A Pause From Politics… Or Why I’d Never Want To Be President

Not that anyone’s asking. I did have a long stint in rock & roll, God knows, and there has been some questionable behavior over the years, but, really, it’s the job itself that makes the point. It seems thankless, incredibly difficult, and one that comes with a big, fat, ready-made target for easy back-fastening, no matter who, when, what party, or what issue. I have a hard enough time with internet trolls; the presidency would do me in.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a time in history that hasn’t been dramatic and incendiary – certainly historians tell us that’s the case – but this is a particularly challenging era because now, by virtue of the internet and our 24/7 media saturation, we get to know everything about everything. Or so we think.

I have said very little about the situation in Syria; I’ve posted threads of others, shared thoughts expressed by smart people who seem to have a decent grasp on things, but as I’ve listened, watched, and read as much coverage as I can tolerate in a given day, I’ve mostly kept quiet. Which is not typically my style. But this is a complex, particularly troubling event, happening at a very politically convoluted time, playing out against a world literally breathing down the necks of those trying to sort it out while being battered, bullied and second-guessed by every living soul from Putin to Madonna. I don’t honestly think I have enough true, unbiased, completely factual information to be as firmly opinionated as either of them… or so many others, as it appears to be.

What I do observe is often a simplistic, foot-stomping tone to much of the debate, a tone that sometimes seems juvenile, petulant and lacking in appropriate consideration for the deeply sensitive nuances of the issue – which, likely, few of us are actually privy to. As someone who refuses to get swept into the black & white polarity of most of our political discourse and drama, I’ve stood in the back… listening. And I remain there, as I read and hear lines such as:

  1. I’m so disappointed in my President.
  2. I voted for change… where’s change?
  3. How is this any different than Bush and Cheney?
  4. We need to take care of our own backyard before we worry about the rest of the world.
  5. Love is the answer.
  6. War sucks.
  7. It’s simply not our responsibility.
  8. Syria can take care of its own mess.
  9. They’ll hate us no matter what we do.
  10. America can’t police the world.

And so on.

First of all, of course war sucks. I can’t think of one person in this world – unless they’re a sociopath or an arms dealer (which may be redundant) – who doesn’t think war sucks. And of course love is the answer but, COME ON! We can’t even be nice to each other on the internet; how can we expect “love” to keeps warring factions from their life and death struggles? As for Bush and Cheney? Let’s not get into false equivalencies (though we do so love those). Our backyard vs. the world? When has one precluded the other in terms of separate budgets and resources? Have they? If there’s irrefutable evidence that money has been taken from needed domestic programs to fund international military action, let’s hear about it. That would be a very necessary conversation.

But, strangely, it seems manageable for Americans to think “globally” when it comes to matters of money, difficult when it comes to humanity and the protection of it in certain situations. It’s worth discussing that, as a people, by virtue of what we buy, what we sell and export, what we’re willing to pay for our products, our oil, our gasoline, etc., we’ve easily embraced global interaction, the blurring of lines, if you will, of foreign borders. But even beyond oil, some of our favorites retail stores – Walmart, the Gap, and many other companies – work with business models based on cheap foreign labor and limited regulations. Why? Because we welcome a global community that will bring our costs down, make our products cheaper, keep our labor less expensive and our profit margins higher. Perhaps we should think about how we can so readily embrace “global participation” when it comes to money, but when issues like chemical warfare, ethnic slaughters, political ‘punishments,’ etc., occur, too many Americans suddenly shut the door and start talking about “we gotta take care of America, we can’t get involved in policing the world.”

As for the rest: Obama. Change. Disappointment. War-mongering. Craving the limelight (an accusation made by the usually wise Robert Reich about John Kerry). World War III. Our horrible country. Etc. All that.

It’s a swirling eddy of point and counterpoint. Frankly, I cannot imagine being the leader of the free world and having to ponder, research, weigh and come to decisions about grave national and international matters against a backdrop of EVERYONE’S expertise; everyone’s criticism, anger, unrealistic expectations, self-focused priorities and unremitting judgment. It’s never-ending. The President cannot and will not be able to make any decision that won’t bring down the bludgeons, no matter what he does, which way he turns, or what rationale he relies on. That’s a given. Because, somehow, the great we out here in every-day world, on Facebook and Twitter, listening to talk radio and cable news, sending around petitions and memes, penning treatises about our lack of faith in our country and our leaders, appear to have a remarkable depth of arcane, insider knowledge about what the hell is going on in Syria (and everywhere else, for that matter), enough to micro-manage world leaders, including our president, assigned the responsibility of solving it all. I’m not sure how everyone got so profoundly included in the minutia, the nuances, the details, the intelligence, the hair-trigger possibilities and imminent threats, but it seems they did. And from that vaunted perspective, there is no way for Obama – or anyone else – to win this battle.

Because it’s simply the way of the world, true in every aspect of 21st century life. Writers can’t write anything – even, I suspect, about flowers or kittens – without being pummeled for getting something wrong. Artists can’t make a mistake or flaunt youthful indiscretions without media and its many tentacles ripping them a new one. Politicians of any stripe can’t utter the wrong word, make a faulty decision or appear in any way fallibly human without the mob throwing them to the lions. How on earth could a president, a senator, a cabinet member, or a military leader make any decision without SOMEONE screaming they got it wrong? They can’t.

I am against war. I don’t even own a gun. I find the idea of maiming, hurting, shooting, bombing, poisoning and annihilating each other in the name of religions, countries, regions, ethnicities, politics, family feuds or neighborhood boundaries INSANE; anathema to everything hopeful, humane, and holy. And yet war has been the most predictable, most common, most connecting thread between human beings since the dawn of time. Wish though it would, it will not be going anywhere soon. Likely ever. Love may be the answer but war is the machine, driven by men who are hell-bent on aggression and power… or, as in many cases, driven by those with a sense that they’ve lost something of profound value, taken by those hell-bent on aggression and power.

As for Syria, I hope we can find a way to respond to the horrors there without bombing, without military action, without further decimation of that country and its people. I hope we can be part of a global coalition that upholds international law against chemical weapons (regardless of anyone’s past use), that imposes “economic sanctions or a freeze on Syrian assets,” as Robert Reich suggestswithout embarking on what no one wants… another war. Can that be done? I don’t know. But, then again, I personally do not have all the intelligence that is being shared, analyzed and judged by those in positions to act upon it. None of us do. So, because I don’t happen to believe our leaders, particularly our President, are amoral enough to go blithely into war for no reason, I will put my faith and trust in their decision and hope they get it right. Because, right now, they know more than I do.

And lastly: I wrote a piece at Addicting Info awhile back that I’ve chosen to take to heart: All News All The Time Just May Be Very Bad For Your Health. I’ve been involved with political writing and commentary for a while now and have decided to take a pause for a bit. That’s not to say I won’t have things to share on political matters from time to time; I’ll certainly take advantage of social media to stay in the conversation and, as a freelance writer, will gladly take political assignments as they come. But particularly after an election year, with all the drama of our crazy world before and after, the sheer immersion in the genre has taken a bit of a spiritual and creative toll. I’m veering off to focus on some new projects, others that have been neglected in the meantime, but I’m also just going to get quieter, more contemplative and observational for a bit. There’s a lot of noise out there, not all of it healthy or productive, and I want to step back, refresh my spirit, make sure what I’m contributing when I do contribute furthers the cause and isn’t just more noise. I mention this only because a few of you have asked where I’ve been; why I haven’t covered this or that, and I figured – after sharing hundreds of political pieces with you over the years – an explanation was in order. I’ll be around, I just won’t be publishing quite as much, at least regarding politics.

But what I do write, create, photograph, or sing, I will share… you know me!  And I will always welcome your enjoyment and response. Until later, then.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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I’m Not Hip Enough

ldw-pondersI finally figured it out.

I’m not hip enough.

Oh, I’m good enough – and I say that with complete humility because “good enough” by today’s standards is completely relative. And by that I do not mean your relatives think you’re good enough – that’s a given – I mean that in the world of instant reality show stardom, digitally perfected perfection, inexplicable and arbitrary fame, self published/self promoted… well… everything, what, really, is good enough? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I’m at least it.

I’m just not hip enough.

I was thinking about Rock+Paper+Music. Ever since I started writing for Huff Po, this blog here, my very own lovingly created, carefully managed and artistically designed forum for “sass and sensibility,” has become the slightly ugly stepsister overshadowed by the behemoth that is Huff Po. I try to find the balance: I keep my Huff Po stuff what is is – analysis and commentary on political, cultural, religious, and artistic issues –  sometimes articles overlap, but this blog is more personal, with more pictures, a warmer tone at times, often about non-famous people I know who should be famous, what my latest familial challenge is, that sorta thing. And despite the fact that I don’t obligate myself to write in just one genre (parenting, writing, photography, etc.), I do create a through-line with my brand of commentary, my voice, so to speak, so it is thematic enough…right?

Oh, hell, it probably isn’t buttonholed enough and that’s probably as unhip as all get-out and the very reason why Rock+Paper+Music remains a smart, thoughtful, but unviraled and slightly flatlined creative endeavor. I want it to be bigger, better, more OUT THERE, but either I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing in terms of proper 2.0 Internet promotion (likely), the title is too benign (I thought it was clever…what do I know?), or it’s too hard to…well…buttonhole. I insisted on taking liberties with the “blogging mandate of buttonholing” and look where it got me: writing about how I’m not hip enough. And saying buttonhole a lot.

This whole stew session was set off by a blog I was made aware of today. People I Want to Punch In the ThroatIt was implied by the poster of this blog link that it’s really funny. Or at least the posted article was. I immediately swallowed (with some difficulty) and clicked the link. I will refrain from commenting on the visual (there is none) and only read a bit, trying mostly to find out who “Jen” is (suggested by her bio, which is aptly named “Who is Jen?”), and it turns out the person who came up with this rather aggressive title, Jen, also writes for Huff Po (but, really, there are thousands of us, how hip can that be??), has been interviewed by NPR (shoot…I hardly even listen!), she’s witty, snarky, funny, and says things like, “All of a sudden I’ve got lots of people who want to know who I am.” and “I think the title sums it up. If you can’t figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat.” Sheesh. So I did go away…but not because I couldn’t figure it out, more because my visceral reaction to the literary violence of her title made me dizzy with hip-envy, which is really the downfall of a person like me. Because even after exhaustively social-media’ing, cyber bush-beating, virtual stone-unturning, and all my other various marketing ministrations, I lack Jen-like “virality” (I made that up…a play on virility and viral…come ON, that’s kind of hip!!).

Nah. Not really.

I’m so unhip, in fact, that I had an old friend – one I hadn’t spoken to in years but who’s on my mailing list – send me an email in response to a new blog notice with one line: “Please remove me from your mailing list.” No signature; no, “hey, how you doing?” Just that one line. Stunned, I wrote back, “We haven’t spoken in years, odd that your one communication in all that time would be this request.” He wrote back chiding me for “taking it personally,” adding the supposedly assuaging explanation that he “just doesn’t like blogs.” I took him off the list. He’s a pretty hip guy. You do the math.

But let me make this clear right now: I’m not a slacker. I know what’s what and I’ve got myself social media’d all over the place (personal page, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and I work those puppies like nobody’s business (just look at how I active-linked them all!). Maybe that’s the problem…nobody’s making it their business. Well, not nobody, but it can get bleak out there. Let’s take Twitter, for example. Despite my rather articulate, occasionally thought-provoking, sometimes self-promoting, but always 140-character Tweets of substantial pith, I’m pretty much ignored. While everyone’s tripping all over themselves to get “followed” by Benicio del Toro (who was officially on Twitter for all of two or three days) or retweeting some disgusting genital/masturbation reference by one famous actor or another, I’m clearly not high-profile enough for consideration by the Twit-verse. Frankly, they’re a hardy bunch and it’s likely I just can’t keep up. That feed scrolls off the page so fast that I can only presume the people who are constantly present, wit and parrying away, are sitting at a computer 24/7 with nothing better to do than desperately attempt to one-up each other or incite conversation with a Tweeting celebrity. Though Roseanne Barr did retweet one of my tweets once, I can only ride that train for so long. And I’ve now just said “tweet” or “Twitter” more in one paragraph than anyone should.

It could be my age. I don’t make a point of throwing actual numbers around but it’s not hard to extrapolate. In any circle of contemporary hipsters I’d be considered seriously OLD and being considered OLD in the world of the considerably YOUNG is about as effing unhip as you can get. You don’t even have to do stupid shit like wear white stretch pants, say “anywho,” or keep complaining about Facebook Timeline. Despite the inroads made by Betty White and Cher, and despite the fact that we’re all sort of grossed out by the epic damage being wrought on older faces by cosmetic surgery, the fact is, if you don’t know why Kelly Osbourne is feuding with Xtina (or even who Xtina is), who/what is trending on Twitter, or how Vodka and feminine products have become linked (sorry…it is viral), you’re not only OLD, you’re terminally unhip. Which might mean I’m slightly hip for being able to reference any of those things. Probably not.

Basically you’re unhip just by virtue of having lived longer than the much hipper younger people who are now running the world on the sheer heft of their buying, downloading, clicking, viewing, sharing, texting, tweeting, stumbling, or YouTubing. Any hip quotient I could ever possibly muster pales in comparison. Though I have a smart phone and still wear black jeans. Not enough. Not near.

But I get the young thing. I do. It’s a great time of life. I had an amazing experience as a young artist. I did have all that stuff – the slavishly devoted managers and producers, the band members who happily hitched on my ride; good Variety reviews, people who said they’d make me a star, backers and financiers and agents and publicists and fans and all that head-swirling stuff, some version of which our girl Jen is probably reveling in when she isn’t punching someone in the throat. But, truth be told, even when I was young I wasn’t so hip. When an unknown Madonna and I met with the same manager at the same time (she and I didn’t meet at the same time, he was considering us both at the same time…and I was the one there on a recommendation from the legendary Kim Fowley of Runaways fame…how hip was that?!), that manager passed on me, took Madonna, and while I kept singing and writing songs about interracial relationships and the meaning of life, she was dry humping gay dancers and making millions (and, yes, admittedly, recording some great pop songs I dance to even to this day!). She was hip. I was not. Dammit all to hell.

Here’s the thing: when you do what I do – freelance writing, photography, music – and you’re not hip enough – as we’ve established I’m not –  the burden of wrangling all that creative output falls squarely on YOU. You don’t get a manager drooling over your “potential.” People don’t rush the door to get you viral and trending. No one’s setting up conference calls to “discuss the trajectory of your articles.” NPR ignores you. We’ve discussed the Tweeting. Basically you’re on your own. You market and media and bush beat and try not to annoy the shit out of the few people who actually respond to those mass mailings or Facebook links, and hold tight to the notion that you remain worthy despite it all. You write a few articles that do go (sorta) viral and that ticks up your hip quotient for a second, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world out there and you’re Sisyphus; every single article, query letter, photography posting, and attempt to put a band together is a new effort that requires rolling that rock up the hill each and every day.

Rocking and frikkin’ rolling.

Did you ever see The Flight of the Conchords, that hilarious 2007 HBO show with the New Zealand music/comedy duo, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie? One of the funniest bits on the show was the ubiquitous appearances of their “one fan” (played by the very funny Kristen Schaal), who made it her business to be the very best fan she could be and, since she was their only one, they were grateful for her (most of the time!). Sometimes I feel that way about my small but very loyal group of friends and fans who always take the time to click, leave comments, re-post, pass on, and generally show a little love on a regular basis. Hipness notwithstanding, they are there, a small but mighty group, and what I lack in “virality,” I have – in spades – in some very appreciated loyalty from them. They’re like my “one fan,” though happily more than one. But just a little more! I’m grateful for them.

The truth is, I love what I do…my creativity lends tremendous purpose to my life. It always has, even when I was younger and hipper and not writing about either. But if it appears I’m now too sincere, too earnest; if I’m not snarky enough or funny enough for the times; if I lack cutting enough edge or just the right touch of verbal violence, so be it. I discovered long ago that you not-hip-enoughhave to be who you are, who you truly are, and if that doesn’t bring them to their feet, again, so be it. To feign something or attempt to be someone else just to match the zeitgeist in hopes of greater acceptance or more success is pure folly. It never works. You always get found out. Look at Milli Vanilli.

So as Popeye would say, I am what I am. Thank you to those who get me. I love you guys, I really do. Which is a long way from wanting to punch someone in the throat.

Yep…definitely not hip enough.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.