Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Conventional Wisdom... And Meet Ilya Sheyman


I was just a teenager-- and a huge Dostoevsky fan-- when I got my first indication of the worth of conventional wisdom. I was mesmerized by Dylan's lyrics on his new single "Subterranean Homesick Blues," released a couple weeks later on Bringing It All Back Home, but it took a few years before I connected all the dots. That happened when I sold a bunch of hash so I could buy a new VW camper at the Volkswagen factory in Wiesbaden, Germany ($2,500) and drive to India.

The first leg of the trip was from London to Istanbul. Yugoslavia was still a country but now I consider myself having driven through Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. I just loved it, especially driving along the Dalmatian Coast. After that came a quick jaunt through Bulgaria to the European sliver of Turkey and down into Istanbul which straddles both continents. Here's where the conventional wisdom started-- the conventional wisdom of the Hippie Trail. "Everybody" knew Bulgaria just sucked and the way to do it was to drive straight from Nis, through gray, Communist Sofia and then 300 miles down the main highway through Plovdiv and right into Istanbul. Do not stop; do not even look out the window. The Bulgarians are Stalinist creeps and the country should be avoided except that it's on the way to Istanbul and Asia (and, the real crux, as I soon learned, hashish). That was the conventional wisdom.

I didn't mean to rebel or anything but I had a feeling I wasn't going to get another chance to wander around Bulgaria and I was in no rush. So I stopped in Sofia, explored the city, didn't find it forbidding at all and then decided to head due east to the Black Sea instead of southeast to Edirne and Istanbul. I had hardly parked my van at the seaside at Burgas before I had two new best friends. They couldn't wait to show me their country and I wound up spending two weeks driving around Bulgaria, staying on communal farms, seeing towns that never got any Hippie Trail traffic, like Varna, Novi Pazar, Targoviste. It was amazing but it still didn't dawn on my that conventional wisdom was worthless, especially not that conventional wisdom from groups you identified with was worthless. Months later in Afghanistan I was still eating delicious fruits and veggies and kefir farmers had given me in Bulgaria. (I had kefir for breakfast today, over 40 years later.)

Istanbul is where I finally got it. The conventional wisdom was that the Turks, like the Bulgarians were assholes to be avoided. The only way to enjoy Turkey was to hole up in the hippie enclave around the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet). So I did. I was actually in the pudding shop when the real Midnight Express was going down!

The Turks were assholes? All seventy million of them? It was then that I started watching my parking meters instead of following leaders. Sure, the cops and robbers drawn to Sultanahmet to pray on drugged out hippies were assholes-- cops and robbers are assholes everywhere. But you didn't have to drive far to meet the greatest people in the world: Turks. It was there that I realized how worthless conventional wisdom is. I've tried to studiously ignore it ever since-- in all aspects of my life.

The hippies-- relatively much more open-minded than your average Joe-- only liked people they could do drugs with: Afs, Nepalis, Indians... Everyone else was an asshole. I thought the Turks were among the most amazing, hospitable, empathic people I had ever met and I lingered for months in Anatolia-- and have been back a dozen times since then-- something "everyone" knows is a waste of time. And, like I said, I learned the worth of conventional wisdom. I guess that's why I hate the Republican Party and have nothing but contempt for Inside-the-Beltway Democrats.

The above paragraphs could be an introduction for almost anything we post here at DWT. Let's make it... about our evil foes at the DCCC. The political consultant class in DC has been trying to recruit a hackish state legislator, Susan Garrett of Lake Forest, or-- worse-- recently defeated corporate shill Melissa Bean (from the 8th CD)-- to run against Republican freshman Robert Dold. Inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom is that only a professional politician is worthy of their support. Meanwhile, grassroots activists in Illinois and hoping to persuade Ilya Sheyman, former Field Director for Democracy for America and, more recently, National Mobilization Director at MoveOn, to run for the seat.

Conventional wisdom always comes down on the side of money, never on the side of people power. The DCCC will claim neutrality, of course (they usually do) and then attempt to undermine the grassroots candidate in favor of the worst Chamber of Commerce shill in the Democratic Party (Bean) if she makes a try for the seat, or else state Senator Garrett if she's the Establishment candidate. And Ilya? Let's hear what he has to say about himself. Is this the kind of guy you'd like to see Blue America endorse and work for?

I believe in a simple idea at the heart of progressive politics-- an idea best articulated by the late Senator Paul Wellstone:
“Politics is not just about power and money games, politics can be about the improvement of peoples lives, about lessening human suffering in our world and bringing about more peace and more justice.”

As I travel around the 10th Congressional District, I look forward to listening to you and learning from your stories about the issues and values that are important in your lives. Here are a few of my thoughts on critical issues to start off our conversation:


It is time to invest in our shared prosperity by passing a new jobs bill that would provide a life vest of unemployment assistance to those drowning without work, that would guarantee state aid, so that communities wouldn’t have to continue letting go of cops, firefighters or teachers, and that would stimulate public and private sector job creation through direct hiring for infrastructure projects and the creation of a national green jobs bank that will provide loans directly to small businesses.


I support a fixed timetable to extricate ourselves from the quagmire in Afghanistan and to finally bring every brave man and woman home from Iraq-- so that we can start building bridges and roads, schools and hospitals, mass transit and a green economy right here in Buffalo Grove and North Chicago instead of Kabul and Baghdad.


I will defend our commitment to Health and Retirement Security with a plan that asks the wealthy to pay their fair share into Social Security, keeping its promise to future generations. And I support gradually expanding Medicare to cover every single American, and stand behind the promise that quality, affordable health care should in fact be a birthright of every single American.


I will fight for real immigration reform that finally takes 12 million of our neighbors out of the shadows and gives them a pathway to citizenship and an ability to realize their dreams and aspirations right here in the United States of America.


I will work with allies in our community and in Congress to introduce a Civil Rights Act for the 21st Century that guarantees the full spectrum of over one thousand rights, responsibilities and privileges that come with equal citizenship to all our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

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At 12:01 PM, Blogger Decidere said...

I remember living in Macedonia, who had nothing but bad to say about the Bulgarians and neighboring Albanians (not to mention ones who lived in the country).

Only thing is, venturing into Bulgaria, I really liked it. And the Albanians in Albania? Very warm people.

But the Macedonians liked the Greeks. Who seemed to treat us like crap at every stop.

Well, I'm sure there's more than that, but I stopped trusting the opinions of Macedonians pretty quickly. And realized how political every statement in the Balkans was, every gesture of "friendship". Tough place.

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got a traffic ticket yesterday. It will probably cost me $400. if I plead it down preventing the insurance company from robbing over the next three years for even more. As far I am concerned you can lay all the fucking cops off since they provide negligible protection from crime and are one of the chief muggers of all time. No highwayman in history has stolen more from humanity than the worthless cops. Cops/Nazis. When they aren't hauling you off to jail and beating you up they are sitting in the doughnut shop getting big bellies. They fit right in with the organized criminals at city hall.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I love the post and the content. As a congressional preamble, however, the words pray and prey mean different things. Clear that up and then go smack Bob Dold down.


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