Archive for February, 2011

Forward Our Motto

Away from Wisconsin for the first time in twelve years, I feel more than a little disconnected from what is happening in Madison, our old home. And I have to say, that the budget problems in Wisconsin are real and daunting. But it is hard for me to look at the situation in my home state and not feel that the unions are getting strong-armed. The governor there doesn’t seem interested in solutions, just cuts. Why not raise taxes on corporations? On the rich? The property taxes of the super-wealthy? Why, in this time of strife, does the sacrifice have to come from teachers and other state workers? The dots have already been connected. And that’s politics, I suppose. He’s protecting his base.

But don’t be surprised when the streets fill with pissed off blue-collar workers, with teachers, secretaries, social workers, and like. Don’t be surprised when people fight for their rights. And don’t be surprised when your opponent realizes that you’ve handled this situation like a scared political rookie (the National Guard?). Don’t be surprised when they pull a crafty political stunt and delay your vote.

Like it or not, in politics, nobody respects you for rolling over. In recent years, nobody has perfected dodgy political street-fighting like the Republicans. And it infuriated Democrats and liberals.

This is just the first time the left has decided to fight back.

Better to go down fighting. Better to make some noise.

I’ve twice now been a union member and there are REAL reasons to belong. I’ve worked in dangerous meat-packing facilities where the corporate powers that be pushed machinery beyond safe protocol. Only the union had the power to stop production. And now, as a TA, I’m again in a union. And because of it, we have better insurance through the University of Iowa than Regina can access through her firm.

I’m not so myopic that I can’t see both sides. But what I like about this battle is that the left might lose, but they’re making some politicians squirm. And guarantee you this, next election cycle, things might look a lot different.


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A new essay up on The Christian Science Monitor.


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The easiest thing I suppose, is for people to talk to me about the driving, and they’re always nice and sympathetic. It must be tough they say. So many miles, so many hours. But there really isn’t any other way for us to make this thing work, so I’ve always just pushed through. Done the driving no matter what. Monday nights, Thursday nights. Three hundred odd miles one way. And the truth is, if there were no other drivers on the highway, I WOULD LOVE IT. I could open the engine up, drive ninety miles an hour. My STEREO blasting. Writing notes for stories or poems. Drinking coffee. Watching the sunset, farmers in their fields, hawks, deer, turkeys. The rivers, always swollen. On Monday afternoon I was lucky enough to see sundogs for several hours on my drive south. Two brilliant vertical rainbows on either side of the sun, bright as the sun. Three suns above endless fields of white. Snow blowing over the fields of corn and great dunes and drifts along the fencelines and treelines.

My Monday drives are upbeat. I’m sorry to leave Regina and Henry behind, but it is the start of another week. Time to get back into my groove. Time to see my friends and students and professors. But Thursday’s drive is more difficult. I’m so excited to return home that I can’t speed time up enough. I can’t drive fast enough. When I reach the southernmost suburbs of the Twin Cities I’m still 30-45 minutes away from Arden Hills. The traffic bottlenecks in downtown Saint Paul and I can’t slingshot my way through. I always call Regina to tell her I’m close. I want to arrive home before Henry falls asleep. This is what being a father is, settling for even those final moments before he goes to sleep. Anything. Any time.

It’s almost two in the morning and I can’t fall asleep. Too much driving. Then exercise. A short story finished and a little poem.

Some advice for Minnesota drivers:

1.) The fast lane is on your left. Do not occupy the fast lane if you are driving slower than I am. And you will know me because I am glaring at you, ten feet off your bumper.
2.) Use your blinkers.
3.) Seventy really means seventy-five.
4.) Use cruise control so that we don’t perform constant two-car vehicular weaves. This is just annoying.

Just finished Samantha Chang’s All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Very elegant with a devastating ending.

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