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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Death and taxes

Yesterday I went to my editing job. Before I left, I told myself not to get into discussions with my supervisor - just to work. I wanted to just let everything roll of me (a la teflon girl), and to just not engage. This is self-preservation. You may or may not recall that he has a tendency to lecture me on things like poverty (as though I don't know) or how hard it is to get into medical school, and thus why it is so prestigious and important (for the record, it is now harder to get into clinical PhD programs than medical school), or about religion. I always feel castigated or patronized and upset when all I want to do is go to work.

Yesterday was no different. At some point as he was going off, I just thought "well, at least I'm getting paid $20.00 an hour to listen to this" which kind of helped - but not really. Part of his lecture yesterday was on having a more spare lifestyle. He was going off on America's consumerist culture and noted that he wears the same thing every day (he has 7 pairs of black pants and 5 exactly-the-same blue button down shirts), and that once food is past the mouth, it all tastes the same so it doesn't matter what you eat, etc.

I had a defensive reaction similar to when my TA was talking about how much she hates the US, Americans, American culture* - cuz he's a ferner (or furriner) too. It almost seems to me it is too easy as an outsider to criticize US culture - it's a gimme. It's not interesting to me unless it is thoughtful. Duh, we consume too much in almost every form. But why not speculate as to why rather than criticizing us and calling us immoral or greedy. For example, I noted that a recent news report noted that the people in Denmark are among the happiest in the world. The theory is that they are very happy just living their lives - they don't have huge aspirations - they don't need to be the best or have the best- they just want to enjoy what they have. This is very different from the US where we are taught that (perhaps as part of the American Dream) that we have to have the best and be the best. So we constantly do and buy in order to try to achieve that - but it doesn't make us happy - but we are made to think that it will.

Anyway, he then went off on TV, and I just had had enough. Again, that's a gimme - it's easy to criticize TV and our attachment to it. But, it is more interesting to me to speculate as to the *whys*. Also, as I noted to him, it is an art form. Just because it is an art form that appeals to the masses and isn't always artistic doesn't mean it is bad or not of value. There is some good stuff on tv that helps people connect, helps them see their lives reflected, helps them understand things from other perspectives or other life styles, etc.

The Sopranos is an example of this. Amidst all the violence and brutality - there is humanity and a poignant universalness. Tony Soprano's son is put into a psych ward, and he blames himself. There is a sweet scene (which takes place in the back of a strip club) where the other mafiosos talk about their own children's issues. It's a reminder that we are all alike - and that even those whose lives are wholly divergent from ours are not exempt from worrying about life issues. I think that is important and powerful.

Anyway, that is all a tangent from the topic. At one point he and I were talking about Presidential candidates. He asked who I supported, and I told him. I asked about him and he noted he was a republican (and thus supports McCain - I was wondering who it was that supported him!). I noted that I was extremely surprised he was a republican due to his huge concerns about poverty and social welfare - and all of his community service work. I guess it's a sterotype of mine that republicans are not concerned about such things - or maybe it's correct. He's also Buddhist - which seems to me to be more akin to a democratic stance than a republican stance.

He said that he is more aligned with republicans because of "family value" issues. He noted that his family is the most important thing to him, and that most of his concern goes there. He believes that one must first take care of onself and one's family, and then whatever is left over can go to help others.

I think democrats have gotten such a bad rap in terms of family values. I know I've talked about this before - but it seems to me as though those who identify themselves as republicans have just as many dalliances, missteps, and illegal relationships as democrats. It can even seem as though republicans have more - but that is partly because of the schadenfreude they evoke in democrats - and also because they are in such direct opposition to the "holier than thou" attitude some of the most out there republicans and right wing christians have - that they have such better morals and values than democrats. I'm getting a migraine, so I'm not sure I'm intelligible anymore - but I want to get this written, so bear with me.

I don't think family values is inconsistent with a democrat's stand at all. I think much of what we espouse is along the lines of, "Look, what you do in your home with your family is your business - we aren't going to interfere - in fact, we are going to help you run your life the way you want." Wanna marry a same sex partner? Fine! Wanna terminate a pregnancy? Fine! Want health care? Fine! Want to die with dignity? Fine! Born a man, but want to live as a woman? You go girl! You are an adult, and you have the right to make choices (within some reason).

It seems to me that this is much more family friendly and much more about family values than those who want to come in and say that you can't do any of those things because *I* don't think it's right. To me, the republican stance seems to be that the government has the right to tell me what I can or cannot do in my own home, to my own body. But I thought republicans thought of themselves as all "hands off" - and believe that every person needs to take responsibility for her/himself. How does that work exactly when they are trying constantly to curtail my rights?

I was thinking later that maybe all that separates democrats and republicans is our views on the topic of "death and taxes." And maybe sex. Those three things are all that really separate us. Well, I guess that is not correct - but it is close.

* The other day she then talked about how much she hates Amsterdam ((soooo boring, and hates the people) (and by the way, I'm half Dutch)) and hates Germany and the people ((except some people in some small towns)(I couldn't disagree completely given my traumatic experience as an exchange student in Berlin - but still)). I asked what her favorite places were - and she said Switzerland - great people, great place. She also noted that her parents spend a lot of time there. To which I internally rolled my eyes - we have such different lives.


At 9:32 PM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

Much as the guy at your editing job annoys you, I guess it's good luck for your readers, since the frustration his rants cause you leads to such interesting posts :)


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