Monday, January 7, 2008

A Green Party Candidate: My Own Presidential Debate

While most of you are complaining about a too-quick
December holiday season, I’m still trying to figure out where November went.
These days my life seems to be dictated by the non-shaded boxes of our district calendar and the consistent demands of a daytime job and late night laundry.
Lately I’ve been feeling a bit guilty for paying little (or no) attention to political newsbytes which might help clarify the murky waters of our upcoming presidential election.
From the very first day that I turned the tender, yet voteable age
of 18, I have been haunted by the notion that my own little selection at the polls could tip the scales in the wrong direction; hence leaving our country in the hands of one incapable, albeit charming pretender—a tragedy I can almost equate with leaving my own beloved family in the hands of one skinny, inexperienced, unmotivated cook.
This is serious stuff.

Recently, while browsing my favorite wholesale club (in my favorite department which houses all manners of refrigerated noshables),
I happened upon a huge wheel of double-crème brie.
The temptation to make such a spendy purchase was quelled only by the facts that the brand name would haunt me (President), and the size of the wheel would likely last long enough to see our next presidential inauguration.
My greatest fear being that in a side by side comparison,
(my President brie to our new president), my cheese would likely possess more maturity and character (in this case, in the form of mold), than our fearless new leader.
At the risk of making a hasty decision, I headed to the book department where I hoped to brie-tox, and return to my original, sensible plan to follow my efficiently prepared shopping list.

I sorted through a random assortment of cookbooks and took a few moments to savor the delicious photographs in one particular book dedicated to seasonal pasta dishes. As I reluctantly returned the book to its rightful stack, I noticed a brightly colored collection of Dr. Seuss books.
I was surprised that this familiar collection was stacked amongst a collection of books for adult readers, and not placed appropriately with the other children’s books.
Quirky titles like If I Ran the Circus, Hop on Pop, and Horton Hears a Who, were nestled between current titles like Charlie Wilson’s War and YOU—The Owners Manual.
I wondered if this misplacement was mere happenstance or perhaps intentionally and strategically orchestrated by the same genius who not so long ago, reminded us that all we ever really needed to know we had already learned in Kindergarten.
An interesting thought occurred to me:
What if this same principle could be applied to choosing a presidential candidate? What if all I ever really needed to know to successfully perform my patriotic duty was scripted in rhyme by a clever man known to most of us as Dr. Seuss?
Surely this pattern of thought was proof that I had finally lost it.
In a state of guilt-ridden, hunger-induced delirium, it was time to face the cold, hard truth that I was in fact, apathetic.
There, I said it;
Apathy, that dreaded condition best left to describe the ignorant
and indecisive among us.
For there, hidden among harried shoppers in the book department of wholesale heaven, stood one desperate, ill-informed American who was, and always had been reluctant to cast her meager, yet admittedly essential vote (me).
Now that the proverbial cat was finally out of the bag
(or more appropriately, the hat), where was I to go from here?

It was then and there that I decided to put an end to the madness.
If a true climate of change was upon us, and our front-running candidates were willing to stand by their promises for said change
(or not), then surely I could make the commitment to change for the sake of our great country, couldn’t I?
But the dilemma of choice still haunted me.
Like that great wheel of President brie, what I wanted had little to do with what was right or what was practical (truth be told, I really wanted Oprah to be President so her Favorite Things Day could become a national holiday, complete with fringe benefits).
These forces of opposition, want versus need, would continue to
rear their ugly heads as I struggled to choose a leader from our
not-so-stellar lot of candidates.

I pulled the stack of Seuss books closer to me and as I sentimentally flipped through each colorful, rhyming tome, I allowed myself to daydream the possibility of creating my own candidate for presidency.
As I read along to What If I Ran the Circus, I imagined its title to be What if I Ran the Country, and for one fleeting moment, Dr. Seuss himself, seemed like the perfect fit.
But the sad (yet true) fact that he was deceased left one
Theodor Seuss Geisel an unlikely candidate for the
White House in '09.

And speaking of The White House, I don’t doubt that if he had the opportunity to lead our great country, he would have wasted no time in choosing a new, happier color (or several colors) for his drab, albeit tremendous, new home.
I imagine that he would have approached politics in the same simple fashion he approached his notable literary works.
I’d like to think that his sometimes fantastical, yet always accurate view that we living creatures are basically a good-natured bunch, would have moved mountains for the sake of world peace.
Although most adults (especially those who have children or at some point, were children themselves) are familiar with his work, many remain unaware that Dr. Seuss actually wrote for mature readers as well as children.
Many of his books fall under the umbrella of “character education,” as he artfully addresses important individual and societal issues through his usual cast of creatures, both real and imagined
(and I can’t t think of one adult who couldn’t use a little
character education
).

For example, The Lorax, although not his most popular, was
decades ahead of its time, as it addresses the issue of environmental corruption due to industrial pollution in a fictitious land of
truffula trees.
To this day, it speaks to the importance of caring for ones planet for the sake of protecting both our present and future environments.

One of my favorite Seuss books called Horton Hears a Who, features Horton, an elephant, who encounters a tiny race of creatures and magnanimously protects them.
The story emphasizes appreciation of cultural differences and the importance of standing up for those who are perhaps, smaller, weaker and less able to stand up for themselves.
The author's lessons are timeless and so brilliantly written that they are easily understood by both young and old.

Additionally, I can only imagine the simplicity with which he might have penned laws, by-laws and amendments.
Had Dr. Seuss really become president, dare I suggest that we few apathetic Americans might have been encouraged to pay closer attention and perhaps even take interest, for the simple fact that we might have actually understood political jargon for a change?
And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good rhyme?

As I quietly read each whimsical line, enchanted by its silliness and acutely aware of its greater meaning, I decided that one would hardly have to twist my arm to convince me to vote for him if he were in fact, a viable candidate.
Imagine what fun it would be to read or hear his daily briefings from the Oval Office (and I would imagine he might have named his other offices appropriately by shape and/or color, once he was settled in his new digs).

Furthermore, I can only imagine what his campaign slogans might have offered;

Would you vote for a lamb?
Would you vote for a goat?
You must, You MUST
Get out and vote!

It matters how your vote is spent
Especially if you live under a circus tent
Why then, a monkey might make a grand President!

But you live in the U--S--A
And your vote counts on Election Day
So forget the elephant, and forget the donkey
And definitely DO NOT vote for a monkey!

Don’t vote for a duck
Don’t vote for a moose
Be smart and vote for Dr. Seuss!


(Or maybe something like that)

But alas, Dr. Seuss has left our fine planet for grander pastures and that leaves him a not-so viable candidate for office.
Thankfully, we can still benefit from his brilliantly penned, fantastical and fictitious (yet fundamentally sound) tales.

With time seemingly standing still, I finally reached the bottom of the Seussical stack and pulled out a book with a familiar, yet intimidating character. Admittedly, he was one I loved to hate as a child,
The Grinch.
As I turned the pages, I recalled that feeling of fearful anticipation, as the made-for-television production of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas would break for commercials (obviously, before the corruption of TiVo). It was always at a critical juncture in the story’s plot, when the viewer was left to wonder what would become of the gentle residents of Whoville, at the hands of the sinister, greedy Grinch (to this very day, I cannot recall a show whose last five minutes left me with more satisfaction, peacefulness, or pride
than this one).
I grew to love the Grinch, as much for his triumphs as his foibles.
As he made his transformation from an angry societal outcast to a rehabilitated and morally upright (yet green and hairy) creature, I cheered as he realized the importance of forgiveness, kindness and generosity.
(To this day, I don’t doubt that Greenpeace was the brainchild of one impressionable kid who witnessed the climate change in Whoville and made it his own).

As I pondered the impact of this familiar story and the underlying issues of materialism, the importance of good will, and the true meaning of holidays it so cleverly addresses, I realized that we Americans could learn a thing or two from the green guy.
In all his sinister fallibility, he fought the demons of commercialism and the unfairness of childhood prejudice, and emerged a true hero; one who gained the trust and respect of an open-minded community, willing to give his promise for change a legitimate chance.
Not too shabby for a misunderstood, hairy, green bully.

I forced myself away from the book department and headed back to the dairy aisle, rejuvenated by a less-is-more mentality, thanks to CindyLou Who and her neighbors. I refused to purchase that glorious wheel of brie until I could legitimately account for its purpose.
Forcing impulse aside, I filled my cart with only the food items on my list and made my way to the excruciatingly long checkout line.

As I waited on line, I perused magazines and tabloids from the display racks strategically placed to tempt the impulsive, the bored, and the sugar-addicted (in this case, all three applied to me).
A pattern seemed to emerge from each front page cover, leaving little room for the usual reporting on celebrity shenanigans.
It seemed that in clever, timely fashion, each cover highlighted the flaws, foibles and faux-pas of our current presidential candidates. From suspect behaviors to seemingly inarguable infidelities, there didn’t seem to be a squeaky clean duck left in the bunch.

Ironically (or not), that hardcover edition of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas stared at me from atop the twenty-four pack of toilet tissue in my cart. I couldn’t rationalize purchasing the book any more than I could rationalize purchasing that giant wheel of brie.
As I placed it alongside the pathetic yet entertaining assortment of tabloids, I realized that the Grinch himself was looking like the most noble (albeit green) candidate among present company.
In light of the fact that all of our candidates are flawed, I would find it reassuring to know that at least one is truly capable of change.
If only the Grinch were running for president,
I would be off the hook for another four years (at least) and I could concentrate on the importance of local, seasonal produce and its relationship to countless varieties of pasta (obviously, a subject of critical matter).
But such was not the case.
And it’s sad really, because the Grinch would have made
a fine president.
At fifty-three, he already had valuable life lessons under his belt. Although his past was a bit sketchy, one could not deny his successful rehabilitation.
He overcame childhood prejudice and beat the odds against his rare condition (being born with a heart two sizes too small).
He proved that he could be a team player and would act quickly and effectively in a crisis situation (think overloaded sleigh teetering on mountaintop). With Max steadfastly by his side, one wouldn’t have to guess the identity of his running mate (could there be one more loyal or capable than Max?).
The Grinch righted the wrongs of his past and made it his mission to give back (this would likely come in handy for those of us paying
too-high property taxes
).
And let us not forget his ability to feed the masses with limited resources (he managed to feed the entire village of Whoville as he
so dexterously carved one single roast beast
).
The simple fact remains that this great country of ours needs a guy (or gal) who, when push comes to shove, will ultimately do the right thing; one who acknowledges conscience in a time of conflict.
But alas, our country’s fate rests in the hands of a different, less green species (although I would have to argue that the Grinch seems more human than some people I know).

So, in the spirit of honoring my covenant, I am committed to taking my role as an American voter more seriously.
Change is rarely, if ever without cost, and I don’t expect this will be an easy change to make.
Truth be told, my ignorance really is bliss.
Talk to me about food, and I get it.
Talk politics to me, and well, you might as well be speaking Greek
(of course, if you use words like moussaka and baklava, I’ll totally get it).

I can’t erase the poor choices of my disinterested past, but like the Grinch, I am committed to the promise of a better me; one who is more compassionate, more generous and hopefully, more informed.
In my quest to sort through the propaganda to uncover the best leader for our great country, I will keep in mind the importance of character and the qualities which are essential to great leadership.
Should I fall short in my ability to make a well-informed choice, I will seek assistance from those who are more capable.
Perhaps they will be willing to translate Greek for me over
coffee and some homemade baklava.

It is unfortunate though that the Grinch isn’t an option
for American voters.
We’ve never had a green president.
And often times, change is good.


Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


--Michelle


P.S. That pasta book with the delicious photographs is called
Four Seasons Pasta by Janet Fletcher and is definitely worth a
look-see by anyone who loves a good noodle.

3 comments:

SANDRA said...

DON'T BE A DOTE!
GET OUT AND VOTE!
DR. SEUSS WOULD
THE GRINCH WOULD
YOU SHOULD VOTE TOO!!

BLUE CHEESE
BRIE CHEESE
WHO NEEDS CHEESE?
I KNOW, I KNOW (YOU DO) BUT...
YOUR THIGHS MUST BE PLEASED
THAT YOU DIDN'T BUY THAT CHEESE!!
SERIOUSLY
YOU MUST, YOU MUST
GET OUT AND VOTE!!

Michelle said...

Oh Sandra...

Should my thighs be displeased
By a sad lack of CHEESE
I fear that dreaded withdrawl

Now, if a cheese course
were contrived
For each voter, as she arrived
I dare say I'd answer the call!

Michelle said...

And Furthermore...

Once said cheese dissipated
From the course that was plated
At last, I'd be forced
To choose a new leader

Whether female or fella
The one offering free MOZZARELLA
Would win a vote from
This thankful cheese-eater!