The politics of now.
October 5, 2014 § 4 Comments
It landed in the driveway every morning.
It was broadcast every evening at dinnertime.
But back then I was busy doing homework, worrying that my hair was too straight—or maybe not straight enough—and listening to Cousin Brucie on the transistor radio hidden under my pillow.
Anything less local didn’t apply to me.
Then Vietnam broke over me and my whole self-absorbed generation. Suddenly awakened, we marched, we carried signs, we screamed for peace.
In college, on a mission to end that war, I went door to door with a partner. We made a good team. He was well-informed. I was passionate.
The war ground on and on unaffected by logic or passion, but my engagement in the workings of the political world had begun.
Since then I have never missed a vote. I have made the phone calls, written the letters, signed the petitions. I’ve argued politics, displayed signs on my lawn, followed the debates, attended rallies.
It was only one thread in a complex life, but I was there, involved in the process. My nation’s politics stirred my hopes and fears. It raised my blood pressure.
I don’t know when I began to let go, be less attentive, allowed the fervor to be replaced by a sense of futility. A year ago? Two?
Observing the workings of modern politics I began to see the “man behind the curtain” of our democracy, and the one pulling the strings was never elected.
One man one vote is still true, but quaint now that corporations have been awarded legal personhood.
And cooperation across the political aisle has become synonymous with ceding the point to the other team.
And the law works to siphon the wealth up not down.
And voting districts are shaped as if cut out by a crazy person, in order to ensure the outcome of elections.
The problem lies not just with the elected and the shadow powers that stand behind them. It lies with us, the electorate.
For us, truth has become a matter of opinion, each of us finding the news source that leans our direction.
We have accepted the dumbing-down of social discourse; we shout and get red in the face. It is easier than digging for the facts and then assessing and discussing them rationally.
Our president is reviled and treated with disrespect for a reason rarely spoken aloud. The man is black. Untruths about his Muslim childhood and non-native birth persist because we let them.
I am saddened by what democracy, and we, the people, have become.
I still care and hope, but I now work for causes closer to home, like starting a library for the kids in my neighborhood in what used to be my father’s house, spending time in the community garden, keeping a nearby stretch of road trash free.
In the explosive era of protest in which my generation came of age we lavishly expended two things we had in abundance: passion and time.
If anything, I have more passion now, but with so much less time. I want to spend both wisely.
I don’t avoid the news, I still listen, but I’ve become less engaged. I’m not proud of my absence from the fight, and I thank those of you who are still in the trenches. I have to believe genuine democracy can be won back, and I will never miss a vote, but I am working for the children and the environment I can reach out and touch.
I am investing my time and my passion close to home.