A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, April 29, 2005

"Well, There Ain't No Use In Turnin' On Your Light Babe, I'm On The Dark Side Of The Road."

Nostalgia is the strongest and most lasting emotion among the over-civilized. It takes the place of the blues among those who have little simplicity of heart. The difference between the pain in blues tunes and the pain in most rock-and-roll tunes lies just here. "What might have been" clings tightest to those who have the strongest ambitions. Blues is but heartache, nostalgia is heartache trimmed with the lace of regret.

The best music is what happens. This old Irish saying has more wisdom, if not more knowledge, than the best of encyclopedias. There is nowhere we are going, except to our graves. This, ultimately, is the source of the blues and an unavoidable portion of sadness to all of our lives. But ambition, and the nostalgia it makes, is a cheat; it is like drinking salt water--the more you drink, the more you thirst.

Fulfill an ambition, and you contend with post-partum depression from the loss of anticipation. Fail to fulfill it, and the depression comes from displaced anger and chagrin. Let ambition cloud your judgment and everything else worthwhile you have can vanish while your back is turned. All you are left with in any of these cases is nostalgia.

The longer the term for the ambition, the more problematic it can be. Mrs. Claus got an AARP subscription for us both, to support their stand against Social Security privatization. With the membership cards came a flyer with the picture of a chic and good looking woman d'un certain age, who looked so happy being old that you could hardly stand it.

I watched the progress of my parents' quite comfortable old age and I know that, at its best, it was no where near the extacy of going to Orlando, Florida (or wherever) in your customized travel van, with the swiveling captain's chairs, that our ambitions and our dreams of retirement promise.

Mrs. Claus has many medical problems and is totally disabled from working. I, also, am creakier than I used to be, and mentally ill in the bargain--my slide began with my first colonoscopy and polyp removal at the age of 50. So we are already locked in to the endless round of doctor appointments I remember from my parents' "golden years".

Socially, we have the advantage over them. My parents were far too deferential to medical professionals. This got them into trouble several times, including one outrageous incident where my mother, for no real reason, ended up confined in a psychiatric ward for three days of observation.

Mrs. Claus and I are far less deferential, and more definite personalities in the bargain. Her tatoos might have something to do with this. She got them long before they became widely fashionable, on areas of her body where they do not play peek-a-boo, like those of most young women today. She is quite vividly and openly illustrated. She also retains a certain degree of verbal forthrightness from her younger days when she dated a Philadelphia cop. Combine this with a rolling walker, an electrical lineman's bag for a purse, and a midsize political badge reading, "The United States has the best health care no one can afford," and you have someone who will make a definite impression wherever they travel.

Then, again, my prose persona here is not all that exaggerated from how I am in person. I test high on temerity, irony, and assertiveness even when I'm not hiding behind my CPU on the net. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am a tart tongued and icy nerved old fart. So we also like to think of ourselves as medical professionals--professional patients--in the same way that our doctors are medical professionals. We try to meet them on even terms and engage them as human beings rather than authorities in uniform. Doing so definitely improves the quality of our medical care.

Mrs. Claus has a vital need to do this. With around 20 different medications to take a day, she has to watch far more carefully than any doctor can, while being constantly bombarded with new drugs, for black box warnings of side effects or drug interactions from anything new added to her exotic chemical mix. And even then medication changes are a form of Russian Roulette for her.

In any event, the dreams of endless pleasurable leisure after 40 years of labor are a chimera. What true happiness can be found from abandoning such ambitions and retaining contact with your present moment, which is the only moment you will ever have. All the rest is memory or fantasy.

I have done many things to make a living and have accomplished little in the way of growing wealth of cultivating fame. I occasionally have the blues, but I am rarely tormented by nostalgia or might-have-beens, because I never let ambition for the future dictate my decisions in the present. I am like the Irish boxer who, when the priest asked him to forgive his enemies as part of Extreme Unction, replied, "Father, I have none. I whipped them all."

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind,
You could have done better,
But I don't mind.
You just sort of wasted
My precious time.
But don't think twice,
It's all right.


Bob Dylan

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