Monthly Archives: November 2012

States of affairs and affairs of states

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The big news this week is the dissolution of my relationship.

That’s not actually true. The big news this week is Israel bombing the shit out of Gaza.

That’s not actually true either. The big news this week is General Petraeus and his affair with Paula Broadwell, who is making the job of biographer seem sexy, which is deceitful. Though I hardly see how it is news that a powerful man cheated on his wife. Without even creasing my brow I can think of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, John Edwards, that one guy who posted that awful topless photo of himself, and that other guy with tastes in high-class hookers. Oh and the South Carolina governor and his mistress from Argentina.

David Petraeus’s twinkie was in the news this week.

And that’s just from the past few years.

I’m sorry Petraeus resigned. I agree with journalist Thomas E. Ricks (Wall Street Journal and Washington Post) who argues that you can be a cheating asshole and still excel at your job. He doesn’t use those words, exactly, which is probably why he has a Pulitzer and I don’t.

Also worth reading: When the Stains of War Lead to Infidelity, by a woman whose military husband cheated on her.

Back to my comparatively modest news: my boyfriend broke up with me. You’d think I’d be devastated, and I’m frankly astonished that I’m handling it as well as I am, but it was a week ago and I’m basically okay. I don’t care to discuss the subject in more detail on this public forum, but you can contact me individually if you’d like to know more.

He and I will continue to live together as roommates. I expect we’ll be able to maintain some sort of friendship; it makes a lot of financial sense; and the kitties have abandoned him to sleep in my room, and that’s all that really matters.

Back to the non-Petraeus big news: after several years of leaving Palestine mostly alone, Israel is again on the offensive — and this is not a country that does things by halves. This is not a good time to be a civilian in Palestine, and it is really not a good time to be a military leader in Palestine.

Here’s what I can’t figure out. Israel is using excessive force and killing innocent civilians. This seems indefensible.

But Hamas is a terrorist organization, if we are to believe the United States. (And not just the US. A lot of countries identify Hamas as a terrorist group.) And while I think the United States supports Israel to a fault, I don’t imagine the American government goes about capriciously labeling Israel’s enemies as terrorists.

Israel has a right to defend itself, but from what I can tell, this military action is purely offensive. I don’t agree with what they’re doing. But neither am I ready to conclude that Hamas is the good guy.

What I really need here is a solid education in Middle Eastern current affairs and history. That would be the ideal approach for forming an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Looking at a few wikipedia pages, I am sorry to report, does not in fact make me an expert.

I am slowly developing a sense of global affairs and foreign policy. In an effort to make myself competitive for the Foreign Service, I have been reading a lot of international news. It’s nice that I am becoming slightly less ignorant.

It is not nice that I am losing my time for pleasure reading. The hours I used to spend with books have been parlayed into civic education. From that perspective, I suppose I should be glad that my temp job is ending in two weeks.

Starting in December, I’ll have an extra forty hours per week on my hands. The plan is to spend many of those hours doing freelance work. If all goes well, I might just possibly be able to stay afloat until the Foreign Service or the Peace Corps comes through.

Some of those hours will need to be devoted to volunteering. The Peace Corps won’t take me without a letter of recommendation from a volunteer supervisor, and it’s been years since I’ve done any sustained volunteering. Time to fix that! I’ve got a a few different organizations in mind.

But I intend to carve out some time for pleasure reading. I’m grumpy without my books. I’ll endeavor to maintain this blog (I enjoy writing, and anyway I feel guilty when I let it stagnate), but if I go a while without posting, the lapse will be caused, at least in part, by a good book or two.


Sob story

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When the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. on the morning after election day, my second thought was “Oops, it’s blasphemous to pray to Nate Silver.”

Then I opened my laptop and was hugely relieved to learn that Obama had won re-election. And then I started trying to recall if any friends or family might possibly live in Colorado or Washington.

I jest. To use marijuana, you have to be someone who knows someone who knows someone, or else you have to be a very good gardener. Neither description fits me. If I ever live in a place where it’s legal, I will gladly enjoy its recreational and medicinal (for anxiety) benefits, but for now I’ll be content just knowing that resistance to marijuana is thawing.

Most drugs that are illegal in the United States are illegal for very good reasons, and I will continue to support their illegality. Meth destroys families. Heroin destroys families. I’d rather restrict an individual’s right to abuse drugs than suffer the societal consequences of those drugs. Probably that is because I am a godless communist and I hate freedom.

But marijuana is largely benign. It has many medical applications, and no few recreational applications. And more importantly, legalizing it will allow us to better focus our anti-crime efforts on actual crime.

Back to election morning: because I was checking the news at an hour that could still reasonably be considered the middle of the damn night, I deferred my political news gorging till the evening. I was about twenty hours late watching Obama’s acceptance speech. When I finally got to it, I cried the whole way through. I don’t mean that I got teary-eyed. I mean that I had to go into the other room to blow my nose. I sobbed out loud at one point.

I have always been quick to cry. I don’t know if it’s a biological thing — are some people genetically predisposed to tears? — or if I never learned the trick to preventing or stopping tears, but I respond to strong emotion by crying. The tendency has become stronger in recent months, something I wouldn’t have believed possible. For example, I stopped to listen to some street musicians in downtown Asheville the other day, and I started crying, for the simple reason that the ensemble was doing a nice job. I don’t even like jazz all that much!

President Obama’s speech reminded me of why I liked him so well in the first place. His first term was not all I hoped it might be, and maybe the second term will be marred by the same partisan rancor and extremism in Congress, but he talked about things I believe in. He made me feel hopeful. And he is so very good at delivering speeches.

But my final sob-story came from this picture. Even before I researched this lady (with “researched” meaning “visited the wikipedia page of”) and discovered more about her story, I broke down and cried — the full treatment, snot and everything. I encourage you to learn more about Tammy Duckworth, but for now, I leave you with the image that reminds me that some people are extraordinary — and that sometimes ordinary Americans make extraordinary choices at the polls.