Friday, 5 November 2010

A good 'shellacking'

Barack Obama conceded on Wednesday that he and the Democrats had been given a good 'shellacking' by voters. His party having lost control of the House of Representatives, it was pretty obvious what he meant, but I must admit I'd never heard the term before - at least not used in that way. My late father-in-law would have understood what it meant to be given a good shellacking, but he was a painter and decorator. Chambers says that the 'trounced' or 'heavily defeated' usage is informal North American - so, you learn something new every day.

Yesterday, events conspired to defeat my good intentions a propos writing and blogging - gave them, as I always say, a good shellacking. My mother managed to land up in casualty - ER, since we're talking American - after falling at home. It was a long evening, in the course of which, faithful to mum's perennial conviction that business comes first and the show must go on, I had to leave the hospital for an hour and a half to speak at a local book launch; but the end result was that we managed to argue mum out of hospital and into her own bed (the argument was with the doctors, not with mum), albeit battered, bruised and bestitched, by 11pm. After an ordeal which would have put me out of action and into a state of self-pity for days, my mother was laughing it off and getting on with life already. As she always says, 'It takes an old dog..'

Had I got to the blog, I was going to mention an historic event which, in the end, wasn't.

On the same day as the mid-term congressional elections, the Navajo Nation elected it's first new president in three years. In the primaries, New Mexico senator Lynda Lovejoy had swept the boards, giving her opponent Ben Shelly a shellacking (I promise I didn't see the assonance coming), with 17,000 to 7,600 votes. But on the day, Shelly won 52.7% of the vote, narrowly defeating Lovejoy, who called for a recount. This dramatic upset in the fortunes of the clear favourite - sorry, favorite - appeared to be down to three factors: a) Lovejoy is a woman, and despite the matriarchal structure of Navajo culture, where descent is via the mother and women traditionally own more property and have greater rights than men to property and children in matrimonial disputes, there has never been a female Navajo leader; b) her drinking habits were called in question ( a cheap shot when you consider Churchill was said to drink champagne every morning and a quart of whisky a day) - anyway she denies drinking to excess; and c) she is married to a non-Navajo.

As in Northern Ireland, it appears that 'tradition' - the political wing of prejudice and tribalism - may have raised it's ugly head.
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