It’s been quite a while since I posted anything to this blog, but over the course of those months, a great deal has happened in my life, most of it good. I’ve embarked on graduate studies in research meteorology, a passion that I have had since I was eight (and quite possibly four), and I’ve been working on a novel with the full intent of publishing it upon completion, another dream that I have had since I was a young child. It is a joyful experience to make real progress on achieving your greatest ambitions, especially when they are things that you truly love and the desire for money is not really a factor. (Of course, it does help to know that your ambitions, if achieved, would set you up comfortably well.) With this turnaround in my life from being an angry, frustrated person with clinical depression to a deeply happy and motivated one, I have had little to say on the subject that brought about so much of the anger and frustration, and which gives this blog its name: politics in America.
It’s not a pleasant subject. In fact, politics in America has become little more than a circus freak show. I say this without fear of offending any of my former colleagues, because not one such person with whom I have even kept in peripheral touch is still involved in the partisan side of it. Those who are involved in politics at all are now focused on particular issues, a course of action that I actually found myself taking without knowing that they had done the same thing. For me, it came with the realization that I was not even an activist “type.” By that I mean that I am extremely unsuited for self-sacrifice and self-denial for some person or cause, an absolute necessity to be a sincere activist. I have personal ambitions, not lofty social reform visions. Since I am going into a natural science, I also believe in the capacity of science to better humanity, but science ain’t politics—or at least it shouldn’t be, though people want to poison it with the cyanide pill of partisan politics. With one big exception, I support or oppose policies based on whether or not they are good/neutral for me. That exception, as my last blog entry probably indicates, is the environment. I suppose that is my cause. I would recommend this course of action to anyone who is, like the majority of us are, not the activist type. It’s very beneficial to retaining your financial stability, health, and sanity in the modern political arena, because politics in this country has become insane.
It is a field of extremes, and it seems that when a difference of opinion/strategy/tactics arises anywhere, the two sides must immediately diverge as profoundly as possible. The left is splitting into a group that absolves Obama and most Congressional Democrats of blame for failure to pass legislation that delivers beneficial change, and a group that charges that the Democrats are complicit or hopelessly naive and need to be replaced. Like in 1968, there is a movement emerging to pressure Obama out of running for a second term, though it would leave a power vacuum. The other faction, rather than recognizing that there have been some truly indefensible failures of leadership, wears blinders and absolutely refuses to acknowledge that any change in strategy or tactics might be beneficial. It’s all the other party’s fault to them.
The right has already split into three factions: the “establishment Republican Party,” the religious right-influenced faction of the Tea Party, and the secular libertarian faction of the Tea Party. There is a power vacuum in the American right, and an unprofessional assortment of characters has emerged to attempt to fill it. Some of their more prominent political figures are a talk radio host, a TV commentator with a blackboard, and a half-term ex-governor.
Activists on all sides seem to be interested in outdoing every other activist at frothing at the mouth, with a mainstream media that’s all too happy to cover the degeneration of public discourse with unabashed glee. And speaking of media figures, the person who perhaps has the most reasonable take on all of it, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” is being attacked now by members of both left-wing factions for essentially saying “get a grip, everyone” with his (perhaps tongue-in-cheek?) “Rally to Restore Sanity.” Yes, let’s openly embrace insane political hyperbole instead!
Choose your poison. Or choose disengagement, whether full or partial. It is not always an immoral choice, regardless of what the hyper-partisan activists say. That simply plays into fear, the fear of a victory by the other side. If you cannot cast a vote without feeling that you have sold off part of your soul, disengagement is obviously the better choice. That sick feeling is actually your conscience scolding you, you know.
As is often the case, this much-vaunted “important election year” is utterly unimportant for me. My Congressional district is 66% Republican. No matter what your politics are, if you vote in a district like that expecting to make a difference, it’s a fool’s errand, and you’d be better off saving the gasoline money. (If you vote in order to feel good about yourself, then knock yourself out, I suppose.) There is no Senate or gubernatorial race and no important initiative on the ballot. The Congressional race in the district “next door” is competitive, but the incumbent Democrat voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that allows women to sue for back pay if they have been discriminated against for a long time (and have been unable to prove it because of individual salaries’ being “company secrets”), and the challenging Republican would have voted against it. Even the Republican female Senators voted for the bill when it went through the Senate. As a woman, if that were my district, why should I cast a vote for either one? Why contribute to giving a job to someone who doesn’t think I, a software engineer, a college graduate with honors, and a scientist-in-training—but one who happens to have XX chromosomes and female organs—should be allowed to have back pay if I were illegally denied it? There is not a campaign volunteer, paid staffer, or advertisement on the face of the Earth that could convince me to change my mind on this.
It is very difficult, too, to justify giving money away to a bunch of people who are only interested in keeping their job or replacing the person who is there, when you are on a budget yourself. Don’t feel obligated to do it. This is simply mathematical logic. That $20 will do much more for you with a middle-class or working-class income, where it is a larger fraction of your budget, than it will for some partisan organization that is pulling in hundreds of thousands or millions. For you, it could mean a meal for your family or a new article of clothing. It could mean a tank of gasoline or a repair for the car. It could go to paying off a credit card bill. For them, it’s probably a single hors d’oeuvre at a cocktail party. Even if it’s not, it’s money spent in the faint hope that, maybe, the candidate(s) that this organization supports might get elected and enact a law that gets you that $20 back. These are politicians we’re talking about here. Be logical about this. Where, exactly, is that money going to do you the most good?
The American economy has not been in good health since the recessions of the 1970s. In the 1980s, it was based on unsustainable deficit spending and a defense industry better suited for the height of the Cold War than its decline and end. In the 1990s, it was based on a bubble. In the early 2000s, it was based on outright fraud. All the while it was fueled by consumer credit, which people became more and more reliant on as they saw the cost of everything under the sun increase while their wages did not keep the pace. Now the chickens have come home to roost.
All we can do at this point is take care of ourselves and let the circus play in the background. Yes, I said “background.” We the People always have the ability to say no. We have the Internet, where we can select exactly what kind of news we want to read about. We can change the channel, put on a movie, or turn the set off—and let the people of perpetual outrage foam at the mouth about “the civic duty to be informed” if they must. Unless they are busybodies to a truly absurd degree, they don’t actually care how “informed” you are; they just get into a royal huff if you start ignoring their pet issue. But this is their problem, not yours.
Decide what is really important to you and what (if you have been active in politics) is just something you got pressured into being “concerned” about because of the righteous rants of political activists. For that matter, decide if you are a true activist personality or not. Decide what is the best use to which you could put your money and time. Decide what media are helping your psychological state and which ones are contributing to ill feeling and stress in you. Let’s make life sane again and leave the circus to the clowns.