The Store You Deserve

Saturday, November 26, 2016

For a long time, there was a thrift store in Durham called Thrift World. I don’t remember it when I was in school in the 80s, but I think it was around then. I know it was around in the late 90s when I moved back to the area.

It was on University Drive, and later it moved (I’m not sure when) to the Lakewood Shopping Center, until the air conditioning went out in the middle of summer and the landlord wouldn’t fix it and the store closed. That was the end of Thrift World.

It was a very big store, they had tons of stuff and they had good prices and you could usually find good stuff there. Many people loved Thrift World. But it was also kind of a crappy store — it felt not very clean and kind of run down.

Its (presumably un-ironic) slogan was, “The store you deserve.”

Some people I was friendly with in college enjoyed getting dressed up in crazy clothes when they would go out drinking. Thrift World was one of their favorite places to shop for party clothes.

I continued to be friendly with some of these people after college, when I lived in New Jersey and also when I was in DC, and they didn’t end their dress-up habits when they graduated from college. For a number of years afterwards (possibly continuing to the present day, I haven’t kept up with them so much lately) when they would get together for a party they would pull out the hats and dresses and Mardi Gras beads.

One of these friends worked on the Hill and lived across from Eastern Market during the time when I was living in the DC area.

I remember one winter in the 1994/1995/1996 range when my friend planned a party and told me to come and bring whoever I wanted. When I got to the party and saw that most of the people in the room were dressed in party attire that was not typical for your average Capitol Hill party, I called my friend Sue, who I had previously invited to the party, and who had hung out with these friends a fair amount, both in New Jersey and in DC, so she was used to this kind of behavior, but she was planning on bringing her boyfriend with her and he was not so much the kind of guy who would pull out a sari for the average Saturday night out. I figured I should warn them.

I said, “Okay just letting you know, they’re in costume. You might want to prepare Mike.”

She laughed. “Okay! Duly noted.”

Half an hour or so later, Sue and Mike get to the party and I’m standing on a sofa drinking a beer wearing this huge fake fur coat. Sue sees me and starts laughing. “Look at you!,” she says. “You look like a pimp!”

[Side story: At one point, my friend who worked on the Hill was complaining about how he felt like people didn’t take him seriously. I was telling Sue this and Sue said, “Wait, he doesn’t think people take him seriously? Here’s an idea. Maybe he should stop running around wearing a toga and a pith helmet. Maybe that would help.”]

I moved from DC to Durham in spring 1998. My 10-year college reunion was the following year, and instead of doing the official reunion activity on Saturday night I had a party at my apartment for my friends and whoever else wanted to come.

My dress-up friends came to the party, in full dress-up regalia.

I was complimenting one of them on his outfit and he told me they had gone to Thrift World for the new duds. He quoted the slogan: The store you deserve.

Then he said, “I always thought that was kind of harsh.”

That made me laugh, and forever after, whenever someone would mention Thrift World, the store you deserve, I would think of my friend’s comment.

After the recent election, that phrase came to mind.

I feel like we have ended up with the president we deserve.

We have a country where our leaders act as if the sole purpose of education is to enable people to get a job, as if there were no difference between a university and a trade school. Critical thinking skills? Who needs those.

We have an educational system that is very good for high achievers — our top performing students do as well as kids from any other country, we have the best university system in the world, students from everywhere want to come here to study — but that often leaves average or below average students behind (especially those with low incomes, who aren’t able to supplement their education with enriching extracurricular activities). This dynamic has contributed to income inequality — wealthy educated people (and their kids) do better and better while the less educated (and their kids) fall further and further behind.

We have more free time than ever, but what do with it? We watch movies and binge watch television shows. We watch sports (and bet on sports, and participate in fantasy sports leagues).  We spend hours on Facebook. We play World of Warcraft/Candy Crush/Angry Birds/Pokemon Go.

The average person spends more than 5 hours a day watching television. The highest paid, most envied people in our culture are celebrities. It’s what kids want to be when they grow up — they want to be famous.

Of course we’re going to vote for someone famous who says he’ll solve all of our problems the minute he gets into office over someone who outlines actual policies. Of course we prefer a celebrity to a politician. We don’t like politicians. We don’t trust the media, so we don’t believe what they say when they expose actual corruption (illegal payments to lawmakers, misuse of tax laws and the like) as opposed to false equivalence “corruption,” when media outlets need to report something on the other side, too, so they take things out of context and make legitimate things seem nefarious. We believe all kinds of conspiracy theories regardless of how nonsensical they are. A significant portion of Americans believe not that Hillary Clinton is a typical politician, or even that she is a corrupt politician, but that she is an actual murderer. They think she started with Vince Foster and just kept going.

So no, we don’t like politicians.

But we love celebrities, no matter what kinds of outrageous behavior they exhibit. In fact the more outrageous the better. Rich celebrities, especially. We love them.

And now we have one as our President.

(Who knew that the memorable commercial from decades past, “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV,” was our future politics.)

How will it turn out?

We’ll all just have to wait and see.

And watch. Very, very closely. Because We are the People, and We the People are the government. We the People created this American democracy and it is up to us, We the People, to keep it from running off the rails.

(I was also thinking recently about Wangari Maathai’s bus metaphor, what do you do when you are on the right bus but it is taken over by a bad bus driver.)

So everyone needs to do their job — stay alert, watch what is happening, contact your representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress to tell them your position on areas of concern to you — and everyone needs to remember that We are the People and democracy depends on us.

And that is your thought for this holiday weekend.

Vote Hillary Clinton for President

Friday, November 4, 2016

I was completely obsessed with the election until Wednesday when I realized that I was making myself crazy. No one knows what is going to happen, and no matter how many articles I read, or how much analysis I plow through on FiveThirtyEight.com, I will not get the answer I am looking for — no one can tell me for sure what kind of a world I am going to wake up to on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

No one can predict whether enough voters from the many groups Trump has offended (women, Muslims, Mexicans, former prisoners of war, people with disabilities … the list goes on and on) will come out to vote against him, or whether Hillary’s debate performances convinced enough people that regardless of what happened with the “damn emails,” as Bernie Sanders so memorably called them, she is a competent adult human who is eminently qualified to be President. (She has actual policies and can speak in complete sentences — all the time, not just for a few minutes.)

No one knows if young people who wanted a cranky old man to be their President will protest by voting for Gary Johnson (of “What is Aleppo?” fame) or Jill Stein. No one knows if Trump’s strategy of targeting groups who typically don’t vote will bring in millions of new voters who will turn the tide in his favor.

No one knows.

I read an op-ed in the New York Times that talked about how it’s not too late to do something, that people should make a plan for voting, they should talk about their plan with other people, they should talk about how they executed their plan after they voted. And they should not be afraid to talk politics. Because it matters.

Al Gore lost Florida in 2000 by 537 votes. Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election.

Every vote counts.

Most people I know here in North Carolina have already voted. We have several weeks of early voting, and it’s much more convenient than having to go on election day.

[Don’t tell me anything about the early voting results! I’m sticking my head in the sand until the election is over… la la la I can’t hear you.]

Except that my polling place is just down the street from my house and I like voting there. I thought about voting early, thinking that it might make me feel better and stop freaking out so much, but I haven’t yet. I think tomorrow is the last day. I might go tomorrow, but I’ll probably just go to my regular polling place on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. before I go to work.

That is my voting plan. There is no chance I will forget to vote on Tuesday.

I will be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. And you should too. Even if you don’t like her. Even if you don’t trust her. Even if you are a Republican.

Because in the words of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she is the only sane, competent person currently running for President.

I emailed a friend who has kids in their 20s. I’m worried about young people sitting out. I asked if her kids had voted, and if they were voting for Clinton. She said her daughter had, and her son was still working out his registration. She said her daughter told her that many of her friends said they weren’t going to vote.

My friend said she sat her daughter down for The Talk. She told her that that was lame. Just look at one issue, she said. Abortion: Trump has said he’ll pick Supreme Court nominees that will reverse Roe v. Wade. If you care about that at all, even if that’s the only thing you care about, you should vote for Clinton.

[And clearly Trump is playing up the Supreme Court issue because that he how he got Evangelicals to support him, because apparently abortion is the only thing that matters to them, serial adultery and complete lack of morals are just fine.]

This was my response:

No kidding. Pick any single issue you care about and Trump has some crazy-ass position on it.

I don’t care WHAT people think of her. It doesn’t matter. I know she’s not your first choice but come on people this is NOT a situation where it’s six of one half dozen of the other, they’re all corrupt politicians, what does it matter anyway. Trump is a crazy person, the only thing he’s done in his life is take money from other people and make himself rich. He has no attention span and can barely put together a coherent sentence. What in the world qualifies him to run the country? This is not an entry-level position!

Geez louise people.

And I’m going to add to that response here.

Trump probably doesn’t have just one crazy-ass position on the issue you care about, he might have two or three positions, all of them expressed in the same paragraph. He’ll just keep saying things so later he can pick the one he decides sounds best and say that that’s his position. He might have a position that is completely different from his vice president’s position. He might have two positions that completely contradict each other — like bringing back coal and promoting natural gas (two fuels that compete with each other in the same market) at the same time.

What?

And he hasn’t just taken other people’s money and gotten rich with it, he’s done it in completely legally and ethically dubious ways. But no one knows for sure because he won’t put out any information.

But one thing we do know for sure is that he thinks that it’s okay to grab women by the pussy. Because when you’re a star, they let you do it. And how do we know he thinks that? Because he said it. We heard him say it.

Do you want to live in a world where someone who brags about grabbing women by the pussy is in charge of the country? Do you?

Okay. Stopping now.

You get my point.

Vote. Your vote matters. Don’t sit out. Don’t vote for a third-party candidate who has no chance of winning.

Vote Hillary Clinton for President.