I believe the axiom that we must confess our fears in order to vanquish them, even though it smacks of self help. The confession however should be in a personal and not a professional venue and this is where Juan Williams gets it staggeringly wrong. Hate and fear have a symbiotic relationship and William’s ill considered revelation, in the context of his position as a respected journalist, could be construed as a defense and justification of our own hatred. I know that Himself will leave a biting comment with regard for my defense of NPR, which to me is sort of a bland wishy-washy lesser of evil evils. I will further antagonize my beloved by quoting NPR’s response to criticisms that the firing seems harsh for what might have been a single lapse.
In a statement released at 12:27 a.m. Thursday, NPR said Williams' remarks “were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”
This was far from an isolated incident.
Williams’ appearances on Fox News, especially O’Reilly’s show, have caused heartburn repeatedly for NPR over the last few years. Management said he’s been warned several times that O’Reilly is a professional provocateur and to be careful.
In early 2009, Williams said on O'Reilly of Michelle Obama: "She's got this Stokely Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going. If she starts talking . . . her instinct is to start with this blame America, you know, I'm the victim. If that stuff starts to coming out, people will go bananas and she'll go from being the new Jackie O. to being something of an albatross."
I am the mother of a registered voter who would rather have his braces tightened than endure any of the news on NPR or any discussion of politics. My son is eighteen years old this week and I keep telling him what a privilege it is to vote in democratic elections. I first voted in 1975. There was a bad recession, but in my second year of college, I didn’t doubt that there would be something for me when I graduated with some pretty whopping student loans. His father and I bring him the registration form which he fills out because we stick it under his nose. I am disappointed by the kid’s indifference but I can see that he has less to be sanguine about than I did and why he feels that an election will not make one bit of difference. Although I suspect a bit too if I were the apathetic non-voter type he’d be first in line at the polling place.
I receive a text message from him at school indicating that the bread on the sandwich, which was perfectly fine the night before, is moldy. I text him back and tell him to eat the filling and ask him how he managed to get a flat on the tires I purchased for his car two weeks ago. I can’t do a thing about the sandwich and he can’t do anything about the tire but we opt for the satisfaction at least of venting our annoyance.
Our usual moderate amount of friction is ratcheted up a bit lately, as in addition to the pressures of his last year of high school and an enormously demanding role in an upcoming theatre production, he has wised up about the driving thing. It is true for me that despite a few fender benders, my first months of driving were a big thrill. I waxed on about exhilarating freedom incessantly as my boy attempted to get his license but after driving now for a couple of months he realizes that he’s been set up. Driving isn’t fun like it was when I was a kid. He had it way better as a passenger and not only does he have to self propel, he has been designated to chauffer his brother and even run errands. Although I still handle the thought of him actually behind the wheel better with a few shots of liquor in me, I persist in sending him off and about. He notes bitterly how much more time this affords me to spend lolling on the couch. This proves that laziness outranks terror in momus operendi.
I spend weeks fruitlessly trying to solve the radio problem in the kid’s car. For his birthday I buy a third used Volvo radio. It is from Ebay and comes with the elusive and problematic antitheft code. The boys at work crawl in the trunk trying to figure out the wiring but after several hours I call them off. They do point out that a tire is flat.
I head over to Costco to deal with the bum tire. It is amazing how the same salesman changes in countenance from when one is purchasing tires and when one is requesting a warranty repair. The wait is 2 hours. I eat a veggie burger at the execrable chain restaurant Mimi’s and linger working a crossword puzzle on my phone until the waitstaff begins to give me the evil eye. I browse at Best Buy where there is nothing I want or need. Although I was there last week, I cruise the aisles at Costco to kill additional time telling myself that free food samples have no calories and scarfing them down until I am queasy.
The tire is replaced and I stop at a car radio installer to see if they have better luck with the radio. When it’s time to pick up the car, all of my coworkers are gone for the day so Rover and I walk in the rain back to the car. Rover does not like rain one bit. I am charged $40 and radio number 3 is pronounced defective. I am certain that my son will bitch about the wet dog smell in his car.
Spuds is under the weather and forgets, despite my admonition, to put his shoes away. They are gnawed to smithereens by the puppy Oprah. I have lost count of the number of shoes she has destroyed but Spuds resorts to wearing a pair of his brother’s and even these have chew marks on the toes and a day of padding around in the heavy rain doesn’t improve their appearance. I return home after a day playing Stella Dallas, walking with a recalcitrant dog in the pouring rain so that my son can listen to music in the car I purchased for him. I am too beat to make dinner. Spuds has no shoes. The only place that I can induce Himself to eat these days is Whole Foods as they serve excellent fish and chips and cheap draught beer and best of all, you don’t have to tip. He grudgingly accepts the offer although he grouses about the shoe run.
We eat at the dining area at Whole Foods along with a few senior citizens and a lot of young hipster families with babies and strollers and diaper bags. The babies are dressed in color coordinated organic cotton outfits with coordinating shoes and jaunty hats. The parents are wan and harried and spattered with baby spittle. I remember shlepping all that baby crap around and changing diapers in impossible places. Still, the babies look nice and if my kids wouldn’t be mortified I would have asked to hold one of them. I long to hoist a baby aloft and cry out to the beaten down parents, “Behold and enjoy this baby because in the blink of an eye you’ll have one of these.” I would point then with a flourish to my ginormous, and plotting matricide for my having embarrassed them, sons.
My young adult son hates my presence of Facebook but he knows that unfriending me correlates with the removal of the cables from his computer. He hates seeing my grinning mug pop up so much that he expresses distain for Facebook and resents his own reliance on it to maintain any sort of social life. I bust him once for a picture with a cig hanging out of his mouth and then am shamed by him when it turns out to be a picture from children’s theatre and the cigarette is a prop. There are several pages of sweet birthday greetings for him and a large album of photos going back several years. I browse through the pictures backwards and he and his big group of friends regress from a tall young men to round faced preteens.
During the summer my young adult son travels to Bakersfield with some friends for a special screening of There Will Be Blood at the Kern County Museum where research for the film was completed and there is a replica of the oil well that was designed for it. Waiting for the show they goof around in a children’s museum. The Facebook album has pictures of two of the boys in medical smocks performing a procedure with toy tools on another friend who is squashed into a tiny dental chair. They pose theatrically as firemen and pirates. The final shot is of my son, on his knees in a play kitchen with his head, ala Sylvia Plath, crammed into the tiny oven.
So much of my life can’t be conjured back with photographs. I do not remember my own eighteenth birthday. I wonder what, up until memory failed her, my mother remembered about me. I was sarcastic and lazy and dismissed carte blanche everything that was important to her. But I could always make her laugh. My own son is not that much different than I was at his age. I wonder how he will remember me. I’ll most likely forget my irritation at his indolence and my sadness at his need to separate from me in order to better delineate the person he’ll become. I imagine I will flip through pictures and be astounded at how fast it all went by but when all of the details and hurts have faded, I don’t think I’ll ever forget how he makes me laugh.