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Dread Week

Friday, November 9, 2012

My season of dread

Posted By on 11.09.12 at 08:56 AM

Bare trees--always a bad omen
  • Bare trees—always a bad omen
For a long time, autumn was my season of dread. Before I started getting treated for bipolar disorder—and for several years after I did—I sensed that something very bad would happen when the daylight hours started to condense and the average temperature started approaching freezing. This is when the depression would sneak up on me, when I'd find myself bereft of confidence and everything I did would feel pointless. The worst thing about these episodes is that I could never predict how they'd play out. Would I do something rash—adopt a belligerent, self-destructive attitude and start a pointless feud with someone close to me (or do something even stupider)? Or would I simply shut down, paralyzed by a sense of futility or else the fear of hurting myself, and spend several days in bed?

Even when I came to understand what my condition was, it took years of practice to prepare successfully for the lows. During this period I could recognize the coming spell but had no idea what to do about it. The feeling was similar to how Dostoevsky described the moments before an epileptic seizure. Everything I saw gained a certain heaviness I didn't notice otherwise—becoming towering, almost sublime. And yet I felt so detached from it all, like I was observing it through a telescope from another planet. In retrospect, I realize I was retreating away from what I knew myself to be. Depression is an insidious enemy; it knows to strip you of your better qualities so you're defenseless once it attacks. And simply knowing you're defenseless is not the same thing as defending yourself.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dread of what the oligarchs will try next

Posted By on 11.08.12 at 12:24 PM

Jane Byrne
  • Jane Byrne
During the winter of 1979, after Jane Byrne beat Daley-machine seat warmer Michael Bilandic to become mayor of Chicago, Mike Royko began his daily newspaper column like so:

"It was the most stunning upset in the long, wild history of Chicago politics and this column is about the single most important person involved in that incredible upset—the remarkable individual who made it happen.

"And who would that be?

"No, I'm not talking about some brilliant campaign manager, or media manipulator, or generous back-room financier, or any of the other political operatives who usually get top billing in day-after-election stories.

"And, no, it isn't about Jane Byrne, although little Ms. Sourpuss finally has something to smile about.

"This column is about you. That's right—YOU there, on the L train or bus, or in your kitchen reading this over morning coffee. You, at your punch press, or in your firehouse, or hospital cafeteria. You, behind the counter at the department store, or jockeying the cab or unloading that truck.

"You did it, you wild and crazy Chicagoans."

I thought of those lines when Barack Obama took the presidency four years ago and thought of them again on Tuesday, when he repeated the feat. (I'd have transcribed Royko's entire, gorgeous utterance into this post if I'd been able to find it; it's a disgrace to American culture that even the fragment given here is hard to dig up.)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sure and certain doom ahead for America

Posted By on 11.07.12 at 06:43 AM

Light one. It cant hurt.
  • Light one. It can't hurt.
The future could not look darker . . .

"An Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment—the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance—continues to recede." Charles Krauthammer

"The record shows Obama can be trusted to deliver more of the same ideological agenda that has kept too many people out of work and eroded the American dream." Steve Huntley

"Obama's fatal flaw is not just his policies (as bad as they are), but the fact that he isn't and never was cut out to be president. He's not up to it. He's the kid who got thrown into the pool without knowing how to swim. He lacks the experience, composure and certain qualities of leadership required of a president." —Dennis Byrne

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Escape to Canada?

Posted By on 11.06.12 at 06:54 AM

If our goose is cooked by the election, should we head north?
  • mikebaird
  • If our goose is cooked by the election, should we head north?
If Mitt Romney wins Tuesday, I'm hopping on a plane this week and splitting for Canada.

If Barack Obama wins, I'm still flying to Canada. I'm visiting a friend in Montreal, and the timing is coincidental.

I did consider a Canada escape once, but that was several decades ago. It was option number two, after conscientious objector—but then the draft ended and took me off the hook. I was happy about that, because Canada is cold.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

This week, we're writing about dread—guess why

Posted By on 11.05.12 at 08:09 AM

What this week feels like.
  • What this week feels like.
Welcome to Dread Week, this week's Variations on a Theme. Why dread? After all, the candidate you or we want could win this week—and that would be good, right? Well, not exactly.

Regardless of the outcome of this Tuesday's election, remember that either candidate has a daunting list of obstacles ahead. Here's a few: poverty, overcrowded prisons, a continued presence in Afghanistan, a mostly unregulated financial industry, an ominous potential crisis in the Middle East, possibly three new Supreme Court justices, increasing storms and climate-related catastrophes that may or may not be the product of global warming, and a housing crisis that's only now beginning to end. Oh, and there's too many people. That's just a start.

It's difficult to imagine anyone being able to properly deal with all of these problems. And even if the winning candidate has a good solution to any challenge on the horizon, he will have to usher it through filibusters and other assorted Capitol Hill chicanery from either party, not to mention a new-media machine that will continue to churn noise and pounce on any gaffe or miscue, especially when it can be packaged into a meme that generates a minuscule profit.

Democrat, Republican—who cares? Either way, we will face the next four years with the same fear and unease we bring to everything nowadays. Even after many of us embraced the last election with a sense of optimism rarely seen beforehand, four years later, we realize that some things change but most things stay the same. And if things didn't go exactly as we hoped, what should we expect from the next four years, especially when we embark on that journey without any of the rosy-hued conviction we had in 2008?

All this week, check back here to read about how Reader writers dread all manner of things. And in case you missed our remembrances of elections past, check out last week's Variations on a Theme.

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