Monday, May 22, 2006

Wanted: Retired Lawyer to Run Country Into Ground

I have a dilemma. Recently I have been having discussions with people regarding the current state of affairs of our government, specifically on the federal level. My dilemma is this, if you cannot conscientiously support any of the candidates running for a given office is it better to choose who you consider to be the lesser of two evils (based on whatever criteria you may set) or to simply abstain from voting for either candidate? In the past couple of federal elections I have found myself doing the former, and not merely in terms of voting for president. It seems that there are valid reasons for choosing either option and while I have practiced one over the past several years I am becoming more and more convinced that perhaps I should reconsider my voting strategy and go with the other option (abstaining).

Many people would accuse me of being politically lazy or say that if I do adopt that strategy then I have no room to criticize our government, but I think that is a pretty short-sighted view of what it means to be politically active or to have a political voice. That view assumes that the only valuable political opinions are those that fall within the narrowly outlined platforms of the Republican or Democratic party, which is absurd (for more reasons than you might think, but I'll get to that later). It also does not take into consideration the power of passive resistance, or the refusal to cooperate with what is perceived to be a corrupt system. Also, as those who know me best will tell you, I am no political slouch. I follow politics very closely, I have worked on campaigns (for both Republicans and Democrats), and I have been involved in various types of political activity (letter writing, protests, etc.) for most of my adult life. However, I am also very careful about the people, movements, or agendas to which I lend my voice and my support.

Which leads me back to my dilemma. Why should I be forced to choose when neither option is really acceptable? Shouldn't I believe in the candidate I am voting for rather than simply voting to say that I have done my civic duty? And doesn't voting simply to say that I voted degrade the whole concept of civic duty anyway?

The problem is this, as I have followed politics over the past several years I have become increasingly disenchanted with our legislators and with our election system. Given all of the scandals and the overwhelming evidence that there is really very little difference between the two parties I have found it harder and harder to not be cynical about the whole thing. Both parties run on the same platitudinous platform (education, health care, military, national defense) and neither party ever delivers on anything. They run on whatever platform will get them elected in their particular state and then vote however the lobbyists want them to vote.

As I see it, the real root of the problem is that there is no honor, no higher purpose in being an elected official anymore. Taking a public office no longer means working toward the betterment of our society and our way of life. Rather, it is a way for the wealthiest among us to be paid to enact laws that will mostly benefit them and their cohorts, with little regard to what a vast majority of the citizens of this nation either want or need. Political office has become nothing more than what middle-aged lawyers do at the end of their careers.

This gets right to the heart of why I think we have one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the "free" world. I'm not one of these people who complains by saying, "my vote doesn't count anyway so why bother?" I have made it a point to vote whenever possible on the assumption that my vote does count. But I am becoming more and more convinced that my vote is only really counted in a quantitative sense. But that is the problem. People want to know that their vote is going to count in a qualitative sense, that the person they vote for has their best interests in mind and that they are going to fight for legislation that will help, not only their constituents, but all citizens. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the state of affairs within our government. Honestly, I am ashamed of our government right now for so many reasons and I am sad that people have so little faith or trust in our government, myself included. But the truly sad part is that our government, as a whole, has given us no reason to believe otherwise.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s true; a vast number of the American public is swimming in a sea of ignorance without a life vest. A tidal wave of zombies floating through life as if breathing, eating and shitting is all that matters in this tiny bubble of ours. However, the overall ignorance is not the problem, the institutionalization of the ignorance is. From the top down and bottom up we, as a culture, have been trained to believe that just getting by is enough to be all that we can be, especially in the absence of “natural” talent.

We have been taught that the cream rises to the top while being told that mediocrity is all we need to accomplish because those who are the best in a field have a “god given” talent or ability that cannot be learned. The smartest kids in school are that way because they were born that way. The best athletes are that way, not because of hard work, but because of “good genes”. Somewhere in history it has come to be accepted that those who succeed do so because they are simply superior in some way. We have become a culture that accepts and celebrates mediocrity in all its ugliness.

We wallow in our own greatness like we deserve it, and why not? Are we not the biggest badest country to ever leave our footprint on this little planet of ours? Are we not the wakeful giant whose filth spreads to the rest of the world and infects the youth and culture of almost every inch of the globe? The answer is both yes and no.

Yes, we come from a great tradition of freedom and individuality that was born of a wild independence and a will to be what we want to be. The US was born from the best and brightest, the hardest working and the most fiercely intelligent debate about what the world should look like. For a time we embodied these ideals, we railed against authority and would go to our graves defending our individual freedoms from tyranny but somewhere that was lost.

Now we have become what we always feared, a cowed culture warped by fear and hubris. The zombies flood the street listening to their mass produced music that has been completely freed of the spirit and power it once embodied. We wear mass produced clothing that was made off the labor of those whose freedom is meaningless to us, therefore we have become what me most fear. A lazy society of hanger-on’s so desperate to maintain our way of life that we are willing to ignore all threats, ignorance being chief among those.

Now this could go in many different directions from here. I could complain the state of our schools, which would be fitting since our public education is so grievously under funded and does nothing to prepare people for the dynamic world in which we live in. I could rail against the parents who let their children’s fate fall in the hands of the hobbled beast of public education. I could complain about our culture in general and blame our ills on the sewage being pumped through the airwaves directly into our brains. None of this would be helpful; these are just small issues that have contributed to the problem. The point is that we have become a culture of willful ignorance that has nothing to do with religion or politics. Black and white has destroyed the color spectrum of free thought and the zombies not only walk among us, they have become the majority.

Not that this answers anything, you just got me thinking about the state of our society in genral and how we have become such cowards that refuse to hold our politicians accountable.

If we would simply (maybe the hardest thing in the world) stand up, unified and demand action and leadership things could change but the cynic in me says we are doomed.

Also, this is Nate, I have no idea what my blog password or username is now.

8:32 AM  

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