17 June 2006

Let's talk

Over at Firedoglake, Christy got a terrific thread going this morning about how inspired she is that regular folks like you and me are putting on their political training wheels and going for a ride.

She’s not talking about pundits, politicians or journalists (although as a journalist, I hope I still count), but about everyone who’s watched with slack-jawed disbelief as Codpiece and the Orcs slowly but surely rip up and destroy our great country’s Constitution and civil rights, and effectively silence half the country’s voters. Christy is excited because she’s seeing We the People starting to speak up and speak out – our right as Americans as we practice free speech, including the right to dissent. And she sees, if this quiet revolution keeps growing, good changes ahead for all of us.

At the same time, she invited everyone – regular posters at FDL and lurkers alike – to stop in, say a few words about how they feel and, for fun and some good eating, share favorite recipes.

People are speaking up and sharing over at FDL in droves.

Along with brightening my day considerably (I’ve been pretty disgusted and feeling awfully pessimistic about the state of the world the last few days, as you might have surmised by my last post), I now have mouth-watering recipes for Pakistani Meatballs, Tomato Pie and Onion Pie. One of the last two – or maybe a delectible combination of both – just might be on the menu for dinner tonight. And the meatballs, wow. That’s going to be very special meal.

Here at Blue Wren, I get a lot of lurkers (people who stop by, read a little and move on without commenting) and just a few comments. Since my blog is new, I figure it will just take some time and perhaps some better, more inspiring writing on my part before I’ll make more Wren-friends. I’m working on that. Still, I’d like to take a moment to thank the ones that pipe up (you know who you are), and extend a friendly invitation to the rest of you. One of the most important things we can do for our country and ourselves in these dark times is talk to each other, find common ground and figure out how we can work together for positive change. And it doesn’t have to be all politics, all the time – what we need in this go-go-go, work-all-the-time culture is community. A place to slow down, think, and share our thoughts with others.

So talk at me. If you think I’m full of it, tell me so. If you think I’ve written something worthwhile, speak up and add to the conversation. Ideas are the seeds of change and communication works as water and sunlight, helping them grow.

I’m quite serious. Sometimes, when I’m trying to fall asleep at night after a long day, my imagination starts firing. As an artist and a writer, I’ve always had a vivid imagination, but being a rational type and fairly pragmatic, I tend to pooh-pooh my more frightening “what-ifs.” It’s getting harder and harder, though, to shrug off the one that keeps coming back to me, night after night.

What if Americans don’t wake up to the slow and insidious destruction of their freedom and rights that is now taking place in America? What if, come the November elections, we the People allow the Republican Party, which was once a great party of conservative-minded yet kind and rational people (but has been engulfed by a few who see it as a party of unlimited wealth and power), to retain their iron control of all three branches of government?

It could happen. The primary elections that have taken place all over the country so far have seen terrible voter turnouts. Here in California, a mere 28 percent of registered voters bothered to cast ballots on election day. Now I know that primaries, with the possible exception of presidential primaries, historically see a light turnout, but this year has been particularly appalling when you consider the stakes.

The Founders of our country warned us with great seriousness of the inherent danger to freedom that comes with the concentration of power in one branch of government. We have two more years left of the Bush Administration, and while Bush himself is finally becoming more unpopular with each passing day and with each stupidity and atrocity he commits in our names, he and his enablers continue to work hard at eroding the system of governmental checks and balances this country is great for.

What if the Republican orcs (as opposed to moderate Republicans) keep chipping away at the Constitution until, one day, we discover it’s no longer operative? What if we find ourselves the citizens of a police state, with no rights to privacy, fearful of speaking freely, turned into a permanent underclass of poorly informed, poorly paid, oppressed and powerless workers?

As modern Americans, we have never experienced the kind of oppression that goes hand-in-hand with tyranny. We know, in a disconnected sort of way, what it looks like – we celebrated our freedom as Communism rose in Russia and China, fought it and, at least in the Soviet Union, finally saw it fail. We’ve watched the situation in Northern Ireland for years and years, dispassionately, then gave them a weak, equally dispassionate cheer when the Good Friday Agreement came along. We’ve watched with disconnected unease the continuing horrors of Palestine and Israel, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Darfur. We’ve seen it all – but never believed such oppression could take place within America’s borders. This is America. We’re protected by our great Constitution.

And yet today, we have a president who attaches signing statements – more than 750 so far – to the laws he signs, effectively absolving himself from following those laws if he doesn’t feel like it. We have a president who has been, for several years now, conducting warrantless wiretapping – spying -- on Americans in direct violation of the law – and until it was made public, lied that he’d never do such a thing. Once it did become public, he declared that he intended to keep breaking the law, because he’s the president and he doesn’t have to obey the laws of the land like the rest of us.

We’re fighting a war that was, pure and simple, a war of opportunity, started out of greed and a raw grab for power. We were lied to regarding the reason for going to war, and once the lies became obvious, the president thought up new reasons and told us those had been operative all along. Never mind that Saddam didn’t have any WMD, like we’d been told. He’d thought about having them, and that was enough. Besides, he was a bad, bad man, a murderous tyrant. So what that we’d helped him into power ourselves when it was to our political advantage.

Today that war has dissolved into a very effective insurgent guerilla war against the oppressor (us, I hate to say) and into wholesale sectarian slaughter. Iraq is eating us, and itself, alive. As our sons and daughters are dying as they fight for a cause that is, at its roots, nothing but lies. And with no perceivable end in sight, we’re told we’re unpatriotic -- even traitorous -- if we don’t support it.

Our voices are being stilled as the slaughter continues, our country is impoverished and the rich and powerful reap untold treasure.

My overactive imagination asks, with dread, what if a day comes when we no longer have freedom and equality under the law in America, a time when the powerful overlords stomp out the songs of free people everywhere? Where the names of hundreds, even thousands of detainees, and the "disappeared" are the names of American citizens? And what if a time when insurgency, guerilla warfare and even acts of terrorism are the only hope that we, the American People, will have of regaining our once great country? Like the Founders, we might someday find ourselves up against a tyrannical government.

So let's put our heads together and figure out how to make sure my wild and purple what if imaginings never, ever come true. And if you have a good recipe, I’m always game.

Let's talk -- while we still can.

Update: Following my own advice, soon as I published this post I zipped over to Firedoglake and added my comments to the thread, including a recipe for Wren's Almost Authentic Hungarian Goulash. Post No. 270. Then I went back, picked up where I'd left off and continued reading through all the other comments. There's some great thinking going on out there, along with a lot of hope for the future of America -- and man, those recipes. Highly recommended.

Update2: And while I'm at it, here's a nice, earthy, easy soup to get things started:

Spinach Mushroom Soup

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups freshly chopped spinach
1 pound sliced button mushrooms (or any favorite)
Garlic, as you like it
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add spinach, mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms are browned. Sprinkle in flour and cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in cream and stock and heat through.

Makes enough for two generous servings. Bon apetit!


Jeremy Cherfas said...

OK, I'll pipe up. But I don't have much to say, because as a Brit living in Italy I honestly do not feel it is my place to comment on the political situation in "your" country. I have my own troubles, I tell you, unable to find a single candidate worth voting for in England and without a vote here. So I grimace and bear it.

I've argued before that one of the most far-reaching changes that could be made to the electoral rules in the UK would be to announce the count of spoiled ballots. That would give a voice to all of us who are disatisfied with all of the above. The powers that be refuse to do that, of course, because it might just reveal how truly unloved and unwanted they are.

And on the day that Apoxonall Yourhouses wins an election, perhaps some of trhe disaffected will decide it might be worth entering politics.

As for a recipe ... come to Rome and eat out.

Blue Wren said...

There's an eye-opening article in this month's Vanity Fair about the changes to British laws Tony Blair has made over the years, laws that affect people's right to demonstrate, etc. I haven't finished reading it yet, but it's a natural leap to start comparing these subtle, quiet changes in that country to those in this one -- and when you do, the hair on the back of your neck starts to rise.
Thanks for your thoughts. If I'm ever in Italy (a "someday" dream), I'll be sure to eat out!

Kevin Wolf said...

Yes. What if. Unfortunately, we keep passing thresholds where what if has become, what now?

I'm going to jump over and snag some recipes. I've been in a bit of a rut and need to shake up my eating habits...

patrick said...

Soak three kinds of beans overnight-
I like great Northern, pinto and black beans, but dried limas or red kindney beans work too.

Rinse the beans really thoroughly (it washes away the coating of starch on them that forms when they rehydrate, which is what makes you gassy when you eat beans- a public service announcement for the spouses out there) and cover them with water in a large pot. If the beans are six inches deep in the bottom of the pot, make the water six inches above the beans. If it’s four inches, make the water four inches deep.

Add either olive oil (for vegetarian) or a hambone or some fatback. (If you’re using fatback, cut it into chunks and sear it in a seperate pan first.)

Add black pepper, cumin, salt, chopped hot peppers of some kind, either dried red pepper or jalapeƱos or a single habaƱero, some dill, some basil, a bay leaf and two tablespoons of lime juice. Bring it to a boil.

While the pot of beans is boiling, in a seperate skillet, sautee (in olive oil) a half dozen cloves of garlic, two or three cups of chopped celery, a chopped onion, a chopped bell pepper. Once everything is cooked a little and the flavors are blended, take it off the heat and set it aside.

Cook the beans until they start to get soft, then add the contents of the skillet. Last time I made this, as the soup was rounding the last turn, I realized that I had made it too damn hot- I was a little too liberal with the red pepper. I boiled two sweet potatoes, mashed them and then stirred them into the soup. I have to say, I think that it’s a wonderful addition. It mellowed the heat and added a nice sweetness to the recipe. Your mileage may vary.

Serve with slices of fresh lime, warm tortillas with a little butter, and some chopped fresh cabbage to sprinkle on top.

Blue Wren said...

Oh, Patrick me boyo, ye have joost come up with this weekend's special supper, ye have indeed. I'll even add the mashed sweet pertaties. Mr. Wren is gonna be in heaven, and I won't even have to break out the gas mask! Mmmmmm.
Thanks! ;o)