Monday, November 3, 2008
On Election Eve
Up until now I've resisted posting anything political (except this). I've tried to keep the blog focused on fitness even though I knew I would eventually sprinkle in a few anecdotes that would give away some of my unusual views. I've always been fascinated by the history of governments, the law and the courts. After all, those who can't remember the past are doomed to repeat it, or something like that.
My four years of college-level political study can be summed up in one sentence spoken by my professor at the beginning of my second term: "Politics" he said "is the art of who gets what, when and how". The art, mind you. Art is abstraction, and like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What are we to make of a system of services whose function is enshrined in art? It was agreed upon long ago that we need no ruler, yet we have the party of the last eight years who subscribe to the notion of a "unitary executive" - a dictator. No one will deny that we are each in possession of certain inalienable rights, yet the recognition of those rights depends on the composition of a panel of nine. We all know from our elementary school days that Congress shall make no law and so on, yet those laws were made anyway, and serve each day to cheapen our remaining inalienable rights.
The first election in which I voted was the presidential election of 1980. I was eighteen. The choice that year was between the incumbent, a farmer from Georgia with a funny family, and an actor from Hollywood who was famous for making movies with a monkey. The farmer didn't seem to inspire a lot of confidence and he couldn't gain a consensus for any of his ideas. Jobs were scarce, especially for young people, and all the older adults talked about how high the taxes were, and how much more everything cost than before. Then there were some religious people who overthrew a government that our government had previously overthrown, and they took the employees of our embassy in that country hostage. The farmer said that if we gave him a second chance he could solve all those problems.
The actor was inspiring when he spoke. After all, he was an actor. He said all our problems were caused by an evil empire of people who didn't like to own stuff. He said that because of them, there were people in our country who didn't want us to own stuff either. He said he could protect us from that evil. He said that the problems with the religious people could be solved by being even more religious than them. He said that for all of us to have a job and live well, we would need a great army so no one - especially the people who didn't like to own stuff - would bother us. Strength was the answer. Strength - and low taxes. America would have its glory without all that respect and collaboration hogwash that the farmer talked about.
The actor made sense for all I knew. It was simple and easy. He made sense to my friends too. We helped vote the actor into office and he set about making country strong again. But the actor was only an actor and he believed so deeply in his ideals that he couldn't see where he'd gone wrong. We got our low taxes but the country was nearly bankrupted. We got our great army but it became a burdensome beast. Moral outrages were invented and used to justify one war after another on the citizenry in the name of better religion. The promises of health care and education and small government and fiscal responsibility turned out to be just promises, and we all stood by and watched as the public coffers were emptied into the pockets of the actors supporters.
This election year feels a lot like it did in 1980. Like there's something real at stake. The party of the actor has offered us an old man with a poor temperament and a grifter sidekick as their candidates and told us they are different. But these "new" candidates haven't said anything different than the actor did 28 years ago. Because many refuse to accept that fraud, the actor's party and its "new" candidates are willing to incite the mob in an attempt to sully what they can't keep. What a disgrace they are.
I have had enough. I've had enough of the climate of fear. I've had enough of the cronyism and graft and austerity and debt. I've had enough of war. I want my civil liberties back. I want my privacy respected. I want my retirement protected. I want clean water, good roads, good schools, and health care. I want somebody smart to run the government for a change. Somebody who isn't an actor or a privileged son, who is about my age, and who has actually had to go out and earn a living. No more old Cold Warriors. We need new ideas and fresh faces; people who can understand the shifting cultures and technology of the modern world. If I have to pay more in taxes for it, so be it. If I've learned anything since 1980, its that nothing worth having is simple and easy.
Tomorrow is a big day. Vote your conscience.