Power to the ducks

Sunday after listening to Tim Russert interview President Bush, I was filled with a renewed sense of urgency to get involved with the Presidential race this year, but felt frustrated as to how I could make a difference.

I do write about politics in this weblog, and I thought that perhaps I should focus more time and effort on the race, but I haven’t felt inclined to do this kind of writing. I’d rather just write about what catches my fancy, but then I feel guilt – I’m not doing enough for the cause. However, it seems to me that no matter what I write, or how often I write it, it really makes no difference. Perhaps if I were one of the more well known pundits like Glenn Reynolds or Atrios or Kos Calpundit it would make more of a difference.

Thinking that I went to Calpundit’s site on Sunday and I read his post on the LA Times article on Howard Dean, and the Internet Echo Chamber effect. Kevin pointed out quotes from the illumanti who were mentioned in the article, including Clay Shirky and Dave Winer and Doc Searls and others and I noticed that in his writing, and in the article, there wasn’t a mention of a woman.

Well, huh, I said to myself. I thought it strange that there wasn’t one woman mentioned in the article, considering that there has been several women actively involved in the Dean campaign in one way or other – women like Betsy DevineHalley Suitt, and Sheila Lennon.

It’s just this sort of thing that used to make me really angry in the past, but lately, I just don’t seem to have that same passion. Or at least, not it when it comes to what I read in weblogs. Still, I was feeling a bit peeved, and since the sun was out, decided to go for a walk and think about the situation before responding.

Most of my regular walks still had too much ice on the paths to safely traverse, especially when you’re still walking with a limp and are concerned about falling again. I decided to head to Tower Grove; I hadn’t been there for ages, and it usually attracts a lot of visitors – perhaps its walks were clearer.

When I got to Tower, the sidewalks were still too icy, but the area around the faux ruin and its lake was fairly clear so I walked around it, carrying my digital camera to get some shots because the late afternoon light was very pretty reflected on the snow and ice. The ‘lake’ is really nothing more than a clever pond, thick ice formed a bridge across the water every where except by where the water was disturbed by the fountain.

In this break in the ice, four ducks were swimming about, two mallards, and two ducks I couldn’t figure out their breed but one was dark gray and white, the other primarily white. I watched them for a bit, but then turned away to get a picture of the shadow of a tree across the ice, reaching between empty seats, reflecting the loneliness of the surroundings with just me, the four ducks, and an occasional squirrel.


As I was moving about, carefully, hands going red from the cold and nose running in what I’m sure was a most edifying manner, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye–the ducks had left the water and were climbing across the ice towards the bank, very near to where I was standing.

Well, three of the ducks were moving across the ice. The fourth one was still at the water’s edge, looking at me and looking at his friends and then back at me, sometimes making a hesitant move forward as if he would make a dash across the ice, but then holding back at the end.

I tried to stay very still to not alarm him further, and the other three ducks, now safely in the patch of the only bare ground in the entire area, were turned towards him, quaking like mad as if to say, “It’s alright George. Come on! She won’t hurt you!”

Finally, in a burst of inspiration, or hunger, George managed to find a solution to his quandry by flying over the ice rather than walking across it, thereby joining up with his friends without having to expose himself too much to the danger, which was me.

Unfortunately, landing on ice is not one of the easier things to do – at least it doesn’t look easy – and when George landed, he slid across the ice and ended up butt first in the bank rather abruptly and in, what I could tell, a very embarrased frame of mind. He shook his feathers out in a huff, stomped, not walked, up to his friends, and then turned around and glared at me.

I’d never been glared at by a duck before. I now have a whole new respect for this species of bird.

Leaving the group to their feast in peace, I carefully backed away and started walking across the ice crusted, snow filled lawn, enjoying the sound and the feel of breaking through the ice with my boots. I love to walk on snow, especially snow that’s not too deep. There’s something about putting one’s footprint where none has been before that leaves one feeling special somehow, even if the print will be gone in the next snowfall or melt.

I walked around until too cold to feel my fingers and headed home. I thought about writing my experience, but I wasn’t in a mood. Haven’t been in the mood to write about politics lately, either. It just doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’d rather just write about George and his friends. Or a new poem I found I decided to incorporate into my book:

HER even lines her steady temper show;
Neat as her dress, and polish’d as her brow;
Strong as her judgment, easy as her air;
Correct though free, and regular though fair:
And the same graces o’er her pen preside
That form her manners and her footsteps guide.

“On a Lady’s Writing”, a poem by Anna L’titia Barbauld first published in 1773

It was last night’s reading of Dave Roger’s most recent post discussing Joe Trippi’s appearance yesterday at the Digital Democracy Teach-In that insired me to write today. Trippi had said, There’s a reason Bush is vulnerable today. It’s because of the blogs.. As Dave writes:

One gathers Mr. Trippi and others like him would have us believe that somehow weblogs have made President Bush vulnerable. Apparently it’s not because of the loss of 2.2 million jobs during his term. It’s not because of Dr. David Kay’s revelations regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It’s not because of a half-trillion dollar deficit.

It’s because of the blogs. I couldn’t believe that Trippi would say something such as this, until I heard it myself in a recording . In it he talks in this vein for quite a long time, of how Dean’s campaign has revitalized the Democratic party and if Dean had never run for office, this wouldn’t have happened. He also talked about this new form of democracy and how the Internet is going to give democracy back to the people.

For some reason, this reminded me of my first protest demonstration, back when I was 15. Unlike most of my later ones, this one had to do with transporting spent nuclear fuel across Washington State, and a large group of us obtained permission to take our protest down the Express Lanes of I-5 in Seattle.

It was an astonishing experience – thousands and thousands of people, as far as the eye could see, all pulled together in common protest against a move decided by both the federal and state goverments in definance of the people’s wishes. I attended with the niece of one of the activists and he tried to get people to cross from the Express Lanes into the actual freeway to stop all traffic, but this crowd was a peaceful one. Besides – they made a much stronger statement by not crossing the freeway.

A strong enough statement to force a change.

That was a long time ago and the first of many political activities to come. I even worked on some campaigns, such as Senator Henry Jackson’s bid for the White House. Henry Jackson was an environmentalist before the term was popular, and a man I really liked. He didn’t win the Democratic nomination, but he still made a difference.

I didn’t always agree with him, but he was a good man. When or lose, he continued to work for the people.

Back to the here and now and Dean and this ‘new democracy’.

Dave Winer writes:

He did raise a lot of money on the Internet, and that’s interesting, for sure, and he taught us so much, and if he had gone all the way, I believe he would have survived the onslaught of CNN, ABC and NBC, who were his real competitors, not the other candidates for the Democratic nomination. Read that sentence again, please. That’s the core premise of this piece, and the point that all the analysis so far has missed. His challenge wasn’t to get the most votes, because that would inevitably follow, once he won the battle with the television networks, a battle which he failed to even show up for.

And from this we can only assume that Dave is saying that if Dean had stayed on the Internet instead of wasting money on commercials, he would have won.

David Weinberger writes:

I came away reinvigorated, with a sense that we’re going to be build an infrastructure that may de-boob the White House in 2004 and over the longer term could help revive a diverse, strong, democracy.

Jeff Jarvis wrote, in response to Trippi:

“This campaign was the first campaign really owned by the American people. Now we have to build a movement owned by them.”

Movements are, by definition, owned by the people.
These tools are not owned by one movement or one campaign. They will be used by anyone; that is their power.
I love what Dean created. But it’s not proprietary to any ideology. And I do have problems with the chronic anger, defensiveness, and hubris.

And I have a lot of problems with statements such as This campaign was the first campaign really owned by the American people.

I could go on and on, but the talk is the same and about the only person who really caught my attention was Joi Ito (who provided photos of the Teach-In) as quoted by Jeff Jarvis:

Joi notes that there have been a lot of white American males talking about blogs.


Joi says that when Americans want to spread democracy they mean putting it under American control. Unfair. In a more balanced audience, that would have gotten a loud moan.

A lot of white American men talking about blogs, and American democracy and American control. I wouldn’t have moaned – I would have applauded, and he would have probably been the only person I would have applauded. Would have given him a bit wet one, too.

All this fuss about the ‘new Democracy’ has got me thinking how Democracy has changed over the years. All the efforts of women to get the vote and blacks to get equality and protests for war and against war and all the changes that have resulted from a determined people coming together. I was reminded of the workers striking for decent conditions at the turn of the century, and the Chinese students run down by tanks, and the millions of people who protested wars and oppression even to today, and wonder what these people, many of whom died for their efforts, or had tubes shoved down their throats to force feed them, or who had lost loved ones, or been tortured, or now face a new form of McCarthyism – I wonder what they would think about claims being made that only now, and only in the Net and among weblogs is true democracy happening.

Rather than a Ghandi or a Martin Luther King, this year the hero of the revolution is the fired campaign manager of a failed campaign, and it makes me angry, the first time in a long, long while, I’ve been truly angry.

But out of that anger comes laughter, and why not? The two are next to each other on the emotional circle, and come from the same center in all of us.

I laugh because I think on what Joi said and how much of this new ‘revolution’ has been centered around white American males; and how we women, long used to it, can now sit back and enjoy watching how the men deal with being ignored.

I laugh because none of this really matters. Change comes from people, many people, walking the streets, and sometimes the streets are made of bytes, but most of the time the streets are made of concrete. The means doesn’t matter – it’s the passion that counts.

Democracy was not invented online, and there is no ‘new’ revolution – there’s only new methods of fighting the same one that’s been fought by countless people in the past. And if I want to write about George and his paranoia, I can – whether it be George the duck, or George the President. And it makes no difference in the great scheme of things that I’m doing the writing, and not Kevin Drum, or Glenn Reynolds, or Clay Shirky, or Dave Winer.

We’re all just ducks swimming in the same pond. Some may quake louder then others, have brighter feathers, and fly across the ice instead of walk, but ultimately we all just fly, float, fuck, eat, and shit – and do what we can to make sure our pond lasts a little while longer, our babies don’t get pecked by assholes, and try not to end up as someone’s dinner.

Quack. Quack.

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