Posts Tagged ‘current events’

I thought lot during my re-watch of The X-Files about why it was so much a show of its era.

At the heart of The X-Files is a sweeping government conspiracy that “reaches into the lives of every man, woman, and child on this planet.” The X-Files began in 1993, less than four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Cold War was barely over. At that time, the government was still an institution that could exercise total control over its citizens.

In The X-Files, instead of an overtly totalitarian American government, as in the Soviet Union, there was a shadow government who managed to control the lives of American citizens–usually, without their even realizing it.

I have to imagine that broad reliance on government conspiracies would be less successful today due to increased skepticism about the competence of government. Those who oversaw the shadow government in The X-Files would have never been surprised by the terrorist attacks on September 11. They would have been the ones behind it.

In the first X-Files movie, Fight the Future, part of the conspiracy revealed involves the impending colonization of the planet by an alien species. The beginning of the colonization will involve an outbreak of an alien virus, which will be classified as a massive epidemic. When, in the future, that outbreak occurs, FEMA will take control–because, purportedly, FEMA has been set up to act as a secret government-within-a-government all along.

When my sister and I watched the movie on Sunday night, we both laughed when FEMA was mentioned. Back in 1998, FEMA sounded like serious business. Now, our primary association with FEMA is of Brownie, who was doing a heck of a job at letting people suffer and die during Hurricane Katrina.

The X-Files would never have worked during the reign of George W. Bush, when some Americans came to see government as an institution that is weak and that flounders and can’t even find Osama Bin Laden. FEMA can’t help New Orleans when there’s a flood. Would anyone really think that FEMA is capable of orchestrating a covert government-within-a-government takeover?

Beyond even the shadow government conspiracy angle, I would argue that the Cold War’s mentality of viewing the Other as an enemy also played into the success of The X-Files. Of course, fear of “the other” is a theme that’s relevant during all points in history. But it’s notable that in The X-Files, there are three really only three kinds of enemies: shadow governments, aliens, and Russians. Anytime people need to go someplace crazy–let’s go to Russia! Anytime a character needs to BE crazy–dude is Russian!

As I have done before, I can’t help but compare The X-Files with LOST. In The X-Files, the conspiracy is vast and institutional. Agencies and governments are that which cannot be trusted. Individuals, though, on the whole don’t put up many fronts. On the whole, the audience knows and trusts that Mulder, Scully, and Skinner are good, and that the Cigarette-Smoking Man, Krycek, and the members of the Syndicate are bad. There are some blurry lines when it comes to lesser characters like Mulder’s father, but on the whole, individuals are fairly straightforward.

LOST, on the other hand, is all about the conspiracy within the individual. The show literally takes place on an island, which has little use for institutions. Those that did exist, like the Dharma Initiative, were quickly overtaken by bands of “hostiles” roaming the island Uncertainty exists within characters themselves as to what or who is good or bad.

It’s interesting to think that, as a society, we may have transitioned from a post-Cold War environment in which the institution cannot be trusted to a more individualized culture in which it’s the people themselves whose motives are called into question. Perhaps instead of suspicion of government institutions, we are now more suspicious of individuals (terrorists, kidnappers, Barack Obama and his secret Muslim non-American birth certificate).

I wonder if it was September 11 that played a role in changing that attitude. On September 11, a handful of individuals brought a government and a nation to its knees. And it was a handful of individuals who, over a field in Pennsylvania, fought back. Immediately following that day, we turned to government and public figures for reassurance, rather than away from them in suspicion. And if there’s one thing that The X-Files encourages, it’s that when the shit hits the fan, you need to get as far away from the government as possible.

*I almost didn’t publish this blog post, because I feel uncomfortable about the sweeping statements I make, while having absolutely zero evidence to back them up. But, given that this is a blog post, and not an academic paper, I decided to go for it anyway. I am not so hardcore that I am going to go do research to back up the thesis of a blog post that will be read by, at most, 15 people. Unfortunately, it is not my job to write about the intersection of pop culture and history… but oh, that it were…


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Between the jerks who say that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero and the new poll that found 1 in 8 Americans thinking the president is Muslim, there is an awful lot of anti-Muslim fervor flying around.

General consensus is that it’s not okay to hate people because they’re black anymore. Fortunately, it’s still perfectly fine to hate people if they’re Muslim! It’s as if the Republican political machine is saying, by god, if we can’t make an Other out of him because he’s black, then we’ll make an Other out of him by saying he’s a Muslim! Just biding his time until he sets off a car bomb at the White House! That’ll scare America good!

My recollection of the time immediately following President Obama’s election includes a lot of talking heads saying, “Now, when we tell our children that they can be anything they want when they grow up, we’re telling them the truth!” Except, that’s still a lie, depending on your kid.

There are still plenty of things you can’t be and become the president. I’m guessing that, in the near future, you won’t be able to be Muslim and be the president, or be openly atheist and be president, or be openly gay and be president, or be transgendered and be president. And, well, we’ve still never had a woman be president.

(Although, I will be delightfully surprised if a male-to-female transgendered Muslim whose non-English speaking wife is openly atheist is elected president any time soon! I mean, assuming I agree with her on the issues.)

We’ve knocked one big barrier somewhat kinda out of the way. Society says it’s probably maybe okay to be black now! At least when we’re not behind closed doors!

But there are still plenty of prejudices that blatantly exist in America, and to which society still gives tacit approval. If people want to claim that we’re post-racial (which I don’t believe), we sure as hell aren’t post-religion or post-sexuality or post-gender.

President Obama isn’t Muslim, and if he were, it shouldn’t matter. And every person that thinks it should matter needs to take another look at the Constitution, which they proclaim so righteously to defend:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

I do not see anything about NO MUSLIMS ALLOWED anywhere in there.

It is more than legitimate to disagree with, or even hate, the president’s political agenda, legislation, and decisions. But when the right engages in a campaign based on, “OBAMA IS A MUSLIM LOVER (AND PROBABLY IS A MUSLIM TOO) AND BY THE WAY DOESN’T HIS NAME SOUND FUNNY? LIKE A MUSLIM NAME, MAYBE?” it really irritates me.

(And it bothers me, too, that the reason they wage this sort of campaign is because it’s terribly effective.)

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An Argument for Cold

Today, I mentioned to a co-worker that I am ready for winter. I am tired of warm weather and sunshine, and would like some cold, blustery days. She looked at me with disbelief. How could anyone reject warm sunshine in favor of nasty cold?

There are a lot of wonderful things about wintery weather, even when you exclude the awesomeness that is the Christmas season.

One of the most significant factors in my love for winter is the fact that I am fundamentally an indoorsy sort of person. When it’s beautiful outside, I always get this feeling like I am supposed to want to be outside enjoying the weather. While I do occasionally enjoy nice weather–particularly when it comes to sitting poolside with a book during the summer months–it is helpful to have an entire season devoted to “bad” weather, when one does not have to make any excuses to stay inside all day long, reading and watching TV and baking.

Winter also removes a lot of unpleasant things from my life, most notably: yard work. Occasionally, I have to go out and shovel snow, but snow is sufficiently rare that that is not a frequent task. Because things like leaves and grass are not growing and blooming, this also means that the awful allergens are suddenly removed from the world! At last! In winter, the cold dead air allows me to breathe freely!

As crazy as it seems, sometimes it is actually easier to stay warm during the winter. My default personal temperature setting is on “cold,” no matter what the season, which means sometimes during the summer when I think it’s a good idea to wear a cute skirt, I wind up freezing since various businesses and establishments find that it’s necessary to blast air conditioning. In winter, these places usually find it appropriate to jack up the heat, which means that I, in my coat and sweater and warm socks, am actually comfortable.

And then there is the fashion benefit of cold weather. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, and I don’t have much of a sense of style to begin with. In winter, I can simply put on my truly adorable long wool coat with a brightly-colored scarf, and I look totally awesome! It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing underneath! Last year, I did much of my Christmas shopping without wearing a bra! Who needs it when you have such an excellent coat?

Of course, I am blatantly glossing over the bad things about winter, like how I am so insistent on keeping my heating bill down that I routinely wear my coat inside, along with hats and gloves, the need to scrape my windshield in the morning, and the way I imagine the cold makes my dog’s joints hurt. Plus, there are weather events like ice storms which kill your power for days and paralyze your entire city. But then, every season has its negative qualities.

I am always ready for winter to end by the time February comes around. For now, I am ready to welcome winter for its short stay.

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On Notice

I really thought that 2008 had been lousy, and that 2009 was going to be better. Possibly even with epic proportions of awesomeness. After all, 2009 was going to start out with the inauguration of Barack Obama, and what is not to love there.

So far, 2009 has had one truly excellent day. One. And it was January 20.

So far, 2009 has featured a considerable worsening of the country’s economic problems, natural disasters, multiple mass power outages, birds going power-mad and bringing down airplanes, other airplanes crashing just because, a sick dog, and a sick relative. Plus, just to add insult to injury, Pushing Daisies was canceled and The Office isn’t very good anymore. Also, the earth is getting warmer and WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. And it’s only mid-February.

There is something that seems vaguely apocalyptic about it. Things just seem to be getting worse, with no end in sight. And this is with Barack Obama in the White House, so I can’t imagine how depressing things would feel if George W. Bush were still the president right now.

It’s true that things aren’t as bad as they could be. I personally am still employed, with a roof over my head, and in good health, and I am grateful for all that. However, way too many people can’t say those same things. And technically, things are never as bad as they could be, so I’m not sure it’s wise to use that standard for deciding what blows and what doesn’t, because then, really, you would only have a right to complain when the sun has exploded and incinerated the entire planet into dust, or at the very least, when there is nuclear war taking place. And who wants to wait until that long to satisfy their need to whine?

I’m putting 2009 on notice. It’s time for this year to shape up and to significantly increase its not-sucking quantities. Or else… I will… um… continue to feel put out.

My mom commented that there’s something about this that feels like the Great Depression–that first we have the economic disaster, and then we have the natural disasters that come along just to bitchslap us around. Our unemployment rate isn’t quite that high (YET), but damn, at least during the Great Depression, they had good movies.

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On the Wednesday after the inauguration, my sister said to me that morning, “Happy Obama Day!” I asked her what she meant, since the inauguration had been the day before. “Every day is Happy Obama Day now,” she said. “Every day for the next eight years.”

Driving to work this morning, I heard a story on NPR about how President Obama pushing for higher fuel-efficiency standards. He’s directing the EPA to reconsider a request from the state of California to have more stringent fuel-efficiency standards than the current federal standards.

As I was listening, my gut reaction was surprise. Because I’m sorry, what? The president is actually taking an action with which I agree? He’s trying to protect the environment, of all things, the silly smelly environment?

That isn’t what the president does. The president does the exact opposite of what I think is right, almost always. The president will happily screw the environment and all the people living in it in the name of protecting business. That’s what presidents do.

For all those who laughed in the face of Obama supporters like myself, who said that those of us creating a cult of personality for him were bound to be deeply disappointed when he falls off the pedestal, I am here to tell them how wrong they are. I may have expected great things from Barack Obama, but I cannot get out of the mindset that I should never expect great things from the President of the United States.

Despite the fact that gave money and volunteered for his campaign, despite the fact that I wore my Obama shirt with pride, despite the fact that I so desperately wanted him to win the presidency, I still have not wrapped my mind around what it means for him to actually be the president.

I’m sure there are conservatives who look at the president’s actions to overturn the Mexico City rule, to tighten emissions restrictions, to close Gitmo, and sigh with disgust as they think to themselves, “So this is what it’s going to be like. What next, gay marriage?”

I look at all that with disbelief, I sigh with happiness and think to myself, “Are you kidding me, this is what it’s going to be like?! What next, gay marriage? This is amazing!”

I didn’t fully realize how different it was going to feel to have a person in charge of the country that actually agrees with me on most things. It’s bizarre in the most wonderful way.

Happy Obama Day, indeed.

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Day One

Eight years ago, my high school choir was invited to sing at the inauguration of George W. Bush. On the day of the inauguration, I was exactly one week shy of turning 18, so I hadn’t been able to vote. I had been invested in the election, however, and I was not happy with the way that it turned out. I knew then, as I know now, that my political beliefs lean decidedly to the left. If I had been able to vote, I would have voted for Al Gore and put all my fervent little heart into it.

I was angry in 2000 with the outcome of the election, but I wasn’t angry enough to be unhappy about the opportunity that I had been given to sing at the inauguration. In spite of the fact that it was George W. Bush that was becoming president, it truly was an honor, and it really was a fantastic experience. I got a fantastic tour of DC. I was interviewed on the news. I got to sing with the U.S. Marine Corps Band.

I didn’t know what I know now, about the terrific perversions of justice that would occur under George W. Bush’s leadership, or that decisions of his presidency would result in the deaths of thousands. I didn’t know that my anger would grow one hundred-fold by the time George W. Bush’s presidency was over.

On our last night in DC eight years ago, my choir visited the Lincoln Memorial. It had started snowing, just a little, and we carefully walked up the slick steps to the softly glowing memorial. Standing inside, looking at Lincoln, we began to sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The sounds echoed off the stone walls and columns, the harmonies surrounded us and filled my heart. It was as holy an experience as I have ever had. On this past Sunday, the Lincoln Memorial saw a different sort of performance, slightly bigger and more far-reaching in scope. In only eight years, so much has changed, but there Lincoln still sits, and there people still sing.

Over the past eight years, I have felt some bitterness that I helped in my very, very small way to usher in era of George W. Bush, that I helped to welcome these dreadful past eight years. Today, I felt so much of my anger dissipate. I welcome in a new eight (yes, eight) years now, not from a seat on the Capitol building, but from the couch in my home; not with the song of my choir, but with the joy and excitement in my heart. Today is the first day of the next eight years. I believe, I hope that they may be better.

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Yes, We Can

Eight years ago, my school choir was asked to sing at the inauguration of George W. Bush. I didn’t have exceptional political awareness at that time, but I knew that I was a budding Democrat, and that if I had just been a few months older, I would have cast my vote for Al Gore. I knew that the election was not George W. Bush’s for the taking, but that he took it anyway. I successfully put my anger aside, though, and celebrated my opportunity to be a part of history, in a city that I loved. I was overjoyed by the experience. I could not have known then what heartache and tragedy the country was going to face.

Four years ago, I was watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention with my mom and sister. I was ecstatic that I was going to be able to vote in my first presidential election, despite the fact that John Kerry did not inspire in me any sort of grand, hopeful feelings. I watched Barack Obama give his fabled speech, and was astonished that such inspiration could exist in the current political climate. That very night, I went to Barack Obama’s website in an attempt to send an email to his campaign, saying that I looked forward to voting for him as my president. The website was down, though, overloaded with people like me who had just witnessed the brilliant future of their political party. “He’s going to be president,” my sister and I told my mom. “He is going to be president one day.” My mom wistfully looked at us, and tried to gently tell us that she didn’t think there was any way that this country was ready for a black president.

Five days ago, I cried happy tears while I was walking to my car, after voting for Barack Obama. That night, I watched with panic as the early numbers from Virginia and Indiana didn’t look good, and I gasped with relief when he won Ohio. “That’s it,” I said. “It’s over. It’s done.” And not long after that, it was done. McCain was delivering what I considered to be a very classy concession speech, and people all over the world were crying, celebrating the change that had come. It was over, it was a new beginning.

Today, I am still giddy with relief and excitement and hope and anticipation for this new chapter in American history. That which I believed in over four years ago has arrived. That which my mother saw as an impossibility is a reality. I know the problems facing the country are great, and the world’s collective ills can never fully be cured. For the first time, though, since exercising my political awareness, I feel like things might be better than they were before. The anger I had to squelch when I sang for George W. Bush nearly eight years ago has been replaced with a hope that wells up inside me on a daily basis and comes out through my tear ducts. Barack Obama is going to be my president, mine, and what’s better is that he’ll be yours, too.

I am hopeful. I am happy. I am excited.

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