10.12.2004

In answer to a question from Friday

During the discussion after the debate Friday, one of our guests asked me why I'm so motivated in this particular election. That is, what about this election had invigorated me more than, say, the 2000 election. (As I remember, it was really a meta-question about the motivation for those of us who are so passionately against the other side this election and not necessarily a question for me specifically, even though she asked me for my specific motivation. If I've got that part wrong, I'm sure she'll correct me in email or comments.)

Another guest had mentioned previously that four years ago, most people who were unhappy with the outcome of the 2000 election had managed to reconcile themselves with it with the question, "How much damage can they do in four years?" I think she's right on that front...the base of the outrage we're seeing from the left is that we've seen the answer to that question, and it's chilling.

With every Administration, there's an inherent understanding that government is like a very slow game of tug-of-war, where each side will alternately gain ground and lose it but overall, the game itself will naturally seek a state of balance, a swing to the middle that keeps the battle going. (This analogy doesn't fit as well as I'd like because over a longer period, the game itself shifts, most usually in a progressive manner, since both technology and knowledge favor progressivism, which is why totalitarian regimes and dictatorships are doomed to a fixed shelf life. But for my purposes here, the analogy will suffice.)

Traditionally, the balance is struck not just between supporters and opponents of a particular administration, but between the multiple interests that compose those two sides. A balance between labor and management, public and corporate, environment and business, secular and religious, young and old, poor and rich. And really, this is the role government plays, or should play: referee. Now, we can disagree about how well the government performs this job, and argue that the two party system necessarily makes the referree biased toward whatever team is in power, but as part of the larger argument, I would submit that overall, the two sides balance out. Or did, at one time.

What sets this Administration apart is that they, in their role of referee, don't just favor the other side, but have actually moved the center line to the right, greased the rope on our side, and awarded extra points to the their team just because they can. In other words, they've violated the basic understanding we've traditionally had between the two sides, the trust that the referree would hew to the middle.

This was the essence of my answer to the question about why this election is so important to me, albeit without the tortured tug-of-war analogy. As I said Friday, on every issue, every topic, the Administration and the Republicans at large have reversed years and years of small victories and hard-fought compromises on everything from the environment to healthcare to labor protections to foreign policy. In four years, we the people have been under assault on every front by those in power, and believe me when I tell you I know exactly how radical and yes, paranoid, those words must sound.

What I didn't answer then, and what I've been thinking about since, is one of the truer and deeper reasons I've been more obsessed than usual. That reason is much more visceral, much more emotional and difficult to verbalize than talking about healthcare or the economy, which is why I didn't talk about it then. But it better explains the sense of urgency that I feel about this election, a feeling so deep and overwhelming it borders on desperation.

That desperation, that feeling that I had to do something, is what prompted me to start my own blog. And I've had three goals with it:

  1. VENT. Jeebus knows we've had more reasons for outrage than there are pebbles on a beach. Writing is my vent of choice and venting on the web is like standing on a street corner and screaming about the evils of the Republicans, except you get all the satisfaction of saying whatever you want without all the strange looks and whispers about the crazy lady in the Dr. Seuss hat.
  2. INFORMATION. I make no secret of the fact that I'm a political junkie and in the last year, I've become so addicted to blogs that I read far more than is probably good for me. Fact is, there's a mountain of information out there, the vast majority of which most people will never even hear about. If I linked to every story I thought was worth reading or blogged every nugget of information I thought more people should know about, I would be blogging full-time, my posts would be nothing but link lists, and you, no doubt, would run screaming from the room. Look, I realize most people aren't as interested (obsessed, whatever) as I am. But I know a lot of people who are interested so I strive to add a little snippet here or there to whatever your usual sources of information are, just to give you a peek into what's out there. If you want to read more, you know where to start.
  3. MOTIVATION. As I said before, we the people have been under a full assault for the last four years. (Well technically more, but that's a post for another time.) It's easy (and understandable) to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer mendacity of this Administration and to want to just throw your hands in the air and call it a day. No one understands or appreciates this sentiment more than I do, believe me. We all have jobs and families and lives. We know politics are important, the issues affect our lives, blah blah blah, but we've also got mortgages to pay and dentist appointments to make and family to care for. I know. But they're counting on us to get so overwhelmed that we give up, because they know that while they might have the money and the power, we've got the numbers, the one thing that threatens them and their way of doing things. So I try to toss in some motivation, Daily Show clips that get you laughing and energized, links to Photoshopped pictures of Darth Cheney and Zell "I'm not a Democrat but I play one on TV" Miller, and encouraging posts about our GOTV efforts and grassroots successes. I hold no illusions that I'm influencing more than a small circle of people, but in an army of any size, all you can do is pick up the comrades around you and hope that everyone else will do the same.

What I don't often blog about, however, is that deeper feeling, that visceral emotion. Most of the time, it's all I can do to cope with it, let alone write about it, and since I want you to be motivated, not depressed, I choose not to blog it much. Which is why I stay on topics like Republican scandals, candidate ineptitude, and policy discussions. I feel strongly about all of it, but my emotions aren't nearly so close to the surface as they are about the war and the suffering.

We went ahead and watched Fahrenheit 9/11 after everyone left on Friday. We saw it this summer in the theater so we knew what to expect. And even when we'd seen it before, we already knew most of ground the movie covered. Nonetheless, there's no way not to be overcome by it, no matter how prepared or informed you are. You see the pictures of Iraqis before their world disappeared, whose concerns were no different from ours. They worry about their children's futures, they work hard everyday just to put food on the table, they look forward to the simplest of joys -- holidays with family, a day at the market, the birth of a healthy baby. You see these pictures, and they're superimposed with scenes of devastation and chaos, pain and loss and bewilderment, Iraqis who were struggling just to survive their hardscrabble life, now trying to understand what had they done to deserve this. And while you're watching these poor people, angry and sobbing, you can't help thinking, "What if that were my child? What if that were my husband? What if? What if?" The heartbreak, it overwhelms.

But there are soldiers, too. American soldiers, who believed they were avenging a terrible, terrible tragedy, who thought their targets were men worthy of attack, that they were doing a good thing, that they were protecting one country from terrorism and freeing another from tyranny. American soldiers, who were told a lie and did their jobs and must now face, every day, the haunted looks of the people they thought they were freeing, the mistrust and the fear and the desperation and the anger. American soldiers who willingly sacrificed, whose purpose was the most noble of any, who were ill-used by a leader they believed in and trusted not to send them casually to their deaths. American soldiers, who had families in that country they thought they were protecting, but who were losing their benefits and taking pay cuts and ordered to stay away from those families longer than they'd been promised. You watch all of this, these American soldiers now angry and disillusioned and broken and cheated, and you can't help thinking, "What if that were my brother? What if that were my sister? What if? What if?" And the heartbreak, it overwhelms.

It's all the suffering that motivates me. The suffering caused by the war, the economy, the Administration. The suffering of the poor and the hungry and the homeless who've been pushed down to their knees by policies that seem intent to not just ignore them, but seem bent on destroying them. It's the suffering of children who go to schools that have outdated textbooks and whose teachers must pay for pencils and paper out of their own pockets, whose hungry little minds are slowly starving to death on a diet of aptitude tests and stripped-down curricula, where art and music and sports are considered unnecessary. It's the suffering of women who must constantly fight off the groping invasion of this government and its selfish morality, who must fight just for the most basic to control their own bodies, women both here and abroad who are fighting to be something more than an incubator. It's the suffering fo the elderly who must choose between food and medicine while big pharma lines their pockets, holding the weakest among us hostage to their greed, the suffering of all of us who live with the worry of how to pay for care if anything should happen to us, the suffering from not going to the doctor when we're sick or getting new glasses when we need them because we can't afford to pay for it. It's the suffering of families who must work long hours and long weeks to keep the bank at bay and who worry that their kids are missing out because they spend more time in daycare than at home. It's the suffering of the environment, of the birds and the trees, the fish and the air, all of the life between sea and sky, caused by corporations and cronyism who care nothing for any of it, whose only driving force is money, more and more of it, by any means necessary.

Suffering isn't new and it most certainly isn't going away any time soon. But I believe we should always strive to end it and every victory, no matter the size, puts us one step closer to a better world.

That's why this election so important to me.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said. You speak for more people than you realize and do so more eloquently than most.

Btb, you didn't misquote me... but I sure as heck would have let you know if you had!!!

"Don't forget to vote." As if.

~Jess

Miss Bitty said...

Aww, you've got me blushing. Thank you. And thank you for being involved, for taking part in this crazy political dance and making your voice heard.

And also: heh. :)