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Interregnum means between reigns

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Interregnum means between reigns

What's going on? First a warning from the boss (RK) meant for those of us who do not, may not, understand SAT ire, with a helpful postscript (that means afterword) explaining that the misspellings are there on purpose. And then, every piece I read of the many from which to choose, seemed in the same vein. Impatient, frustrated, confused, admitting private dreams that do not fit the American Dream, the dream the pundits say may possibly be achievable again when Obama finally, actually, physically, occupies the White House. 

As a psychologist (one of my hats) I think this empty feeling, this feeling of being left hanging in space, is because we (the whole world) feel caught in this weird two and half months long interregnum -- that means between reigns -- between the election of a to-be president and the day he is actually sworn in. For almost two years we have gone through a roller coaster ride of polls, this one is ahead, then the other one, than another, no maybe that one is ahead again. One woman almost made it but could not compete with cool. At the very last moment another woman came on stage, who whipped up enthusiasm and all kinds of other strong feelings, but came too late to know what was going on. And all the while ever muddier mud slung from one camp to the other, with some really nasty moments that kept us getting out of our chairs. Finally, finally, the election is over, and it does not even require the Supreme Court to decide with one vote who is going to be IT for the next four or eight years. 

Now, full stop. Nothing. Dead in the water. As Mr. Obama said, there is only one president, and he is not it. The president, who is still president, is still doing what he has done for almost eight years. That's how we got into the messes we are in, why we are so desperate for change. Anything to get us moving forward again after eight years of getting deeper and deeper into impossible situations. 

Waiting is the hardest thing to do in an emergency -- and, boy, are we in an emergency! 

I see it as a peculiarity of Anglo-Saxon mind set: inability to learn from the past, but never throwing anything away. Take the language we share with those we fought two hundred plus years ago. I learned English in school, it was not the language we spoke at home, nor the language spoken in the schools I went to. One of my English teachers started her year with saying that English is the most difficult language in the world to speak, because there is no rational connection between how a word is pronounced and how it is spelled. Even now, I know the meaning of words that I have never heard spoken, and I cannot guess how to pronounce them. There are words that sound the same but their meaning must be guessed from the sentence in which they appear. Boar and bore, their and there, to, too and two. And other words that are spelled with the same series of letters but pronounced very differently by the addition of one consonant: tough, though. thought. Many European languages had (and have) "language reforms," where committees of learned people decide how words should be spelled so that spelling and pronunciation match (why is it pronounced but pronunciation?). The many modern languages that gained a written form in recent history usually have a close and logical connection between the written and spoken languages (yes, they are distinct). English is an old language, and has the peculiarity of carefully saving ancient spellings that no longer have much to do with how it is spoken now. 

The Anglo-Saxon judicial system is another example of never learning from, but always adding. Our laws are based on precedent. Each year a million new precedents are added. Becoming a lawyer is knowing where to find eighteenth and seventeenth century rulings that may still apply unless specifically cancelled.  American law must be made to fit within the Constitution, and the sitting Supreme Court is the final arbiter, It's all a matter of interpretation. Anglo-Saxons have become masters in interpretation. I now know that the Constitution, which seemed such a simple document when I first read it, can be interpreted to fit issues that seem religious to me, but not to others apparently. And our sitting president has demonstrated that even the Magna Carta, the ancient Constitution of Anglo-Saxon law -- the one thing that is not a precedent, but a very short list of "always musts,"-- even that has successfully been ignored. Perhaps only for a while, however.

Why this interregnum between election and assumption of power? I haven't found any reasons other than that it dates back to... a precedent, a ruling of many years ago that is slavishly hung onto, although today it is frustrating.

In this dead season -- I don't know where lame ducks come in -- there is no immediate tomorrow to look forward to, so I think back on the endless, endless running of many, and finally two, candidates. What was it all about? Everybody agreed it was about change and nobody explained clearly what, specifically, each candidate would change. Pork, one of them declared. Yes, but only 3% of the budget is pork, there must be more important issues. How about "gay marriage,"abortion, life begins at conception. What has government to do with religious issues? I always thought the Constitution, holier almost than the Bible, is very clear about separation of Church and State. (Another peculiarity of English is all those capital letters, second only to German). And then, both -- all -- candidates claiming that they are one of us, whoever the us is that is addressed. Joe the Plumber, or the Middle Class, or the six-pack hockey mom (one of the guys, in other words). And when it was all over, everybody smiled, wishing each other the best. After the slimy attacks the day before, that did not sound very clean. 

In America a win means a few percentage points, or, as in 2000, when one vote in the Supreme Court trumped a popular vote majority (I know, it's the system). The American people are severely divided about many issues important to some, irrelevant to others. The less educated working class is staunchly Republican although the last eight years should have made abundantly clear that Republicans care for the bosses and almost not at all for the workers. I finally learned that is not what voting is about. It's about values, abortion and gay marriage as moral issues. Poor, less educated, Americans vote the Bible, or at least how their pastors interpret the Bible. Rich Americans vote Republican because, obviously, they are beneficiaries. Or, another split, the two coasts vote Democratic, the middle votes Republican. Maybe America really is a melting pot, not just of so-called races, but of beliefs, customs, ideas, fears and hopes. And we all seem to desperately want change, but equally obvious, our ideas of change vary enormously. 

Welcome, Mr president-to-be who promised to bridge the chasms.

In the midst of the noise and commotion the Media provide (yes, media is plural), it is easy to forget that this drama -- and that is what it is -- plays against the background of a world that is rapidly shifting east -- beyond Middle to Far East --, and a planet that finally is talking back at a thoughtless, ruthless species that is out to conquer it. Politics trumps sustainability. Politics trumps almost anything, except the Media. Makes no sense whatsoever. But somehow, maybe, it has to do with the Anglo-Saxon way of not learning from history, while preserving every little tidbit. Add yesterday to all previous precedents. That way we cannot learn not to make the same mistakes over and over again, because history is not a lesson to be learned, but a precedent. Bad laws are as much precedent as good laws. Bad years are not any more instructive than good years. That allows many more wars of choice, yet other, new, (old) ways to make money. We are in a severe financial crisis, credit crunch? My spam (my computer calls it junk) folder is overflowing with offers of loans, mortgages, investments... There's no law against purposefully ripping off ignorant people. Precedent. Everybody does it... 

That probably is number one on my wish list for change: a strong law protecting ignorant people from being taken advantage of .. there is a better word for it, but it is not nice -- psst: the F word, made a verb.

The second item on my list would be banning "nice." Lies are outlawed, even packaged in pink lace.

Have no fear, Obama is here. Or, will be, in seven weeks and a few days. In the meantime: waiting is.
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robert wolff lives on the Big Island, called Hawai'i
his website is wildwolff.com

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It is nice to see your essay. I have to say, your ... by John Bardi on Sunday, Nov 30, 2008 at 11:18:33 AM
It s always good to hear that someone "got it... by robert wolff on Sunday, Nov 30, 2008 at 12:06:10 PM