Goode: bad. Perriello: good.
I enjoyed the article by John Whitehead [“We are not what we set out to be,” September 2, 2008] and I am glad that people are finally waking up to the internal decline of our American democracy. In his article, Whitehead speaks of the soul of America that he saw in colonel Hale during the liberation of a German concentration camp in 1945. He thought that “most Americans seemed to have forgotten what it once meant to be American. Few seemed to give a damn about our freedoms.” He want on to say, “Change is in the air.” and “More and more Americans seem to be waking from a self-imposed sleep.” Mr. Whitehead says, “It feels good to be hopeful again, and doing something about it is our only recourse.”
After listening to Tom Perriello debate Virgil Goode, I too feel good about the future of America. Like Colonel Hale, Tom Perriello is the spark plug who can lead America and the citizens of the 5th district back to the values given to us by the architects of the Constitution. Unlike Mr. Goode, Tom Perriello cares deeply about our American freedoms and Tom truly understands the importance of the Constitution. As John Whitehead says in the article, “There is work to be done. Let us begin.” I am beginning by supporting Tom Perriello for Congress on November 4.
Dazed and bemused
Thank you for publishing John Whitehead’s synopsis of the state of our society [“We are not what we set out to be,” September 2, 2008]; he clearly pointed toward the sort of change we need to make to put this country back on the path our founders envisioned. Real American democracy, as Mr. Whitehead outlined, is about community, caring for each other, speaking truth. It strikes me, after watching the political conventions in recent weeks, that mere repetition of something makes it “true” for so many bobbleheads. For instance, “well educated”—especially as in having graduated from Harvard —has been reframed to mean “elite” to those very people who give lip service to wanting to improve education in this country and make college accessible to everyone. Over time in the political arena, “environmentalist” has become a bad word, though we all presumably want to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and leave a tree standing here and there for our grandchildren to climb. How did “liberal,” which means “broad-minded,” come to be a vilification? How was it, eight years ago, that millions of people came to believe that the measure of a president of this great nation is that he be a plain-talkin’ “regular” guy you might sit and have a beer with? I personally feel more secure with a president who is smarter than I am, better educated than I am, more articulate, and wiser, and more understanding of nuance than I am, not some boozer at the bar or, for that matter, a hockey mom who can skin a moose—not that there’s anything un-American about either of those, but we’re talking about the presidency of the United States, for crying out loud. How is it that tens of thousands of people cheered deliriously when a candidate for the second-highest office in our government belittled and downright mocked her opponent’s actual hands-on work that helped keep a fellow citizen’s electricity on and put food on a hungry family’s table? How has it become O.K. to be so mean-spirited and anti-democracy, not only in private, but publicly as a candidate for leadership in our government? I’d like to see the C-VILLE take a stand against the derailment of Americans’ common sense (and sensibility) by the fear mongers’ inhumane framing of our worldview. Mr. Whitehead did not say much in his article about the big lies that have been repeated so many times that they are believed by roughly half of all Americans. If they are to come out of the “sleep” that he identifies—which is more like a dazed state of unthinkingness—the truth must be revealed. I fervently hope you will follow up your publication of Mr. Whitehead’s article by taking the next step and identifying the lies that have coaxed Americans into feeling O.K. about treating each other so shamefully.
Headlines we won’t use
Alan Zimmerman: “We know that [Sarah] knows how to read a teleprompter…” [“Biden his time,” Opinion, September 9, 2008]. Nice one, genius. …Except that her teleprompter was broken during the speech you’re referring to. Hey buddy, no need to apologize—in fact, I think you, and the rest of the zombie media empire that Palin uses as kindling for her popularity jumps, should keep it up. If you, and your cohorts, had done your jobs, you’d know that the Alaskan political landscape is littered with the bodies of the corrupt—folks that Sarah waylaid. So keep it up—in fact, let me suggest topics for your upcoming columns:
• “Lies, Scandals, babies and other bad things —and Sarah Palin”
• “Global warming: all Sarah Palin’s fault”
• “Why Sarah Palin is a big booger head!”
P.S. Can you say “Landslide?”
P.P.S. Palin vs. Biden… Hahahahahahaa!!!
Alan Zimmerman replies:
Mr. Long takes me to task for not realizing that Sarah Palin’s teleprompter was broken during her speech to the RNC. I didn’t realize it because it never happened. This story is pure myth that was circulating on several “wing-nut” blogs within a few hours of Palin’s speech as testimony that she could stop speeding bullets and leap tall buildings in a single bound, something her right-wing followers would like to believe because she’s in sync with them politically. Here, in fact, is what an eyewitness who was able to see the teleprompter, the Politico’s Jonathan Martin, had to say the morning after: “Perhaps there were moments where it scrolled slightly past her exact point in the speech. But I was sitting in the press section next to the stage, within easy eyeshot of the teleprompter. I frequently looked up at the machine, and there was no serious malfunction. A top convention planner confirms this morning that there were no major problems.” But thanks, John, that “booger head” story is a great idea.
Directive we won’t follow
Please fire J. Tobias Beard. He is a know it all that, in fact, knows nothing. His articles on wine are particularly offensive, and his overall ability to write a newsworthy article is poor.
The wheel of truth
The road rage involving cyclists is a class war and a guaranteed result of our culture [“Pedal vs. Metal, September 9, 2008]. Maybe we are all equal on foot, but the presence of a bike tips that fragile balance. You would never see a driver screech to a halt and exit his car to pummel someone for overstepping a curb. But what are the classes at war? These incidences are almost all male v. male, fit v. fat, fortunate v. unfortunate, rich v. poor, old v. young, take your pick. The guy who has the time to ride a bike for hours of sport and leisure during the working day, or even to commute to their hip job with other hip, for some reason really pisses off the guy who is not like that, and all cyclists look the same to him, and vise-versa. When altercations happen, either party seems to also be either down on his luck, have a habit of less-than-brilliant decisions, and/or, a self-righteous tendency to try and enforce the rules they think others should follow (notice I didn’t say laws. Nobody knows or cares what the law says when their life flashes before their eyes).
In our town of Charlottesville, bike lanes exist as a gesture. They aren’t designed for safety, they aren’t ever clean, they are just paint on the road. What makes riding here dangerous is class resentments first and foremost, with both sides routinely exhibiting embarrassing behavior. But the main cause of bike v. car friction is a lack of leadership. The frustration comes not because neither side knows the difference between right and wrong. You shouldn’t need a rule or a line or a colored lane to tell you not to pass a cyclist too close in your car, or not to block the road while riding. Conflict is embedded in our culture that chooses to never concede personal liberties at the expense of public and community responsibility. So we assume our own way things should be. Assumptions lead to close-calls, which make nearly anyone, no matter their character, mad as hell, even malicious and out of control. We all know what frustrations from law enforcement, auto insurance, health insurance and health care systems await us if something happens (and you live). For me the rage comes out at the situation, not the person.
I can’t stand that we can’t figure this out and get on with it, that we are so childish as a town and a nation that we can’t manage the simple reality that some people ride bicycles to move around and some drive cars. It’s old news! It isn’t cool or uncool. It isn’t anything more interesting than using the bathroom. A bike is one wheel away from being a trike, for Christ’s sake. If there was a public service effort made to stop this, like the one undertaken that stopped litter, the issue would be all but dead for most everyone. If a respected icon or leader instructs us that we are a town that needs to ride bikes, for our personal budgets, health and patriotism, more available parking, whatever, positive changes could result.
I think the slogan should be “Cyclists! Let Em Have It!”, a play on words with three meanings. One, a directive to drivers: Let cyclists have the two feet it takes for them to get home to their loved ones without dying in the street in a puddle of brains and blood. Second, a directive to cyclists: Let the drivers have the right of way first and foremost and don’t move till you’re sure they see you. The third is a deliberate play on words that is intended to sensationalize the issue to absurdity. For any narrow-minded person, it’s a dangerous rallying cry that should be faced head on. Now, who’s the spokesperson? Our pessimistic mayor? Maybe a C-VILLE contest could determine that? I guess my point is that the prolonged pussy-footing we are all doing is a national tragedy of which we are reminded every time someone, a dear friend to many, dies because of this senseless “debate.” Make no mistake, SOMEONE WILL DIE SOON IN CHARLOTTESVILLE FROM RIDING A BIKE. There is no debate. If someone has to wait, it will be the cyclists, because a cyclist will lose the collision battle 100 percent of the time, it’s guaranteed, right or wrong. Every time you assert yourself on a bike in a negative way you put all cyclists at risk, period. So shut up and deal with the world in which you live, not the one you envision!
I’m hoping simply for a public communication of clear rules, a clear right-of-way decision that lets everyone know what to do. And if we concede that the car always has the right-of-way in town because they are bigger and slower, we could get a lot more comfort out there. It’s like skiing—every car you pass while zooming up the right side of the road is essentially a “downhill skier,” so they have the right of way. Cyclists are faster and more nimble in town, but you can’t assume that means you also get the safety a pedestrian is afforded. All the creative bike handling does is freak everyone out. You still get there faster, in town, on a bike, when you follow the rules. Cyclists, conversely, have the right-of-way on the open road because they are smaller and slower, like the Amish carriages! If you flaunt those rights and abuse them and taunt people by riding two, three and four abreast, you are going to get what is coming to you. If you’re going to force people to acknowledge you, you have to be ready for all the forms that acknowledgement may take. But you can’t change the world or even prove a small point when you’re dead.
I’m not sure what I think about bike lanes because they give the illusion of a guaranteed right to personal safety. So, ride in the lane or otherwise you’re fair game? Likewise, when driving, whether you think or even know a cyclist is breaking the law and holding you up, a law that says it’s wrong to use your car for bulldozing and burying people on bikes shouldn’t be the only thing stopping you from actually doing it. Drivers and cyclists will make mistakes by accident and should be able to do so without a barrage of fingers and expletives.
All said, when commuting, I have conceded the road to the drivers. I never look at, gesture to or respond in any way to drivers, ever, for any reason. I stay the hell out of the way, and take the extra time that they will not, to be safe. If I don’t like the looks of even one of the cars in a line at a stop light, I’ll let them all go, even miss the light. I want to get home to my wife and kids every day. Not even one of those days can be risked by flipping the bird at the wrong guy. I hate to say it, but if the majority of the community does not want cyclists on the road, I won’t ride. I won’t live here any longer than necessary either. Of all the issues to lay your life on the line for, this is not one of them. I don’t think a move to Portland or anywhere else means a guaranteed ride in peace. But I do think some places are more tolerant and accustomed to having cyclists all around, and it feels safer because more people are on the same page and prepared to react in a predictable manner. But the odds are risky even in the best scenarios and unfortunately, making good choices may also mean some times and some places you just can not or do not ride. Safety comes from within, from your own choices, wherever you live, whatever you drive.