly wonder if those threatening migration will actually take the next step; or is it merely idle jib jab to verbally take a stand. 

(Strangely enough, I chatted with a woman yesterday who told me that fearful of radiation thirty or so years ago, she, young and determined, left for New Zealand, but returned years later to the states. Maybe the 60’s were the years of the zealots.!)

 Watching Borgen, Denmark’s answer to  an intelligent television series, we observe how deals among countries are made. The fictional character Birgitte Nyborg is likely based on Denmark’s first female prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt,although Thorning-Schmidt had not been elected until after the second series of Borgen. Adam Price, the creator of the series, stated, “I definitely want [ viewers] to believe there is a shred of idealism in Birgitte Nyborg that is real”.( Wikepedia) Although Nyborg possesses strong moral incentives, she learns what to trade or what incentives she wants to promote as representative of her Moderates party. She discovers the dirty little secrets, the huge mismanagement of funds, the soft spots of countries and their powerful politicos.. 

I do believe she acts for the best interests of Denmark ( in the show) in demonstrating fairness, thoughtfulness and increasing savvy, exploring, probingand heeding the voices in her country and outside of it. At great cost to her personal life, she dedicates herself to a job,her success due in large part to an image fostered in the news and television. Of course, it is fiction but the series makes us long for the lofty intentions and inspiring acts of a Roosevelt with his new deals or a Kennedy with his establishing The Peace Corps. ( 1961). And although much is created in the media for the candidates in any race towards influence, we long to believe that behind the façade there is substance :that the person in the glossies is more: better, smarter, kinder, more thoughtful and has gathered the crowds and re- instituted a belief that society can be  and should be good. 

 
Yet unfortunately, we are downcast and as Philip Roth once quipped of one of his literary characters,“ Beneath the surface was only more surface” in political hopefuls.

We hope for investigative and critical news journalists, uncoverers of the truth such as Katrine Fonsmark in Borgen, to dialogue with those who aspire to the highest throne in the land. In the real world, I miss Tim Russert from Meet the Press who really knew how to dig deep beneath the persona of his guests. 

Incurable my harangue today goes to Donald Trump. I scoffed because I recalled Toronto’s crack- smoking , bigoted mayor Rob Ford who was once a fat guy in a non-descript raincoat hanging around the parking lot in a plaza where my husband first indicated that that that guy was running for election. I guffawed. He won. So anything is possible in our world of sideshow mirrors. 

Huffington Post rightly posted Trump in entertainment. Then they recanted saying, 

“Back in July, we announced our decision to put our coverage of Trump’s presidential campaign in our Entertainment section instead of our Politics section. ‘Our reason is simple, ‘wrote Ryan Grim and Danny Shea. ‘Trump’s campaign is a sideshow.’ 

Since then Trump’s campaign has certainly lived up to that billing… it’s also morphed into something else: an ugly and dangerous force in American politics. So we will no longer be covering his campaign in Entertainment. But that’s not to say we’ll be treating it as if it were a normal campaign. 

Our decision in July was made because we refused to go along with the idea, based simply on poll numbers, that Trump’s candidacy was actually a serious and good faith effort to present ideas on how best to govern the country.” 

How do we fathom the television showman whose lack of knowledge, experience and credibility has garnered support? How can we support media that did not immediately cut off his personal attacks on Rosie O’ Donnell at an early Republican debate or refuse to debate in the GOP Iowa caucus? Although some might not see a connection with the right to bear arms in America, I see it as part of the same fabric: of those petulant grown up children who use freedom of this or that for their private disregard of the safety and fair play to others. 

Certainly free speech should not embrace and allow the hateful harangues of spewing hideous garbage  from the mouths of candidates. That the news industry permitted and has provided time and platform for Trump’s antics is inexcusable. 

But that he continues to grow support, most recently in Nevada, makes no sense and should shame all citizens who support his buffoonery. Tragically, the other candidates are no better.A recent article by Margaret Wente in the The Globe and Mail discussed this uneviable state, opining that Hilary Clinton, a manipulate and deceitful politician, must be the victor. 

Here in Canada, especially after watching terrified at the possible candidates who are in the US. race, we must, at least, appreciate Justin Trudeau, for his impetus towards making our world safer.He is young, not an intellectual like his father, but fumbling, learning, in a way that we can respect. 

I’m afraid that moving to Canada is not a possibility for those disenchanted with American politics. And I worry that the disenfranchised can somehow imagine that the likes of Trump will create a better world for them. It is as Alice once fretted, “ it is curious and curiouser. “

And truly terrifying. 

Before the Election

In yesterday’s Globe( October 3)
Ian Brown conjures an interesting picture of Justin Trudeau, impressing me more than when I heard him speak. Towards the conclusion of his article Brown writes “ When everything is performance, nothing is performance: It’s all real.” This statement reminded me of Philip Roth in American Pastoral when one of his characters comments that beneath the surface, there was only more surface. This leads me to my realization that Don Draper from Mad Men, elevated advertisement and consumerism by the lies that billboards boast to make us believe something- is so much better, so idealized than what it is. And that notion has sustained us weary travellers in our desire to think the ideal presented is truth, not just concocted phrases and images to deceive. Playing with our desire for the good and beautiful, charming us into a false state so we can be persuaded and lead -in Draper’s case: so we, as the consumer, the client will buy into and for a product. 

Im not saying that is case for Trudeau.Maybe he is more than I thought. Certainly Brown probing and elegiac article makes me want to reconsider Trudeau as possible leader.( As I publish this, Trudeau has been well elected, proving to his antagonists that he was “ready”, and more than just hair).

 Still, my understanding of the performance statement in regards to any individual is that perhaps the melding of performances in real and professional lives can produce a seamless or so called “ authentic” person. My husband more darkly says , that in fact, that performance is just that, performance, a thin enactment to make us believe that there is substance when really there is none. Again, we try and sort out the meaning of words, denotation and connotation always at odds. We debated our views this morning over bagels. Me, the forever disappointed optimist persisting in my perspective; my husband more realistically , perhaps,unbending in his. Me, wanting to drink coca cola with Draper on the beach in the sun.

 I laugh to think that the words I hear and that are bandied about in 2015 are ones from my doctoral program back in 1996. We spent ages discussing what “ authentic” really meant as everyone of course wants to be  real and authentic and gee, mom, I really am a sweet, corn-husking, lovable type with no artifice.

 Back from a conference, the husband relayed that “ reflective practitioner” was the hot topic for lawyers there too. Ha. Connelly and Clandinin might wonder at why it has taken so long for such terms to be appropriated in the open. Universities and books have been telling students forever to be reflective and with that, the rise of the first person “I” to substantiate  a bias that is built on the thoughtful pondering of who I am when I write something ;and avoid the brashness of first impressions or equally as bad, the omniscient voice that like G-d seems to see, hear and know everything. For ages, journals would not accept the very “non- scientific “evidence that accrued with articles using “I” ,as if statistics and such are not skewed by the I,  the scientist, the researcher who also measures, calculates and hopes to prove his/ her certain thesis with a particular perspective.

 My husband may have also heard “ multiple intelligences” or “ diversity ” bandied about in his session too. I guffaw at how long it has taken for these phrases to enter into professional conversations. And then I lament that when they do, the meaning is warped and changed until the expressions become pieces of overchewed gum having lost their original intent along with their meaning, not to mention their flavor. So it happens when terms go public; they become public property. At least emojis are pretty clear as to their meaning! As always when a phrase or word enters a larger arena, the irony of wanting a thought to be more wide spread is to exert impact on the life of a society, but in doing so, the spin doctors spin it to pieces that have little connection to the intended idea behind it. This bothers me greatly. No longer authentic.😤

 Once -people possessed values of responsibility, hard work, truthfulness. We grew up with these notions. Now they are mere words that describe how we should be, but they are  morphed to fit a variety of molds and occasions, like applied makeup over the real visage.

 I don’t know if we can blame technology , or if it is just change that older people rebel against, wanting and desiring the authentic, the honest, the true- which we know can differ from person to person. I find it troubling. Sometimes I think we are like Alice down the rabbit hole, not being able to discern what is up and what is down, chasing the red queen around the garden.

 For me, it is the arts, the wordless beauty of art, dance and music that stands alone without someone lacquering over what is there. I can see, hear and watch with my own eyes and ears and communicate with the work directly, ferreting out a meaning intended or not by the artist. His/her performance/painting is the thing itself. I, the responder, put my own spin on it, interpreting it as I will. I am not told how to think about the thing unless I chose to read the critic. My relationship is direct. The thing stands for itself.

 But how do we know that the “performance” of a politician is in itself the thing itself, the result of belief and hard work that has not been corrupted by a desire to win, to reach, to be morphed when needed into something else? 

Post Navigation