"Is there a sane man anywhere, anywhere?
Got giraffes in my hair
And I don't care, no I don't care
As a child I laughed a lot, oh yes I did, oh yes I did
Now it seems I cry a lot
Oh, tell me true, don't you?"
T.Rex, "Main Man"
When I was very young, I had a spinal tap. It was the second most painful experience of my life -- the first was watching the recent 2012 Republican convention. And it wasn't just the blatant lies, the misogyny, the jingoist rhetoric, the appalling art direction (that's what you get when you go out of your way to hate creative types) or even the parade of scary white men still viciously defending their last gasp of privilege. What made it so hard for me to watch the coverage was the overwhelming grief and anger I feel over the whole bloody mess that has become American political discourse.
And I do blame then, the Republicans, for starting this tortured, fact-free misrepresentation of the meaning and purpose of America, but when I changed the channel the following week to the Democratic National Convention, I found something less ugly but equally disingenuous -- a kind of sentimental, hyperbolic keening over the remaining scraps of Principle that once made our party great. And what made it even more upsetting were the MSNBC media soldiers who knowingly continued to cheer for the wrong war simply because it was time to butter their ever-so-thickly-sliced bread.
I don't mean to be too cynical here because that is not my purpose. But I just can't stand by and watch this bullshit-soaked-free-for-all like it's an actual game, with enforceable rules and legitimate players, and pick a side just because I only have two options. I mean, sure, in the choice between the inhuman and the invertebrate, it's a no-brainer. So I'll be voting for Obama in 2012 and a democratic party line of candidates because, as usual, I don't have another choice. And I am able to convince myself it is the right thing to do because at least the democrats aren't stoking a cauldron of oligarchic ooze to pour over the American people the moment they reach high enough ground.
But still, we all know the truth: the mainstream, American political conversation is a farce, predicated on the conviction that empire is good and the belief that all America really needs to do is put people back to work, reclaim its unilateral, economic authority in the world, send out a few more drones to blow up a few more mean-spirited brown people, and then, both sides assure us, all will be well.
Meanwhile, the world is dying. Melting, in fact, both literally and figuratively, into the broil of our denial, our insensitivity and our mind-bending ignorance and excess. And this is where the grief comes in, I guess; grief and helplessness and the sense that the world doesn't really want to be saved. And I struggle with this all the time -- how does one live in a world that doesn't want to be saved? And yet this question begs another: if it is indeed the case that the world doesn't want to be saved, then isn't it presumptuous for me to keep trying?
I am not asking this rhetorically. I really am asking you, and myself, the question -- does the world even want to be saved? Is that the part of the process we are in right now as human beings? Or, like active alcoholics on an extended bender, are we in the part of the process where we all tacitly and collectively agree to drink ourselves into toxic madness and drive off the nearest cliff because that is the only way we will appreciate or even recognize the value of sobriety -- that is, if we ever achieve it?
Let me me give you an example of what I mean. And I don't mean to pick on the Dems but quite frankly I have nothing to say to the Republicans or their big-budget-bull-fest other than "get thee behind me," ya know?
Anyway, the Democratic Convention opened with an extremely powerful moment as Gabby Giffords walked on stage to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I'll admit here to being somewhat of a sentimental person and so in spite of my skepticism, I cried like a baby. Her strength, her courage and her recovery is so astonishing that you would have to be... well, a 21st century republican delegate not to feel something. But just behind the curtain of all that heaving sentimentality is something urgent but all too easily forgotten.
Not one law that made it possible for her attacker to carry the arsenal of assault weapons that killed six people and wounded eighteen others, was changed. Not one. In fact, we couldn't even have a discussion about gun control because we were told by John Boehner that "now is not the time for a discussion about gun control." And the Obama administration, and yes even Super-Obama himself, silently nodded his head in agreement and flew back to his Fortress of Ineptitude having failed every Brady Bill standard for sane gun control.
So when is the right time? When some twenty-something lunatic imitating the pornographic violence of the Batman movie walks into a theatre with essentially the same kind of arsenal as the Gifford's attacker and murders twelve people, including an infant, and wounds fifty-eight others? Apparently that wasn't the right time either. Why? Because that was a time for political calculations. The Republicans have already made the case that Democrats and Obama want to steal our bibles and guns, so this administration decided that gun control would be a bad public relations move so close to the presidential election.
Do you see what I am getting at here? While Gabby Giffords' recovery and bravery is miraculous, if her story fails to significantly impact not only our emotionality, but also our politics and our policies, then her suffering, and the suffering and lives of those who were attacked that day, is utterly in vain. And in that light, any posthumous political conversation we are having is not a political conversation at all, but a rhetorical manipulation and an exploitation of an unredeemed tragedy.
And not to belabor the point, but there is another example worth noting. At the Democratic Convention, there was this whole segment about the "Welcome Home" campaign for the troops so they don't have the same alienated experience the Vietnam vets had back in the seventies. I think it's a great idea and this president has done a much better job than W. in providing for our returning veterans, but when do we get to talk about the criminality of a war that never should have been waged? Why can't we say that these loyal men and women's lives were wasted and mangled by a few powerful men who profited from a lie that should be considered the greatest crime of the 21st century? I guess now is not the time, either. And neither was 2006 when Nancy Pelosi took impeachment off the table as her first act of Speaker of the House. But hey, she was the first woman Speaker so let's just stuff all of the ugly truth behind the curtain and get on with the show!
And what of global warming? And mutli-national banking cartels? And Wall Street thuggery? And predatory energy monopolies? And the suspension of Habeas Corpus? And the National Defense Authoirization Act? And Bradley Manning? And trade deals being made with the Columbian Death Squaders? And the continuation of warrantless wiretapping? And the burgeoning Surveillance State? And on an on it goes...
I am not trying to be a spoiler here, Really, I'm not. I just feel strongly that as inconvenient as it is right now, we must insist on an entirely different political conversation if we are going to survive. Because if we are truly a world interested in being saved, then we must be fearless, even reckless, in our commitment to the truth. Otherwise, we're all just getting high on the sidelines of our own demise, guzzling down lies and emotionally convenient potions that keep us taking sides in a make-believe grudge match that perpetually returns power and privilege to the same team owners, regardless of outcome -- while just outside the stadium, the world spins out of control toward disaster.
But hey, maybe I'm being presumptuous. It is an election season. And this just isn't the right time.