Wednesday, May 7, 2008

POLITICS- “I didn’t get into this race because I thought I could avoid this kind of politics..

But I got into this race because I thought I could end it.”

That’s a quote from Barack Obama’s speech last night. This is the essence of his platform. It’s why he doesn’t have to be specific about what he plans to do (though he has). Because the platform he’s running on is more basic than a passel of promises. Promises that won’t be kept in any case. He running on the single promise that he’s not going to do “business as usual”. The kind of business the government has dealt in for so long. The business of lying to the people and acting as if it was an oligarchy, a plutocracy, an imperialist state, a fascist state. He touches those who know what America really stands for. For liberty, for idealism, for individualism that isn’t rooted in cynicism and the idea that only the rich are smart or worthwhile, for stupidity, for our being sold politics the same way we are sold soap, for being married to a political party the same way we are married to a sports team, for betting on the electorate being too dumb to see through the bullshit.

Obama may be peddling bullshit too, but if he is it’s a better brand of bullshit than we’re used to. It’s the prevarication of an obviously smart man who brings the oratory to a level seldom seen in the last 50 years. If, indeed, it is prevarication. But to my mind that isn’t even the main question. The main question is not about the honesty of the candidates (which is always in doubt) but the soul of the American people. I see this election as being more about my faith in American politics as a whole than it is about any particular candidate. Do we really want to have a discussion about the major issues that we face or are we willing to still have the political arena be the same as the sports arena. You can’t have a reasonable discussion of the relative merits of sports teams with many sports fans because they are dogmatic and rigid. They are on the side of their team and, good or bad, win or lose, they have a sort of loyalty that blinds them to reality. We’ve seen what that kind of rigidity allows our leaders to do in the last eight years. In a democracy the people have to be able to discuss, debate, decent, and decry the choices the government makes on their behalf. A democracy (or a republic, for those who think the difference is germane) is dependant on people discussing the choices they have in front of them and deciding the best course for them to take as a people. In a democracy it is simply the job of government to carry out the wishes of the people. Do the people follow their representatives as if they were a kind of nobility, or do the people determine the course the government should take as their servants.

Are we a sovereign people, with a government whose mandate is to carry out our wishes, or are we subjects of our government who have only the job of supporting our leaders? Obama may not truly believe in the former, but both other candidates are obviously supporters of the latter option. Given the option of being a free man who is the tiniest unit of an American government that is representative of the wishes of those tiny units, I take that option over being a subject in the American hegemony any time. It’s the same choice that the founding fathers had to make. To be subject to royalty, or to believe in the common wisdom of the common people and to let every person alone to find their own path to happiness.

I find all the “patriots” who think it is best to support the government in their folly to be laughable. I’ve engaged dozens, perhaps hundreds of them online to see what kind of intellectual foundation they have for their opinions. I have sadly found little to make me challenge my own opinion among them. They tend to be dogmatic, unreasonable, bigoted, anti-intellectual, ignorant, and, in short, living examples of everything the liberals portray them to be. It’s a cause for great sadness for me. I long for a political discussion that involves equally adult, informed, thoughtful discussion of policy. But what I find, all too often, is parroting of mindless arguments on both sides. The trouble with democracy is what Garrison Keillor (accurately) says about humanity, “Half the people you meet are below average”.

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