Get Back In the Game
Soon the noise will stop. Its half life will decay just enough to where we can stick our heads above ground for long enough to survey the world we will live in for the next four years. American elections are no small thing anymore; Indeed, they swallow up the bulk of the intellectual — and rational — capacity of this country for about 18 months, and often leave us more broken than when they started. The process itself is enough to wipe away any decency we thought we had regained or even grown from the seeds of our mutual desire to make things better for ourselves.
I don’t buy into the oft-used refrains that this one will be different. That it will change everything. Magically erase the vitriol, hatred, greed and malaise. We aren’t dumb people — in fact, quite the opposite. Americans know just what we want, but don’t usually agree on the means to ascertain our goals. By and large, an election is a chance for the people themselves to directly push the country to one of two visions for the role of its government. Anything beyond that is just part of the noise that blares on all sides until Election Day. However, over the last 20 years those two visions exhibit less and less dichotomy as we descend into a gridlocked genital-measuring display of incompetence. No, this one won’t be different, but it stands at the apex of the forces within our own control that can dictate whether, going forward, it will be really, really difficult, or not.
The last few months, I walked away from a lot of it. For a time, ignorance was bliss. I struggled to find the impetus to show vested interest in the goings on of government, society, and culture. My sentiment extended beyond politics as well, wondering if I’d ever regain the enthusiasm for things I hold dear. It didn’t feel like apathy — more of a voluntary check-out. But that’s not to say there weren’t occasional dabbles in things academic and political.
It’s hard to keep caring when the burden of disappointment and loss of hope pulls so strongly in the opposite direction. I felt so beaten, I stopped enjoying my surroundings and socially withdrew. Few people were in my life and enjoying the company of others was more chore than delight. And I let it beat me. I gave up on my goals and prospective life — willingly, because I didn’t want to deal. It was easier to observe from a distance and not get too involved or take the risk of getting enthused about something besides getting out of bed. It ate away at me and I found nothing to fill that hole because I didn’t want to look or try.
As the summer waned and leaves began to turn, I realized that it wasn’t going to get better, and perhaps my own happiness was linked to giving a damn about things. And I give a damn about this election.
An election should be approached with a sense of duty. So much of our political environment is toxic, and about ruining the other man or woman rather than letting ideas be the guiding force for disagreement. We all live in the same country, what good comes out of a person saying they hate another human being because they believe in raising taxes or giving women control over their own bodies? What good comes out of branding an advocate for safer schools or stricter gun regulations a big government-loving socialist? I checked out because the decency gets buried. Facts get shaped into statements of convenience. Not one promise I’ve listened to from Governor Romney is rooted in any sort of reality, it’s more about saying the opposite of whatever Mr. Obama promises. If the president promised to give all first graders a free yellow pen, Mr. Romney would decry yellow pens as government intrusion and instead promise their parents he’d shut down the yellow pen program and let them choose their own color, granted that pen came from a private company.
Not only will our children have the freedom to choose their own color of pen, by gum Mr. Romney is going to do so many things on day one of his hypothetical presidency, there won’t be any need for a day two.
But to hear people say they hate Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney, that’s just…not helpful. What did they ever do to you? Mr. Romney didn’t cause you to lose your health insurance, Mr. Obama didn’t cause your parent to lose their job. I believe both of them *care* but why the hell would someone purposefully and personally make someone else suffer? It’s the paralysis of government that causes the suffering of its own people. Government is inherently flawed because it relies on the good judgment of its caregivers to make it work to the best of its ability. Remove the sense of duty and we have modern politics. Greed has replaced doing the right thing, thus our presidential debates turn into bickering over a transcript of one sentence of one speech out of hundreds on one day.
Do I think Mr. Obama will win tomorrow? Absolutely. The Besieged One, Nate Silver, has guessed a comfortable victory, by about 40 electoral votes. We’ve devolved into the practice of caring more about three states’ votes from an obsolete political device that, at its inception, was designed to compensate for the lack of technology and geographical proximity to major centers of commerce. I’m sure the people of rural Virginia will be thrilled to see their state’s whole vote count go for Obama when half its population voted for the other guy. If that’s fair in the modern age, we have more work to do. And that’s the ruse: the country is basically split down the middle but most voters probably couldn’t name more than one difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney on an issue like how to end a war that has lasted two administrations. In the grand scheme of things, who we vote for is only part of the equation. We’re relying on flawed people to run a flawed country…it isn’t impervious to oversight and neglect.
Give a damn tomorrow and give a damn the next day. I’m back in the game, all because of that sense of duty and the recognition that when we hold an election it’s bigger than all of us. Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney don’t control where the country goes. We do. Everything else is just noise.