Presidential Elections on the way 2012

Another One, Just like the Other One

'Tis the season for politics and party identity, tra-la-la-la. Oh, boy.

I am not good at party politics. I can't identify with either party, although I am more left than right, more liberal than conservative, and wary of the extremes of both sides. This is not a new position for me. There was no sudden revelation, no final betrayal, no drama. Neither party had ever spoken to me, and I doubt either is capable of speaking for me. I will, I am afraid, have to speak for myself. Well, no, I am not afraid: I proudly speak for myself, constantly, to the consternation of friends and family who would prefer that I learn to be silent.

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect". ~Mark Twain

Watching the Republican debates, if you have the stomach for them, or the Democratic pundits open joy at the failure of the Republican party to field a substantial, believable candidate thus far, does make one comfortable with being an Independent. As a member of the great party unfaithful, I can analyze and criticize without feeling personally implicated in the politics of either side. I can come at politics knowing that neither side has all the answers, and that some possible solutions, some ways of addressing the problem, are not represented within the major parties at all. I don't have to assume that any single candidate comes forward to do intentional wrong--there are mistakes of perspective, errors of analysis, an incompleteness or over-simplicity of thought, but very little active evil at play. Most of our politicians are not out to do us harm, though they can, and do, produce harm despite their good intentions. Most of our politicians believe in the U.S.A., a future of prosperity and good will, and all the other illusions we share with them, but they aren't as sure of how to get there as their public statements and advertisements for office are designed to make us believe. After all, the public is looking for certainty, for answers, for immediate solutions to long-term problems, as unrealistic as these demands might be. We vote for answer-men, for deciders, for those who claim to know.

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. ~Raymond Hull

Does anyone remember Bob Dole? I do. Before he was accepted as the Republican candidate for president, I thought him a decent politician, a thinking politician. But then he became official, and the pressures and demands of being a party candidate led him to spout a line the party found acceptable so that he would retain the votes of the loyalists. He became, as a candidate, less himself than he was before, and more a man wearing a Republican suit, giving Republican speeches, and citing the Republican phrasebook. I fear that is happening today in a different way. Instead of Republican politicians dressing themselves in the party's garb, they are coming out in Tea Party costume. How many of them believe what they are saying? I wonder. How much of what they say is merely pandering for votes, playing the conservative-populist for the media in order to draw votes? How much of the man, or woman, is left on stage once they have trimmed all in them that is dangerous, individual, or drawn from their political lives before the rise of the Tea Party and the new, militant god brigades? Politicians need votes, and they play to the audience that they believe will vote. So, the reasonable men and women who would rather stay home, or be silent, than vote and speak up are to blame for the power of the fringe, felt by both parties, but most strongly influencing the Republicans this year.

No man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors. ~William Faulkner

It is an election year, so the flag and patriotism are on proud display everywhere. But not just patriotism, and not just the flag. This year there is the addition of "Old Time Religion" and bids to take us back to a better day, a purer nation, a more American America. I don't like this nostalgic jingoism. It makes me wary. It makes me worry. I study history. The study of history, beyond the reading of glowing paeans to the 'greatest generation' or eulogies to our glorious dead, is an antidote for nostalgia, for through history you learn the good old days were not good, but, like today, confused, troubled, violent, and vicious. In order for nostalgia to remain a pleasant exercise in memorializing the golden past, as little should be known about that past as possible. Where possible, the past should be edited, as it is in our memories of childhood and, as we grow older, adolescence, into a comforting illusion: then we were strong, beautiful, handsome, vigorous, etc. We were what we are not. We should be so again. Then, we would be happy, healthy, prosperous, and great.

"Our country, right or wrong." When right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right. ~Carl Schurz

Nostalgic patriotism, then, is the love for a country, a time, that is not here, that is not with us, that is beyond our means to help or to hinder. If we resurrected the past invoked in nostalgia, we would merely create a facsimile world of lesser and greater illusions, but those illusions would be granted the power to strangle and to kill us. The past existed as a whole, and it is impossible to bring back one single element of it free of the presumptions and principles that made it real. For example, you cannot have the idyllic sit-com world of the 1950s without the racial exclusion, dire poverty, misogyny and widespread social intolerance that went with it. Now, for some the sit-com may be worth the price, but for me it is not. We have made progress in this country, real progress. We have not attained perfection as a nation or a society, and I do not suspect we ever will; but we can, and should, keep working towards it. For me, this is what being an American truly is--being a living, active participant in the realization of a great dream, a challenge that changes with every generation, with every new set of global and local circumstances.

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong. ~James Bryce

There are many things that disturb me about my country today. I fight them as I am able, where I am able. I fight them by my vote, and by my actions in society. I fight them by vocalizing my dissent and my approval. I fight them by raising my son to respect his country, himself, and other humans. I fight them by struggling to determine for myself what differences are important, and what differences are merely different, indicative of nothing save that not all humans are exactly the same.

Like many Americans, I am concerned by the economy. I am concerned at the level of greed and corruption that pervades our economy, twisting and perverting our economic relationships. I am concerned by the corruption of our political system--the leverage money has within it, and, thus, the relative lack of influence granted to citizens who do not have the cash to buy concern. I am concerned by the fear that pushed us into legal maneuvers damaging to our status as a "free" nation--the degree to which we have allowed our civil rights to be compromised in the name of chasing a shadowy enemy in a war, declared upon a tactic--terrorism, to which there is no logical end, no victory scenario, that will return those rights to us whole. I am concerned by the fear that prevents us from trying the prisoners from Guantanamo in an open court of law, so that we have created an entire category of prisoners for whom guilt is assumed without evidence and without address--a situation that is the mark of a tyranny, not a democracy. Education in this country, tied to a set of standardized tests, devoted to teaching skills on the ways in which such tests might be cheated, concerns me, as does the growing politicization of instruction and the attempts to invade our universities with a political programme under the cover of ensuring a profitable education for our university students. There is a lot going on today to concern us all.

And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps. ~H.L. Mencken

Do you pray? I don't care. Are you Muslim? I don't care. Who do you sleep with? I don't care. The answers to these questions will not make America more free, more just, or more devoted to human development and aspirations. These questions only form wedges between Americans, creating false divisions resulting in internal "enemies", the existence of which makes some people feel better and more justified in their own position. They are questions that indicate an acceptance of intolerance, for they make a personal proclivity, a private notion, a matter for public shaming, debate, and judgment. For me, they are tools by which the real issues before our nation are avoided in favor of simple judgments, emotional salvos, and a joy in hatred I find intolerable.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

I will work in my own way to make my country honor its promise, made at its birth, without asking myself whether I am in the majority or not. Politicians, by the nature of free elections, have to worry about the way the numbers play for or against them, but I am only a citizen. I can, and as a responsible citizen I must, think for myself, analyze information for myself, and, in the end, vote for myself, choosing the candidate I think most likely to pursue the future of this country as I think it should be, as I hope it will be. If my vision is different from yours, then we disagree, but if we agree that this is our country, that it is our job to make it a better one, then our disagreement is one between friends, between citizens, and we should be able to respect one another despite it.

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