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November 23, 2003

The Hapless Democrats

Time's Joe Klein has a pretty good column about the current Custer-like position of the national Democratic Party: co-opted or outmaneuvered on just about every front.

The week's events illuminate a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on domestic policy. The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle—although the principles involved are often antiquated, peripheral and, arguably, foolish. The Republicans, by contrast, have abandoned traditional conservativism to gain political advantage (with the elderly, for instance) or to pay off their stable of corporate-welfare recipients.

TIME.com: Why the Democrats Are All Boxed In

November 18, 2003

Retiring a Catchphrase

A year or two ago, I started using the common catchphrase drank the Kool-Aid (link is temporarily down) when talking about something I'd totally bought into, like a particular product or band. Rather than getting drawn into an argument over why I liked a TV show's plotline that someone else thought dumb, for example, I'd just wave my hands: "What can I say? I drank the Kool-Aid for that show a long time ago."

Obviously, that's a reference to the Jonestown massacre of November 18, 1978 -- 25 years ago -- when over 900 cultists drank poisoned Fla-Vor-Aid willingly, were forced to drink, or were shot at the will of their spiritual leader, the "Reverend" Jim Jones.

On the drive home from work Monday, I heard an NPR interview with a survivor of the cult, Laura Kohl. It was the most difficult 10 minutes or so of radio that I've ever listened to as Kohl, prompted by an impassive Melissa Block, recalled the joy of their communal living, sobbed over the dead and her lost innocence, and wondered about her own culpability.

I remembered seeing the December 4 Newsweek cover story about the massacre. I was eight years old. The magazine was at my grandmother Mabel's house. I vaguely remembered some of the article's text. I remembered registering that the people in the cover image were not sleeping, but I still had enough of my innocence about me that I couldn't deeply, truly visualize what that photograph represented. If I had seen that another two or three years from then, I would have had nightmares.

25 years later, the horror of that old story -- one I hadn't really thought of in years, despite adding that catchphrase to my vernacular -- came home.

If we work hard at it -- really, really hard -- or maybe it doesn't take that much work at all -- we can lose our humanity. We can be reduced to automata. We can do unspeakable things, to ourselves and others.

I can't use that phrase again. It means too much.

Update: For more information about Jonestown, visit San Diego State University's online resource center. It includes a survivor's personal reaction to the catchphrase.

November 15, 2003

Yet Another Personality Test

When your blog's been lying fallow for a while, an easy jumpstart is the traditional link to a personality test -- in this case, a sample "enneagram."

free enneagram test

November 5, 2003

It Broke

My family never gets tired of the story of how, when I was Will's age (almost 2!), I once broke a piece of chalk and then quietly and expectantly held it up to Mom -- waiting for her to fix it.

I've just returned from the Apple Store. My iBook has died. Sitting at the Genius Bar, I very much felt like I was expecting the Apple Tech to put the chalk back together.

Currently trying to clone the hard drive, so I won't lose all the applications and data that were on the damn thing. I was going to get around to making a full backup....