Daily Archives: 24 May 2014

We Might Not Meet Again, But Isn’t it Pretty to Think So?

Vera LynnDoes anybody here remember Vera Lynn? Remember how she said that, “We will meet again, some sunny day”?

Those are lyrics that Roger Waters wrote in The Wall. The reference is to her mega-hit “We’ll Meet Again.” Waters’ point is that his father died in World War II when Waters was less than six months old. Needless to say, they never met again, regardless of the weather.

But what Vera Lynn did was amazing. She broadcast a radio program where she performed songs that the troops requested. It reminds me very much of the end of Sullivan’s Travels. Sullivan is a famous director of comedies, but he wants to make serious films about the way life really is. So he sets out on the road, eventually finding himself imprisoned for six years for an assault. While in jail, the prisoners are allowed to see a screening of the cartoon Playful Pluto. And Sullivan realizes that when people are really suffering, they want something to make them forget their troubles.

Waters is right, however, to distinguish between those for whom pure entertainment allows them to bear the suffering they are going through, and those who don’t bear it. “We’ll Meet Again” is a nice fantasy as long as it is alive. No one wants to think of meeting again as meeting your father’s or husband’s flag draped coffin. Of course, for the Christians the allies nominally were, one can think they will meet in heaven. But that just makes it a typical story we tell children—not one for us adults. What Lynn provided was hope, even if it was a false hope.

Almost a half million of the British people died as a result of World War II. Just under 1% of the population, which was a lot better than the 2% who died in World War I, which no one can really seem to explain the reason for. And it is nothing compared to the roughly 15% of the population of the Soviet Union that died during the “Great War.” So maybe the right thing for the British to do was to keep smiling through.

Vera Lynn is 97 years old and on 2 June, she will release a new album, Vera Lynn: National Treasure—The Ultimate Collection.

Challenges of Female on Male Violence

Domestic Violence on FemalesPaul Day is the brilliant mind behind Billy Bob Neck, but he also happens to be the most interesting person on my Google+ feed. And sometimes, he sends out links to very serious stuff. Thus it was today when he alerted me to what is an important but typically trashy Buzz Feed article, This Is What Happens When the Public Sees a Woman Abusing a Man. What they did was get a male and female couple and had them get into a fight in public. The first time, the man was abusing the woman. Nothing terrible, but clearly unacceptable and likely leading to much worse. Strangers intervened, and even threatened to call the police on the man. They made sure that the woman was fine and everyone went on their merry.

Then, some time later, the same couple did the exact same thing. Except the woman was the abuser. Actually, the woman is more violent than the man had been. Strangers right next to them completely ignored the situation. Those that reacted at all seemed to think that it was amusing. Here is the video:

Now the caveats. It isn’t that people don’t think that the woman is misbehaving. But most of them figure the guy can handle things for himself. What’s more, they likely think that it would be rude to defend him—like it would make him a sissy. And let’s not forget that regardless of the fact that 40% of domestic abuse is against men, much more damage is done to women and that is the primary problem. So let’s grant all of that.

Domestic Violence on MalesHaving been the victim of domestic abuse that goes far beyond what is shown in this video, I think that I have some insights. There are really screwed up men who have never learned the rules that we were all taught as boys. But most men have internalized “never hit a girl” even more fully than “never cry.” So when we are confronted with a woman who is punching us, we parry, we weave, but we don’t counter punch. Just the same, we tend not to cower. And so it seems like nothing is especially wrong. But that is a mischaracterization of what is going on.

I had a wife who was always a bit marginal, but lots of fun. But later in the marriage she got into meth and alcohol and went full tilt schizophrenic on me. From my perspective, the worst point was when she was strangling me with speaker wire, screaming, “I’m going to kill you! I’m going to kill you!” That was the moment that I realized that she really was going to kill me. But did I hit her? Scratch her? Kick her? No. I simply got control of the wire and retreated. But I didn’t leave.

Months later, she got very angry at me. And she battered my face so badly that I looked liked the hero at the end of Rocky. It didn’t really hurt that much, but it looked bad. The Neighbors had called the police. By the time they showed up, my wife was passed out, and although I tried to stop it, they arrested her. I didn’t press charges (the police didn’t want me to anyway), but I did use it as an opportunity to disappear.

This behavior had been going on for a couple of years. And just like women in the classic stories, I made up excuses about all the signs of abuse. That’s easier being a man, because guys get in fights. No big deal. Although the same psychological dynamic goes on. We all feel as though there is something we are doing wrong. We aren’t saying the right thing or we are saying the wrong thing. This is how humans think: it’s all about us. We don’t like to think that stuff just happens to us. In this case, I fell in love with a beautiful, sexy, fun, and (sadly) crazy woman.

But until I had that experience, I always wondered about abused women, “Why don’t they just leave?” And while I was living through it, I was thinking, “Why don’t I just leave?” With many women, it is much worse because there are children and financial dependence. But I think it is much deeper than that. The abuse doesn’t happen all the time. It’s like the new Cookie Monster, “A now and then thing.” And there’s inertia. It’s easy to keep on keeping on. Hey, you’ve survived thus far! Until you don’t. And there is the feeling that you can finesse it—that you can figure out what sets them off. (For the record: sex is part of it too. These violent incidents do tend to eventually lead to really great sex. So there has got to be something of a conditioned aspect to it.)

Of course, in the end, you realize it isn’t about you. You might be the most annoying person in the world. But they ought to leave you then. There are an endless number of people who annoy me and I don’t hit them because of it. The abuser needs help and regardless of how loving and brilliant and lucky the abused is, he or she is not the one to provide that help.

But the smirking and the laughing in the video is a big problem. Because a woman acting that way isn’t just girls being girls. It often leads to men turning violent. It is not right that a woman’s slap on the face leads to the man pummeling her. But women should not be encouraged to slap men in the face as though it were cute. It’s not. It’s violence. All the time I was being brutalized, my lack of response was not just having learned that boys don’t hit girls. It was also my firmly held belief that if I gave my wife as good as I got, she would have gone around calling me a wife beater. And that’s a term right up there with “child molester” in my mind.

I don’t want to make too big a deal out of any of this. This is still primarily an issue of man on woman violence. But as a society, it protects us all (And women more than men!) to not turn a blind eye to female domestic violence.

Afterwrod

Although I was always worried that people would see me as a sissy man (not that they didn’t already), I always saw myself as the male ideal. I was always strong—never brutal. I did my best to make the situation better. Those who are abused are the strong ones—just unfortunately in weak positions. But if they can get out of those positions, they will do well. I’ve been remarkably happy since ending that relationship. Of course, I haven’t had another since.

Could Michelle Nunn Win in 2014?

Michelle NunnOver at The Upshot last week, I was not surprised to read Nate Cohn, Narrow Path to Senate for Michelle Nunn in Georgia. This is important because she is running to replace Saxby Chambliss, a man so conservative he once shot a man for not frothing at the mouth enough. Nunn is the main Democratic hope to turn a red Senate seat to blue. Cohn’s analysis indicated that she was still a long shot. The whites in the state now only represent 64% of the voters, which is down from 72% in 2002. But they’ve become a lot more Republican. This trend will continue to the betterment of the Democrats, but it isn’t going to happen by this November.

But according to Cohn, there’s hope. He wrote, “Demographic change has pushed Georgia far enough that a Democrat could conceivably squeak out a narrow win if everything goes right. But there should be no mistaking this race for a true tossup.” That’s the kind of information that ten years ago would have been pretty cheering, “There’s hope!” But now that sounds like unless her opponent starts talking about how girls in short dresses deserve to get raped, Nunn will lose.

Yesterday, some information came out that cheered up cynical old me. It’s a poll result and we always have to remember that a single poll means basically nothing. But conservative polling outfit Rasmussen Reports performed a survey of 750 Georgians Wednesday and Thursday—so after the Republican Primary. And although we don’t know which of the Republicans—Kingston or Perdue—will be running against her, Nunn is beating both. She beats Kingston 47%-41% and Perdue 45%-42%. And this is not a poll of registered voters; it is a poll of likely voters.

There are more caveats than facts in all of this, of course. The big one is, again, that this is just a single poll. And this is Nunn’s first campaign. But that may not matter, given that she is the daughter of Sam Nunn, the four-term United States Senator from Georgia. And like her father, she’s quite a conservative Democrat. So I’m sure that she has at least a decent chance at winning this race. Right now, because I’m feeling optimistic, I think I will disagree with Cohn and say this is a tossup.

Following the elections this year has been a very frustrating activity. It really is too early to say much. For example, we won’t know for a couple of months if Kingston or Perdue are going to run against Nunn. But like most liberal observers, I’m expecting great carnage in November and for two years, I’ve thought that the Republicans had a 50% chance of taking over the Senate. But then it started to look worse. I believe FiveThirtyEight put it at 60% chance. But now, The Upshot gives the advantage to the Democrats: 56% chance of keeping the Senate.

A lot of people talk about how this might be a “wave election.” I don’t much buy that. I don’t even think it makes sense in non-presidential elections. But if there is a trend, right now it is toward the Democrats. We might just hold on to the Senate. Of course, if we don’t, it isn’t that bad. The Democrats will take it back in 2016. As I wrote last year, It’s Now Or Never for Senate GOP.

Bob Dylan as Relevant as Ever

Bob DylanMy allergies are terrible today, or I would spend the day on Jacopo Carucci, who I do love. But it’s Bob‘s birthday—he’s 73 today. Look, a lot of it (like all great men) is just that he was the right man at the right time. But it hardly matters, he put out at least ten albums of the greatest albums of all the time. The albums that I never tire of are The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks.

So let’s start by singing Happy Birthday for Bob from Loudon Wainwright:

So first, some early Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” We’ve all been at that point of a relationship. The metaphor of the rooster crowing is perfect, because it is as predictable as the end of this relationship. But it’s alright:

A few years later, he wrote one of the funniest songs ever, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” It is supposedly an homage to Edie Sedgwick:


Skipping to the 1970s, we come to a song I’ve long been meaning to write an extensive analysis of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” It’s one of my favorites. This is an extended version, and it is easier to follow the story, plus it adds an extra verse that clarifies the story:

And from the 1980s, we have “Union Sundown”:

Happy birthday Bob Dylan!

Jimmy Carter Is Not Dead

Jimmy Carter

Normally, I start the day with a birthday post. But last night, I had a dream. I was in Walmart and Fox News was in the background. And they were talking about Jimmy Carter and his career. It was the kind of garbage that you would expect from that “fair and balanced” network. It sounded something right out of one of Ronald Reagan’s attacks from the 1980 campaign. The hostages. The failure of SALT II. High unemployment. High inflation. Not one of those things were Carter’s fault just like not a single thing Reagan is held up as a hero for were his doing, but what do you expect: Fox News.

And then I thought: why are they talking about Carter? And it hit me: he’d finally died. It was a surprise because he seems to be doing great. Bob Dole and Bush the Elder are both confined to wheelchairs and pretty much out of the public square even though they are both only a smidgen older (Dole is the oldest, by one year and two months). But Carter is still making public appearances, still writing books, still shaking up the world. How could he be the first to go?

Of course, the tone of the coverage didn’t surprise me. When a man as evil as Augusto Pinochet or a woman as evil as Margaret Thatcher dies, the obituaries are respectful. The idea is that we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, even if they themselves were responsible for lots of death and suffering. But when it comes to liberals, the America media seem to think it is best to present a “balanced” picture. We saw this when Reuters accidentally released its mock-up of George Soros’ obituary. So why not lay everything that went wrong in the 1970s on Jimmy Carter in death, especially given that he’s spent most of his time since he was president speaking truth to power.

The dream was so vivid and upsetting, that the first thing I did when I woke up was checked the news. I am pleased to report that Jimmy Carter is not dead—and hopefully will not be for a good long time. That’s not to say that I want Bush the Elder or Bob Dole to die. They seem as honorable as men of their classes usually are. But I don’t see them adding a great deal in the public sphere. So their deaths will be sad for their families. But they will mean nothing to me.