Thursday, August 18, 2005

Temperature's rising, polls are falling...

Let’s face it. If you live anywhere near Toronto (or, as in my case, right smack dab in the freaking centre of it) this has been an absolutely appalling summer. Stifling, enervating, oppressive – it must be like being kidnapped and wrapped in a hot, wet, smelly brown blanket before being stuffed in an airless car trunk.
Except for the car trunk (my personal prison has been a non air-conditioned bedroom with only the slow, sluggish movement of an ancient, enfeebled ceiling fan to stir the air at all) I’d say the experience was pretty much the same.
Especially the held against my will part.
The fact that we’ve had a break from the humidity today reminds me of nothing so much as a sunny day in Seattle.
I heard a statistic once (and I’m hoping the mere mention of the extremely official sounding word ‘statistic’ is enough to substitute for actually research) that more people commit suicide on the sunny days than on rainy days in Seattle.
The reason?
Why, a sunny day simply raises once again (if only for a brief shining moment) all the dashed hopes and dreams that life might get better, that it might look different, or change; the suicide knows it won’t – counting the hours until the sky turns overcast and the rain begins to fall – and can hardly bear the odious comparison.
That’s us here in Toronto – a break in the heat, a cool breeze, a chance to breathe without the ever present suffocating brown blanket of air is just a cruel joke: any minute now the barometer will swing back into the groove it’s been relentlessly carving since the end of June and we will once again be suffering the tortures of the damned and returning to – as rumor has it – the Holiday in Hell now predicted to last until at least October.
Vacation you say? A getaway to cooler climes? Ha. Freelancers don’t take vacations – we eke out little snippets of time off between assignments. One project finishes, and as you search for the next you might take a day here and there, sleep in a little later, or skive off to a matinee – my personal favourite – until the next opportunity comes along.
The optimal situation is when a project is all planned and in the works and the time between where you are (or when you are) and it’s beginning is too short to do something else, but just long enough to sneak off to a borrowed cottage, mosey on out to visit the folks, or in the best, best case scenario, hop a plane to a Caribbean or Mediterranean location for some serious funny hat/sunburn salve activity.
For myself it’s been more matinee-mode of late, as nothing doable money-wise has materialized since June and the guilt of leaving even for a four day weekend (no properly work ethic raised gal would dream of rewarding non-rewarded non-work) has kept me chained to the computer, checking Media Job Search Canada, Jeff Gaulin, Mastheadonline and Marketing Mag with the same diligence I once applied to The Superficial, Defamer, Page Six and The Awful Truth. A couple of nibbles, but nothing to chow down on so far – and so it goes.
I sort of think of the President of the United States as the Freelancer in Chief, or better, the First Freelancer; with one or (tops) two, four year contracts for the short-term position of Leader of the Free World – secure once voted in, but limited all the same. And in that spirit, I think all freelancers should offer a respectful salute – a tip of the hat – to one of the most talented skivers our profession has ever seen rise from within the ranks; the man whose inspired gift for punching in late and clocking off early is becoming the stuff of legend.
As Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker reported August 2nd in The Washington Post, Bush has easily surpassed his father (a formerly formidable presidential-holiday-taking opponent) and is just days away (with still a couple of holiday weeks to go, mind,) from leaving current record holder Ronald Reagan in the figurative dust. The (literally dusty… and ashy) Great Communicator’s own vacay stats come in at an astounding 335 days off over a period of 8 years.
By the time Bush slaps those numbers down, he (and we) will still have 3 and a half more years to go on his current project. There’s little doubt he’ll be able to claim at least a full year off amongst his eight. The mind literally reels at the notion of a wartime president so easy and comfortable with ensuring his continued happy and rested sanguinity.
(Jon Stewart pointed out recently in a compare and contrast couple of photos how much better in fact the president looks now than when he actually began. In stark comparison, Clinton had the good taste to become more white-haired, drawn and wrinkly, his stress related red-nosed rosacia at critical mass by the time he left office, and even Reagan allowed a few strands of grey to populate his pumpkin near the end. But Bush looks like nothing so much as the social director on a western-themed Carnival cruise – browned and cheerful and always up for a game of horseshoes, a bike ride or a spot of enthusiastic brush clearing before lunch.
(Hoary though the analogy may be, one cannot help but look forward to what a future White House attic excavation will reveal in the way of Dorian Grey style portraiture of one of its former residents…)
Not that the Chief Executive/First freelancer doesn’t deserve a little r n' r – and not to suggest that many White House duties don’t simply shift to the Crawford Texas ranch location, where the President is regularly briefed and even shows up at occasional ditch-side press conferences, (likely more than he holds when in Washington, the Oval Office just steps away from his own personal Presidential Podium) passing comment on the news of the day, grimacing at the inevitable numbers of American lives lost in Iraq, the ongoing struggle for democracy and so on and so forth. Too busy though with barbecues and fishing trips and cross country mountain biking jaunts with Lance Armstrong to go further down the road to where another ditch-side dweller has been trying for the past 2 weeks to have a personal word with the President about her own dead American; a son killed in the war recently re-christened the ‘Struggle Against Global Extremism’.
(N.B.: no matter the fancy names you tart it up with, you don’t have to be a suicide in Seattle to recognize a truth that doesn’t change.)
Close (geographically) as the President is to Cindy Sheehan, the mother of one of the nation’s distressingly regular military sacrifices, Bush has announced he will not meet with her; that though he “feels her pain”, he also feels he must “get on with his life” – a reply so breathtakingly, obliviously self-serving that one just has to marvel again at the elevated-to-an-art-form brand of remote indifference that has typified so much of his presidency.
The mother though – the mother refuses to pack in her protest, gaining attention, and, as at a recent nationally organized vigil in support of her desire to get answers to questions surrounding the legitimacy of the war into which she delivered her late son, maybe as many as 100,000 adherents to her cause.
Mrs. Sheehan has become the flashpoint for a citizen’s anti-war movement, until now too sloppy and sketchily conceived to provide much of a voice. But now with the support of – the Michael Moore sponsored anti-Bush political action web site – a citizen with a righteous pedigree (born at the soldier’s death of son Casey) has been able to transform a shaky band of protesters into a united group with a legitimate figure to coalesce behind.
Bush the man may be quietly ignoring her presence, but Bush the president has fallen back on some traditional methods, involving some key thugs to send his real message; the conservative ‘Move America Forward’ group is organizing Bush support in the form of a “You Don’t Speak For Me Cindy!” protest scheduled to head out soon from San Francisco, culminating in a drum roll conclusion at a rally out front of the Presidential compound in Crawford.
(Shades of the Swift Boat Veterans who went on the attack against Democratic hopeful and war hero Senator John Kerry with a slick and cynical well-crafted vengeance during the election... )
The President needs support to protect him from a grieving mother?
The fact that a number of mothers of dead soldiers are throwing their weight behind continued support of the war in Iraq conjures a number of sickly sadistic images – just picture the inevitable confrontation in Crawford: placard-carrying mothers of the glorious dead from both sides of the issue attacking each other on the side of the road outside the President’s ranch. Screaming, spitting, breast beating and t-shirt rending?
Stomach churning enough for you?
The President and his advisors may have made a tactical error, underestimating the power of legitimate protest and the disgust many may feel for a strategy designed and executed not to oust a worthy competitor, but to shut up a grief-stricken parent.
‘Move America Forward’ has already begun a whisper campaign, branding Mrs. Sheehan as everything from a lunatic co-opted by the liberals, to a vampire exploiting her son’s death purely for the attention and political points. (‘War Mother’s Syndrome by proxy’?)
Rove may have fatally misfired this time.
Far from being the five week (five! week!) vacation in paradise Bush had planned, the temperature may soon be rising somewhere more reminiscent of a toasty Toronto-style Holiday in Hell.
Could something actually change? Could this creepy miscalculation, when added to the America’s steadily decreasing support for the President and the war finally get through to the man himself?
Could the heat wave finally end?
Hey! I’m starting to feel better already.

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