DO WE WANT TO ELECT ANYONE? – Marilyn Armstrong

I was just glancing through another post on The New Yorker asking whether Joe Biden is electable.

I have read similar stories in the Washington Post and other newspaper, online and offline about every potential candidate. It’s almost as if we don’t want to find a viable candidate because there’s something wrong with everyone.


I have a hot flash for you:
NO ONE IS PERFECT.

There is no perfect candidate waiting to run for office. There may be perfect people — somewhere (though I’ve never met one) — but none of them are interested in politics. Personally, I doubt there is a perfect person anywhere and if there is, I’m sure he or she would run screaming in terror should someone suggest they run for office.

We have turned running for office into the worst job interview on Earth. We are dredging up everything and anything that anyone ever did, no matter how many years ago it happened. We are dredging this stuff up without any context, either. Without any attempt to understand what else was going on.

Let’s take Joe Biden. He was not perfect. He has been in office for 50 years and has done stuff about which I’m sure he is ashamed and embarrassed. On top of everything else, he is being picked on for being “too huggy.”

Too huggy?

Seriously?

We have a racist pig as president — and you want to disqualify a man who is too friendly in a non-sexual way?

Do you want to re-elect Trump?

Everyone has stuff in their past they would just as soon not make public. Me too. You too. My husband, my friends, my son. I’m sure even my dogs have something about which they would be embarrassed if they could remember that far back, but being dogs, they are more interested in right now and when is dinner?

At a time when we should be looking for reasons why a person might BE electable, we are doing that classic Democratic “let’s pick apart every possible candidate, disqualify all of them, then pick someone who offends nobody and also has nothing of value to offer anyone. Let’s run him or her for office and be shockedSHOCKED! … that he or she is not elected.

We’ve done it before and we seem to be ready to do it again.

Banning Kate Smith for a recording she made decades ago, probably because her record company told her to do it and in those days if your bosses said “Cut this record,” you cut that record.

Actors made movies they hated and about which they still can’t bear to speak. People said things they didn’t mean, or intended as jokes. Are bad jokes enough to keep you out of office? Meanwhile, no attempt is made to figure out what the context was that created what was done or said. We ask for perfection from candidates we never require of ourselves.

Are we going to hold every single thing that anyone has ever done or said against them?

I know if someone asked me to run for office, I would say “Not on your life.” Garry was actually asked to run — locally — and said “No way.”

No one wants to do it because they know they are going to be shredded. Torn to bits by their own party, the press, bloggers and for all I know, their own family. If we are going to turn all potential candidate into bad people for something that happened a long time ago, we aren’t going to have anyone worth electing. There needs to be a limit to anyone’s liability for things that weren’t even crimes.

Okay, if he turns out to have been a murderer or bank robber or treasonous … but that’s not what’s happening. We not looking to see if someone actually did something felonious. We’re just looking for anything, everything, even nothing.

Indiscretion is not a crime. Even bad jokes — 30-year-old bad jokes — are not a crime. If you look at some of our great presidents, they were far from perfect men. Both Roosevelts had plenty of lumps and bumps and a few shameful incidents to boot. It didn’t mean they weren’t great presidents.

Maybe some personal indiscretions should be left in the dusty closets where they have been lying all these years. Some of these folks have good ideas. Vision. They might be great if you give them half a chance.

If we are going to demand perfection, we will get the kids no one liked in school. Our candidates will all be losers. Not Trump’s version. I mean real losers.

If we cannot tolerate anything living people do in the course of life before we allow them to be a candidate for office, the only people who will run for office will be people no one wants.

The priggish. The voiceless. Those who have no opinions, no vision. The intellectual who doesn’t know how to talk to “real” people. The stupid and the unthinking.

We are approaching that stage now.

How else do you think we got Trump? And the rest of his party of bottom-feeders?

BUT ANYONE COULD DO IT … Marilyn Armstrong

We all have friends who do stuff we can’t do.

They make a perfect pie crust and the filling is great, too. They build and refinish their furniture. They tune the car and rewire the basement on Saturday afternoon and still have time to make dinner for company.

You love them, with just a hint of hate because they can do it all and you can barely drag yourself out of bed, brush your hair, and have coffee before mid-afternoon.

They do a little painting, a bit of carving. Frame their own pictures. Repair anything that breaks. They are never worried about anything because they know exactly what to do.

apple pie

These are the woman who breezily raises two children after dad leaves while working full-time and never do they seem overwhelmed or even tired. The men build corporations, sell them, build another one — and don’t know why you can’t do the same.

It’s so easy.

They throw great dinner parties and the food is delicious. The dishes match or are charmingly casual yet coördinated to look casual in a fashion magazine sort of way. But you know they are supposed to look that way and no matter how hard you try, your version of “casual” just looks … well … casual.

Because that look takes work and an “eye.” It’s an art form.

stove and kitchen counter

When you ask about that wonderful pie crust, they say “Oh, it’s nothing. Just a bit of butter and flour. A bit of sugar. Cut everything up with a couple of butter knives, roll it out, and there you are.” If you are lucky, you get a demonstration and it does look easy.

You go home, get all the ingredients together and give it a try. Which results in an unusable lump of muck which ultimately, you toss in the trash.

After which you buy a pie crust or better yet, buy the whole pie. Because it isn’t so easy. Not for you, anyway.

Modest, humble people who do brilliant stuff about which they are completely offhand. They seem baffled why you would think any of it is a big deal. Apparently, it isn’t. To them.

To you, it would be a minor miracle if you could accomplish one little piece of it. Yet they will always say “But it’s so easy. Anyone could do it.”

Anyone except me. I can’t do it.

IT’S SO EASY …

We all have friends who do stuff we can’t do. They make a perfect pie crust and the filling is damned good too. They build their own furniture. Tune the car and reupholster the furniture.  They do a little painting, a bit of carving. Frame their own pictures. Repair anything that breaks. They are never worried about any problem because they know exactly what to do about it.

apple pie

These are the woman who breezily raise two kids after dad left while working full-time and never seemed overwhelmed … or even tired. Men who build companies, sell them, build another and don’t know why you can’t do the same. It’s so easy.

They throw great dinner parties where the food is delicious. The dishes match or are delightfully casual yet coördinated to look casual,– but you know they are designed to look that way. Because the casual look takes work.

stove and kitchen counter

When you ask about that wonderful pie crust, they say “Oh, it’s so easy. It’s just a bit of butter and flour. A bit of sugar. Cut everything up with a couple of butter knives, roll it out, and there you are.” If you are lucky, you get a demonstration and it does look easy. So, you go home, get all the ingredients together and give it a try. Which results in an unusable lump of muck which ultimately, you toss in the trash.

Thanksgiving dinner

After which you buy a pie crust or better yet, buy the whole pie. Because it isn’t so easy. Not for you, anyway.

Modest, humble people who do brilliant stuff about which they are completely offhand. They seem baffled why you would think any of it is a big deal. Apparently, it isn’t. To them.

To you, it would be a minor miracle if you could accomplish one little piece of it. Yet they will always say “It’s so easy. Anyone could do it.”

Except me. I can’t do it.

A BEAUTIFUL TOWN

 

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This is a small town with a long history, for an American town. First settled in 1662, incorporated in 1727, we are the middle of the Blackstone Valley. Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. We led the nation with some of the first mills and factories.

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Ours was a bustling town, industrious and forward-thinking. We had some of the finest schools, research facilities, and  hospitals. Our library was among the first free libraries in the nation. We were leaders. We had the first hospital for the mentally ill where they were cared for — as opposed to locking them in cages.

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In the early 1900s, the mills and factories moved south, following the cotton. When they moved away, they left crumbling buildings, a polluted river and a persistent unemployment problem. But it wasn’t all bad.

Crown and Eagle mill

It gave the valley’s natural beauty a chance to recover. By 1973, the Blackstone River was one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s close to clean. Not completely, but substantially. There’s work still to be done, but it has come a long way. If you give nature a chance, she will come back. Sometimes, she needs a helping hand.

Farmhouse May

Farmland become forests. Parks were created and historical sites preserved. In 1986, the valley was designated as The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (a National Heritage Corridor — the newest U.S. National Park). It’s dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution. The corridor stretches across 400,000 acres and includes 24 cities and towns. It follows the course of the river through Worcester County, Massachusetts down to its end in Providence County, Rhode Island. Uxbridge is the middle.

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As a 21st century town, we don’t have a lot going for us. Little in the way of industry or business. No shopping centers. No night life or entertainment — not even a movie theater or coffee-house (but there are golf courses). No public transportation. Decent schools, but nothing exceptional. Not much in the way of services and if you live where we do, almost none.

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We’re too far from Boston to be a true commuter town and too built up for a resort, though we were, once. I remember driving up here from New York when I was a young woman because the leaves are especially beautiful in the autumn and you could buy a phenomenal pumpkin.

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UU Church 47

What we have is some history, a bit of classic architecture, and nature. Glorious, rich, and bountiful nature. The area teems with life from turtles and trout, to beaver and deer. You are always near a river in Uxbridge, even if you can’t see it. It meanders through the valley, streams through parks, and under old stone bridges.

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The river widens into ponds where herons, swans, geese, and ducks build nests. The trout are back. We even have a couple of designated swimming places and they are never crowded. October in the valley, in Uxbridge, can break your heart with its beauty.

West Dam

So why don’t we protect it? Why do we act like it has no value? Why does the town act as if nature is the least valuable of our assets, useful for exploitation and always ready to sell it for industrial use?

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It is our only asset. If we don’t protect it, this will be an ugly little town in the middle of nowhere. There will be no reason for anyone to want to be here.

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It does not have to be that way. There’s an attitude of  “oh well, it’s just trees.” This Gypsy Moth infestation has been devastating in this south part of the town. Other parts seem barely affected, but it’s patchy. When you drive up and down Route 122, you will go through sections of trees still in full leaf, then acres of bare oaks.

They can — and do — come back for another year of mass tree defoliation. Given the danger, taking measures to protect from a second year of infestation is cheap compared to the cost of losing the only thing we have going for us.

autumn sun Rays

Trees recover from defoliation once.

Twice in a row? You lose a lot of trees.

Thrice? You will have forests full of dead trees.

How many years would it take to recover from that? Would we recover?

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It’s time to treasure the beauty of this town and protect it. The “it’s no big deal” attitude is, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong. Short-sighted in the extreme. It is a very big deal. Our only big deal.

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THE DAILY POST | PERFECTION