American Politics Seen Through a Chinese Lens, if Not Darkly
by Art Goodtimes
Oct 30, 2008 | 466 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

DICK BRETT … My good buddy from the old St. Joseph’s Mountain View days, when we were six-latiners together, is now a teacher at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu. I shared his first-hand accounts of the devastating earthquake in that region earlier this year. Here’s his latest blog report from inside China … “Some Chinese are interested in our presidential election. Some of them, but not many, would choose Senator McCain. I ask them why. Those who are for him say his age and experience is better than Obama's youth. These Sino-McCain supporters think the Illinois senator too young. Those who like the Democratic candidate like his vision and racial combinations … I will talk to the classes next week about the election. Today I showed them my absentee ballot which I will mail tomorrow to Alameda County. The students were very interested. They were surprised, delighted to find Chinese characters on the instructions part of the ballot envelope … I said that this piece of paper was a ballot. It is a piece of paper. But what a piece of paper! By using it I can pick the President of my country, the representatives at the various levels of government and in California make laws of governance. This piece of paper is a glorious result of an amazing history. The actions it allows, this simple piece of paper, are the result of the minds and hearts and spent blood and many sacrificed deaths of patriots and dreamers and devoted people from all over the world, and these actions are maintained by love of country and that wondrous thought -- the people are sovereign; the people rule … We the people pick our leaders and make our laws. It seems so simple, this piece of paper. But the ballot is both the end result and ongoing adventure of a particular human confidence that we the people have the intelligence and wisdom to rule ourselves against the tyranny of kings, tyrants, aristocracies, against all those who savage us by thinking birth or race or gender makes them better. Indeed, against those, in Lincoln's eloquent words, who say: you toil and work and earn bread and I'll eat it. My simple ballot, the grand, majestic paper of freedom – how truly precious it is … While talking to the second class about it, I found myself mightily humbled, and profoundly thrilled to be an American.”

WEEKLY QUOTA … “We were lawless people, but we were on pretty good terms with the Great Spirit.” – Tatangi Mani, Walking Buffalo (thanks to Lindamarie Luna of Paonia)

RACISM LIVES … What if John McCain were a former president of the Harvard Law Review? … What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his undergraduate college class? … What if McCain were still married to the first woman he said “I do” to? … What if Obama had left his first wife after she no longer measured up to his standards? … What if Michelle Obama had not only became addicted to pain killers, but acquired them illegally through her charitable organization? … What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? … What if Obama was a member of the “Keating 5”? … What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker? … Who could pretend race doesn’t play a huge part in what’s happening in this country? Are we changing, or going back to our racist roots – where a dumb-cluck gun-totin’ polar mama and the bottom-of-his-class crash-dummy divorced admiral’s son, together, outrank in popularity and respect two brilliant and committed citizens with a proven record of public service and community involvement?

DAVID CHORLTON … A Phoenix poet who’s come in years past to Telluride to perform for the Telluride Writers Guild, David’s interests include birds, sport (specifically European football as a means to understand society), very old music, and the passage of people between cultures. Origami Condom published his online chapbook Dry Heat and another new group of poems is available as Border Sky at


The Flavour Orange

The day we had tickets for baseball

temperatures reached one hundred and eight.

We had one unopened bottle of mineral water,

clear and sparkling with an orange essence.

You can’t bring that in here the security guard said it’s flavoured.

so we grumbled and tried the next gate down.

Same reaction. It's just water we shouted.

It's flavoured the guard replied you can’t bring flavours in.

So I said something beginning What the fuck is wrong

while my wife unscrewed the top

and we sprayed a little on the security shoes

which brought the Sheriff’s officers to escort us

from the property. It wasn’t so much the dollar twenty-five

for the bottle but the apparatus that hurt.

Somebody makes up these rules

in an office, deciding what is water and how

to make the ball park safer for concessions.

We walked to the station to catch the bus home,

past the homeless nobody has managed yet to wash away,

with fans streaming in the other direction

arriving too late for the national anthem.

O say can you see in the fine print on the label

that there’s flavour here? Can you bottle freedom?

We’re climbing down from the tip of the iceberg

through rules and the sterility

surrounding us. When the sports anchor says

Arizona Diamondbacks win six to three that’s the only

true part of the news. The rest is there to deflect us

from war and what it costs, to pretend

fund raising is the same as a democratic election, to glorify

the military and demean immigrants, to sell

stool softener and tell us the side effects of medications.

You don’t need television when you ride the bus

to see who’s falling lower than the minimum wage.

We rode the short way home, connecting the dots

from our T-shirts all the way to China, lamenting

corporate control with the way everybody is just

taking it and we hadn’t even started to consider

the environment. Exploitation, destruction, invasions,

missile shield: why get upset? After all it was only a bottle of water.

-David Chorlton


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