I’M NOT POLITICAL
There is a strange phenomenon that I encounter on a regular basis – people want to talk politics! Oh, wait, no, reverse that. I find it strange when people living in a democracy, or more accurately a democratic republic, say “I’m not political”. They clap their hands over their ears if you so much as mention the local school board election; if you get to the level of Senators or Presidents, they will rudely hum, sing, or burp until you stop. They treat you as a pariah, someone weird and out of touch, if you know who is running for the City Council, and if you can name both of your senators, you are regarded as ready for the insane asylum, complete with straight jacket. Don’t even get me started on what they want to do to you if you can name senators from other states.
I want to say something to anyone out there who says “I’m not political” and urges me to shut up or tells me I am being rude when I try to talk about politics: I am not the weird one, you are. You probably believe in democracy, maybe even sport a bumper sticker or two or wear an American flag pin on your lapel, but with or without accoutrements, you do not want to talk about politics, read about politics, think about politics, or even have politics mentioned anywhere within a ten-mile radius.
From now on, I have to warn you: do not expect me to shut up, no matter how much you dance, sing, hum, or even fart to get me to stop. It is people like you who are responsible for the mess the country is in today – and the messes the country has always been in, thank you very much. You expect to receive your full allotment of rights, and even be allowed to vote if you so choose, without ever bothering to inform yourself about the issues that surround the candidates, or the challenges that are being levied against your rights. You talk endlessly about rights – your right to smoke, your right to swear, your right to wear black shoes after Easter (okay, I just made that one up; that’s a right I claim for myself, in spite of my mother and grandmother both rolling over in their graves). You insist that you have a right to do [fill in the blank here with your favorite declared right, which probably isn’t a right at all, but just something you want to do]. You insist that everyone else honor your rights, though you rarely bother to honor their declared rights (some of which actually are rights). But you do not, cannot, will not “be political”.
What does it mean to “be political”? It means being a fully functioning citizen in a modern democracy (or democratic republic, which is what we really are, you know). It means informing yourself about the issues and the candidates before going to vote. It means understanding the history behind the strange things that are happening now, and the future of the choices you make. It means doing more than just looking to see if there is an R or a D beside the name of the candidate you are marking. It means thinking about more than whether you want to sit down for a beer with a candidate, or find them sexy, or think they are a manly man (because you would never vote for a womanly woman, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, would you?). It means knowing something about the state questions or the city questions you are about to mark, not just whether you think they might cost you ten cents a decade more in taxes.
Most of all, it means giving a damn. Giving a damn about your family, yes, but hell, we can all do that. That’s easy (well, maybe not; I haven’t actually met your family, have I?). It means caring about that single mother who lives next door to you that you barely notice as she drags her ass to her third job in hopes that she’ll be able to buy some Cheerios for Junior this week. It means caring about the janitor that empties the trash can in your office that you’ve never actually noticed, except to occasionally shove a stray banana peel that is turning black on your desk top in her direction so she can deposit the disgusting thing in the trash. It means caring about the bus driver who picks your children up for school before it’s even light because some jerk in the Congress thought we’d save a few gallons of fuel by implementing Daylight Saving Time.
But it’s more than that. That’s still relatively easy. You can always care about the people you see, the people you interact with, if you just take time to notice them. Now comes the hard part. Being political, being a citizen of a modern civilization means caring about people you will never meet. People who live a thousand miles away, perhaps even on the coast (those damn coastal elites!). People who have a different skin color, a different gender, a different religion, and a different worldview, perhaps even one you can’t even understand. It’s about recognizing our common humanity, and realizing that we are all in this together, and that extra ten cents a decade really isn’t going to break you…or maybe, if you’re worried about that, you could become political and find out how to feed the people, house the people, clothe the people, and educate the people, plus provide health care, without raising your taxes. I’ll give you a hint – it’s called making corporations pay their share, and making rich people pay at least the same percentage that you have to pay – which means, getting political, so you can understand the issues, and vote for the people who will do just that, who will honor the social contract that builds a functional government, rather than just honoring the people who paid for their glitzy campaign ads that you shut off because you are “not political”.
Do me a favor, will you? Become political – or stop voting.