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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

3 Political Prorogations

We’re a scarce two months into our latest Presidential election year, and already I am profoundly sick of politics.  Keeping in mind that I count myself as someone who is actually interested in politics, this is particularly troubling - because for the average American (who, for the record, can’t reliably identify the Vice President) the current election coverage must be about as enjoyable as watching reruns of American Idol.  And in a way, I feel for the producers of this mindless mush.  It can’t be easy to come up with new material after the campaign has been going on this long, and it’s not as though they have diverse and interesting personalities to work with in the first place - I’ve seen better developed characters in pornography (well, at least I’ve heard of them).  But there are some bits of it that I just can’t take anymore.  There are some parts whose repetition appears to betray their own foolishness beyond the point where I can ignore it any longer.  And so, in the interests of keeping the remaining nine months of political coverage at least marginally tolerable, here are 3 political moratoriums that must be imposed:

1. Go To Heil.  I’m the last person who should complain about the overuse of simile (or hyperbole for that matter).  In fact, robbed of those particular literary devices, I suspect my entire essay project would reduced the written version of me screaming.  But when comparing things for sake of reference, we must always be careful not to take too much license.  Or to put it another way, we should take care to not ever compare modern politicians, political parties, or even white-collar criminals to a historical dictator who engineered the greatest genocide the world has ever known.  And if you’re still not getting it, comparing anything that happens in modern-day America to the Third Reich, the Nazi party or Adolf Hitler makes you sound just as blindly ignorant as those who deny the whole thing ever happened.  Honestly, there weren’t this many references to Hitler during World War II - so just what the hell are we talking about?!  Inflammatory rhetoric is one thing, but euphemistically referring to the political platform of either major party with allusions to Hitler’s Nazi regime does dramatically more to cheapen the sacrifice of European Jews, to expose one’s own bigotry and highlight the smallest world view since we discovered it wasn’t flat than it will ever do to frame up anyone’s disagreement or disgust with modern-day politics.  It’s not as though there a shortage of evil characters (both fictional and otherwise) to use in this type of discourse.  In the past year, a half dozen or so brazenly brutal North African dictators have been deposed, countless swindling and greedy white collar criminals have been exposed and Justin Bieber has released an album of...(wait for it) REMIXES - so why do we even need to refer to the Nazis?  You can’t find good enough evil closer to home?  The bottom line is, as soon as you pull the “Hitler card”, I know everything I need to know about you, including all the reasons I’ll ever need to never listen to another word you say.  Stop it already.  Unless it’s waving a swastika around, you’re the small-minded, hate-monger for using this needless hyperbole.

2. Flipping My Lid.  One of the best things about getting older is the profound perspective it gives you on things.  I don’t know anyone in their 30’s or 40’s who wouldn’t like a chance to go back and talk to their 20-year-old self and tell them just how ridiculous they’re being, how not important the things they’re worrying about are, and how they really might want to consider picking up a few shares of Apple.  The fact is, one of the best things about our minds is our ability to change them.  Over the years we aggregate facts, experiences and interactions which can change even our most treasured and fundamental beliefs.  Religious zealots become atheists.  Bodybuilders become yogis.  Sometimes, on rare occasions, even Nickelback fans start liking real music.  The point being, I don’t trust anyone who never changes their mind.  If I still believed the things I believed when I was 21, I’d be a complete wreck.  Hell, the same is true for most of the things I believed five years ago, and some of the things I believed last year.  We make mistakes, even the best and brightest amongst us.  What informs as to who’s really paying attention is whether or not we learn anything from them (and whether we make them again).  And so, the idea of “flip-flopping” as the highest form of betrayal by a politician has me baffled.  I want my politicians to get smarter as they go, and yes even during their terms in office.  I would love for an elected official to realize that once they really looked at an issue, they had it all wrong and switch positions.  We don’t elect politicians to think a certain way no matter what - if that were the case, we’d simply elect mindless party drones who would just vote the way they were told (don’t worry Tea Party, I know you’re already working on that idea - I’m not infringing a patent here).  I’m sure there are a few people out there who aren’t getting any wiser as they get older, who aren’t learning from their mistakes and becoming better people for their experiences - but I’m happy not to know them, I hope they’ve had the good sense not to procreate and the last place I want them is in charge.  

3. Losing Touch.  Look, I know we have this romantic idea that our politicians are just like us, just with a different job and slightly nicer suits.  But that’s about as enlightened as believing that reality television is real.  (Spoiler Alert: There’s a script.  Yes, for all of them.)  The reality is that politicians, at least the successful ones, are our modern-day royalty, and they can be expected to be about as in touch with “the people” as the Kennedy clan.  In fact, they have people for that.  Yes, that’s right, they have people for being in touch with “the people.”  And before you get all righteously indignant, try to remember that despite your superhuman expectations, they are still only people themselves.  And inasmuch, that’s the only similarity you can expect between them and the proletariat.  Do you really want the people in charge of the world’s largest collection of nuclear devices, the world’s most influential economy and the world’s most complex bureaucracy to be invested in the day-to-day struggles of you or your Aunt Ida?  Because, here’s the deal: I don’t.  I don’t want the President to be in tune with the people, I want him to be in tune with the United Nations, NATO, and whichever crazy dictator has most recently started slaughtering his own people.  I don’t need him to understand about traffic problems during my commute when the federal deficit has gone totally insane and we’re pork-barreling bridges to nowhere.  In fact, the very last thing I want is for the people in charge to have much of an idea about what the rest of us are going through on a daily basis.  There are over 311 million of us, and because we can’t all expect to be heard, none of us should.  We aggregate our voices through representatives, polls and economic behavior - and if we are loud enough, we can be heard.  And that’s how it should be - because when one voice demands to be heard above the crowd, we end up with school shootings, compound stand offs and lone gunmen that the FBI has to take down.

* * *

I have little idea what to expect from politics anymore.  We’ve gone through the looking glass so long ago that I’m now pondering the paradox of what might happen when you go through it again and from the other side.  Somewhere deep inside me, I hope against hope that this results in the impossibly simple result of ending up where we started - where some modicum of of sanity, temperance and intelligence informs the impossibly complex world of modern politics.  Unfortunately, the side of me with its eyes open, its dreams jaded by a five-year stint in Los Angeles, and fair bit of mathematical reasoning knows that heading through another mirror will only land us in increasingly smaller and less distinguishable versions of what we started with, until we’ve got nothing at all.  What is truly troubling about politics, however, is not that it isn’t an accurate reflection of who we are, it’s that it is. 


Andrew Speaker said...

Great post as always brother.....but...... I do want a President that is in touch with the people, instead of the candidates we have that are so busy reaching into the pockets of lobbyist that they have forgotten that eventually, if they reach far enough, a handjob is going to ensue, and not theirs. Ever read any of Teddy Roosevelt's stories, quotes or about his life? Get the TR Quote app on your iphone and check the daily quote and explanation. There was a man in touch with the people and dedicated to the service of his country.
I'll go ahead and start you off for today, "I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!"

Eric said...

The works of dead politicians can always be mined for sage words of wisdom sufficient to make us think we wished they were around again to clean house and get shit straightened out....unlike our modern pork addicted media whores. The truth, of course, is that politicians then did much the same as politicians now (not because they're all evil but because they're all stuck in the same system and members of the human race). Back in the day, they just didn't have mass media and a giant middle class to play to.

I'm with Glenn...the less interest Joe Politicians has in solving my every day problems, the better. With 300 million people, there's no way to solve the problems of one subset without creating problems for another subset - and then all you're doing is shuffling problems around in the name of *doing something*...*anything!*.

My kid cleans her room the same way. She takes all the junk off of the floor and every available surface and then stacks it up in the hallway outside her door. Her room looks fantastic...until I make her clean the hallway.

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