Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For Members Only

One thing I do to help out around here is regularly harangue Maine Today Media about its lack of female political columnists.  Recent commentary published by MTM written by women suggests my Herculean efforts may be starting to finally pay off, but even more enlightening on the topic is an opinion written by a self-described “powerlifting pundit, paleo practitioner and paternal force for good.” We’ll call him “Dan the Man,” or “DTM” for short.

My simple rational argument is as follows: The male-dominated public conversation about politics feeds the male-dominated political landscape that causes war, climate change, the wage gap and overall degradation of civilized society. Over and over I make the case to MTM with the hope my refrain becomes an ear worm. (Not a mean, bitter ear worm – a nice friendly one)

Perplexed about why a mainstream newspaper doesn’t want to appeal to a mainstream tribe of thinkers like me who read the local op-eds and listen to morning talk radio with clenched teeth and a racing heart until near-death by exasperation? Me too! Only an editorial Epipen administered by NPR or the New York Times brings me temporary relief of my whiteguyitis symptoms. I seek an antidote to the underlying disease.

Major advances over the past two weeks offer a glimmer of hope that a cure to debilitating whiteguyitis is likely attainable in two or possibly three hundred years.

Last Sunday, MTM’s “Insight” section included the usual slew of opinion pieces written by white guys covering foreign affairs, national politics and Maine’s governor, but added to the mix was a riveting article written by a woman about hot flashes.

Menopause is a tough first act to follow, but this week Insight did not disappoint. Politics was “analyzed” again by the usual suspects, and a woman was given ink to offer her well-researched article about life after Jazzercise.

Calorie-counting and fantasizing about being a backup dancer at a Cher concert is heady stuff, for sure, but what aroused my interest was Dan the Man’s essay about the use of social media and the rise of the GOP.

Making the excellent point that moderate Republicans need to reign in extremists, DTM uses a titillating, very insightful pun. He writes, “a tweet from a member of Congress can add to the national debate. On at least one occasion, however, a member of Congress actually tweeted a photo of his member, and it is hard to come up with an example of a bigger self-inflicted public relations blunder.”

Hard, indeed.

I’m no columnist, but I thought a “member” was a person who belongs to a group. Who knew certain male body parts achieved personhood?  It’s no wonder women aren’t allowed in this club. We’re outnumbered two to one.

(Is it really hot in here, or is it just me?) 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Epiphany: We Are Irrationally Exhuberant

Lord knows hope of upward mobility for average people died and went to heaven, but what on earth gave Americans the fortitude in 2013 to reach such a high score on the consumer confidence index? It’s a miracle, if you think about it. With record numbers of people unemployed and living in poverty, and homelessness and hungry kids everywhere, we managed to score a whopping 78.1%!

It was a  mystery….how did the struggling mass of consumers manage to faithfully keep shopping when the economy still sucks for the average family, and who’s keeping score, anyway?

And then I had an epiphany.

An illuminating but simple discovery came to me days shy of January 6th, the Epiphany. I guess that’s what happens when Christmas carols start playing on November 1st. The advent of the shopping season tinkers with the Season of Advent, and we ebb and flow paycheck to paycheck instead of looking to scripture, the moon or the spinning of the earth for a calendar.  

It was revealed to me that consumers are the sheep in the nativity story, and we are getting fleeced.

‘Tis still the season, though, and blessed are we for the news of our high confidence scores, good tidings and great joy, which shall be to all people.  

And stoked are the richest 10% who own 90% of the stock market on the announcement it had its best year since 1995 and doubled in value since 2009. The perfect gift for that special someone who has all the gold, mir and frankincense they need.

My only son was born in 1995, not in a manger, but into the American middle class, that largest congregation of consumers on the planet. He’s confident, too, as are all his 19 year-old friends of their immortality and good looks. But that doesn’t reduce the ridiculous cost of their college tuition.

Like well-worn Christmas pageant costumes, the earnings of middle class families haven’t changed since 1988, while the cost of education, housing and health care has skyrocketed. We continue to consume in confidence, though!

Meanwhile the tiniest handful of angels consume all the money.

So my epiphany is this: having just three kings among 300 million people in a democracy is not just a sin, it’s ridiculously unwise.