No one really noticed ’round these parts of Mecca, but autumn has arrived in all its glory. After Isaac’s remnants left us with three solid days of drizzle and rain and another cool front raged through a week ago, suddenly we were left looking around, wondering why we were still wearing shorts and flip-flops. Fall has come.
(Faulkner’s wife was dead-on about that whole light in August thing, too. But that’s beside the point.)
And as this fall brings lower temperatures, it is doing nothing to cool the inflamed and raging temperament of hyper-partisan Americans. And the furious ideological provincialism that has become de rigueur in our society is turning us brilliant shades of red and purple.
It’s the fall of man. And make no mistake, fall has come.
Politics is about as false a god one can find; the difference between news outlets, varied though it is in vitriol and disinformation, is nil when compared to the fact that Postman was right about religious television–that it runs into serious legitimacy problems when contrasted with that pesky, old commandment to avoid graven images–and that same criticism has new-found potency when the news is viewed through that filter. Our views are not challenged, rather they are reinforced by that which we consume. In the last storms we had here, a number of large, seemingly healthy trees in our neighborhood snapped toward the base of the trunk. The truth was that those trees were not healthy, the rot in the middle of the trunk weakened what appeared to be full, lush and large trees. In days, what was in full bloom is a hideous shade of brown. I trust I need not have to connect the dots.
For those who might be interested in poisoning the well, my personal political viewpoints have no dog in this hunt: I vote anti-incumbent. The problems with state and federal governments aren’t so much problems of ideology as much as they are problems of partisanship and making a career out of politics. In reality, the
liberal progressive and conservative divide doesn’t exist beyond the lowest common denominator comment forum and amongst us huddled unwashed masses. Bill Simmons was right when he suggested that rivalries matter more to fans than they do to athletes, particularly in this era. We’ve been told numerous times that once you get to a level of power, people tend to care less about politics as much as staying in power. If you stay around a certain crowd for a while, you’re bound to begin to sympathize with them and eventually assimilate into them. Further, what you hate is what you become, which is exactly what happened to 1994’s Republican Revolution and is happening again with both wings: the difference between Republican and Democrat is in which god she serves: government, or God via government, which is to say, government. Politicians, like Mensa, professional athletes or the Church of the Sub-Genius, are part of an exclusive club. Clubs are no fun when you don’t get along with one another.
Look what that slavish devotion to government–good, bad or indifferent–has gotten us in dividends: an entire segment of the world devolving into chaos, spiraling debt fueled by economists who believe the answer to the debt problem is to create more debt (and they have the temerity to call the Laffer Curve voodoo economics!) which creates and is creating stagflation–I see this more and more clearly everyday with The Man–and we have an opposition party in America which apparently believes that by merely standing by, the electorate will sweep them into power. We’re still in several theaters of war or war-like something-or-other, an entire continent is on the brink thanks to central planning and there are those craven tyrants in the world who would like nothing more to be the storm that snaps the tree of liberty.
I was born in 1981, so I wouldn’t necessarily know, but I’m pretty sure this is what 1978 felt like.
What’s most disconcerting, though, is that Americans of all stripes and persuasions have seemingly bought the lie; that voting a certain way will make everything a-ok. A healthy skepticism of government is what sparked the American experiment in the first place, 240 years later, we’re having questions about not whether or not government should have a prominent place in everyday life, but to what extent. Whether it’s divine right, Hegelian dialectic, the electoral college or raw democratic process, the presence of a preferred candidate in a preferred position of power is hardly a guarantee of American (or pseudo- or otherwise religious) salvation. In fact, quite the opposite. Those of us who voted for George Bush (twice, and hence, my anti-incumbent stance) realize he governed quite to the left of Clinton, who had the pragmatic savvy to tack right (or at least appear to) when it was politically expedient, and thus were disillusioned. The current administration has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster, with Clinton retreads passed off as hope and change with a healthy dose of Chicago corruption.
Responsibility falls on us as citizens and voters. Indeed, we get the government we deserve. But the primary responsibility of the citizen of the West is to the self, the family and the community, not to devotion to political ideals that ultimately mean nothing. Political service is supposed to be temporary, not a career. (Here’s an idea: all elected officials don’t get paid. Period. Let public service be public service, like donating time to a homeless shelter, a blood drive or a church relief effort. Neither Barry nor Boehner should get a dime for their term in office. Surely we can all agree on that, no?) In making more of elected officials than what they are or ever should be, we make less of ourselves. Those facebook status updates about politics only tell us someone is particularly excited about becoming a particular party’s drone. (I presume I’ve saved myself so much heartache by staying away.) In beatifying our preferred candidate, we make them lord over us, and we make ourselves serfs. Hayek was right: this is the road to serfdom, but with greater, more serious consequences. And greater, more pathetic whimpers on radios and television sets coast-to-coast.
This is fall. Bundle up. Spring’s not coming for a long, long time.