OK, so I really meant "catch-up", but don't you think it just makes a better title this way? Tasty, too.
I haven't been in hiatus — quite the opposite, in fact, I've been busy! In the first three months of the new year, I've composed three new works (one of which was premiered early this month — more on that later) and begun teaching at Paradise Valley Community College. I'm enjoying the teaching and the college itself has a great vibe. I'm glad I managed to wedge my foot in the door.
I'm now convinced that a large part of the peace I felt in the UK had to do with the distance I put between myself and American politics. Now that the distance has disappeared, I find myself worrying and puzzling at levels not felt since the W years. Congress has reduced itself to a farce (the tragically misguided Tea Party is pushing back on a comically inept and inarticulate left), and Obama has started, or continued, his re-election shift to the center (sure, we can afford another war and to extend the Bush tax cuts another two years, right?).
The flashpoint is the latest tempest in a pot of budget tea: shutting the government down over millions when there are, in fact, trillions that need to be discussed. The whole argument is completely devoid of any kind of reason. That is, until I heard this on NPR today:
Give it a listen. It is, for a moment, cathartic and refreshing: here are two people, Alan Simpson, a prominent Republican, and Kent Conrad, Democratic chair of the Senate Budget Committee, talking sense. They appear to have used reason and logic in coming to their conclusions without forgetting respect for those they don't agree with, compassion for those less fortunate, and a healthy does of common sense.
But the implications — I've decided in my pessimism — are actually pretty terrifying: sadly they spend more time talking about why their plan won't be adopted than they do about the plan itself. Congress has made an absolute farce of itself, where no one seems capable of steering away from the worst possible outcome. This latest battle is largely due, of course, to the Tea Party, who has even taken Speaker Boehner hostage: he now won't even take the $33 billion deal he originally asked for. They dare not peek into the defense budget, but funding for the National Endowment for the Arts must go. It's enough to raise a guy's blood pressure. This guy's.
Now, it's no secret I love NPR. Many conservatives have espoused the viewpoint that if NPR (and for that matter, arts organizations of any kind) is so great, let the free market handle it, and people will donate generously.
To those people, I offer a proposition. If military spending is so vital, so necessary, and so rewarding, then let the free market take care of that, too. Surely people will recognize how much paying for weapons of mass destruction enriches their lives, and the coffers of Lockheed Martin will overflow with the generous outpourings of average Americans. Halliburton, too, would see its true potential reached if only it could loosen the shackles of government support, right?
The truth is that the conservatives want to compel citizens to pay for things that make life awful, like cruise missiles, while eliminating public support for the things that make the world a little less awful, like healthcare and culture.
Some, including myself, may have a different vision of what government should be.
I'll leave you... with this.