In the "I will accomplish something" vein, I have finally updated my blog.
Here's what they look like, waiting for us to lay them:
This is a very good one:
I didn't know nearly enough about Betty Ford before she passed, and now I think she's astoundingly awesome:
Betty Ford, Pioneer
By RICK PERLSTEIN
Published: July 11, 2011
The obituaries for Betty Ford, who died Friday at the age of 93, were filled with colorful stories about an incongruous life: former Martha Graham dancer, dispenser of scandalous comments to the media, alcohol and drug addict. So colorful, in fact, that they may crowd out her historical importance — which may well have been greater than those of her husband, President Gerald R. Ford.
Though she was never an elected official, industry titan or religious leader, few Americans changed people’s lives so dramatically for the better. I learned it for myself in the most unlikely of places: a Ford family estate sale in 2007.
Some historical background: in August 1975 Betty Ford went on “60 Minutes” and said that if her 18-year-old daughter had an affair, she would not necessarily object. Soon after, she volunteered in McCall’s that she had sex with her husband “as often as possible.”
Those comments were widely reported. Less well known is what happened next.
Experts considered her a political liability. A syndicated humor columnist imagined aides seeking her resignation — before it was too late: “The networks and women’s magazines ... are making incredible offers to get the First Lady to sit down and openly discuss adultery, drinking, homosexuality and a proposed postal rate hike.”
Bad joke. Two months later a Harris poll found that 64 percent of Americans supported what Mrs. Ford had said on “60 Minutes.” By then she was known for her self-assuredness before the media: she had already announced that she had breast cancer, then let herself be photographed in her hospital room after her mastectomy — at a time when respectable people only whispered the word “cancer.”
Then, a year and a half after leaving the White House, she famously owned up to her alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs, even as her husband was quietly putting himself forward as a 1980 presidential possibility. Once more the public embraced her, voting her ahead of the first lady, Rosalynn Carter, no slouch in the popularity department herself, on Good Housekeeping’s list of the country’s “Most Admired Women.”
No one would have predicted this. America had been a nation of shame-faced secrecy in so many of its intimate domestic affairs. The 1970s was when that began to change. Betty Ford was that transformation’s Joan of Arc.
It made her a threat to some. The Christian right was especially cruel. In 1976, when a rabbi collapsed of a heart attack beside her at a ceremonial dinner, she courageously took the lectern to lead a prayer for his life. The rabbi “was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital a short time later,” Christianity Today mocked in its next issue.
But that was the same year Christianity Today was advertising a book entitled “The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love,” by Tim and Beverly LaHaye, which argued that Christian wives should want sex as often as possible, and even demand more orgasms.
Betty Ford always seemed to be vindicated in the controversial things she kept doing. Which, of course, is one of the definitions of a genuine leader. One afternoon four years ago in Beaver Creek, a Colorado resort, I saw it for myself.
A year after Gerald Ford’s death, Betty Ford closed up the family house in Vail, Colo., and was offering its contents for sale at a conference center in Beaver Creek. A smaller, outer room contained items of lesser value: cassette tapes President Ford dubbed from friends (John Philip Sousa, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir); books by John Grisham and Danielle Steel; period relics like “The Women’s Liberation Board Game” with a sticker reading “Property of Gerald and Betty Ford.” (I’ll forever regret being too cheap to shell out the $20 for that item.)
The second room held more valuable items, including books inscribed by their authors. Few were signed to the president. When Americans sent gifts to the Fords, they usually sent them to Betty.
The authors, most of them obscure, had written recovery memoirs and cancer memoirs and feminist manifestos, autobiographies bearing witness to struggles of every description. They had never met Betty Ford. But they wrote to her with an intimacy that was almost embarrassing for an outsider to read, as if they were writing to a loved one. Which, in a certain sense, they were. She had taught them how not to feel ashamed.
I’ll never forget something else. A surprising number were gay men. Take that, Mr. Satirical Columnist Whose Name No One Remembers: Betty Ford openly discussed homosexuality. I didn’t know she had made the insanity of shaming same-sex desire any sort of special cause. Only one obituary I found noted, in passing, any interest in gay rights. I didn’t find any references in an online search of historical newspapers.
But she must have said something. She probably said it long before any other “respectable” public figure dared. Because that’s what she always did. That courage made her more of a hero than most of us ever imagined.
Rick Perlstein is the author of “Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America.”
I liked the lions, of course! I should have gotten out of the truck to take it, though; the antenna cuts an interesting line down the middle...
I have had a low-grade headache all day. I'm about done with feeling crappy, dammit. (And yes, I'm aware others have it worse than me, but it's my journal and I'm allowed to whine in it.) I'm taking another course of Prilosec since my stomach's been doing jumps again any time I eat almost anything. I'll get hungry, I'll eat, and then I'll regret it. Blah.
We have fallen in love with a kitten at the Petsmart adoption center. Her name is Yzma (indeed) and she's sweet as pie (not really scary beyond all reason). But we just can't handle four cats in this house. We've tried, and it's a Bad Thing, so we keep having to walk away from her. I can't figure why someone else hasn't snapped her up, she's adorable.