Randy's Corner Deli Library

02 October 2008

On the Cubs, Sarah Palin and Futility: Our Collective Stockholm Syndrome

I just finished watching the debate between Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden. Then I turned on the Cubs - Dodgers NL Division Series playoff game to my horror to see the score 6-0 Dodgers. I am from Chicago's Rogers Park (East) neighborhood, where I moved from an address just off Lake Shore Drive which is the address where I was brought home as a baby, so the Cubs were my idols from as early as I can remember. If ever there was a claim to be a victim of "Stockholm Syndrome", I am one, as I have been held hostage by the Cubs, sapping me of energy, disappointing me and shaming me. Yet I persist in my adoration for them, regardless. My idol, if you will, was one Kenny Holtzman who had a couple of important things in common with me: he was left-handed, as am I; he was Jewish, so was and am I. I saw his no-hitter in August, 1969 against (I had to look this part up) the Atlanta Braves. My Grandma Van took me to see the Cubs. My own father did not.

She was the black lady native to Cotton Plant, Arkansas who essentially raised me while my mother went to work to bring in the money to raise my sister and I. We were sent to the best private schools until high school - my education and my health were her most fervent interests. Mom acted like the federal government; Grandma Van was the state I came home to every day after school. Grandma Van did everything for me. She showed me right from wrong. And a sense of what and who is right. And to respect everyone. I owe her so much for who I am today it's impossible for me to fully comprehend.

Just by way of background, I also attribute my love of soul and R&B music directly to her and her affinity to WVON radio in Chicago, which used to play Aretha Franklin (Grandma Van's favorite was "Chain of Fools"), Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and undoubtedly others whose names presently escape me. My love of straight ahead Jazz must've been the result of an overdose as a child on records of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Carr that my other, biological mother gave me.

And it is on my experience with both of them, understanding the fundamental dignity that these two women possessed despite impossible odds, that I base my judgment of Sarah Palin. I viewed tonight's debate with a first-hand understanding of what it feels like to watch a white woman struggle to "make it", as my own mother did, but not without Grandma Van's help. I saw the same fear on my own mother's face as I looked at Sarah Palin's brain scrambling to find the right words to say. I was among those who were actually fearful for our Democracy that a woman like Sarah Palin, fearful of her proximity to power from all I had seen from the media, could literally be a 1:6 chance to be our President at some point in the near future. While Mrs. Palin seemingly acquitted herself quite nicely tonight in showing us who she is without any filter or other structural restraints like directly answering Gwen Ifill's questions, I have to say that I felt like I was watching the world's longest stewardess announcement. And at other times, I felt like I was watching someone whose head had been stuffed with garbage and was just regurgitating it as if it was a natural act.

What gives Sarah Palin the notion that she is in any way, shape or form qualified to even potentially come near the reigns of power of this great country? To me the answer is an arrogance of power that is just unquenchable. I have seen what arrogance does to a person. Delusions follow arrogance like Friday does Thursday. And indeed, Sarah Palin is delusional if she thinks that she is, again, qualified to be President of the United States of America. That this is comprehensible and a possibility, no matter how remote, shines a light on several things: the level to which our country has sunk, why this country's best and brightest were not lined up with Senator McCain as a Vice Presidential pick and the relationship between politics and the media. Regardless of arrogance and delusions, politics make strange and potentially interesting bedmates.

And so we have to accept the fact that Sarah Palin, despite herself, is a candidate for Vice President. Tonight, she passed the test of having to drop out, a very, very, very low bar for justifying one's existence on a political ticket. That was about it. Me? I never asked her to drop out. Indeed, I hope she stays in, because she is the gift that keeps on giving.

The more Katie Couric interviews her, the more exposure the better, as far as I am concerned. Because in the end, I know what both my mothers would say about Sarah Palin: "Are you kidding me? She's as phony as a three-dollar bill." Winks? Please. "Doggonit?" You have to be joking. They would, as do I, say "good for her", but in the end, they would both agree that she should (in Grandma Van's terms) take her "cracker ass" back to Alaska. They would agree that this country is so messed up that there can be no room for this particular great experiment in mixing anti-feminist, Fundamentalist Christianity with politics.

While there should eventually be a woman president, it absolutely, positively isn't Sarah Palin. And while people will fawn over her now that she didn't force McCain to have to seriously debate whether to eject her from the ticket, the longer she will remain so "we" can get to know this person better. I am convinced that the American voter, in the end, will eventually put country first and everything else - bigotry, racism, sexism, every ism and hatred that exists - to the side.

The American public, and women in particular, will realize that this woman in particular is not fit to be either Vice President or President. Perhaps the most telling point of the whole night was when she referred to her running mate as "McCain". This demonstrated the utter political motivation - the essence of why she was chosen - of her nomination, as it is evident that she does not know John McCain well enough to be able to naturally say "John" or "Senator McCain".

If there's one thing that Senator McCain and Senator Obama would agree upon, it would be the obligation to really put country first in one's public and political life, and if Mr. McCain thinks for a second that he is fit to be President of the United States given his record of letting Wall Street run wild, his erratic behavior, his age and his medical condition (which such records he has yet to make public), he is either delusional or deeply upset at the Republican party for having him pick this woman from Alaska to be his running mate, despite the fact that he relies on Joe Lieberman for nearly everything, though I can't see Cindy McCain and Haddassah Lieberman at an ORT meeting together.

Mr. McCain has to know in his heart that despite everything, he is in a no-win situation. He is running with the record of George Bush and his own complicity in that debacle at the same time as a preventable "economic Pearl Harbor" was occurring, the term that Warren Buffett used when interviewed by Charlie Rose last night.

Pearl Harbor set off a war which set off the largest industrial boom in the history of mankind. We were fortunate to have the entire country mobilized in that effort.

It will take a leader as wise and possessed of judgment as FDR, only more intelligent and less prone to listening to bigots and racists to bring this country back to its former greatness, if that is at all possible any more. With globalization and the melding of countries and economies, I am not sure that country boundary lines matter when it comes to buying a loaf of bread or anything else any more, does it? Regardless of whether boundaries really matter, they will continue to exist and evoke strong emotional responses from people like me who would like to think that America is a special place where anything is possible; a place like none other in the world.

Alas, the events of the day show us that we are indeed like everyone else, and this is the most devastating indictment: I know we are better, and Sarah Palin is a reminder of just how far we as a people have come down in our own eyes as to what is, and what is not, required of a Vice President or a President of the United States. For it is in the people we elect that we see a mirror image of ourselves. And while Sarah Palin is good, and she did try the best she could, her best just isn't good enough. For us as a people.

I think that if I was watching the Cubs' game tonight, and it was the bottom of the eighth inning, 9-1 in the second game of the NL Division Series, Grandma Van would say that the party was over for the Cubs. And considering our long history of watching many, many Cubs' games together, even she wouldn't blame me if was to disown the Cubs as utterly futile and would agree with me that Wrigley Field should be razed to make room for something not so deeply and viscerally associated with angst and sadness as is that temple to the loser in all of us. Enough with Stockholm Syndrome. It's the same feeling I get when thinking about this country right now, with one important difference: I can't disown the country. I can get over the notion, however, that I am trapped by the past. We don't have to be victims. We deserve better as fans and voters than to have to watch someone who, not too far removed from a PTA meeting in a state whose culture I admit I do not understand, is too close to being taken seriously as a Vice Presidential Candidate and for that matter by actuarial estimates too close to being President if John McCain is elected and dies while in office.

Let us hope that when it comes to the future, resistance to change among the American electorate will not be quite as futile as being a Cubs fan. Let history note that I watched the Cubs' game until the very last batter. Final: 10-3.

Randy Shiner

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