Donald Trump & My Mother

Those reporters don’t get it, my sister said from the beginning of the press’ attempts to pin Donald Trump to statements he made that failed to jibe with reality or even with his prior statements. He’s Mother, she said.

Our mother often failed to discern fact from fiction, reality from dream. At least this is the explanation her daughters have settled upon. My mother, if she could have grasped this gap I am calling a failure to discern, would have instead called it optimism. If she could have discerned a difference between reality and how she wanted life to turn out, she would have said believing the dream was a better way to live a life.

She never had to choose, never saw the gap, believed what she believed.

My sisters and I choose seeing this as discernment failure over the possibility that she lied consciously or with premeditation; for once our mother put in place a truth she wished for, that was it. She believed it. She wasn’t lying to us. And whatever the gap with reality, hers was the truth we lived with, until she changed it again.

We further suspect our mother learned of these shifts in truth as we did, when they dropped from her pursed lips.

Is it lying when people don’t know they are lying?

From a lifetime of dogging that question through reunions and therapy, I suggest, not exactly.

It’s hard to pin someone in a lie they genuinely believe. Harder yet when at whim they can redefine the truth to accommodate interfering obstacles. When the truth is the vision of the storyteller against the backdrop of the storyteller’s imagination, well, where’s the lie? Where is the mutually agreed upon platform of truth, of reality, concrete fact? How do you discern when there is no agreed upon standard?

My mother did not teach at Harvard. She did work at Harvard and there may be evidence she provided some in-office equipment training. But the truth in her life, among her friends, and among her family (excluding a couple of daughters) is that she taught at Harvard.

Had the excellent and admirable Washington press corps drilled her on those finer points of fact, she would not have understood in the least what they were getting at. Their truth was never going to be her truth.

My sisters and I send our genuine well wishes to that press corps. Good luck with Mr. Trump.

 

 

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To March or Not to March

The question is, What are we marching for? Or against?

Let’s be blunt. What’s the ask?

Since there isn’t a mission statement (do not sing to me praises of  non-hierarchical organization for a massive event), I have tried to rally around a goal of solidarity, although I have little faith in more banging on that drum right now.

Still, I want to be part of the Women’s March; get the T-shirt; stand for women, reproductive rights, parity. I proudly self-label as a feminist. I fear squandering energy. I fear energy will be demanded by the times. So I keep asking, What are we marching for?

Gender pride? Pride isn’t what I’m feeling right now.

I feel caught-out, betrayed, frightened.  I have bad dreams. I feel anger and loathing smiling down on me from friendly faces whose covert dislike I once met with the smiling sanctimony afforded victors. Now I am the other, and without the blinders of sanctimony see my smile was once so triumphant. I am uncertain what I feel in response. Thus far  there is a numbness that sets in as the sanctimony flows in a new direction. It is as though the  Electoral College’s clean sweep lifted scales from my eyes and I see something very old freshly revealed.

The epiphany of my scale-less vision: how tired they are of me, loathing some of what I most treasure and which is now in their hands.  They are tired of  sanctimonious chatter from the know-it-alls, the liberal media elite, feminists, academia, teachers, uppity state university degrees in  starchy little white collar management fiefdoms with jobs as environmentalists, social workers, bankers, and bureaucrats of all ilk with the ability to wield petty authority over building permits, dog licenses, insurance payouts, your salary, your promotion, the every day details of an every day life that becomes less satisfying and less manageable every minute for year after year. And oh, by the way, peace is not at hand anywhere in the world.

They are everybody. To march against them would be in one way or another marching against ourselves. Whoever we are. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Walt Kelly’s Pogo wasn’t the first to note this perversity in human nature.

It isn’t the warring of the content of resentments A, B, and C versus D, E, and F. What binds these bundles of resentments together is fear. It looks like hate, as Gandhi said, but  it is fear. Fear that treasured elements providing the meaning, the value, and the confidence in your life are being cannibalized by others.

Fear. Same thing I’m feeling. Notice that?  Our fears grow as we instill fear into others. I fear those who fear my beliefs. If that sounds too esoteric, replace the word fear with hate. I hate those who hate my beliefs. It gives off a more contemporary, social media ring. Or if it’s easier to cast it outside yourself, He hates those who hate his beliefs. The circular messaging is clear. Whether you think them different or not, hate feeds hate and fear feeds fear.

The way to fight epidemic fear is to share a common enemy. FDR did try the more complicated finesse, to make fear itself the enemy, perhaps to quell bickering amongst us. But it was war production, money in everyone’s pocket that banished the fear grown during the Great Depression. And while, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” is a grand notion, its as unlikely a rallying cry today as,ts Make Better Policy.

So I hear myself asking person after person, annoying friends and colleagues, men and women, What are we marching for?

But what I hear in my head is Country Joe McDonald  at Woodstock asking, “What are we fighting for?” That is what I really want to know.

“I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag”

Well, c’mon on all you big strong men
Uncle Sam needs your help again
He’s got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun
We’re gonna have a whole lot of fun

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it’s 5, 6, 7, open up the pearly gates
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We’re all gonna die

Well c’mon generals, let’s move fast
Your big chance has come at last
Gotta go out and get those Reds
The only good Commie is one who’s dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come

Chorus

Well c’mon on Wall Street
Don’t be slow
Why this is war a-go-go
There’s plenty good money to be made
By supplin’ the Army with the tools of the trade
Just hope and pray that if we drop the bomb
They drop it on-the Vietcong
Chorus

Well c’mon mothers throughout this land
Pack your boys off to Vietnam
C’mon pops, don’t hesitate
Send ’em off before it’s too late
Be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box

And it’s 1, 2, 3, what’re we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn.

Life as Science Fiction

I keep having this quasi kind of flashback that we’ve entered one of the science fiction books I read in my twenties. We meaning the bunch of us Americans in our twenties in  the 1970s. And maybe everybody else in the US too.

I didn’t read space fiction or fantasy,  perhaps some fantasy as metaphor, but mostly what sticks with me is the dystopia fiction that described how the future could roll out so very badly based on current headlines.

We were the generation who first saw the whole world as a single place. Stuart Brand  was inspired to name the Whole Earth Catelog after seeing the first photos of Earth from space. We believed, behind an armor of cynicism we put on after Kent State, that we really all could share the space.

That’s not true in dystopia; perhaps impossible in a world entering its second century of global war.

Doris Lessing, who might have called her dystopic fiction realism, calls her early seminal series, completed prior to 1970, “Children of Violence.” Its protagonist, born out of WWI, endures WWII and enters a future long since turned reality: failing infrastructures; roaming bands of dangerous children; increasing emotional breakdowns; disintegration of traditional structures of governments, families, and class; the rise of the guerilla state. Her characters picket, protest, petition, hold public office.  SPOILER: It does not result in goodness and light.

There were plenty uglier plots in this dystopia genre: the automation of  humanity, life adapting to poisoned resources, the military state, the corporate state. Dystopic worlds breed paranoia and anger. These stories I tend to lump together, retained in memory as a nightmarish Jetsons world of looping highways in an opaque sky filled with great flashing neon signs giving orders; a world without nature or harmony.

The themes are the same, caricature or realism, the driving need of dominance and the evils of  greed and power.

Ugly stuff. Unpleasant, dropping into an eerily familair, imagined world of paranoia and anger, of not merely unrestrained greed, but stoked greed. All this, so unexpectedly, when just the other day I was tucked snugly on a sofa in a warm house with running water down the hall, thousands and thousands of miles away from a war zone, happily reading Margaret Atwood.

It’s like I’ve slipped a rung. I’m trying to recall those survival tips Atwood slips into her work. I should have read more of Lessing’s latter space fiction, perhaps we’ve slipped into an alternate universe. Like how after Kent State we slipped away to sell insurance and raise house plants.

It’s instinctual to head home when the plates of the Earth you’ve been standing upon your whole life shift, when you glimpse a world you can only barely imagine. I wonder if we can slip the noose this one more time and pass it on, pass it farther on into the future we do not want to imagine.

 

First Laddie

The last time we were here was not quite 8 years ago, Hillary was still in the running against that unstoppable messiah Barrack Obama. I mean no disrespect, I went for Obama at the time, stick with him still. But that is another subject.

This is about Hillary, who, because she is a woman is always co-opted. I say this with bitterness but I assure you sanguiness prevails. Or at least it will on my public face, which is clearly sufficient today.

My youngest sister, the least political of us all in some ways, wanted Hillary those years ago. My sister might be non-political but she’s not an idiot or a Republican. But what she really wanted, she confessed,  was to convey the particularly fitting title, First Laddie, upon Bill.

I got it then and got yet another good dose of it last week on the Phoenix airport  tarmac.

Even before Kathleen Parker asked if he did it unconsciously to thwart his wife’s ambitions, I was screaming the answer, Yes yes yes, ass, ass, ass.

Did he think to himself, ‘Hey, this is going to screw up Hillary?’ No. He thought, ‘I am Big Shit. I will help Hillary, make a bit of good for Hillary, who isn’t so good at this schmoozing as I am. Clinch this deal for her. Get it off her plate.’ No, he didn’t think it out like that. Well, he did, in the subliminal terms we all use to hide our baser motivations from ourselves. But yes yes yes ass ass ass, he did it to trip up his wife.

Being First Laddie, returning at such a demoted rank. Humbling. Is that a problem?The ringmaster returning as director of the dog and pony show. He is not, after all, returning as her advisor as she was his. He entered office with a young and ambitious and able partner at his side.  They both spent those young and energetic years on him, a point, I’d wager, has been made.

His due is spending the capital of his political sunset years upon her; not shrouding her with that sunset as well.

And when they are next face to face, will we hear again about her throwing a glass — Ashtray, was it? Was 1992 so long ago we still had those? — at him, across the room. Maybe it was a wine glass. It was insider tattling as the Clintons moved in, and included reports of her yelling the F word, in the White House.

Were we supposed to say,  ‘Oh my. Using the F word in the White House? Oh my.’

Because, really, this is the point here, it was that a woman was saying it. As the Nixon tapes made clear, the word had been uttered there before. It was hard to pluck subject and verb out of those expletive tirades. But we wouldn’t have known about Pat, nor suspected it. No one would have told regardless, not back then, about a lady. It’s that Hillary, well, she wasn’t a lady. She was uppity.

Give. Me. A. Break. Bill. And all of the rest of you pricks. Give. It. Up.

And don’t say give up what.

That’s what Bill’s going to do when they see each other next, face to face. Roll those baby blues. I bet she’s past throwing the glassware and by the time she gets to him she’ll be past deletable expletives. They will fall into whatever their particular pattern is.

‘What did I do wrong? I ask you?’ He will shrug. ‘Only trying to help.’ ‘Nope, never thought anyone would take it that way. Maybe I should’ve.’ ‘Shoulda, woulda, coulda, it’s done. Won’t do it again.’

Maybe she isn’t past the expletives. The only thing I want to ask him is, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’

But she knows. And what good is it to be bitter, or vengeful, or silent, or loud, or angry, or forgiving or right or wrong. It makes no difference which she is. The outcome doesn’t differ. He’ll eventually saunter across another tarmac and drop a load and she’ll sweep it up, too. Just like most of the rest of us do.

There has already been the shrugging and drama and demands and screaming and crying and, who knows, begging. And still he parks on the tarmac and swaggers himself over to make nice nice. Because he can. Because of serendipity. Because all that is his, is his. Where would you even give back presumptive power? As if anyone could.

But in the shrugging and the drama patterned on the Bill and Hillary power struggle, it must always end something like this; Bill falling on the sword, was ‘only trying to help’, keeps getting double messages, the campaign pulls him in pushes him out, ‘What do you want?’ I imagine him asking, exasperation on his red face.

What do women want? Freud’s unanswerable query. Why is it unanswerable? Because there is no meaningful answer. Or rather, any attempt at a meaningful answer carries an implicit humiliation.

It might not make sense, but we know this already, no matter what Hillary answers,  — No. Matter. What. — it’s still going to be Hillary’s fault. And it will still happen again. Throw the glass candy dish. Be sanguine.

Hating Women

Men hate us.

I always recant when I say that. Not only men, I recant. Women hate women as well.

Donald is about to prove it to us all.

Nearly from the first moment he spoke his words, words, words from the top of his escalator, I thought Donald would go all the way. (Ask my husband, who will not lie for me.)

By the time Donald Drumpf (thank you John Oliver for sharing that family name) debuted as the barker at the circuses passing as Republican presidential debates,  I told my husband, This is going to show everyone just how much America hates women. (He didn’t believe me at the time, but is reconsidering.)

We already knew — before, despite, whatever-the-true-point-of Bernie Sanders — Hillary was the Democrat’s girl.

Notice the reversion to the pre-1970s use of the word ‘girl’? Calling Hillary the Democrat’s ‘woman’ suggests the carnal overtones the word used to carry. Interesting, isn’t it?

Donald isn’t the Republican’s boy, not their man either. His appeal is that he just keeps hating in marketable, mono-syllabic words, words, words; reducing huge swaths of humanity into a common enemy. He’s the Everyman of hate. It’s so easy. Hate. Just a single beat. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Hillary and I are of the cusp of women who were told: You must be subservient to men. And, you must liberate yourself from subservience. It’s like double-Dutch jump-rope, a complicated beat laden with nuance. It is easy to trip and easy to sabotage. Both of which we do to ourselves and one another.

Back in the gender-enhancing 70s when the word ‘woman’ began losing its lewd connotations, before female doctors or lawyers existed in a noticeable way, we thought this impossible contradiction would resolve itself when women reached noticeable proportions in the governing and professional worlds.

Approaching a half-century of this noticeability strategy let’s use an example, there are 20 female  US senators. It makes for a noticeable smattering of pink and red in a photo with 80 males in dark suits. Noticeable, but insufficient, perhaps even insignificant, perhaps just easy targets.

Hillary Rodham Clinton obtained significant success at double Dutch, the jobs of subservience and liberation, most in the public eye. She is smart and successful (in her own right, a somewhat patronizing view might add). For she married and was a devoted wife, putting her husband’s needs ahead of her own. She mothered a child to independence. She has successfully met everything a contradictory and oppressive society has imposed upon her.

And she is hated. Not simply disliked, not only tarred and scarred with the often times odious sausage making business that is politics; she is hated. It is visceral.

Because, why?

I ask a man (not my husband, so he has no reason to lie to me), Why do you hate Hillary Clinton? He goes off on the litany.

You know it. Cheater. Liar. Pants on fire. Please. Spare me. Consider that senatorial photo. Hillary Rodham Clinton would be noticeable in pink, but a flaming pair of pants would not distinguish her.

It’s not that, I tell him, cutting short the litany. The whole circus of politics is pants afire. Donald is aflame and adored. Why such visceral hate for Hillary? Did Bill not also have a litany of these things?

I’d vote for Bill Clinton again, he says, no matter what he’d done. Bill Clinton was good for this country.

Because why?

Republicans I Have Loved or Liked Quite a Bit

My parents. My grandparents. My aunts, uncles, cousins — on both sides.

Everett Dirksen, who I had chance once to see drink straight whiskey, which thrilled me.

Charles Percy, who shook my hand upon high school graduation with the point of his matching flatboard cap slightly off center upon his forehead.

Nelson Rockefeller, for so many reasons, including Happy.

Betty Ford.

I liked Mitt’s dad, George Romney a bit. He was a pretty solid, people kind of guy, back in the day.

It starts getting thin here. But Barbara Thompson and Shelby Guazzo have at times seemed to govern with my heart’s desires in their minds. And I’ve appreciated that.

A dear friend of decades calls herself a Republican, but she also has Liberal tendencies, like Nelson Rockefeller. Back in those days Republicans were not synonymous with Conservative. What do you think it means that there are still Conservative and Liberal Democrats?

I have been a Republican. I fell off the wagon when Family Values got all wrapped up in revisionism. But then there was Nixon.

By the Nixon era there was familial political disagreements emerging, specifically involving race, equality, wage scales, and Vietnam. Except for my mother on this latter issue, who pointed out that it was easy for the parents of all girls to be in favor of a war drafting only boys. She was smart that way. Although she’d voted   for Kennedy in 1962, she was a Republican worker at the state and local levels. But she left the Grand Old Party when it nominated Reagan, saying she had reached an age when the president should not be older than her.

Leave aside that he was a crook, the whole Nixon zeitgeist just seems in exceptionally poor taste from start to finish. The Nixon era was a millstone. Graduating college into the 1970s recession (when want ads still called for Girls and Men) has proven a permanent impediment to my generation’s earning power.  My daughters graduated into Bush’s recession and are threatened with a lifetime of the same dampened wage scale. Apparently beginnings matter.

The Regan borrowing fix came too late for me. And since then it’s been hard to find middle-class Republicans with my middle-class values.

I want progressive taxation and government oversight to keep my air and drinking water safe. I am not keen on war and I think it behooves a government to do everything it can to even the playing field. I believe public education is the key to democracy.

So I’m a cross voter. I think the Republicans I have loved want those things too. And the same with the Democrats I vote for. So it’s a curiosity to me why so few of them ever get done.

The Blighters Are Singing: California Here We Come …

If you listen closely enough you can hear the blighters singing in Lexington Park, “California here we come …”

The chorus picked up volume with recent news of K-mart’s closure at the ne’er-do-particularly-well Laurel Glen shopping strip.

It’s not like Lexington Park is waving good-bye to blight. Far from it. Perhaps more that misery loves company.

The blighters chorus is an anthem to accompany the creeping blight up the street into California, MD, home of the retail winners of the 1988 BRAC. To say Lexington Park was a BRAC loser would not be putting it too mildly.

K-mart, ironically enough, was one of the first stores to hightail it outta Lexington Park into California when the BRAC getting was good.

Lexington Park was the shopping hub before the high tech jobs in Crystal City, VA, and Bucks County, PA, spawned a state highway lined with retail franchises to make Route 235 look the same as Crystal City, Va, and Bucks County, PA.

Lexington Park was already down on its heels.

In the 1970s, building restrictions supportive of Navy wishes substantially reduced the commercial and residential value in the original, Lexington Park commercial area. The restrictions are based on formulas that create a steadily dwindling return for investment in this area.

By the turn of the millennium, to cut losses, it is more cost effective for some owners to let their Lexington Park properties molder. There’s no investment if there is no chance of a sufficient return. It’s just how it works.

Blight has similar, inevitable tenets. It can’t be starved to death. It follows on the heels of the wealth it pushes out. Blight, like proverty, cannot be neglected to languish and disappear of its own volition. It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. Wishing it would work that way cannot make it work that way.

We seem to have a problem grasping this. Think of it in the simplest of terms. When there’s no longer any wealth in his community, the panhandler will move to where there is pocket change to spare. The panhandler doesn’t disappear because the money goes away. He moves closer to the money. He doesn’t commute. He can’t afford to. He stays.

So while Lexington Park blighters sing to California, maybe, even now, some newly dawning blighters in California are already singing, “Hooray for Hollywood!”

Facebook Zombies

There are options now for Facebook members to establish how they wish their profile handled in the event of their death.

I’ve not yet made my choices known to Facebook. Like most other things related to death, I’m unsure.

It sounds like a good idea, a Memorial Facebook profile. For one thing, the ads stop. And who am I to mock? Great religions wrestle with this life-death pinnacle,  Facebook could prove the conduit we’ve sought since grasping the inevitability of death.

Still, I’m unsure how to interface with my dead Facebook friends. I’m thinking they’re not all that into my news. Sometimes I suspect it’s just another ploy to let more Zombies through. The full Thriller video strangely confirms this for me. For that is exactly what dead Facebook friends are like, Zombies. They are the Living Dead.

Let’s be clear here. I call upon deceased friends and relatives for guidance, forgiveness, blame, a laugh, for just about anything I’d text a living friend about.  I do not take exception to those who formally participate in this practice, nor with those who think it all Bull Hockey, nor with those who believe it  traipsing with the Devil. My point, simply, I’m all in favor of keeping our dead alive within our lives, living actively within our memories, under whatever circumstances work, short of eating my flesh, drinking blood, etc.

It’s a good cover for Zombies, Facebook. This is where octogenarian Dorian Grays post photos of themselves at age 35. Memorial pages will be even more inverted, the Living Dead will become the Eternally Ageless, indeed, the deader you get the younger you’ll look to those who know to look for you.

And here’s what else is inverted. The living are stalking them. So does that make us visitors to the dead? Or voyeurs? Or worse, vague poseurs riding the irresistible draw of death, someone else’s death.

And where will Facebook put us when no one seeks us anymore? Most of us ultimately fall from living memory unless we’ve saved a people, won or lost a war, written a brilliant tome.

Or the internet will take us over, we turn into Talosians, living within the internet as our cyber-Matrix-planet; and there we are, over-populated with immortal remains. Who will clear the cache now that death doesn’t part us? Perhaps something should be put in place today, such as, ‘If you are inactive for a full two generations . . .” (Sorry, just a slight slip into dystopia science fiction….. You see where this could lead.)

Science fiction aside, what if a Facebook upgrade should prove as incompetent as the iPhone’s; will you have to choose among the living and the dead to clear your device for the download? How do you re-friend a dead friend you’ve un-friended?

I haven’t even gotten to the issues of Facebook condolence etiquette, let alone death notice etiquette, and man oh man do I have some issues with Facebook death notice etiquette.  Perhaps I can make arrangements for that rant to appear in my Living Dead Profile.

Nor have I gotten to the issues of moving past the grief of loss, of keeping memories alive, of my tremendous appreciation of catharsis. But I can say that so far technology hasn’t eased any of this for me.

I cannot erase a certain text message; a particular LinkedIn profile appears and I tear up and close the app; a ludicrous superstition about erasing voice mails clutters my phone; and I’ve stopped calling one friend, finally a bit annoyed at the long dead spouse requesting I leave a message.

Still, pondering the Living Death options on Facebook, I confess I am drawn to the concept of orchestrating (and updating) my postmortem self. I do rather like the Zombie notion, the chance at a post-final word. Certainly a shot at a better epitaph than an out-of-date and inordinately cheerful voice mail hovering in my wake.

 

Who Are Those 69 People?

There is great satisfaction in being right, let alone among the first to be so. In this case, it begins while riding home, shell-shocked, election night not three months past. Saying, “We’ve lost the University of Maryland.”

A dramatic thing to say at the time. Now borne out by the state budget. So it becomes a cautionary tale, although it is also a celebration of the power of a single vote.

To catch you up, cutting miles of copy into inches, here it is:

A bricks-and-mortar classroom owned by the University of Maryland and sited at Southern Maryland Higher Education Center is the way to lessen the local economy’s dependence upon the Naval Air Station. Studies and statistics commissioned, read, and discussed among civilians and military officials for a decade support  this. There are details enough to choke a hippo supporting this community decision to go after that classroom building.

It wasn’t a backroom deal. It was a lot of sausage making among a large array of interests working for this outcome for a long, long time. The process was tedious, pedantic, frustrating, glacial, and, finally, successful. Construction funds were secured for this year.

Those sausage makers lost the election. Not even two weeks passed for the affectionately named “Building 3” to drop out of the all-new Maryland General Assembly’s budget. Just like that.

Can you hear Toots & the Maytals singing it?  “Just like That” is about the deep sadness of desertion. The prevailing line, “You are walking out of my room, just like that.”

That’s it exactly. A much longed for dream, achieved and lost, in the blink of an eye, snap of your fingers. “You are walking out of my room, just like that.”

Just as if all that went before was nothing.

It wasn’t nothing. It was hard fought. It is a core need of this community’s. It is being dismissed because 69 out of more than 10,000 votes tossed out the man in the driver’s seat.

This isn’t, actually, about that part of it. Though that is pretty huge, and worthy of discussion another day.

Much more immediate is this: Not only is no one in place to catch this opportunity for Southern Maryland, there is no one in place who wants to catch this opportunity for us. They are walking out of our room, just like that.

Winning an election is not a mandate to overturn the prior work of your community, but a vote of confidence that you can respect and direct state efforts toward reaching your community’s goals. Not your goals. Your community’s goals. That’s how it works. Just like that.

Questions I Always Wanted to Ask Candidates

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1. Have you ever attended a full meeting of the board/committee/commission/delegation/executive branch of the office you are seeking? Not just watched it on TV.

2. Do you know where the meetings are held? Do you know how often it meets?

3. Were you the first person who thought about running for office, or did somebody ask you?

4. Do you have one single issue that above everything else drove you to seek election?

5. Can you name the last five pieces of legislation passed by the board/committee/commission/delegation/executive branch of the office you are seeking? Can you name any five pieces of legislation  …

6. What is the annual dollar amount overseen by the board/committee, etc., etc. of the office you seek? Both operating and capital budgets.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought we should have been asking these questions during election cycles. In the swirl of campaigning it’s easy to forget, jobs are attached to these offices, jobs that require some different skills than a successful candidacy.

And there’s nothing like a splashing raft of freshman moored to the Maryland General Assembly to bring these job qualifying questions to mind.

Voters elect freshmen all the time, assuming the candidates actually want the job, not just the win. Because, why else would you go to all that trouble?

Yet I’ve spent three decades questioning, watching, and even prepping candidates in local elections: it is stunningly rare for a non-incumbent candidate to have attended a full meeting of the office sought. Plenty never read the budget written or approved by the office they seek.

Now five pieces of legislation? Oh yes. Many candidates can spout five pieces of legislation, the majority of which they oppose. As to the five most recent pieces, ah, not so much. Single issued candidates are plentiful, some are elected. Those that get over it govern better.

Nevertheless, you expect even your freshmen to know where their board or delegation meets; the difference between a capital and operating budget, especially when they’re responsible for crafting it; the structure of the government they’ve joined; the breadth of their constituency and the agencies their office oversees.

And you hope for a bit of humility. Constituents hope their representatives won’t go making fools of themselves even before they know where their seat is located.

I offer insight from an Edith Wharton novel of a century ago to those who might find some hard slogging ahead. An ingenue arrives in society and is at first clumsy, unaware that the behavior she’d mustered to triumph, instead reveals her inadequacies. She picks up her error quickly and learns, “IT’S BETTER TO WATCH THAN TO ASK QUESTIONS.”

And if that’s a bit too subtle, take it from Mark Twain, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

The party is over. Welcome to the job.