Archive for the ‘General musings’ Category

Who cares about Scott Peterson???

Saturday, November 13th, 2004

Why in the name of all that’s holy does anybody besides the families of Scott and Laci Peterson care about the Scott Peterson case? Why is it on page one of all the newspapers, the lead story on all the radio and TV news broadcasts? Does the case have some sort of historical significance? No. Does it raise some new theory of criminal liability? No. Is there some unusual type of evidence being used that could set a precedent for other cases? No. Is this the first case where a cheating husband has killed a pregnant wife? No.

So why do we care? There are some 16,000 murders in an average year in the United States. What is it that sets this case so dramatically apart from all the other murders that it has garnered the kind of frenzied media attention that it has gotten? Beats the heck out of me. This case is fundamentally a run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, routine homicide. Neither victim nor perpetrator has (or had) any kind of public-figure status that might warrant this sort of attention.

It seems to me that indulging the American taste for this sort of “news” story is nothing short of titillation. It’s not bread and circuses, it’s BLOOD and circuses. It’s disgraceful that so many people let themselves get so caught up in the private lives and miseries of other private people, and even more disgraceful that the media feeds that interest (and feeds on it, itself).

Shame on us all.

Election Day 2004 … plus two

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

You remember yesterday President Bush made conciliatory noises about wanting to earn the trust of the 49% of American voters who voted against him… and I said I didn’t believe him? Seems to me today he showed why people like me don’t believe him.

He held his first post-election press conference. “I earned capital in the campaign and now I intend to spend it,” Bush said. “And I’m going to spend it for what I told the people I would spend it on. … Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I will reach out to every one who shares our goals.”

“Bipartisan effort” meaning “all you Democrats and Independents now have to do what I want”? And everyone who doesn’t share the President’s goals … everyone with whom compromise might be required… be damned?


Yesterday he said: “We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us.” That’s beginning, once again, to sound ominous:

One Ring to rule them all,

One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all

and in the Darkness bind them…

Election Day 2004… plus one

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

John Kerry showed he’s more of a class act than most Republicans would have dreamed possible. He took a look at the numbers, realized there was nothing to be gained by prolonging this, and did what he needed to do — he conceded. He did so graciously, with an appeal to unity.

And the President sounded like he was at least going to give lip service to the same interest: “[T]oday I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.”

The problem is, I don’t believe it. And I don’t think he believes it either. I think he believes that he’s entitled to whatever he wants because he has the power to get it (or at least to try to get it). And what I’m afraid he wants more than anything else is a country made over in his own religious-zealot image.

The acid test will come with the first appointment he makes to the U.S. Supreme Court: when William Rehnquist steps aside or dies, watch to see whether we get offered an appointee for Chief Justice who is a total idealogue.

I hope I’m wrong. I’d love to be proved wrong. But watch for it. And then don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The birthday

Monday, October 21st, 2002

I just got off the phone wishing — or, more accurately, trying to wish — my nephew Ian a happy 20th birthday. He’s a junior at the College of William and Mary and, as usual, he wasn’t in his dorm room. He’ll get the voice mail — eventually.

But I got to thinking about some of the other 20th birthdays in our family, and how the world has changed in just a couple of generations. In particular, I got to thinking about my grandfather, Ian’s great grandfather, Clay Rex Cottrell, and how different HIS 20th birthday must have been.

Clay was born in Iowa Park, Texas, on April 20, 1898. His parents separated while he was still in grade school; he lost his mother to kidney disease just after he turned 14. He was just barely 18 and working for his brother-in-law Morris Gottlieb (his sister Maude’s husband) in a jewelry store in Frederick, Oklahoma, when the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life came into the store. Opal Robertson’s mother did NOT approve of him; he and Opal ran away together a few months later and were married in Wichita County, TX, on October 19, 1916.

So by the time Clay turned 20, he had been married for a year and a half… and had already buried his first child. Ruth Marie was born on August 12, 1917, and died on February 22, 1918. And he’d also had to register for the draft in early 1918 (he was called to active service in August).

It’s easy to think that our 20-year-old boys today have it easier and they do, in some respects. Our 20-year-olds are usually not husbands and fathers; they usually have not lost a child; at least today they don’t face imminent conscription into a foreign war. But their world is a more complex one than that of their great grandfathers. It’s a world of terrorism, of 9/11, of roadside snipers, of information availability and technology their great grandfathers couldn’t have dreamed of.

It’s hard to say, offhand, who history will say really had it easier: today’s 20-year-old Ian or his then 20-year-old great grandfather Clay.

The lost art of letter-writing

Saturday, September 14th, 2002

I have just spent the last couple of hours reading through letters my late mother saved over the years. Letters from her parents, her sisters, her brothers, cards and notes from nieces and nephews and children and even one old card from her grandmother.

And I started thinking about how we seem to have lost the art of letter-writing in this day and age of the telephone and the computer and what that may mean in terms of history lost.

There is so much in those letters which is folksy and mundane… one day my grandmother wrote that she loved vegetables in their season but felt that the tomatos that year had had all too long a season (and then noting in a parenthetical that the fact that she had canned 90 quarts of tomatos the day before might have something to do with her attitude). There’s quite a bit that’s silly (my grandfather complaining that he was “disgustingly sober” since my grandmother had taken to hiding his “little bottle”). And even some that’s catty (certain of the ex-wives of certain of my uncles were definitely not popular…)

But there is so much there as well that tells private stories of grace and courage and generosity and wisdom. I am particularly awed by letters in 1967-68 from my mother’s eldest sister, my aunt Cladyne, as her husband, my uncle Barrett, descended further and further from an inoperable brain tumor and as she then learned to live without him. Her courage and her grace are in no way diminished by the pain and anguish that comes through in those letters. I have always known she was an amazing lady. I am all the more amazed as I have the opportunity to know more of her though the medium of these letters.

And it makes me wonder just what our children will know of us in the years and generations to come. Will they know of our triumphs and achievements, of our crises and pain, of our courage and our drudgery… or will they see nothing more than a few snippets in the Internet shorthand of “how r u 2day?” I hope it’s the former and, who knows…? maybe it will be in part the blogs like this that create a different kind of record to be passed on and learned from…