Archive for May, 2008

Is School Out Forever?

Posted on May 29th, 2008 in Personal | 1 Comment »

My high school class is celebrating a reunion this year, so I’ve been getting the nonsense in the mail from the “reunion committee”, which I picture as several ditzy girls from my class sitting around a folding table, sending reminders to all and sundry. The image has balloons and confetti too, for some reason.

Anyway, I filled out a bio for the ‘Memory book’, but as usual have no plans to attend. I’m too far away, even if I really wanted to go. But for the first time in a long while, it made me curious about how the rest of my classmates have been doing the past (blank) years. So I went to one of those ‘alumni’ sites where you can sign up and read or email ghosts from the past. I paid my $10.00 fee (and am still getting email reminders to join up and show my ‘alumni pride’), and went exploring. The problem is that these sites don’t have everybody. There’s always that strange guy, or that cute girl, or someone that you’d really like to know about (that is, make sure they’re not doing better than you!). But I read what they had, and it was very depressing.

Most of my class seems to be married with kids, living ordinary lives. And that was what bothered me – weren’t we going to be the ones who were going to change the world? Sure, every class says that, but we were special! What happened to all those hopes and dreams from graduation? Life, I suppose. It also bothered me that a lot of them have kids who are now older than they were the last time I saw them. This group of 17- and 18-year olds now have children in their twenties. Huh? It’s hard not to feel that as a group, we’ve been lapped, and are now out of the race.

I actually wrote to one girl (girl; a middle-aged woman with two kids, 18 & 13) I knew. We shared quite a few classrooms together, but never spoke much or became more than just vaguely aware of each other. Of course this girl (let’s call her ‘Beth’) was in a higher ‘caste’ than I was all throughout our school years together. She was also pretty smart, and I always considered her a real mental rival. She could spell ‘gymnasium’ in fifth grade, which was impressive at the time. So I sent Beth a friendly email, saying hi after all this time, I remember this and that, read your bio on the site, here’s what’s up with me. She wrote back the next day with a very bland ‘Oh I enjoy hearing from anyone from our class, I’m this that, yada yada’. This girl who was such a genius all through elementary school, middle school, high school… is a dental hygienist. Not that it’s not a good and important job, but somehow I expected more from her. I wrote her again with more memories, and a thought that while we were never in any sense of the word ‘friends’ in school, now that so much time has gone by, maybe we could email each other once in a while and say hi, here’s the latest, and so on.

My feeling on that is as time goes by, we all grow ever more distant from the people and events that shaped us. It would be nice to be in touch with someone who remembers the same teachers, the same faces, the same culture. I’m finding as I get older that to my great surprise, I miss that more and more over the years. Beth and I spent many years of our childhood together but separate in the same classrooms. It would be nice to put aside the childish feelings that kept us from being pals and enjoy the common experiences we had in those rooms so many years ago.

I guess to nobody’s great amazement, Beth never wrote back. Maybe she felt I was trying to hit on her, or set myself up for being the stalker she’s never wanted. Maybe I thought after all this time, we could move beyond playground resentments or superior feelings. Once more I was too naive for my own good. I haven’t written anyone else.

Last night I dreamt I was back at high school, on the last day, and we were getting our yearbooks. The books seemed full of pages about various people, with several of them getting a multi-page layout. Finally I found a page with a grid that filled almost all the space, showing what events or activities everyone was involved with. On the far right side of the page was a column of photographs of the students. It seemed to be more important to note what everyone was doing than what they looked like, or who they actually were. In the dream I felt all the loneliness and futility that high school was. The feeling that I missed something important. I woke up somewhat depressed, and was in a funk most of the morning.

Is it any wonder I don’t go to the reunions?

Here we go again!

Posted on May 20th, 2008 in Politics | No Comments »

The scene: The American people, disillusioned by two terms of corrupt and unethical Republican government, turn to a Democratic outsider, someone with fresh ideas for change. Someone with obvious intelligence and charm, who only a few short months ago was unknown to nearly everybody outside of his home state. His name: Jimmy Carter.

It would seem that once again, the electorate is prepared to shoot itself in the foot. Barack Obama has managed to work a triumph of style over substance by denying the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. As I write this, it remains to be seen if Obama can do the same with John McCain, who, despite being a Republican, has obvious appeal of his own, and may yet emerge victorious, ushering in another four years of misery for the United States, both at home and abroad.

Obama has captivated the young vote, the black vote, and many people who are just tired of the quagmire the Bush Administration has gotten us into, both with a war nobody but Bush & Cheney wanted, and a host of domestic issues. But if Obama were to take the White House, the question would be how long could he work his slight of hand before the people that voted him in become his worst critics? In terms of his overall agenda, he’s not too far from Clinton on many issues. One notable one that has been bypassed by the feud between the DNC and Florida is that Obama is not a fan of the Space Program. If he wins, look for postponement if not outright cancellation of the Constellation plan to return Americans to the moon. Obama wants to move that money into reading programs for children. A laudable goal, but certainly if he is the agent of ‘change’, why not use the money saved by fighting corruption in the Military? Why jeopardize jobs and US prestige by shutting down manned spaceflight? Or is it a good change to rely on Russian Soyuz modules (and their increasing bumpy landings)?

Obama (if he were to win in November) would face many of the same obstacles that Carter faced in the mid 70’s – OPEC pressures, increasing saber-rattling from Iran, open hostility from Republicans and more and more of his own party as his term progresses. It’s probably no surprise that Carter himself has heartily endorsed Obama. Jimmy Carter is a good man, a decent and honest man, but he has trouble dealing with duplicity and tended to overthink when he was President. I don’t think Obama is as honest, but he has shown a similar tendency to think himself smarter than everyone in the room. Which means eventually he’ll underestimate someone and find himself painted into a corner, much like Carter was with the Iranian hostage situation.

The upshot is that Obama would find his real options for change very limited, since he would be relying on the beltway insiders to carry out much of his idealistic program. He has an appalling ability to piss off the very people he needs, such as anyone living in a small town, or people who wear American flags on their lapels. These people do vote, after all. When the Democrats in Congress get tired of being blamed for contributing to the chaos he’s come to town to ‘change’, watch out.

But at this point, it’s even money between Obama and McCain. McCain has his own problems, alienating the right wing of the Republican party, and appearing as a “Democratic Republican”. Obama has to deal with all the Hillary fans who are mistrustful of someone with such little experience, and too much confidence. I admit to being in the latter group. I think it would be interesting if everyone in both parties who don’t like either candidate to write in Hilary’s name. It might be “Dewey defeats Truman” all over again.