Cloudy thoughts after West Virginia votes for a felon over Obama

May 9, 2012 by

Cloudy thoughts after West Virginia votes for a felon over Obama

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde controls the humidity and temperature in his galleries to bring real clouds into being for a few minutes. This is his 2012 work Nimbus II.

by douglas imbrogno | Life in West Virginia, for those of you who don’t know the place except for the shoe-less, toothless, married cousin stereotypes, is generally good. Almost anywhere you stand, even in the center of its largest cities, you can be strolling in deep woods within 10-15 minutes. Roll down the windows while driving its curvy mountain hills at night and the cool, invigorating air feels like silk caressing the face. The people are for the most part friendly and considerate to a fault. There was the time recently my salt-of-the-earth neighbor, Brenda, mowed my front lawn when I let it grow too long after I became more focused on my guitar than my grass. (I paid her back with a CD of my music, which seemed appropriate. She delivered a Ziploc bag of fresh radishes from her garden the following week. I can’t keep ahead of the woman).

Then, there are the days when living in West Virginia is a chore. Like today, the day after 41 percent of registered Democratic voters cast their ballots in the West Virginia primary for a convicted wanna-be-Rastafarian felon rather than for Barack Obama. I will leave for others the analysis of this depressing scenario– here at the Atlantic and at WashPo.  Outside the state’s borders, the vote will be yet more verification of the Mountain State’s helpless, hopeless politics and its increased valuation on the national Laughing Stock Index. If not, as well, the burbling into view of a racist wellspring that belies the roots of the region’s birth in resisting the Confederacy, standing apart from Virginia to become a separate state in 1863.

I will certainly spot others their right to vote for ‘anyone-but-Obama’ and who had no idea who they were springing for (except for a stray story or two, there was next-to-nil coverage here of the inmate who would be president). I will, though concede nothing to those who voted because of outright visceral hatred of the president, infected via the plague-borne, fever-swamp of Fox News, epicenter and seed-bed of Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS).

Then, there is the rear-guard resistance of the state’s many  coal-fired, corporate bought-and-paid-for DINO politicians. Given the anti-Obama pirouhettes in this state,  many of West Virginia’s leaders — with heads lodged firmly in the 19th century, if not elsewhere — might as well give up the dance and just re-register as Republicans, especially when it comes to fundamental matters like climate change. (Or, to borrow some lines from a Salon story today headlined “Republican Climate Folly”: “As temperatures break records, the GOP holds firm: The less we know about global warming, the better.”)

The less we know, the better, indeed. Irony is not a strong suit of those afflicted with ODS. So, it is impossible to make any headway by pointing out how deeply cautious and non-revolutionary a president this pragmatic, centrist, only occasionally progressive president has been. For every day in which he announces his support for gay marriage — like today — there is another that he continues to lob drone missiles at Afghanistan and Yemen, accidentally and routinely killing women and children along the way. I have my issues with the man, too, you see. But he’s still my man. And a good man, at that.

But it is straight out of Cloud Cuckoo land to cast his cautious presidency as a cabalistic revolution. Or to portray as some sort of evil socialist takeover the modest but welcome revisions Obamacare made to American’s massively warped, screwed-up health care system. Every time I have to pay the better part or whole part of another medical bill because my $5,000 personal yearly deduction and $10,000 family deduction has not yet been met, I wonder what ODS sufferers think Republican overlords would do to begin to fix this mess of a system where they to slip into the White House?

In a word (well, two words): exactly nothing.

Noam Chomsky sums it up in an interview titled “On America’s Economic Suicide”: “The Republican Party has pretty much abandoned any pretense of being a traditional political party. It’s in lockstep obedience to the very rich, the super rich and the corporate sector.”

I will take our flawed, only occasionally progressive, yet attentive and alert president, on any day. Even this one — no, especially, this one.


“The news is bad, but it always seems to be / It’s even worse when you take it personally …” ~ “Such a Night”

I claim the prerogative on this, my own blog of quoting from one of my songs (above) to point the way through this day, trying not to take the news personally. When I know I won’t be able to bear my usual news sites or the links that shout ‘West Virginia votes for a con’ that my pals post to Facebook, I look farther afield. I turn to a favorite blog for emotional upkeep, Ingrid Fetell’s “The Aesthetics of Joy.” It’s a blog which looks out on the world with an eye to joyful certitudes in art, design and daily life, things that will last longer than the day’s baleful, soul-muddling headlines.

And, oh, my. Clicking on her blog today brings me to a post titled “Craving Wonder” and photos of the work of an artist who creates actual clouds inside of galleries.  The indoor clouds lead Fetell to ponder the significance — the essentiality, so to speak — of the emotion of wonder. I will leave those of you un-infected with ODS with her words. And I cast a wish for those in the throes of ODS that one day wonder may break the fever someday. Because it is the mystery of wonder that points us beyond our differences:

I believe we have wonder because it lets us know when the laws and limits of our world have been transcended, and opens the way to new frontiers of possibility. Wonder is a signal that there has been magic in our midst. It pokes a hole in our worldview, and tempts us to investigate, becoming a powerful spark for curiosity that paves the way towards new discoveries.

As a culture we tend to undervalue wonder, but the craving for it is deeply valid. It is not a distraction from purposeful work – it may instead be the catalyst for starting it. A desire to witness magic is an impulse towards the expansion of the mind, towards the improvement of the human condition. At the root of our love for rainbows, comets, fireflies, and miracles is a small reservoir of belief that the world is bigger and more amazing than we had dreamed it could be. And if we are to be creative and hopeful, then feeding this reservoir is vital.

So go look for impossible beauty, implausible joy. Seek it out even if it doesn’t seem to have an immediate purpose. And then just be curious. You don’t have to control wonder; you only have to seek it, and be open to what it shows you.

Read the rest of Ingrid Fetell’s post

Click here for more on Berndnaut Smilde’s work.


  1. Pt

    I doubt most Americans know what they want. Who can blame them. They are addicted to excess. And when they don’t get it, they throw a junkie fit. 4 years ago I gave Obama a 50/50 chance to accomplish anything at all when he was first elected because many of the people who voted for him where reacting blindly, like amoeba in a drying puddle, to the pain of their circumstances. Maybe what America needs is a good dose of Fascism to get straight. Of course it might kill us first, that’s the nature of addiction.

  2. August West

    Ok for someone that posts on something with WV in the title you’ve got me wondering how much you really know about WV, coal and the people. People from out-of-state and how they percieve WV and the coalfields in particular is self-explanatory to most of us but people from inside of WV who cannot understand the nature of the coalfields and the rage against Obama really perplex me.

    To really understand someone even if you don’t share their life experiences at least to try to get to know where they are coming from you have to make an attempt to get in their shoes. This is one of the great hypocracy’s of the left where you get the standard “we care about everybody dogma and everybody is equal blather” but in reality it’s a great sham. And I’m not coming at this as someone from the right or the left for that matter. Also I am not pro-coal nor do I have a family connection to the industry or the coalfields. In fact I find mountaintop removal ghastly and what the coal industry is doing to the water concerns me a whole lot more than carbon anything.

    However, what the Obama administration and the EPA in particular is doing to the people who work in and owe their survival to the coal industry is a form of violence in an economic manner. And you being a West Virginian should know what generation after generation of these people have gone through to understand where they are coming from and what their reaction is. These people and their ancestors have been pissed on by the north, the south, the Republicans, the robber barrons and now the democrats in DC.

    The lack of acknowledging this and understanding the pain and fear being inflicted on these people and not showing some compassion towards fellow West Virginian’s by other West Virginia’s is sad and frightening. These people stand to lose their incomes their homes and their way of life. And you then ponder why they would be so irrational as to vote for a piece of crap convict? What other choice do they have? If a man shows up at my house and sets it on fire (Obama) and another man brings water to put it out I know who I am going to assist. And if I resist this man burning my home and he is a different color than me it does not mean that I am a racist or ignorant hick. It means I’m trying to do what is best for me and my family which at least in my mind is what a normal person would do.

    President Obama is deficient in many ways and is by no means the saint that many of you in the press paint him out to be. Had this man been a compassionate and responsible president he would have sat down with the leaders of WV and sent a message to the people showing compassion, a sense of understanding and made a commitment to help the people who would lose jobs if his plan for the coal industry goes through. Because if he kills off coal there are no good paying jobs in WV for these people. And a real President and a true leader who cared about his country and its people not just some of them would come up with a plan in the face of creating a massive unemployment situation to make it right with these people he is harming just like the harmed environment deserves as well.

    If Obama was worth a darn he would be able to recogonize and care about what his plans would do to WV he would have come up with a plan to countermeasure the economic disaster he will be inflicting on these people. He would allocate funding and come up with plans to bring in new industries to employ them. And I’m not talking about the crazy’s who say that building wind farms on top of mountaintop removal sites will employ just as many people as the coal industry. That is pure fantasy. Have you ever been to a wind farm. Do you see people standing there with poles turning the turbines? A responsible and caring president would do everything that he could to make life better for these people but Obama has not reached out to them and in fact has done nothing but the opposite.

    So that’s it in a nutshell. If you cannot fathom the rage and where it is coming from then I feel sad for you because you do not understand WV. Maybe you just have such a political attachment to party that it won’t allow you to view the world openly unless it is viewed openly with the party’s glasses on. These folks and their ancestors have fought and died to get what little they have. They’ve been bombed by the US airforce (before it was the Airforce) and they been flooded and drowned by corrupt companies. They were made into slaves at one time forced into accepting in payment for their deadly labor company script only usable at a company store. They fought to create a union to give them decent wages and benefits and many people died in that process.

    And what do they get in return? A union that won’t back them, a party that they loved so dearly that has deserted and trashed them and people in their own state that have no knowledge, compassion or understanding of why they are now considered crazy. Well if I was in their shoes I would be crazy too.