Sunday, January 29, 2012

Choosing Life

I wasn't always pro-life.  As I've mentioned previously, I was raised a liberal and remained so until roughly 8 years ago.  I have, at times, discussed the various reasons for my "conversion." The stories of Rick Santorum's little girl call to mind one of the keys.

Though my family was liberal and held most of the traditional liberal views, we never really discussed abortion. I, without being willing to examine the issue overly closely, simply characterized myself as someone who was pro-choice, even though I would never personally choose to abort my child.  I maintained that it wasn't my place to make that decision for someone else, and carefully side-stepped any deeper exploration of the issue.  In fact, I'm somewhat ashamed to acknowledge, I felt smugly superior holding this nuanced and "enlightened" view of the matter.  

I was 6 weeks pregnant when the September 11th attacks occurred.  I've detailed my recollections of that horrible day elsewhere, but one of the salient memories of it is coming home to a message on the answering machine from my doctor's office -- my hormone levels were low, and I was at risk for miscarrying. They had called in a prescription for me.  When I picked it up from the pharmacy, still numb from the day's events, I read the warnings, which included possible birth defects, and called the doctor's office back in a panic. I was assured the benefits outweighed the risks, and it was okay to take the medication.

Fortunately, from that point on, my pregnancy progressed quite smoothly.  When it came time for the 20 week ultrasound, my (then) husband and I were excited.  Even though I never really could make out most ultrasound pictures, it was still fun to see our baby as she developed -- and yes, we learned at that point we were having a little girl.  We also learned there might be a problem.  The tech advised us that the ultrasound revealed choroid plexus cysts in our baby's brain, and left to get the genetic specialist to come talk to us.

Though not definitive, there is thought to be a correlation between the presence of these cysts and a condition called "Trisomy 18", which is a genetic abnormality in which a third copy of chromosome 18 is present.  We were told that the vast majority of babies with this condition die either before or shortly after birth.  Those who live have severe health problems and a very low life expectancy.  We were told an amniocentesis could verify if, in fact, our baby had this condition.  We were given some time to consider our options.

I was aware that amniocentesis carried with it its own risks -- I recalled reading that there was a 1 in 200 chance it could cause a miscarriage.  As my husband and I discussed it, I kept thinking to myself, "So what am I going to do if the test confirms she has this?"  And I knew -- in a heartbeat -- I knew there was no way I would ever opt to terminate the pregnancy, regardless of what the tests showed.  So there was really no point in taking the added risk of the amnio.  

Thankfully, though my daughter had some other complications due to arriving 6 weeks early, she did not, it turned out, have any genetic defects, and is, today a healthy, happy, almost-10 year old.  But the experience of being faced with that choice -- even theoretically -- was a crucial step in my journey towards becoming pro-life.  Yes, it was my baby I was considering, and yes, I'd always thought I'd never choose to terminate a pregnancy.  But being forced to think about it in more concrete terms also forced me to think about what it meant for others.  It wasn't so easy to keep it in the realm of the abstract anymore.  

As I read about the Santorums and their Bella, I am inspired by their devotion to their children and to life, even in its most complicated and trying forms.  My heart goes out to them, and to all families with a child who is seriously ill. God bless them for choosing to love their daughter unconditionally and for unapologetically embracing life. I think Rick Santorum put it best:  "While Bella's life may not be long, and though she requires our constant care, she is worth every tear."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Burning Bridges

With some minor editorial and grammatical tweaking, my Twitter rant from earlier today: 

I am not a Republican. I used to be a liberal Democrat. Then I underwent a conversion. And, over time, became a "fiscal conservative/social...moderate w libertarian leanings". (See my Twitter bio.)

I neither like nor trust the parties. I think the RNC regularly finds ways to shoot itself in the foot. I think it has a rigged primary system and some weird Stockholm Syndrome thing going with the DNC and progressive, big government policies. I think it is often completely deaf, dumb and blind as to what "the base" wants. I will therefore never truly consider myself a Republican

That said, I have found myself, since late 2004, voting primarily for Republican candidates. And I anticipate this will continue on through November of this year. My Number One goal is to vote the current President out of office. Not just because he is a Democrat. Because I believe his ideas and policies are consistently wrong-headed and harmful to our country and because I believe he is a terrible leader. 

I would love to roll into November backing a strong GOP candidate whose political philosophy and policies align most closely with mine. But most important at this juncture is that he be able to mount a successful challenge to the incumbent. I've said all along who I expected the nominee to be. Not because he was my first choice but because that was my read on how things would break. I waited and watched and hoped to see a proven and ideologically more suitable candidate step up and show he was up to the challenge. I haven't seen that happen. 

So...I am where I am with this. I don't at all begrudge others their prerogative to pull for their guy and won't try to tell them not to. But I see a lot of fur flying and a lot of broad brushes and ugly labels being applied willy-nilly. 

I get the frustration and even some of the anger. But folks might want to be a bit more mindful of the bridges they're burning. Because when push comes to shove, about 95% of us* would like to see Obama sent packing come November. And that's going to require collaboration rather than demolition. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

I'll See Your Pious Baloney and Raise You a Demagogic Cow Patty!

Thought maybe I'd string my rant from earlier today together into a mini-blog post: 

So...I'm a reluctant Romney supporter at best. I did support him in 2008, and have since remained firmly in the "I Don't Hate Him" Camp, while many whom I respect have expressed hatred and disdain for the thought of him as the nominee. 

I've not felt compelled to jump to his defense every time something negative is uttered about him. A lot of the criticism is valid. And he's a big boy in a big game. I have at times found my own reasons to criticize him -- the stupid bet comes readily to mind. There was also a time recently where he was reported to have hit below the belt on Newt (drawing a blank on what it was) & I immediately denounced him, only to learn later that he hadn't said what he was accused of saying. 

I've given fair consideration to most of the other candidates. I kept hoping one would jump out - become the stand out - become the one I could happily back. But none of them have. As I stated last week, I still reserve the right to embrace Perry - I really WANTED him to step up in this. But I'm not holding my breath. 

That said - what I'm reading the past day or two has me positively shaking my head. Go after them all on their negatives. God knows, they have plenty. Any non-conservative or un-principled stances they've taken, give 'em hell. But to go after ANY of the candidates by adopting the liberal premise that capitalism and/or financial success is evil is ridiculous. Are you going to make that argument in the General, as well? How are you going to fight Obama with your newly adopted liberal talking points? Let me know how that works for ya. Okay. I'm done.

For Better or For Worse

So, I've pondered the parallels between dating and Primary Season in two previous posts.  Detailed the difficulties in finding Mr. Right and then really committing to him.  Now I'd like to consider, perhaps the toughest question:  What happens when you do make that leap?  How do you learn to live with your chosen candidate, day in and day out?  Or, even trickier, how do you survive a "marriage" arranged by The Party's Powers That Be?

Realistic expectations are key, of course. If you choose your candidate with stars in your eyes -- if you elevate him to hero-worship status -- you are destined for disappointment and disillusionment.  Let's just be brutally honest here:  They are all politicians.  They will all try to woo you with words you long to hear, but upon which they'll rarely be able to deliver. They are all beholden to their financial backers. They are all flawed. They will all eventually let you down in some fashion. And the sooner you realize this, the less likely you are to have your heart broken.  That isn't to say that all candidates are evil, or that you shouldn't try to find the "right" one for you.  Just fair warning not to deify. They are human. And they live and breathe in a world that is often quite ugly. No fairy tale for you!

Even when you are pragmatic in your choice, you are bound to find yourself fed up with your candidate at some point.  Maybe he bumbles about in a debate or appearance and embarrasses himself (and you) in the process.  Maybe he waffles on an issue that was crucial to your decision.  Maybe his suits don't fit right, or his eyebrows take on a life of their own.  Maybe you find out he wasn't at all the man you thought he was. Any number of flaws, both small and large, are bound to reveal themselves over time and make you wonder to yourself, "What was I thinking?!"

Early on in the primary process, you have the luxury of being able to seek an annulment -- if your guy really steps in it, there is no penalty to pay for hopping off his bandwagon -- other than, perhaps, a bit of pride.  But once the season is in full swing and you've either cast your vote or are about to, your only option (aside from going into complete denial and deleting all social media evidence of the relationship) is to stand by your man.  Ideally, you can manage this with sound, rational defenses, pointing out his many strengths and how they more than make up for his failing(s).  Barring that, you may be able to justify your allegiance by pointing out that most --if not all -- of the other candidates are guilty of the same.  If nothing else, you can usually point out what a vast improvement he is over our current overlord, and most of those with more than a passing interest in your political preference will cede the point.

By the time the nominee is selected, you've pretty well signed on to defend your guy through thick and thin (though, perhaps "sick and sin" is more fitting here -- gold star to anyone who catches that reference.)   This can require an almost Herculean effort -- especially if the nominee isn't the guy you chose, but is, instead, the guy chosen for you.  By The Establishment.  And those crazy Iowans.  Who the hell gave them the keys, anyway?!

Yet even if your initial reaction is hesitation -- or worse, revulsion -- chances are you'll eventually find a way to make your peace with the nominee.  You'll tell yourself, "Better him than no one." Because, let's face it -- if an "arranged marriage" to a candidate who at least wanders about in the same political hemisphere as you is shudder-inducing, what do you call being yoked to One who occupies the other side of the world?  Whose every "solution" is exactly opposite of what you would choose? Who keeps yanking you in the completely wrong direction? And whose response when you protest his decisions is to say, "Too bad - I won"?

Hellish, to say the least.  So, yes, you'll likely find a way to embrace the guy who, two months ago, you vowed you'd never touch with a ten foot pole.  After all, politics, as they say, make for strange bedfellows.  And you'll suck it up and support the nominee, for better or for worse.

But take heart: You're only stuck with him for four years.  Eight, tops.  ;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fear of Commitment

Last week, I mused about the similarities between the primary season and dating. There's an additional parallel I'd like to explore: The fear of commitment.  

We all know what that means in the dating world -- for varying reasons, certain folks seem to shy away from the prospect of making things official with those they date.  Maybe they're holding out for someone "better" to come along; maybe they've been wounded so deeply in the past, they just can't bring themselves to truly share their heart again; maybe they equate commitment with death.  Whatever the reasons for it, the phrase itself generally has a negative connotation.  The person who fears commitment is often viewed as damaged; someone to be avoided in the dating world unless one has a penchant for banging one's head repeatedly against a brick wall. 

It's not all that different in the political realm:  At some point, we're expected to pick a horse to ride into the Primary.  The reluctance to do so is often derided by those who've already done so themselves. They've been bold enough to make their choice -- what's everyone else waiting for?!  Fence sitters! 

Well, I'm a fence sitter this time around.  And I note that I am not alone.  I don't know if that's rational or dysfunctional, but I can tell you my primary reason therefor: I'm tired of being disappointed.  Keep in mind, I'm a relatively recent convert: 2004 was the first year I actually voted for a Republican for President -- and that was only in the General. I voted in the Democratic Primary earlier that year.  So 2008 was the first time I truly followed and participated in the Republican Primary process.  (Alright, technically, it began in 2007, but the voting took place in 2008.) 

I was positively enthralled with the notion of Fred Thompson as the nominee.  From the second the serious whispers that he might run started, I was on board.  Or, in the saddle.  Which sounds weird once you start talking about actual/specific candidates, so I'm not sure how well this equine metaphor really works.  Anyway, I was all in for Fred. He was my guy.  

But after he formally announced, Fred seemed to lose steam.  Questions began to arise regarding the whole "fire in the belly" issue.  Did he not really want it enough?  While I'm still not entirely clear on what happened to Fred (Twitter wasn't really a "thing" yet, so my sources were sorely lacking), by the time the Missouri Primary rolled around he was out of the race.  

I was forced to go with my second choice.  Which was Romney.  He seemed a solid choice at the time.  He had both gubernatorial and corporate experience.  He seemed, to me, to be a stand-up guy.  I could forgive his "flip-flops" because I'd so recently flopped myself.  People's views can and do change over time.  His had changed in the right direction, in my opinion.  I was okay with that.  I'd had the opportunity to meet him and shake his hand just two days before, and I liked what I saw and heard him say.  Plus, I knew he had the financial backing to make it through the General.  He was a sound second choice.  

And then everything fell apart.  On the same day as the Missouri Primary, McCain threw his West Virginia votes to Huckabee and helped him win there.  I'd already developed a strong dislike for Huckabee because of his disingenuous Mormon comments and his tendency, in my observation, to wield his faith as a weapon. (Here, I'll candidly admit, there was some overlap with a personal situation -- he started reminding me far too much of a toxic individual I'd had to excise from my life. Said individual had also become a fervent supporter of his. The two things combined to forever put me off Huckabee.)  

It quickly became apparent that Romney was not going to have the numbers he needed to secure the nomination.  By the time he gave his speech at CPAC two days later, he was a goner, as well.  And we ultimately were left with McCain.  I felt forced to settle.  My vote in the General would no longer be "for" someone.  It would be "against" someone else.  Even the momentary excitement of Palin's selection as the VP nominee soon devolved into disappointment.  Come election day, I cast my vote, though in rather dispirited fashion.  And in the end, it didn't matter.  

Yes, I was disillusioned after that.  And somewhat gun-shy.  Why would I want to hop on any candidate's bandwagon early on, when the chances were substantial the wheels would soon fall off?  And I'm sorry to say it, but we've seen a good deal of that this time around.  While I was happy to see a broad field of candidates, and found several who piqued my interest, I've found myself reluctant to embrace any one of them.  I first realized the severity of that reluctance during the Smart Girl Summit -- a straw poll was conducted and I grabbed my ballot and proceeded to.....hesitate.  Who did I want to vote for?  I honestly had a difficult time deciding, to the point that I almost opted not to turn in a ballot at all.  

Ultimately, I chose the guy who, all along, I've been predicting would be the nominee.  He isn't a popular choice.  And I'm certainly not all gooey over him.  But I can live with him.  Because he's a damned sight better than the current White House occupant.  

Have I committed to him?  No.  Not really.  Perhaps it isn't rational, but truthfully, I think I'm more than a little afraid he'd only let me down were I to do so. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Y'all knew there'd be a recap, right?  Can't have an adventure with Tweeps and not memorialize it appropriately.

IndyCon11 was largely the brainchild of @mwarner95.  Back at Smart Girl Summit, we were discussing just how many Tweeps live relatively close to one another here in Flyover Country, and what a fun idea it would be to plan a Tweet Up sometime this fall.  Schedules were a little difficult to coordinate, but we finally settled upon this past weekend, with Indy as the locale.  Kudos to Mark for doing the lion's share of the planning and serving as an excellent host.

I drove up Friday afternoon, and managed to make great time...until I got about 20 miles outside of Indy. Construction had the highway down to just one lane, and traffic was at a virtual standstill.  But, eventually, I made it through and on into Indy to the Marriott where I was staying.  Big thumbs up on the Marriott, by the way -- very nice hotel.  

Mark met me there and after I got settled in, we headed out to Acapulco Joe's for a Mexican feast. While there, we were unexpectedly treated to a stirring rendition of "God Bless America," blasting out over the loudspeaker.  I can't swear it was Ethel Merman singing, but it was certainly of her era.  And lasted for a good 5 minutes.  We kept clapping thinking it was over, only to have another verse come blasting out at us.  It was sweet.  In an odd sort of way.

After dinner, Mark took me on a walking tour of downtown Indy.  Very pretty city.  There were a handful of Occupiers camped out on the State House steps, but we didn't stop to chat.  I learned there's a Peregrine Falcon nest placed by the DNR at the top of the Key Bank Building.  And a Falcon Cam to boot.  What most fascinated me, though, was that apparently, there's someone out there wishing there were Falcon Porn.  People are strange. 

Back at the hotel, we treated ourselves to a beer or three, while tweeting of the evening's misadventures.  Props to the bartender, DJ (I think).  He took good care of us.  Knowing that the following evening would likely be an even wilder adventure, we kept Friday's fun in the semi-tame zone.  

We started our Saturday out right with breakfast at Cafe Patachou - they make a great omelet!!  Next up were odds and ends of errands to run, including a stop off at Dollar Tree to pick up some goodies to include in the "Box of Fun" I'd put together -- silly welcome/greeting gifts to the other IndyCon attendees.  Oh, and glow-stick necklaces!  Lunch was TJ's Burgers -- a good burger, even without the bun.  (Mark was terribly distressed to learn of my penchant for eating bunless burgers. That, combined with my earlier confession that I don't actually like apple pie earned me the "Un-American" label for the rest of the day.)

Later, in a battle of Evil vs. Lesser Evil, we watched Michigan trounce Nebraska.  Sorry, Mark!  And pretty soon, we were greeted by @lheal's tweet announcing that he had arrived.  Only...he hadn't.  At least not at the Marriott where we were actually meeting.  (In Loren's defense, there are, like, 18 Marriotts in downtown Indy.)  Thankfully, we eventually found him, or he us, and IndyCon was officially underway.  Not long after, @glenasbury joined us, followed quickly by @ListKeeper. 

It became obvious, we'd need more space, so we commandeered the corner of the bar, and rearranged the furniture to suit our needs.  Soon, @AprilDGregory showed, as did my new friend @JoshGillespie.   @FingersMalloy @MelanieAnn79 and @IrishDuke2 rounded out our happy contingent.  Special thanks to @GaltsGirl for buying me a drink via Fingers.  'Twas yummy!  We'll toast to that in person at CPAC! 

Soon, we vacated the Marriott and headed over to Loughmiller's Pub & Eatery.  I should probably have availed myself of the eatery part of it.  Instead, after losing an ill-advised bet to Fingers regarding the hometown of Col. Sherman T. Potter (yes, indeed, it was Hannibal), I ushered us into Shot City.  Busy place last night.  

Sadly, some of our crew had to make an early night of it, so we bade a fond farewell to Glen, List and Loren.  Then proceeded to hike 18 miles (also known in Warner speak as "just around the corner").  I kicked off my shoes in protest on the way. Thankfully, Indy keeps its sidewalks relatively clean.  I'm not certain I can adequately describe the chaos that was Ike & Jonesy's. Outside, it is adorned with a larger than life Marilyn Monroe who, inexplicably, has a man's face. Inside, it was crowded, cheesy and loud as hell, with dance music hearkening back to my college days.  There may or may not have been some dancing involved before we moved on.  

We briefly stopped at the Omni, and also, outside the Canterbury.  I'd tell you why I felt compelled to snap a picture of the placard (which you can't read), but you just kind of had to be there.  We finished out the evening at O'Reilly's Irish Bar & Restaurant.  I'm not at liberty to divulge too many of the details, but there were Skittles and mouthy young punks and balloons involved.  Mostly, though, there was fun.  

So much so that today was a bit on the rough side for several in our contingent.  But, then, that was to be expected.  Before leaving town, Fingers, Duke, Melanie and I enjoyed a fine lunch at Claddagh Irish Pub.  Good food there, as well.  (Much better than Hooters.)  Very much enjoyed the conversation with that crew -- my sides still hurt from all the laughing.  

...And, for some reason, this thing lopped off my last paragraph, which read something like this:  "Hated to call an end to it, but it had to be done. The drive back was gray and drizzly, and far less fun than the drive up.  Still, the dreary couldn't take away from the fun that was IndyCon11.  My thanks again to all those who helped make it so! :) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Primary Season: Finding Mr. Right

A couple of weeks ago -- it may have been during one of the myriad GOP debates -- I tweeted the following:

"Primary season is a lot like dating: Available candidates all seem fatally flawed, and those who seem just right aren't available."!/SmoosieQ/status/129013079085285376

I wasn't totally surprised by the number of retweets with which the observation met. Every once in awhile, I do manage to touch a Twitter nerve. Ideally, in a good way. Or, at least an arguably humorous way.

And it did get me to thinking about the similarities between the two processes. But then, as thinking of dating often does, it made me somewhat cranky.  So, I left it alone.  Still, the notion kept tugging at me, hinting that it might want to be the blog entry to resuscitate my mostly dead political blog. Thus, at the risk of revisiting the cranky, I've resolved to examine the parallels a bit more closely...

Let's start with the obvious -- both essentially are a selection process.  One reviews potential candidates and hopes, ultimately, to settle on the "right" one.  (Note: I do realize that some people date "just to date". Clearly, I'm excluding those masochists from this discussion.)  Of course, unless one is appearing on The Bachelor/Bachelorette, rarely are multiple potential candidates presented all at once.  Although, come to think of it, I suppose dating web-sites like e-Harmony or do offer that scenario, as well. 

The trick, then, is to determine which candidate is the best fit.  And it is, indeed, a trick -- finding someone whose values are, at minimum, complementary to one's own, and who possesses sufficient intelligence, strength and character to warrant one's respect and trust.  My Twitter timeline is replete with comments bemoaning the fact that each of the candidates has fallen short on at least one of these key requirements.  Perry has "stepped in it" on the intelligence front.  Gingrich has baggage.  Romney's changed his tune too much to be trusted. 

And then there's that whole intangible thing -- the chemistry, the spark.  Oh, go ahead and pooh-pooh it.  We all know it's true.  If there isn't at least some measure of it present, a candidate's not likely to hold your interest for long.  He needs to engender enough excitement that you want to see more of him, get to know him better. In Primary Land, this is often euphemized as "fire in the belly" -- the perceived lack thereof can be deadly.  Case in point -- Tim Pawlenty, a guy likable enough, but seemingly suffering from terminal blandness.  A couple of times, there were flickers -- a hint that maybe he could get fired up, and the base along with him.  His tweet to Obama, "sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl, but what was your Medicare plan?" comes to mind.  Unfortunately, the flickers were too few and far between.  Or else complete misfires, such as his slap fight with Bachmann. 

The flip side of that is too much fire in the belly -- or fire of the wrong sort.  Just like the would-be suitor who's a bit too eager, a candidate with too much intensity can put off potential supporters.  We may like a guy who speaks with passion and sincerity, but once he starts foaming at the mouth or going off on wild tangents, our ardor cools substantially. 

And then there's the looks thing.  No one wants to be superficial, but there is a certain look we seek -- and wiggly, untamed eyebrows or wild-eyed stares generally don't fit the mold.  How often have we heard it said that Romney, for instance, "looks presidential"?  What does that really mean?  I think, truth be told, it means a candidate looks like he could be the guy who'd play the President in a movie based on a Tom Clancy novel.  Not that looks are the be-all-end-all.  Many of us were giddy at the notion of a Fred Thompson presidency four years ago.  Then again, Thompson's got the Hollywood chops.  And an enchanting drawl and dry wit that rather make up for the hang dog looks. 

The bottom line is that, just as in our personal lives, when it comes to the primaries, we're looking for someone to love.  Someone we can be proud to claim as ours -- on our lawn, our Facebook page, maybe even our gas-guzzling SUV.  The problem with this, of course, is that it's actually quite rare to find a candidate who meets all of our prerequisites.  And, as often happens in the dating realm, even when we do, over time, we sadly discover that our dream guy isn't quite so dreamy after all.  Maybe he has a well-hidden temper, or a penchant for skirt chasing.  Maybe he wasn't totally forthcoming about his past.  Or maybe, despite our interest, he just isn't that into us. 

The difference is, when it comes to dating, one can opt out and still lead a pretty fulfilling, if sometimes lonely, life.  But when it comes to selecting our nation's leader, we do so at our own peril.