I'm taking a time out on the heels of the latest loony political pronouncement in a generally lackluster campaign year. This gem comes from whackjob Todd Akin of Missouri, the hands-down winner of the monthly Republican Dumb Comment sweepstakes. It is so dumb it could have come from Texas.
As the whole world knows by now, when asked whether women can become pregnant when they're raped, Missouri's Republican Senate candidate reportedly said that pregnancy from rape is really rare. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he explained.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the icing on the cake for me.
I have always wanted to leave town when election time rolled around, then get home just in time to vote and be done with it. Maybe I'll tune in here and there while I'm away, but for the most part, electioneering has become so vapid, so devoid of integrity and so intrusive that I'm doing what I've long wanted to do: I'm spending a month abroad to see how we're viewed from someplace far, far away.
To get into the spirit of my trip I booked British Airways to fly me across the Atlantic to England, where I'm reuniting with a former neighbor. Ron and Cathy Young and her husband lived across the street from me when I lived in Leicester, a decent-sized town in the Midlands. We cooked together, argued politics and on more than one occasion she had to step in and mediate when her husband and I got a little to wound up. It took almost a year for me to realize his greatest pleasure in our discussions was baiting me.
For years I promised to visit. Year after year there was always something: my mother was dying; Molly was dying; I was broke from traveling back and forth to visit the both when I lived in Denver. There was always something. When I retired and move to Austin I got involved in writing the book. Then there was touring with the book. Still, they said, please come to England.
Once again I promised. I'm coming I said. When they said they'd bought a house in a little town in France, I absolutely promised to visit. We'd hang out a bit in Wiltshire, in the beautiful, historically wonderful Cotswolds, then we'd take the Chunnel to France or fly from Bristol to La Rochelle, then drive to Antezant. This went on for a while and suddenly I heard nothing. Figuring they had tired of me and my empty promises and given up, I wrote a pleading email asking for one more chance.
One day I learned why I hadn't heard: Ron had died suddenly and Cathy was alone in their Wiltshire dream house. I bought the ticket I should have bought months before. I called Susan Concordet, Molly's former roommate in Paris and said I would visit her too. Then I called the reporter to had lived with me when she had a fellowship to work a summer at the Dallas Morning News. We'd stayed in touch, but not seen one another in 20 years. I'm taking the Chunnel to visit her, her husband and two sons.
They will all poke fun at our political process and the pathetic performance of Congress over the last four years; they'll laugh and cringe at the presidential race, what with the Romney-Ryan ticket sounding increasingly like a bad parody of a real campaign. They'll ask me why no one is addressing economic issues and I won't even try to make sense of the forthcoming debates.
Just as we wished for a presidential White House like the one portrayed in Alan Sorkin's wonderful "West Wing," I'll tell them how much I wish we could have a political debate like the mock one in HBO's wonderful series "The Newsroom." I'll listen to them excoriate the idiocy of political candidates like Todd Akin and hope that, if nothing else, Akin's comments will stir women up enough to storm the polls to vote against him and his ilk.