Third parties—surviving the wind damage

A year ago, the Significant Republican bought me a golden delicious apple tree for the back yard. For the past five years or so, he’s bought me a fruit tree on Mother’s Day. I enjoy driving by our old house just off Greenbrae Drive in Sparks and peeking over the fence at the large and leafy cherry and apple trees.

This year, we planted a nectarine tree about the right distance from the apple tree to some day accommodate a hammock. As we planted the tree, I saw the first fruit on my apple tree—11 emerging spheres.

I practically named each one. But as they grew, so did the danger to their existence. Tiny branches support the weight of ping pong balls but not tennis balls.

Lately I’ve been losing about one apple per wind storm.

Another apple fell during last night’s strong winds. I’d seen it coming as I watched the branches whipping around. I’d tried to think of some way to block the wind, but nothing came to mind.

Today there are six apples left. Hooray for survivors.

I’m working through a bit of despair over this year’s presidential election. This spring, of course, I was solidly with the Anybody but Bush crowd—and when that anybody turned out to be John Kerry, I signed on. Kerry’s not the candidate of my dreams, but he’s a solid guy.

It’s getting harder. In many respects, I’m there with David Cobb of the Green Party, who sees the Democrats and Republicans both as pro-corporate, pro-war parties.

Howard Knudsen, who heads up the Campus Libertarians, wrote me a note explaining why he can’t, in good conscience, vote for Kerry: “I understand and share your desire to see Bush kicked out of office, but I would prefer his replacement to be a small-government, anti-war Libertarian rather than a big-government, pro-war Democrat.”

So would I. But realistically?

A Kerry victory, predicts Knudsen, would harm the anti-war movement.

“Most liberals see fit to only complain about Republican wars,” he says. “If Kerry continues the Iraq war, which I’m sure he will, I fear liberals will rationalize and excuse his actions.”

Good point.

Besides the above, the campaigns of Bush and Kerry make me physically ill. And the media play right into the hands of this partisanship. It’s handy and safe for journalists—both TV and print—to bifurcate the cultural universe into simple either-or categories. Republicans/ Democrats. Red/blue. Editors instruct reporters to “get both sides.” Reporters interview advocates and critics, then produce “balanced” stories. Words are counted and sound bites timed so two views get equal play.

This despite the fact that few ideas, and even fewer humans, fit snugly into one of two categories. There aren’t two points of view but 6 billion, one for each human on the planet.

One day in teacher mode, I created a sculpture of household items for a freshman composition class—toys, kitchen gadgets, candles, coins. I instructed students to write a description. Each student, from his or her seat, saw the assemblage differently. Items were obscured and misread. To one student, a tin can placed in front of VHS tape looked like a camera.

Then I allowed students to move out of their chairs, to examine the items and ask questions. Discovery ensued.

Understanding increases when we abandon fixed perspectives. Yet we set up chairs and assign seats.

On the bright side, I’m thinking about a fresh tomato sandwich for lunch today. I planted a half-dozen tomato plants in an alcove near my kitchen door. They’ve been protected from the wind’s wildness, freed to make enough juicy, mouth-watering produce to satisfy my family until the first frost arrives.

May we who hope for something outside the two-party system all find such a shelter in this year’s political storm.