Kage Baker detested politics.
She regarded as one of the most unpleasant duties of adulthood, the necessity of becoming familiar with political trends, tendencies and psychopathies. And yet, it had to be done, because otherwise one could not vote responsibly: which was part of the price for living in the (relative) freedom of the United States of America.
As a woman, an unmarried woman, an unmarried woman supporting herself, an unmarried woman supporting herself and being of Native American descent (even though it didn’t show), Kage was acutely aware of her moral debt to all the women and freedom fighters who had come before her. She felt she owed it to them to be informed, to vote, to fight villainy and try to pass on freedom to the next generation.
(Kage never made a big deal about being 1/4 Native American. Living here in California, she felt it would have been tacky to claim tribal status with a tribe on the East Coast – one with lots of members, who needed tribal resources more than she did. And in California, even if you claimed status with a Northeastern Woods tribe (like the Iroquois) you know what you got, in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s? Free access to silver and turquoise jewelry making supplies. Which are not exactly relevant. So she told the weird story of California state-sponsored cultural sensitivity whenever the occasion arose, and forged ahead on her own. It was, she felt, the responsible thing to do.)
Even though she hated politics.
Kage stopped reading newspapers, as she got older. She stopped watching the news, unless something locally interesting happened. You know, a puma in the Dunes, a bear strolling into the 7-11, a surfer catching a shark by hand off the Pier … when elections came around, she carefully read all the pertinent brochures and position papers, and checked with the larger newspapers – the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post.
Watching disasters upset her, so she did not watch those – unless there was a local brush fire, and then it became common sense to keep aware of the fire line. (It got close a few times, too.) She did watch car chases, with a guilty fascination, because she couldn’t believe people actually thought they’d get away. And also because, in car-culture California, when a local car chase is on – it’s all you get on the news. The news outlets are addicted to those things.
So Kage trod a delicate line between being informed enough to vote, at least a little aware of the world’s status, and yet not so deep in dreck that she drowned in despair. One of the things she loved about the Internet was that it was easier to completely avoid seeing news if you really didn’t want to see it.
I kept up in more detail; as with her fan letters and reviews, I supplied Kage with careful translations and analyses when she wanted some. But I’ve been repeatedly glad, these last 6 years in Los Angeles, that she doesn’t have to watch the Highway to Hell we all seem to be taking.
The current Presidential campaign would have had her applying for a passport – something she said she would never do, because she couldn’t imagine wanting to leave the country of her birth. The prospect of a Trump or Cruz Presidency, though, would have driven her out like the fairies from England.
Kage was devastated when the Twin Towers fell, like much of America. The wars that followed did not reassure her – like much of America. The rise of Islamic terrorists would not have surprised her – she was an historian – but it would have filled her with black sorrow.
Mind you, good things happen too. She’d have been delighted to see our relationship with Cuba normalizing, for instance. But yestreday, as Presidents Obama and Castro took unprecedented steps toward peace and communication – Brussells was bombed. They’re still identifying pieces of Parisians, and now Belgium is smoking.
I’m glad she isn’t seeing any of this. I wish I wasn’t. But, there you are – it’s something adults have to do. To keep my own sanity, I’m going to go do research for awhile, and see what animals and plants and treasures have been saved from humanity recently. I’m going to write about Mars rising from the ashes, and squirrels curing disease; and maybe – because the news is bad and ideas do come from everywhere – about whether evolution has decided to get rid of our meddling monkey selves by engineering a way to make sure our kids are born as Homo erectus …*
At the moment, that doesn’t seem like an entirely bad idea.
*Take a look at a child born with Zika Syndrome. Happy, healthy, cute little Homo erectuses.
Just imagine the zany hijinks that will ensue if the Trumps are in the White House. The First Lady presiding over state dinners wearing little more than a few strategically placed sequins, the chinless Trump sons guffawing and giving each other head noogies, the Donald seated on a solid gold throne! Or picture a Cruz presidency, if you dare.
It’s like The Lady and the Tiger, deciding which is worse.
The White House has seen plenty of vulgarity in its time – I think even Trump cannot do more to it than some of the previous inhabitants have. Andrew Jackson comes to mind … what I’m worried about are the secret (and not so secret) police, the armed militias, the outraged foreign radicals bombing us and feeling justified even more about it … the moral necessity of becoming a rebel. And at my time of life, too!
I’m fond of Old Hickory. I shouldn’t be, seeing as one of my great-grandmothers was Native American, but he was such a badass. Fighting the British with a band of pirates and assorted riff-raff (unnecessarily, it turned out, since the war was over, but still awesome!) Fighting duels! Just generally being an irascible dude who liked to fight.
BTW, JFK spent a lot of time in the White House getting frisky with the ladies, and being jacked up on speed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We’ve had some doozies as POTUS, that’s for sure. Not quite in the Crazy Roman Emperor Class, but close.