22
Nov
13

The new meanness

One of the most popular shows on television is CBS’ “Two and a Half Men”. And I’ve often wondered at its popularity.

It is a very well-written and acted show, as far as it goes. But if you watch it for any length of time, you come away with a wretched taste in your mouth. It is, without a doubt, a show with characters who have no redeeming qualities. Everyone is gleefully mean to everyone else, reveling in cutting barbs and casual humiliation. Obviously, it’s a comedy painted in broad strokes, as sitcoms normally are. However, if you watch it on your local station in reruns before the prime time schedule comes on, you’ll be forgiven for wondering why anyone should give a damn about what happens to any of the show’s characters.

And yet, for more than a decade it has been one of the most popular shows on television. Before Charlie Sheen melted down, he was the highest paid actor on TV thanks to it. Millions of people tune in to watch a weekly display of dysfunction so severe that suspension of disbelief becomes increasingly difficult.

Obviously, you can’t judge an entire culture by the popularity of one television show. But here is another data point. Bloomberg has an article helpfully entitled “Obamacare Shows How Americans Are Becoming Jerks“. From the piece:

What’s clear is that the shifting views on health care predate the Affordable Care Act. The number of Americans who think health care is the government’s responsibility hovered around two-thirds for the first half of the 2000s, peaking at 69 percent in 2006. Then those numbers started falling, hitting 50 percent in 2010 and 42 percent this year.

The shrinkage of American generosity during that period wasn’t just about health care. The onset of the recession corresponded with a change in public opinion on a range of issues, and in most cases the effect was to make Americans less caring about others.

Starting in 2007, the portion of Americans who said the government should guarantee every person enough to eat and a place to sleep started falling, from 69 percent to 59 percent last year. People who said the government should help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, fell from 54 percent to 43 percent over the same period.

The Great Recession was a gut check to a nation which had been promised, since the end of the Cold War, that “history was over”. Life would be one continual economic boom, and people could just go about their lives in splendid apathy. In that kind of environment it was easy to be for national healthcare, help to the homeless, aid to the poor, and other altruistic programs. Even during the height of Republican dominance in the G.W. Bush years, Americans felt more charitable towards their fellow citizens.

Ever since the near-collapse of the economy, though, Americans have retrenched. A frightened meanness and selfishness seems to be the norm. Instead of banding together and helping each other out, as President Obama continually encourages people to do, we retreat to our corners, guard what’s ours, prepare for the worst. Another example of this in popular culture is the wide popularity of “doomsday prepper” shows, with paranoiacs preparing for all sorts of apocalyptic scenarios, ready to defend what’s “theirs” with violence when the government and social order inevitably fail. Unspoken is the thought that if the preppers spent their time becoming part of their communities and working for the common good rather than preparing for Armageddon, then perhaps The End wouldn’t come to pass. But, as seems to be the current currency, fear and paranoia sell more than optimism and common purpose.

The country is getting meaner. And it’s no coincidence that it’s getting meaner at the same time that there is a man in the White House whose entire message is that we are each others’ keepers. The previous Administration so betrayed the peoples’ trust that anyone coming with a message of compassion (remember “compassionate conservatism”?) is seen as suspect. They’re simply more flowery words, and won’t stop the next economic collapse.

But they’re more than words. President Obama has matched words with dogged action. From the auto bailout to ACA to pushing for immigration reform, he’s done the work to, eventually, ease people’s fears. Yes, the Great Recession was a splash of ice water in the face of a complacent electorate. And it’s obvious that enough of that electorate believes in Obama’s message to have elected him twice. Yet too many of our fellow citizens have yet to recover from the economic meltdown; they trust nothing and no one, seeing a hostile world out to crush them. Any move to make the country more just they see as a “handout” to “those people”. As many of them as possible need to be reached; the 27% will always be against anything that smacks of humanity; but the country cannot function if a large minority is dead set against it.

The new meanness exists, and it’s strong, but nothing says that it’s destined to win. The race we’re in isn’t a sprint; it isn’t even a marathon; it’s an endurance race across trackless wastes, which requires every ounce of strength and resourcefulness. But if we’re to have a human life, it’s one we must win.

Turn off the culture which promotes fear and casual cruelty. Go out into your community. Meet your neighbors. Talk about what everyone needs. It’s the only way anything good ever happens.


123 Responses to “The new meanness”


  1. 1 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Greetings.

  2. 6 No Child Left Behind
    November 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Good Afternoon TODVille,

    Happy Friday. And my thoughts with the Kennedy family as well as Sen. Creigh Deeds.

  3. 7 hopefruit2
    November 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Excellent essay LL! Although I think you’re a bit less cynical than I am.

    I also believe that part of that “meannness” is really about hatred for the current occupant in the WH, and everything that he represents. This newfound hatred of “government” is driven by the corporate media who can’t stand that government is now working for the “little” ordinary folks; It’s driven by the racist and paranoid and selfish Libertarians who think that this government is out to limit their “freedoms” while they are quite power-hungry and want to oppress everyone else.

    • 8 Lovepolitics2008
      November 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Hope, I have no doubt that racism and racial insecurity is playing a role right now. However, we have to acknowledge than in harsh economic times, people in general tend to become more selfish. Or, to be more accurate, in harsh economic times, the peddlers of hate and division use fear and insecurity to their advantage; they are more successful than in easier economic times. It has happened many many times in history, all over the world.

      America has elected one of the most generous, spiritually evolved presidents in its history. A president who has centered all his political career over the values of generosity, empathy, respect and inclusion. It’s painful to see how hard he has to fight in the current political environment.

      It may sound like hyperbole, but folks, I’ve been feeling this for a long time: I see the struggles of President Obama as the struggle of Light over Darkness.

  4. November 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Far too many people in our country, too busy to be bothered by delving into a story or news item or to really look at both sides, are becoming increasingly shallow and less empathetic. Where “nuance invariably acquiesces to cliche” the reasoned approach is sadly, quickly becoming a thing of the past.

  5. 10 desertflower
    November 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Exquisite. Just like I knew it would be:)

      • November 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

        What’s embarrassing to me is that Stossel, like me, has overcome a stutter. Having that affliction hasn’t made him more compassionate, but more horrific.

      • 13 lockewasright
        November 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        Which is a worse wrong: Failing to help a fellow human who genuinely needs it if you can afford to or being “scammed” out of a buck knowing that it was a possibility when you gave that buck away? Besides, if a person is taking advantage of people then it reflects poorly on them, not me. I am nobody’s sucker. I’d just rather take a risk on being scammed out of what I could afford to part with anyway than take a risk on turning my back on a person that I could have helped.

        • November 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm

          Totally agree. Just today at noon, some older guy with a sad story of running out of gas and leaving his wallet at home and his only friend in our town can’t be found – asked me for money. I never have much cash on me, but I gave him my only $5 bill. I figured it may be a true story, it may not – but what if it was??? We’ve got to have compassion for others – or else, how can we survive as a civilization?

  6. 16 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    “The country is getting meaner. And it’s no coincidence that it’s getting meaner at the same time that there is a man in the White House whose entire message is that we are each others’ keepers.”

    Bravo, LL!

    • 17 yardarm756
      November 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      I wonder. Is it meanness or fear of the unknown/tomorrow?

    • 23 anniebella
      November 22, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Oh course you know what I think alot of the meanness comes from, don’t get me wrong I know not all. But alot of it is from racists ass people who don’t like the fact that America, their America has a black President, a black family living in that White House.

  7. 25 anniebella
    November 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I am enjoying this program FLOTUS has going on this afternoon.

  8. 26 utaustinliberal
    November 22, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Holy smokes! That was a wonderful, spectacular, and amazing performance at the white house.

    THANK YOU, FLOTUS!!!!!

  9. 29 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Ya gotta laugh.

  10. 30 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm
  11. November 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    A brilliant essay LL, completely thought-provoking.

    “Yet too many of our fellow citizens have yet to recover from the economic meltdown; they trust nothing and no one, seeing a hostile world out to crush them. Any move to make the country more just they see as a “handout” to “those people”. As many of them as possible need to be reached; the 27% will always be against anything that smacks of humanity; but the country cannot function if a large minority is dead set against it.”

    Where on earth does this paranoia come from, this spite and – as you say – meanness? It has reached epic levels since the birth of ACA, I am at a loss to understand it.

    • November 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      I really do think they believed the promise (lie) that history was at an end, and milk and honey would now flow as a matter of course. When that lie became evident, a large minority went apeshit. It felt betrayed, and wants to go back to that promised land, no matter the consequences.

      • November 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm

        Frightening. I marvel at their insistence that they love their country more than anyone else, yet appear to despise most of the people living in it.

      • 35 Lovepolitics2008
        November 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

        Good point. And that’s why, to be candid, I’m concerned about 2016. A couple of republican candidates have the exact kind of personality that could feed people’s fantasies about “bringing back America”.

        Reagan did a lot of damage to the social and economic fabric of America, but his strength was that he could sell the fantasy pretty well. Boy did he fool a lot of people.

  12. 36 Alycee (@jazziz2)
    November 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    LL, once again, you’ve hit it out the park.

  13. November 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I gave up on network television after Reality shows gummed up the works. I’m highly opinionated, and I was appalled in 1973 that PBS aired the first reality show about the Loud family. It felt manufactured, invasive and self-promoting for the Louds, all at the same time. Though I love Santa Barbara, could not relate to them at all. Hence my distaste for any Reality TV show.

    Aside: I stopped listening to music in the 1970s because I absolutely HATED disco. So aside from a few punk-type bands, am not familiar with any popular music after about 1978 or so.

    So am not familiar with Two And a Half Men, but do know that Charlie Sheen is a jerk, unlike his father, who I met in the late 1970s.

    My personal opinion about the “meanness” of American culture goes back to an essay from the 1980s that I read in the LA Times Sunday magazine. Cannot for the life of me remember the author’s name (something like Martin Bpoe, but that’s not right).

    This essay lamented the lack of understanding by Americans of public space. That parents don’t teach their children the fact that there is behavior that is suitable in public versus at home. There was more to the essay, but I felt the author hit the nail on the head.

    If you asked most Americans what public space is, they would most likely answer by mentioning their favorite retail establishment (Starbucks, the local Mall or diner/cafe). Americans don’t have a concept of what truly grand public spaces are (think of the unsurpassed architecture of the grand Art Deco Union Stations across the country as contrast — today’s comparable public spaces are parking lots).

    This is the price we pay for plutocracy and not understanding the concept of the greater good.

    • November 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      I love your comment. I visited Zurich a few years ago, and one of my friends insisted that we visit the police station there. I thought she was crazy, until we actually arrived at the police station. They have ceiling frescoes painted by Augusto Giacometti that are simply breathtaking. Travelling through some of the older, grand stations in the US and abroad, you see how much investment was made by the public to adorn their public spaces. It really is depressing that in today’s goal of achieving independence and self-reliance, we are now shortchanging ourselves and future generations, because it’s no longer important to contribute to the social good. If today’s tea party/Republicans had been around in their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, we wouldn’t have the plumbing, electricity, railroad, freeway systems that we now take for granted, because they wouldn’t have been far-sighted enough to plan for more than just themselves. They are destroying this country. And with their denial of global warming, they are destroying the world, too.

      When the President speaks of citizenship, patriotism, being our brother’s/sister’s keeper, caring for one another – he’s reminding them of the values their parents and grandparents had, which built this country and is the very best ideal. These neanderthal’s currently roaming the halls of Congress and various voting booths don’t appreciate all that prior generations fought and toiled for. They are not patriots, by any stretch of the imagination. They’re barely human. They’re just greedy and selfish.

      • November 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        Yes, exactly, theo67!

        Americans in general have no concept of public space (they can only relate to retail “public” space, which isn’t public at all, it’s private property, but they allow the public to set foot in their establishment so that they can fleece the consumer).

        Seeing the Arab Spring uprisings in public squares got me thinking about this.

        Would like to hear from TODville who live in cities with public spaces. Aside from libraries and train stations, I can’t think of many.

      • November 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

        Yes, yes Theo. “They’re just greedy and selfish.”

        One of the things that I find completely depressing is the fact that the people who are fighting so hard to destroy the ladder of success, to keep the government from giving people a hand-up would have never themselves had an opportunity had the government not rescued their parents or grandparents during the Depression. What’s even worse….they know that.

      • 44 Lovepolitics2008
        November 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

        And they think THEY are the good christians.

        If Jesus came back to meet them, they would be in for a big shock I think.

    • 45 carolyn
      November 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      Once again LL…excellent analysis of the current mood.
      Arapaho…you hit on something I’ve noticed when traveling to Europe…..the great public spaces, buildings, gardens, which are used, not abused. They are a joy! They are for the benefit of the people, and people use and enjoy them. I especially like the large train stations. Everyone going some where, catching the right train, reading the sign boards, the wide variety of shops and restaurants available…for an American locked up in a car, they are an eye opener.
      People know how to behave in using them, and Americans who violate the norms, are quickly notified in definite ways that they are breaking the norms. After being so notified, they seem to be able to behave correctly. Now not all Americans behave ignobly, of course, but enough do that they are noticed.
      One thing that was so remarkable about Election Night 2008 in Grant Park, was that there were NO problems….people behaved beautifully, they were all of one accord in one place, as the Bible states at one point.
      In Chicago when I was growing up there were what were called “forest preserves” spaces with nature, and other amenities provided…..picnic tables…..skating rinks…playgrounds. These were used and appreciated by the citizens of Chicago…..the shore of Lake Michigan was dotted with large grills that people used for picnics…..all these were public spaces….provided, frequently by the programs of the WPA, CCC, etc for the public good and use.

      • November 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm

        I’m with you, Carolyn.

        Of all the places on earth, I love parks (libraries are next in line).

        When I was a student at UCLA in the 1970s, I took an urban geography class that took us on a walking tour of downtown Los Angeles.

        We went inside some magnificent theatres that were then abandoned (built in the 1932s, I think — only 50 years old). The outsides were decayed, but the insides still had the glorious gold leafing and other wonderful touches that Americans had long since abandoned in pursuit of convenience).

        I’m also reminded of Union Station in DC, which I’ve been to only once, in 1998. There I read about the perseverance of the person who refurbished it – truly an heroic act of determination and love. If I recall correctly, he died before the grand re-opening happened.

        One of the books on my required reading list in college was “The Tragedy of the Commons,” now known correctly as a right-wing manifesto. The other side of the coin, how public spaces can enrich us all was not mentioned.

        Public spaces are important to achieve a sense of community, a meeting place, places to preserve. Most Americans are blissfully unaware of this, and our MSM would like to keep them in the dark to the extent possible.

        • 47 carolyn
          November 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

          The title of the book reminds me of the wonderful Boston Commons and Public Garden. Fortunately, these were planned and built years ago when people believed in the Common good. Boston has this heart, metaphorically and geographically. The wonderful T (subway) goes in to the Commons, Park Street station…all cars are outbound FROM there, and inbound TO there.
          I think this is one reason Boston has such a mystique…..it has a strong sense of place, and when you even visit, you feel it. I lived there, and know it.
          We took two different groups of students from Oklahoma on a literary tour of New England, and what the students loved most was the T, and the freedom it gave them to explore. They went to Harvard, Quincy Market…..another great public space…..and came away feeling the Boston spirit, which is hard to describe.

          • 48 jacquelineoboomer
            November 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm

            I’ve been to Boston a couple of times, and loved every inch of it that I saw.

            The only negative I ever think of, about the city, is the awful response to school busing desegregation back in the mid-1970s (some whites saw their rights as “vanishing” when school children were bused to schools outside of their districts, but the racists of the time were beaten back over a couple of years), which I will put in the back of my mind again!

          • November 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm

            There’s a world of difference between the northeast founding cities (like Boston, Philly, etc.) and anything west of them.

            I think the automobile was a big factor in the isolation of Americans.

            In one of Bill Bryson’s books (can’t remember which one, I think I’ve read most of his books) he contends that Los Angeles urban sprawl was a result of the efficient Red Line train/trolley service that thrived in the first half of the 20th century. Of course it was killed by GM and other car manufacturers — I think the last one ended in the late 1940s.

            So the automobile’s legacy to American cities is that we’re scrambling to build transportation infrastructure that the public demands. Hard to believe that their is no light rail service to LAX, and any attempt to build that infrastructure is contested by property owners affected.

            Americans have shown themselves to be very short-sighted, and the situation is not getting any better.

      • 50 dotster3
        November 22, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        We still have forest preserves all over Chicagoland. And Chgo has lots of public spaces, beautiful spaces along the lakefront, and parks with playgrounds and ball fields and picnic areas dot all the different neighborhoods. Someone(s) planned well back in the day.

        • 51 carolyn
          November 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm

          So glad to know that dotster! I have such fond memories of those spaces. Our library was in a park…..we walked to it and it was just great! Picnics by the lake….my, my…..

  14. November 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    As @LRozen predicted, it looks like tomorrow’s the day for #IranTalks (see R&S thread for tweet):

  15. 55 Don
    November 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    All men have egos, but what separates PBO is that he is in full control of his.

  16. 59 anniebella
    November 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards were the First Lady hosted today was wonderful.

  17. November 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    And advancing the theme of this post:

  18. November 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    LL, you are so on point. That’s one of my soapboxes. :) Of course, you’ve done a far better job of making the point than I ever could.

    We talk a great deal about extremism and terrorism in far off lands, but fail to acknowledge our own home-grown terrorism. For years, this country has been subjected to spiteful, hateful rhetoric and behavior. Many attribute the ire and desolate “mood in America” to the bailouts, the health care debate, economic conditions, guns, but the anger and extremism were obvious long before the economy bottomed out, before there were bailouts or a single discussion about healthcare.

    Hate speech degrades the human personality and spirit of everyone and while many conclude that such insensitive rhetoric is just opportunistic pandering, the reality is such lunatic rants pour fuel on the flames of hidden fury, feeding the kind of anger that animates violence. Just think, we wonder why our children are bullies.

    What must change is the heart, mind and soul of America, because you cannot regulate fear, anger, racism or hate. We must decide what kind of country we want to be.

    • 62 carolyn
      November 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Bravo! Faypax…….you are right, this feeling had a genesis long before it became obvious.

    • 64 Lovepolitics2008
      November 22, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      What must happen is the destruction of hate right-wing radio. They are everywhere. They have been peddling resentment, lies and distortions for decades now. They are probably the most effective tool the plutocracy is using to make people vote against their best interests. Goebbels would be proud.

      Propaganda WORKS. Read “What’s the matter with Kansas ? ”

      I really wish there was some way to reestablish the fairness doctrine. .. In the mean time, some “light” in the darkness, besides a compassionate and brilliant president : the organization he put in place, OFA. An organization devoted to bringing people together to work for change. An organization that promotes inclusion, respect of others, compassion, progress. The exact antidote to the right-wing noise machine.

  19. 65 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    This never gets old.

    “If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties – someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal’, then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal.'” – President John F. Kennedy

  20. November 22, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Yay, Meta:

  21. 71 jacquelineoboomer
    November 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    My granddaughter called me and then my 2-year-old great grandson got on the phone. He said a few things to me, excitedly, like he had saved up, and then walked away. My granddaughter told him I was still on the phone, and added, “She still wants to talk to you.” And then he very sweetly and gently got back on the phone and said to me:

    “I’m done talking.”

    And walked away again.

    Ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The thing that made me laugh the most was thinking of all the people I talk to on the phone who’d like to take that direct approach with me, themselves, but just don’t quite have the knack that little darlin’ has!

  22. 80 hopefruit2
    November 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm
    • 81 pkayden
      November 22, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Well at least one MSM outlet is letting the truth get out there.

      • November 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm

        Obamacare will be fine, no matter what the Republicans do. As people tell their friends and neighbors about the deal they got…people will be looking for the same thing for themselves. You got telephone, telegraph and television, but nothing beats tell somebody. Republicans are going to end up looking like total and complete idiots.

        • 83 Vicki
          November 22, 2013 at 4:38 pm

          My guess is that every one of us here at TOD agree heartily with this, Faypax and it is a point many of us have been making for months. Also, PBO said something about neighbors telling neighbors friends and relatives telling their friends and neighbors.
          There is nothing the GOPTP can do and my guess is that they know this but what are their choices? Go silent?

  23. 86 JER
    November 22, 2013 at 4:18 pm
  24. 89 hopefruit2
    November 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    LOL!

  25. 90 Bill R.
    November 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Despite the many problems with the Cover Oregon website, many thousands of people are getting enrolled by paper. And Enrollment Fairs are being held around the state. On Monday I will be assisting Marion County Health Dept. in an enrollment Fair in the Salem Fairgrounds Expo site (Salem, Oregon). And I am now working under the supervision of a young bilingual Latina lady who is directing the enrollment and outreach process for the Health Dept. She and many of the workers are bilingual, which is very helpful, as we have a large Latino population here in Western Oregon, especially in the capitol city Salem. Among my volunteer duties, with my mental health professional background will be to work with the crisis intake unit of Marion Co. to help new clients and their families get access to health care coverage. In a few weeks my church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will finalize its application to become a Community Partner of Cover Oregon and I will be doing volunteer outreach and enrollment duties through that venue with low income and homeless clients who are served through affiliated church based ministries. Things are happening out here, friends. Already Cover Oregon through paper means has enrolled over 70K persons in the expanded Medicaid program of the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid here in Oregon is called the Oregon Health Plan, which because of the ACA is now Oregon Health Plan Plus because it includes dental care. You won’t here this on CNN or MSNBC, but you heard it here.

    • 91 Bill R.
      November 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      I’ve been posting here for a while, so in case you want to attach a face to the old guy associated with the posts, Here it is:
      http://www.avalon-counseling.com/bill.jpg

    • 98 hopefruit2
      November 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Bill for all this info and for your involvement with getting people informed about the ACA. Earlier today, I come across a disgruntled person from Portland Oregon (on Twitter = see the tweet below) who apparently works for a small nonprofit company and claimed that her insurance Co (Pacific Source) is raising their rates by 35% and dropping their dental coverage – all because of the ACA. I think she’s either not telling the whole story (she’s a proponent of “The Public Option” and “single payer” ) and simply wants to push her emoprog propaganda, or she’s truly uninformed.

    • November 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks so much for this update, you handsome devil! :) I’ve been trying to find out why there had been no sign-ups in Oregon. It just made no sense to me. Even DeFazio claimed there had been “zero” enrollments just two days ago. Apparently, he meant through the website. It begs the question, what did we do before the internet?

      • 101 carolyn
        November 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm

        Yes, my students don’t know what we did before the internet! Much as I like it, and use it, there is one area I still don’t trust the internet: making plane reservations! I either call the airline or use my friend who is a travel agent. I know he always gets more choices and better deals for me than the internet provides, and I always feel straitjacketed when trying to use the internet for plane reservations.
        Some day I probably will, because that will be all that’s available. That won’t be until my friend is no longer in the travel business and there are no real people on the other end of the phone call!

      • 103 Obama Grandmama
        November 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

        I heard on NPR that CoverOregon has not been able to sign people up on the website due to technical difficulties, but has by mail, phone etc. However, one part of the sign up is still dependent on the computer. That may make the zero enrollments technically correct.

    • 104 Judith Fardig
      November 23, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Bill,

      So glad you are doing this work with Cover Oregon! I want all 400 of those additional hires to be caring people like you who want to help their fellow Oregonians. We will be in Salem Saturday to celebrate the graduations of our niece (OT Masters) and nephew BS in engineering from Rose Hulman). We told the nephew that he should apply for one of those temp jobs with Cover Oregon until the end of March.

      Sign-up fairs in Portland this weekend have 1,000 slots. We will get there!

  26. 105 Vicki
    November 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    JFK came to my school (Syracuse) during the 1960 campaign. That is a cherished memory. As you might imagine, today has been painful.
    I get crazy wishing President Obama could be coated in a bullet-proof shield.

  27. 108 aquagranny911
    November 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    LL, de lurking just to say to you, mi Hijo…Bravo, Chico, Bravo! So beautiful & truly from the heart! My Granny often said that the true measure of a person was how willing they were to give to others in need when they had little themselves. For ricos it is easy because they have much but for the person who has only a loaf of bread & gives half away to a hungry neighbor means more. ♥

  28. 109 GGail
    November 22, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    LL, this is just great! I especially love this…”The new meanness exists, and it’s strong, but nothing says that it’s destined to win. The race we’re in isn’t a sprint; it isn’t even a marathon; it’s an endurance race across trackless wastes, which requires every ounce of strength and resourcefulness. But if we’re to have a human life, it’s one we must win.”

  29. 110 Dakota
    November 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Good Afternoon TOD Family.

    I’m reminded today, along with most everyone else, of where I was when I heard the news that President Kennedy was killed. I was a sophomore in high school and I don’t remember much except making my way to the school auditorium. I do remember stunned and grieving faces of fellow students and staff. I went to the auditorium and listened to the radio broadcast coming over the loudspeaker. I didn’t try to find my friends, I just sat by myself with tears running down my face.

    JFK was a hero in our home. I don’t recall my parents ever getting involved with politics before he ran for president. I remembered how happy they were when he federalized the Mississippi National Guard and sent federal troops to the University of Mississippi to ensure the enrollment of James Meredith. They were ecstatic when he told southern bigots to go to hell, when they protested inviting Ella Fitzgerald to perform at the White House. So much to look forward to and be happy about.

    My mother was in LOVE with President Kennedy! She thought he was so handsome! She worked for the Naval Air Station in Alameda, Ca and as luck would have it, he came to visit the base. Everyone came out of their offices to see him and wave as was driven by in a convertible. Mom said she was waving and shouting, “Yoo Hoo! Jack! Yoo Hoo!” She always swore that he looked right at her, smiled and waved! Bittersweet day for everyone.

  30. 112 hopefruit2
    November 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm
    • November 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Fingers crossed for a positive outcome. I was thinking there was no way they would have an announcement today considering the Kennedy commemorative events. Let’s hope Sec Kerry arrives to seal a deal.

  31. November 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm
    • 115 carolyn
      November 22, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      That’s funny LL….wasn’t everything big-ass in the 1980s? Shoulders, hair, the national debt…..

      • November 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        Yes, it was. But I have a special fondness for bomber jackets with the furry hoods. That and dressing in Lee Jeans / Le Tigre polos was my way of setting myself out as an individual as opposed to just my mother’s son. Good times, good times. Oh, and pure white Addidas sneakers.

  32. 118 jackiegrumbacher
    November 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    LL, I can’t look back on American history and think that “meanness” is new to our times. We brutally crushed native Americans and took away their land, their culture and their lives. We institutionalized slavery and half our population convinced themselves that some of their fellow human beings (created in God’s image) were inferior to themselves. We fought a Civil War that ruthlessly destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men so that one portion of our country could continue to enslave their fellow men. The KKK at its height had a huge membership and terrorized black families and Jewish Americans. Immigrants were spat upon and denied the dignity of jobs or basic respect. Crowds in Little Rock mocked and screamed at a small child who was just trying to go to school. Our entertainment was filled with stereotypical, cruel representations of African Americans, Jews, Poles, the Irish and women. Men regarded most women as sex objects and the half of our population that happened to be female was denied the right to fulfill their God given talents in any field. We were not in any way a kinder or gentler nation.

    What we did have in earlier times was a more “national” or common culture. People of all ages got together to hear the same stories in front of their fireplaces or listen to the same songs. We all tuned into the same radio programs, admired the same composers, watched the same early tv shows and heard the same news broadcasts (which were really once actually about news.) We fought big wars and had a common enemy–the Kaiser, then Hitler, Hirohito, then the Commies.

    Today, we have micro entertainment and individualized social communication channels so that each person can remain cocooned among those who share their fears, prejudices and rage. We talk to these small groups and incite emotions, spreading lies and promoting our darkest hatreds. There is no national corrective, no trusted broadcast voice, no common culture that all of us can share and understand. And no real external enemy, no Hitler that we can all commonly hate. The Republican Party has skillfully manipulated this divisive, insulated nature of our American culture and deliberately fed, inflamed and funded the most hateful and insane. That is the disgusting legacy that will always be associated with their name. When Barack Obama called on people to reclaim their citizenship, he was asking them to see the world in the way our political system (or any democracy) was intended, as an integrated entity in which we all have a critical role. His remarks were disregarded and laughed at by the GOP, but what he said was a profound call to restore the nation’s soul. Not the nation that we were or have become, but the nation we could be, the one we all need to strive for if we’re to survive the century. So yes, we are mean and always have been. It’s just that we have more ways to say it now and more plentiful microphones for the most hateful to be heard. That’s just my opinion, anyway, long-winded as it is.

    • November 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      As I remark often, “Everyone is so brave on the Internet”. I purposely avoid most comments on websites, because I’d be sickened by the “conversation”. With the new media we have, we’re like little children who’ve discovered the salacious joy of saying naughty words. You’re right meanness has always existed, but now it’s been given a free rein in public discourse it never had before.

  33. 120 Nena20409
    November 22, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    As always LL, you break it down and your tell it as is. Thank you sir.

  34. 121 LDS
    November 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you LL for your thought provoking essay. It is always a delight to read your thoughts.
    Jackie, your long-winded opinion is just what I was feeling.

    Since the beginning of time it has always been about good and evil. There is a choice we all have in this life, if we really believe in change.
    Meanness in one step from being evil. You can change that . Evil overtakes your mind, body and soul. That is harder.
    I thought about the man who was executed this week who shot Larry Flynnt (his name escapes me). He spent most of his life probably starting out being mean and then evil thoughts that caused him to kill, maime and defame people he never really knew or met.
    But in the end, he says that he had a new perspective on life. His life had to be taken before he came to that realization.
    Some will say that was a mean thing to do to him. Some say not.
    We have choices. Some choose to be good. Others choose to be mean. It is your choice.
    The goodness in some people brings out the meanness in others.

    I believe that is what is happening now.
    PBO has often said, “he is not a perfect man.” That may be true. But he sure is a good man. He lives his life by example.
    This may offend and bother others who chose to be mean. To hold such a high public office and be good is rare and unique.
    The “new meanness” is old shit that chooses NOT to at least try good.

    In the end that old person has to die in order for change to come about whether it is physically , mentally and/or spiritually.
    The choice is yours.
    (I did not mean for this to even go this long being that everyone has moved on….definitely not an essay)

    • November 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      I enjoyed what you wrote. Thank you. I feel similar.

    • 123 jackiegrumbacher
      November 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      Well said, LDS. I agree that the goodness in some people does bring out the meanness in others. It is especially true if the goodness resides in a man who has achieved a high office or place in life. It brings out ugly feelings in some people that they choose to feed and spread to others.


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