Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stringy Personal Political Gifts

My transient cleverness has its limits, particularly in its gifting form. On a transportation level and on a political one, I discovered the boundaries of graciousness with my mother. Now, some of the same gifts with strings are coming to me from elsewhere.

For years, I played on my mother's frugality and her "omni-lectoral " nature. The first got her from Santa Fe to Boston, and the second exposed her to lefty ideas and ideals.

Detour: There's a bit on her personality change in which she ended up turning conservative here. She raised my sister and me in an open-minded, progressive, non-discriminatory house. She changed. Her reading went from everything to newspapers and conservative magazines and books.

Gaming the Mom

When my wife was seven-months pregnant with our first, we drove from Pittsburgh to Santa Fe in a U-Haul truck with furniture, dishes, clothing and perhaps 1,000 books. We delivered a very angry Wanda to her new home. Forced to move by economic and health circumstances, she became suddenly easily riled.

When I pulled the truck off the road in Oklahoma after miles and miles of seeing the signs, she was nearly purple over the waste of time. But hey, how often can you see a white buffalo? In retrospect, I admit that seeing a scruffy albino bison behind a wooden fence was memorable only because of her reaction.

By the time we had three kids, trips to Santa Fe were less frequent. The money and scheduling costs of transporting five 2,359 miles were considerable.

She was retired and it made much more sense in almost every way to bring her to see us. The almost was that we could see other relatives there. However, they were also willing to swap trips to see us and this city.

Well, I knew that woman and that she hated waste. My solution that worked several times was to send her non-refundable tickets and arrange airport transit on both ends of the trip. Sure enough, Wanda could not let the tickets go to waste. She arrived complaining about her sinuses, but then had a good time as mom, mother in law and granny. We'd take her New England places and all was well until next time.

After 9/11 though, it stopped working. She dug in and said she just wasn't going. Even if it meant seeing us less frequently, we'd come to see her and that was that.

She gave the ticket to my sister. As it turns out, that same sister made her company's ID badges. She created one with her picture and my mother's name. For this one time, my mother's frugality was observed, the ticket not wasted. Sigh.

Reds in the Mail

A milder version of the same aggressive gift arrived by mail. My mother turned from apolitical but very accepting of differences to right-wing. We got to the point at which many subjects were off-limits or she forbade. Finally, she said we just should avoid politics. Arts, science, people, food and many other topics were okay.

So, I sent her a subscription to The Nation. We have gotten it for many years. Of course, I knew that it contradicted many things her conservative magazines and talk radio hosts said. It also did that with facts and solid reasoning. She was always a sucker for those.

Sure enough, 48 times a year, she would read the slim pinko publication. I even let dance thoughts that it might return her to less emotional and more rational discourse.


She did wait two years and then said, "I appreciate the subscription, but please don't renew it again."


Now, I face the same conflict, trebled. A long-term friend and godmother to one of our boys started subscriptions for us to City Journal, Reason, and Commentary. I don't know which of these annoys and angers me more -- probably the most recent one to hit the mailbox.

There is an elegance and symmetry to this and I have to chuckle. Plus, I had a physical yesterday and my blood pressure is great. So those neocon rags are not yet killing me.

Like my mother, I feel compelled to read them. I may even post soon on Reason's piece on Disneyworld and gay wedding packages.

Our friend is an artist -- painter and sculptor. When she moved from the South to Manhattan and we all lived there, she seemed liberal enough. However, she kept company for years with a wealthy lawyer and businessman, who held very different views and got such publications as she has now visited upon us. He has died, but the damage was done.

These journals are like having a crazy uncle who visits regularly. He's not irritating enough that you'd throw him out or refuse to answer the door, but close. Being pleasant is a strain.

I remind myself that I do read conservative op-ed pieces and blogs. Having my positions challenged may be good for me and keep my aging intellect toned. I do find 1) occasional areas of agreement that are pleasant surprises, 2) insight into the often selective reasoning of the neocons, and 3) frequent proof of the unattractive and barely clothed right-wing body politic.

Can I gut it out? Will she tire of this before I do?

Meanwhile, I can revel in the Wanda-esque nature of this. I can't waste the publications any more than my mother could not read The Nation. There is no equivalent of an answering machine for the unanswered call at dinner. They arrive and I read.

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Anonymous said...

All I can say is that Reason magazine is certainly not anti-gay or neo-con literature. Judging from your writing, I can assure you that you would agree with a substantial amount of their writer's opinions.

Anonymous said...

Errrr... You might want to know that Reason's editorial position is PRO-gay marriage (as well as pro-immigration, anti-war-on-terror, anti-drug-war, pro-abortion. It is a LIBERTARIAN publication, not "nonconservative."

Or are do you automatically assume that anyone who believes in "free markets" is allied with "the Right?"

Anonymous said...

Yep, Reason is most definitely not a conservative mag.

Anonymous said...

The Reason piece on Disneyland supporting gay marriage was only the latest piece written in the magazine on the topic. You may want to check out this search link for past articles (all of reason magazine's past articles are online).

The authors writing the Reason magazine articles usually espouse a traditional libertarian view: less government seems to increase freedom for all. In the case of gay unions, the government is the only thing that is keeping them from obtaining the same benefits as straight people.

I have glanced (alas, briefly) through your blog and what I have found is very well thought out. I look forward to reading more.

John V said...

Reason is not right wing, as others have stated. It's libertarian.

We're that group that mostly correct on the issues whereas the right and left are a little less than half right...depending on which issue aligns with libertarians.

Robert Enders said...

I came here via the link I found on the Reason blog, as the previous two commenters appeared to have done. I subscribe to Reason. But I can see how it could be viewed as a breach of gift etiquette for someone to give a non-libertarian a libertarian magazine. It is good to hear that you are open to hearing new ideas and reading about other veiwpoints. I personally make an effort to do the same. Are there any liberal magazines that you would recommend to non-liberals? Feel free to check out my blogs, too.

Shining Wit said...

Your blog is being invaded by Reason fans because of a post on the Reason blog, "Hit and Run."

can I use links here?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if "invaded" is the word I would use. Ever heard of the "non-initiation of force" principle? LOL. If you know anything at all about the libertarian philosophy, I am certain that you can understand libertarians wishing to correct the viewpoint that libertarian = neo-con.

Anonymous said...

How is "invading" to comment on a public blog?

Whats more relevant is the deafening silence of anyone coming to the defence of this blatant mischaraterization.

Unknown said...

I would suggest reading reason carefully - after all, it's a lot less against your politics than the other two are. You may find yourself renewing your subscription to it.

Anonymous said...

Being a "leftie", You may not agree with everything Reason stands for, but you can't possibly lump it with "neocon" if you've ever actually read it. I myself am about as far left as a self described libertarian can be. My two favorite mags are Reason and The Nation. I listen to Air America, and strongly dislike Rush and friends. You should try to keep your liberal open mind and apply your progressive reasoning abilities to Reason. You may just find that even on issues that you will disagree most strongly with Reason writers, such as Gun Control and Business Regulation, you have more common ground than you think now.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I used to identify myself as a conservative. Reason is the only political magazine that has made me change my mind about some of the things I've always believed in, like the war on drugs. Most of the political writing out there is just preaching to the choir; people read it just to feel better about what they already believe. Reason actually makes you think twice.

Unknown said...

Heyhey. Reason is cool. Don't be fooled by the somewhat irksome tone of some of these posters, and just read the mag and see for yourself. I've been a loyal reader since high school (I'm well beyond that now) and find it not only provoking but (most important?) entertaining.

They also like to curse alot on the blog. It's refreshing.

Michael Oliver said...

I'm a conservative who subscribes to The Nation and TNR. Why are you unable to read things with which you disagree? Also, Reason is a Libertarian Rag, dedicated to the proposition that the Nation reading Left and the John Bircher Right are both equally nuts. About this they are surely correct.

cheerful iconoclast said...

As one of the "invaders" from Hit and Run, I have a similar reaction: it's silly to call Reason a "neocon rag." You may not agree with everything in Reason -- I sure don't -- but calling it "neocon" is simply misinformed.

Maybe you should try engaging with Reason, rather than simply emoting about it.