Why I sing the blues

22 10 2008

No, not another disquisition on depression—although the real topic, presidential politics, is depressing enough.

Multiple posts on toleration, respect, religion, agnosticism, but only a few quick hits on politics.

What the hell? Aren’t I a political theorist, after all? Aren’t I the one who, in 2004, moved from a city I loved in another country back to the US in order to participate in politics? Who dragged her ass out of bed on Saturday mornings to ride a bus to another state for the privilege of knocking on doors and asking those granite folk who they were likely to vote for? Who had her dad drive her to NOW meetings (until she got her license)? Who remembers raising her first-grade fingers in a ‘peace’ sign every time the school bus driver/town mayor halted at the railroad tracks?

Jesus Christ, politics has been in my conscious life as long almost as long as I’ve been conscious of life. And yet my response to this campaign has been: Eh.

Yeah, yeah, I’ll vote, and I really am looking forward to an African-American family in the White House, but, honestly, I simply think Obama will do less damage (to this country, the rest of the world) than would McCain.

I’m not a moderate (I’m a ‘hard-core leftist: run for your lives!’), and my vote for Obama is not reluctant. I just doubt it’s going to matter all that much.

Sigh. It will matter, on some crucial issues: judges, executive power, Guantanamo, torture, access to contraception, the Lily Ledbetter pay act, diplomacy. These are not small things, so in saying I doubt how much the presidential race matters, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. It does. That’s why I’m voting.

And Iraq? I truly don’t know how much leeway the next president will have to do anything momentous. From what I’ve been reading, the Iraqis want the US out sooner rather than later (tho’, preferably, not right this instant), and while the surge has brought a kind of peace to many areas of the country, it’s pretty clear that the force levels required for the surge are unsustainable. I’m guessin’ that whoever the next president is, the next stage of Operation Iraqi Freedom is ‘Iraqi-zation’.

Afghanistan? Unclear that either has a workable plan. That said, Obama seems far more practical (i.e., willing to adapt to exigencies) than does McCain.

So the vote matters: who do you want as captain of the ship?

And this is where I sigh and say, Eh, and sigh again, a bit more angrily, and say I don’t want a fucking captain and I’m not a goddamned ship’s passenger. I’m a citizen in a democratic republic who’d like there to be at least some connection between the peoples’ representatives and the people, who’d like to be addressed as something other than ‘constituent’ or ‘taxpayer’ or ‘prospective voter’. I don’t want to be wooed or massaged or have my pain felt up by some suck-up in a suit who’s going to tottle off to Washington or Albany (or City Hall) and do all that he or she can to cut the citizenry out of politics.

No, I’m not talking about enacting or blocking favored social programs (tho’ I would dearly love universal health care), but about legislators doing what they can to deepen democracy, to involve us further in our own governance. I’m thinkin’: New Deal. Or, more recently, efforts by people in the gulf region post-Katrina to rebuild their cities, physically and politically (and getting at best little help and at worst obstruction from govt officials). This isn’t just about self-help, but about acting in concert with one’s fellows and fully conscious of the political implications of such solidarity.

There’s so much more to say, and I think this really does matter, deeply and broadly, to us as citizens. To presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, and city council members: we’re not you’re goddamned pets. Quit throwing us bones.

And to the rest of us: quit begging for those bones. Stand up already.


Here’s the link to the lyrics to BB King’s ‘Why I sing the blues’

Or better yet, get Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’ cd and listen to her version. Fantastic.