Sunday, March 09, 2003

Sometimes You Just Want To Lie down

A few weeks ago, I got into a minor-scale fight with a friend of mine about politics. Specifically, my reaction to them.

"All you do is unearth the bad news and bitch about it. Every day is a disaster with you."

We've made up since, and we even still talk about politics, but he had a point.

I've given the issue quite a bit of thought since then, and, really, I'm no closer to a definitive response than I was when he said it.

Since the argument, I've started this blog, written a few funny things, written a few serious things, and had some interesting discussions with smart people.

During all this, I've been trying to find the good news, the things to be happy about in the world outside the immediate confines of my town.

I'm really not an extraordinarily dark person, so it really does not bring me pleasure to say that, aside from a few bits of dark humor and instances of laughing at powerful people's expense, there is no good news. Or at least not enough to put a dent in the bad.

A few weeks ago, MB Williams of Wampum took a hiatus -- one that, fortunately, was extremely short-lived -- with the stated reason being that there was just too damn much going on to deal with coherantly.

My little corner of the internet has only been operating for a few weeks now, and I don't put nearly the amount of time and effort into it that she (and a whole hell of a lot of other quality bloggers) does, and already I know exactly how she felt.

There's a brilliant Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that I've always loved. In it, Calvin is reading a book, and Hobbes asks him what he's doing. He explains that he's trying to learn about something, but the more he learns, the harder it gets to try to figure out what to do. The more he learns, the more paralyzed he is by different possibilities and nuances. His solution to the problem? "I'm a man of action, Hobbes," he declares, slamming the book closed.

What Watterson was talking about in that strip, of course, is the fundamental problem with seeing things from all sides, from having so much information that it becomes difficult to act. However, I think it can just as easily be applied to having to much knowledge of too many bad things. Eventually, it just gets to be too much. You don't even know where to begin. Having effectively zero power to actually do anything about any of them, aside from yelling at your friends and complete strangers on the internet, only makes the situation worse.

So am I already burned out on politics in my early twenties?

Well, if ever there was a time to be burned out, this would be it.

My country is about to engage in an ill-advised war that most of the world is firmly against, engaging a criminal dictator who in all likelihood is going to use chemical weapons as a last resort against our troops. In the process of preparing for this war, our leaders have alienated virtually every government on the planet that is friendly to us, and those that are not actively hostile to us are in danger politically because they are opposing the wishes of their own people to side with us. Our leaders have lied to us, blatantly and repeatedly, and treated the people whose consent they supposedly rule with as little more than a nuisance, a child to be distracted or gently deceived so the adults can get on with business. In readying for war they have betrayed not only us their constituents, but the people whom they are ostensibly trying to save, the Kurds and the Iraqi people.

My country is, in the next few years, going to face, for the first time in history, several hostile nations armed with nuclear weapons that are quite possibly crazy enough to actually use them. I am not a weapons expert, but I defy anyone to state that these four facts do not terrify them:

1. North Korea most likely has a few nuclear weapons, and in a few months will be churning them out at the rate of about one per month.
2. North Korea has a missile capable of hitting the west coast of the United States.
3. North Korea has a history of selling arms of all kinds to unsavory elements, including terrorists.
4. Iran is on its way to developing nuclear weapons.

My country is about to plunge into a debt so great that it will take a generation to recover. I am not an economist, but I have listened to people who are, and from what I can see the really smart people are getting really scared. The current administration is the most fiscally irresponsible in living memory. Actually, given the fact that there has been such a widespread and purposeful effort to deliberately lie about and distort facts about economic issues, perhaps the Administration cannot be called fiscally irresponsible so much as fiscally malevolent. They know exactly what they are doing. Beyond that, an idealogical battle that has been fought for three generations is now being won by the wrong side. After 70 years, the last vestiges of the New Deal are about to be destroyed by the idealogical descendents of the people that made the New Deal necessary to begin with. I am not a political scientist, but I know enough to see that American Capitalism is falling victim to its own shortsighted nature and the corruption and cronyism of the people in power.

My country grows less free every day. Whether it be John Ashcroft's latest assault on vital Constitutional protections or the growing intolerance of those in power and those who support them of views that differ even slightly from theirs, there are new things to be scared of every timne I pick up a newspaper. An America where you can be arrested for growing marijuana for terminally ill cancer patients, or arrested in a public shopping mall for wearing an anti-war tshirt, or regularly be called a traitor for not supporting the President enthusiastically enough by mainstream news commentators is not the America I was supposed to be living in. Somewhere along the line, something went wrong, and I ended up in the wrong place.

My country is being methodically taken over by people who not only disagree with my beliefs, but hold them in contempt and actively work to suppress them. We are in the final stages of a prolonged Right wing effort to take over the Federal judiciary by appointing radical judges who claim to interpret the law according to its strict letter but instead interpret it according to their own Right wing (sometimes extremist) beliefs. With the judiciary comes the final authority- even the President must obey if enough judges tell him to.

And the only group of people in the country who have the power to stop all this from happening, the Democrats, are either too weak, too selfish, too disorganized, or too similar to their opponents to mount an effective opposition.

And these are only some of the highlights.

So, am I burned out?

This weekend, yes. Yes I am.

But when Monday comes, I will read the news and grow angry all over again, angry at the people who pay lip service to the principles of this country only to gain the power to undermine them. And I will yell at my friends, and yell at strangers on the internet, and yell inside my own head, because, goddamnit, I'm not ready to be quiet yet.

I was wrong when I said that I didn't have a definitive response to my friend. I believe I do.

The reason that I get so upset about all the bad things that go on out there is because only when enough people are shouting about them can the wrong things be made right.

And it's nice, at the end of the day, to be able to say that I helped, just a little tiny bit, to make things better.

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