Friday, November 10, 2006

political turnaround & readers' poll

With Jim Webb’s victory in the Virginia Senate race, the Democratic Party now controls the two houses of Congress. Donald Rumsfeld is gone. Rick Santorum has been soundly spanked. We have a female speaker-elect in Nancy Pelosi & even a Moslem from Minnesota joining the House of Representatives. The loss of Republican power is largely due to voters’ reactions to the violence & mess in Iraq, & I am hoping for an end to the American invasion in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to change the stark fact of the dead & maimed soldiers sacrificed by both countries.

The war has been the obvious focus of these midterm elections, but one of the most heartening developments reported in today’s New York Times is that Senator Barbara Boxer, a liberal from California, will likely take over the Environment and Public Works Committee, replacing Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who has denied the existence of global warming. “He thinks global warming is a hoax and I think it is the challenge of our generation,” Boxer was quoted as saying. “We have to move on it.” I couldn’t agree more.

Although I have not read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams (Simon & Schuster, 2001), I’m going to recommend it during these times to anyone interested in a genuine American hero. My dad, who has had his nose in the book for the past week or so, pretty much finds a way to admiringly mention the second President of the United States in every conversation lately, & is indignant that no Washington monument honors the man.

Clearheaded, hardworking, and fluent in French at a time when such an asset was crucial, Adams also had integrity, a quality we almost expect to be missing from present-day politicians (and often find lacking in figures from the past, if we delve deeper than the school textbooks). He tirelessly pushed for the Declaration of Independence when the colonies weren’t ready for it: McCullough writes that “It was John Adams, more than anyone, who had made it happen.” My dad, however, might be more impressed by accounts of less-important events that illustrate Adams’ character, like the time a fire broke out in the Treasury Building & the President immediately ran over & joined the bucket brigade. Or how, unlike materialistic Thomas Jefferson, John Adams was never extravagant. Sunday dinners in Quincy were “plentiful but modest.” Clearly this was not a guy who’d spend $90,000 of state funds on limousine service for his wife if he were alive today. When his presidential term ended, Adams left Washington with no fanfare & took a public stagecoach home to his farm in Massachusetts.

Being able to talk to my family about books is a great & fortunate pleasure—which leads me to pose a question to those of you checking out this blog: do your parents like to read, & if so, what’s on their bookshelves & nightstands? What fiction (or essay, or graphic novel) has your dad or mom mentioned lately? I’d like to hear about it.


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