Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thank You, Republicans

If Barack Obama does indeed win re-election in seven weeks he will need to get busy right away penning Thank-You notes to those most responsible for his victory.  He should start with the Republican primary voters, who chose an incredibly weak candidate as their standard bearer.  Conditions were certainly favorable to unseat the incumbent—the economy has spent four years trying to work up a head of steam without much success.  Normally, this would be enough to force a sitting President out of office, (see: Carter, Jimmy and Bush, George H.W.)  All it would take would be a marginally acceptable candidate, yet the Republican field was exceptionally weak this year.  President Bachman?  President Gingrich?  President Santorum?  Compared to these utterly unqualified strivers, Mitt Romney must have looked like the best option.  He was the cream that rose slowly to the top of a rancid bucket.

So I suppose some Thank Yous need to go to Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels and other qualified Republicans who chose to sit out this year.  After each of the Republican candidates spent a week or two as front-runner, Mitt cleared them out of the way with millions of dollars of negative ads and then stepped into the nomination with the numbers behind him, but not the passion of the base.  The only Republican in the field who may have actually been electable in the General Election was the other Mormon—John Huntsman—and he dropped out early.

Another Thank You needs to go out to the Tea Party.  With their “No Compromise, No Surrender” attitude they certainly drove many middle-of-the-road voters toward Barack Obama.  Tea Party extremism only served to show by contrast how centrist Barack Obama’s policies really are.  Most specifically, the Tea Party caucus inthe House of Representatives made President Obama look like the only adult in the room compared to their childish antics.  Mitt may have had it right when he said that 47% of the voters were going to stick with President Obama no matter what.  The 5 to 10 percent of voters who were undecided were ripe for the picking this year, but the Tea Party’s extremist rhetoric and refusal to compromise drove many undecideds to stay home or to vote for the incumbent. 

The Senate Republicans also deserve a written Thank You.  Senator Mitch McConnell made itclear a few years ago that he saw his first job as making sure President Obamadid not get re-elected.  (I don’t remember that from the oath of office he took, but I must not have been listening very carefully.)  Again, in contrast to the obstructionist Senate Republicans, President Obama looked like an adult who was willing to compromise for the good of the country. 

It is too soon to know who will be elected President on November 6, 2012.  I think Barack Obama will win, and it might even be an Electoral College landslide.  If so, some Presidential Thank Yous will be in order.  The Republicans, in their obsession with unseating Barack Obama, may have instead pushed him over the top and into a second term.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In Memorium

It is my sad duty to report the death of my trusted running shoes.  They were my first pair of Vibram five fingers and they served me above and beyond the call of duty.  My relationship with this particular pair of shoes started inauspiciously.  I got them as a Father’s Day gift from Erica and Isabel, tried them on, and then didn’t wear them for ten months.  That was back in 2010.  They sat on my closet floor, waiting patiently to prove themselves.

The following May I ran a half marathon in traditional running shoes and developed a giant blister under my toenail, which promptly popped off and hurt like hell.  I didn’t want to stop running while my toe healed, so I slipped on the Vibrams one day and went for a one-mile walk.  Even after that walk, it was not yet obvious that those shoes would become the loves of my life.  I slowly upped my mileage and before too long I was running 13.1 miles in my five fingers.  They were light and snug and made me want to be a better runner.

Over the past two years I have run over 1700 miles in these shoes, including five half marathons and two Reach the Beach 200 mile relays.  It was during the second of these Reach the Beaches that it became painfully obvious that this particular pair of Vibrams was on its last legs.  During my second leg of the relay I developed a blister on the bottom of my right foot because some fabric had ripped and collected in a lump.  I took the shoes off, thanked them silently for their service, and put them in the back of the van.  I wore some old traditional shoes for my final leg.

This pair of shoes was simply too good to allow them to pass without recognition.  If you want to mark the passing of these kind soles, you can.  Instead of cards or flowers, send cash to the “Get Chris a New Pair of Five Fingers Fund” in memory of Lefty and Righty.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hurt So Good

My wife skydives because she finds it relaxing.  Well, maybe “relaxing” isn’t quite the right word, but something close to it.  She says that when you intentionally climb out of an airplane at 12,000 feet and then intentionally let gravity pull you toward Earth at well over 100 miles per hour, any extraneous thoughts evaporate.  For the duration of the freefall there is just no space in your head for thoughts of job or family or politics or money or really anything.  The world shrinks to the immediate concerns of altitude, speed, and landing safely.  Once the mechanics of skydiving become more, well…mechanical, there is a bit of room in your consciousness for looking around at how beautiful things are.  The towering clouds, the setting sun, the curve of the planet can come in and leave an indelible image on your retina the way a sudden light can in the dark night.

And once you land, the concerns keep their distance for a while as the beauty and the rush remain.  In this way, skydiving is relaxing.

And in a similar way, working with three-year olds is relaxing.  I have just this week started teaching a class of three-year old boys and girls.  Before I started, I had been out of work since last school year concluded at the end of June.  Two full months without work left my brain nothing but space for all my insecurities, doubts, and dissatisfactions to roam around in, trampling any good that might be right in front of me. 

There is nothing like a room full of 3 year olds to make a person quickly forget anything that might be on his mind.  While Sam raises the toy drill to “remind” Jessie (on her head) that she should share, my career doubts just get in the way of doing what I need to do.  For three hours I have to put myself last.  And that is turning out to be a good thing.  Friday was the most difficult day at work I have had in years, and it was alright.  I came away feeling like I helped a few kids learn a few things.  It was also good to realize that I have a lot to learn about managing three-year olds.  It will give me something to do with my mind.