Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poem: Humidity

Green grass
After the summer thunderstorm
Like so many knives against the soles of my feet

Air heavy
Time Heavy
Morning eyes blurry and bleary
After a good night's sleep

I spent a lifetime waiting for love
But it didn't come
I spent a lifetime hoping against hope
But it didn't come
I spent a lifetime waiting for my family to grow up
But it didn't come

Finally I left...

When you cut the anchor you cut the cord as well
Like Kurtz in the Congo
Or was it Vietnam?

Sometimes faith needs to grow in the absence of love
Sometimes faith needs to grow in the silence of others
Sometimes faith needs to grow in the presence of hate
Because hate feeds and devours and consumes and corrodes and erodes
Relentlessly like tooth decay

Sometimes faith needs to grow against all we believe in

Sometimes belief and faith are two separate things

Monsters of my youth come back

I could not slay them then
No need to now

Just ignore what's happened

And pretend...

A world without people
A people without a world

Vines consuming
The modern day deluge washing over all our buildings
The animals dominate

As we become dinosaurs
Fossilized amidst the monuments of our existence

Abandoned buildings...



Toppled like nine-pins

Modern day Jerichos

No rams horns

No priests

No ark

No Joshua

No Canaan

No Promised Land

Just Nothing

(Look what we've become?)

(c) 07/30/2009 by Matthew DiBiase

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite: That's the Way it Was

I grew up as a child watching Walter Cronkite every evening until 1981. His death, in my eyes, signifies the end of responsible, pure broadcast journalism as we know it. Since his departure from doing the CBS Evening News in 1981 broadcast journalism has declined dramatically, damningly, and, in certain respects, pathetically.

Cronkite was a legitimately Olympian figure—a stature granted to precious few Americans. (There are plenty of public figures we think are Olympian today but in reality they are not). Cronkite breathed rarified air. He, along with the late Edward R. Murrow epitomized broadcast journalism in its most pristine and appropriate form—a form you do not see on TV today.

The real tragedy of Cronkite’s death is that no other TV anchor figure has ever come close to the standard he set for himself and for his profession when he anchored the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981. To be even more blunt: no one will ever come that close again or have such an enormous impact as Cronkite did.

Even more damning in my eyes at least is that if Cronkite were reincarnated and entered broadcast journalism today there is no way in the world he would ever be granted a network anchor position. What I think was one vital source of Cronkite’s magnificent appeal was that Cronkite looked so utterly and magnificently American. There was no glitz or Hollywood freeze-dried processed good looks to him. Has anyone noticed that all the TV anchors appearing on the news since 1981 look nothing like Cronkite? Walter Cronkite looked like the unassuming Middle American reporter that he truly was. Cronkite (unlike his successors) was totally real. Cronkite (unlike some of his successors male and female) was a true journalist. The late Marshall McLuhan once called TV a cool medium. No one other broadcast journalist exemplified that coolness better than Cronkite did. I wouldn’t be surprised if McLuhan developed his insight by watching Cronkite in action. Indeed, no one personified the American image and ethos better than Walter Cronkite.

Even more significantly Cronkite did not curry favor from either side of the political spectrum. John F. Kennedy always expressed suspicion about Walter Cronkite. Privately, Kennedy accused Cronkite of being a Republican because of Cronkite’s long friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Cronkite’s refusal to be seduced by Kennedy’s charismatic charm. (Kennedy was suspicious of any journalist whom he did not have in his back pocket). Conversely, Richard Nixon considered Cronkite (along with the rest of the CBS News Division) to be a political enemy in league with the Democrats and waged unrelenting war on Cronkite and CBS along with the remainder of the American press until his resignation in 1974. In truth Cronkite was a registered Independent who wisely kept his political views to himself—something most broadcast journalists today do not do.

Indeed since Cronkite’s retirement in 1981 the political propagandization of broadcast journalism (both liberal and conservative) has debased the pure journalistic currency that Cronkite minted every night from his desk at CBS. When America lost Walter Cronkite we lost someone very great indeed. We will never see the likes of him again. And that is sad commentary on the present condition of broadcast journalism today.

Rest in Peace, Walter.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sarah Palin: Politicus Interruptus

“If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.”—Harry S. Truman

Sarah Palin’s supreme political moment came when she gave her acceptance speech for the Vice-Presidential nomination at last year’s Republican Convention. Since then she has descended slowly but inexorably towards a political precipice which has already claimed several promising new stars in the G.O.P.

Palin’s resignation as Governor of Alaska (although shocking to many) is really not surprising when considering her performance as a politician since August last year. When I first wrote about her I considered her presence a charming new start for the G.O.P. which badly needed some changes but now, after nearly a year in the spotlight, Sarah Palin no longer appears to be Presidential timber but more like Presidential kindling—mere fuel for the prairie fire which is always Presidential campaign politics.

At best political pundits can call her questionable move unorthodox but in reality her departure reeks of opportunism; a reluctance to risk her shaky political reputation in the risky and tedious business of governing the largest state in the Union; and, perhaps, a personal inability to rise above the attendant intense media scrutiny all potential Presidential candidates must endure if they are to achieve the Presidency.

Ever since Sarah Palin got the taste of the Presidency in her mouth it seems obvious in retrospect that she considers being the governor of Alaska as an obstacle to her quest for higher office. Now that she has become a national figure, the Governor’s seat has turned into a confining box (a political coffin maybe?) that she needs to jettison, to escape from. What Sarah Palin fails to realize though is that if American history teaches us anything it is that many governors have used their office as laboratories to develop and experiment with new policies which could then be translated onto the national stage. Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all followed that path towards the Oval Office. Sarah Palin’s refusal to do the same must be seen as a failure of political nerve. Alaska, like all other 49 states in the Union, is in an economic crisis. If Sarah Palin really wanted to demonstrate that she was worthy of the Oval Office then remaining at her post and working like hell to get Alaska out of its doldrums would be the best course for her. Of course there is always the chance that she might have failed in the attempt which, in turn, would have cost her dearly in 2012 but those are the risks every politician must take if they are to achieve the Presidency. Every President from Washington to Obama took some awesome risks to become President: that’s the nature of the job.

As it stands right now, Palin did not do enough as governor to show that she is Presidential material. What probably hurt her chances of winning the White House the most was when Republican Senator Ted Stevens failed to win reelection last year after being convicted of corruption charges (his conviction was later overturned due to prosecutorial bungling). Had Stevens won reelection he probably would have been forced to resign his seat. Had this had happened Sarah Palin would have been obligated to select a replacement for Stevens and I have no doubt she would have chosen herself to fill that role. Had this had happened Palin could have improved her political stock immeasurably. As a Senator she would have been better placed to address national issues than as governor. She would have been the 41st Republican Senator and could have used her seat as a powerful tool to block or filibuster the Obama Administration’s costly programs. She could have rapidly emerged as a catalytic presence in the Senate and could have provided some badly needed energy into the G.O.P. minority ranks. By 2012 she would have come a long way towards achieving the badly needed political experience and maturity necessary to become President.

But it didn’t happen that way.

Sara Palin may feel that garnering headlines is equivalent to being Presidential but if that were true then Jesse Jackson would have been elected President in 1988. Fortunately for America that did not happen. Indeed the way she does make headlines is disturbing in some respects. She complained in her resignation speech about the intense media scrutiny on her and her family. All well and true but does she expect the media scrutiny ever to lessen if and when she does close in on the Presidency? Even more disturbing is her Nixonian tactic of labeling every gaffe or miscue she makes media lies and distortions. That inability to learn from her mistakes and rise above them is more about her wanting to have her cake and eat it too. Her complaints about how the media has pried into her family’s affairs are disingenuous as well. She has not hesitated to use her children as stage props for her political campaign. Their willingness to be used in that manner makes them fair game for the media. Interestingly the Obamas have done a much better job at guarding the privacy of their young children than Sarah Palin has with hers.

Sarah Palin will run for President in 2012 but whether she will win the office is another matter for another time and place. A good viable female conservative Republican candidate would go a long way towards restoring the G.O.P.’s political and ideological spirit.

Sarah Palin, right here, right now, is not that woman.