Our Midwestern Weekend

Friday we visited Mom, who was layed off recently. She’s doing very well with the whole thing, but she was having home networking issues. After a lot of poking around we went off to dinner together to a Persian restaurant that Yayoi found in the Japanese guidebook her mom sent her. We ate a great deal and came home stuffed, after picking up a replacement router, because I had diagnosed Mom’s Linksys as bad. I showed her how to set it up and turn off the wireless part, making her network more secure.

Saturday we drove to Michigan for Ravee’s picnic. The weather was fantastic and the drive was so pleasant. The picnic was alright – I got to see Yvonne, an old highschool friend, and one of the few I’ve stayed in touch with, and she and Yayoi talked at great length. I mostly just used the time to relax. At the end of the picnic I ran up and tossed mine, Yayoi’s, and Ravee’s name in the hat for the giveaway. Yayoi won a portable CD player, which she gave to Yvonne, because we have one and Yvonne does not. Then Ravee won a slimline DVD player, and gave it to us, because he already has a DVD player and we would like to have one. Ravee pointed out that I had put his name in the hat anyway, and I remarked that it was all good karma.

I took the long way home, eschewing the skyway, stopping at Bob Jackson’s Michigan Fruit Stand where Yayoi spent a long time buying fruit, while I waited in the car, parked next to another guy in a mini-van awaiting the return of his own lady.

We saw trains on the way back. The South Bend line. And we got to wait as a giant ship passed under a drawbridge that had blocked our path. I wanted to use my free passes to catch Michael Moore’s movie at the Esquire, but Yayoi’s contacts were giving her trouble, so we just went home and I figured out I’ll need a converter to hook up the DVD player.

Sunday we were too full from the rest of the weekend, so I didn’t make my fruity pancakes with Bob Jackson’s Michigan Fruits. We instead biked down to the Merchandise Mart and rode the Brown Line up to Western. Well, except we decided to stop at Belmont and check out the Chicago Pride Parade. It was a groovy experience, and the crowds were thick. Local politicians had their part in the parade, and the greatest cheers were for the few floats dedicated to sending George Bush away from the White House. There was also notable applause for anyone advocating gay marriage rights. Condoms and altoids and beaded necklaces were tossed to the crowd, and a good time was had by all.

Then we headed up to Western and got tickets to “Farenheit 9/11” at the Davis, for the matinee price of $5. The 2:30 was sold out so we were in it for the five. We went to a French-style cafe for an outdoor brunch, and window-shopped around Lincoln Square, grabbing some fudge.

“Farenheit 9/11” is probably Moore’s best movie yet. The audience cheered as President Bush was barbed. The crowd didn’t feel like liberal freaks or anything, just a bunch of Americans who were sick and tired of our sad excuse for a government. And while the film is very good, I could feel all the more this sort of ambivalence of direction – between the easy lampooning of the President – and the anti-war agenda – and the good old-fashioned desire to just have some real moments of American humanity.

Maybe when Bush is gone and Moore would lose such an easy target to lampoon he can dive more towards the heart of the matter – what America is and why it is. I think he was more on that track with “Bowling for Columbine” – where he looked at different ideas of what was wrong with us. There was a lot less of that here. There was all that cynical stuff about what an ineffective idiot the President is, and the greedy manipulations and the war profiteers. There’s the accusations that the War Machine gobbles up young men and women from impoverished backgrounds who might not find the military so appealing if only their local economy weren’t in an unnecessary shambles … but there’s no accounting for, however anti-war Moore might feel, why Americans tend to support the idea of invading countries to remove dictators – is the war bad because the Iraqi people had chosen Saddam Hussein, or is the war bad because it has been handled so badly, by incorrupt, dishonest men who need to be thrown from office?

Moore’s answer is that the war was bad because we didn’t need to fight. Iraq didn’t threaten America. Well, in that rationale, was War War II right? Germany didn’t threaten America, and Japan attacked our military base in a Pacific colony because they were concerned that we might try to fight them – and only by hitting us fast and hard could they keep us on the path of isolationist pacifism. Roosevelt had a thousand times greater moral clarity than President Bush will ever have, but in the end we rearranged our nation around a great crusade to bring liberation to the tyrannised people of the world, and to impose Democracy and Reconstruction on the peoples responsible for that tyranny. Wasn’t that an unnecessary war? Possibly. Is the world a better place because we fought? Probably.

History will judge the Iraq war on the results produced. More importantly, American foreign policy will be shaped by the results. From all I can tell, we are handling Afghanistan and Iraq with mediocrity, and failure is a palpable risk in both places – if we succeed, we’ll have brought democracy to two places where this stuff is in short supply. If we fail, then there might be more terrorists, and the idea of invading foreign countries based on flimsy excuses, and imposing cut-rate reconstruction efforts will look like all the more of a foolhardy option for our national leaders. Which is the better outcome?

And what exactly should our response to 9/11 have been? We don’t hear that. We only hear how we have been wronged, and done wrong because of it. But at least it was damned entertaining.


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