I Hate Politics

There. I just came out and said it, right in front of everybody. Do I need to be clearer? I’ll say it again, more slowly this time: I…hate…politics.

Photo: Wisdom Sleeps

Is it my imagination, or has wisdom gone to sleep?

In general, I would like to never even think of myself as a person who Hates anything, but of course, that’d make me more than human, and I’m not. I certainly prefer not to be a person who dwells on my hatred of anything, let alone advertises it, but lately I’m finding it more difficult than usual to show that kind of restraint. A large part of my resolve (and I’m confident that this is a relatively common trait) is highly susceptible to external cues. I prefer to keep my head in the sand about things I don’t like, disapprove of, and fear, but that’s easier to do when those things aren’t pouring down on me as though run through a hose, and let’s face it, sand is water-permeable. The omnipresence of political nonsense on the American scene these days is drowning me.

Contemporary America is a highly politicized land. Everything is treated as political fodder and the subject of constant shouting, most especially those ideas to which we impute moral or ethical value, and the number of such ideas seems to grow exponentially by the minute. Additionally, we allow less and less room for anything other than Right and Wrong, Yes and No; everything worth discussing is a matter of polar opposites, and if Your answer is not like My answer, then it’s not only an obvious falsehood but patently evil and an attack on my person. Probably on my race, my culture, my sexual identity, my religion, my favorite football team, and my country. This is the environment in which all discussions must be arguments, and all arguments, wars.

If it weren’t real, it’d be hilarious.

The way we treat each other over differing viewpoints is bad enough. The way we treat each other over differing beliefs is worse. So if what began as a discussion about fiscal responsibility gets turned instantly into the idea that ‘Your Party’s thoughts on what’s wrong with the national economy and what would be better are Evil and My Party’s are Holy’—which has nothing to do with the demonstrable facts in the matter, let alone with either side offering any suggestion of how to fix what both could have agreed were the biggest problems—then why not just skip the discussion and appeals to reason, and get right on with punching each other’s lights out? And what should begin with the recognition of each other as fellow humans, all susceptible to our imperfections yet all, potentially, respected equals if not allies or friends, instead starts out with an assumption of all others as our inferiors, as damaged, or as willfully wicked. Even some of the most well-meaning politicians and their supporters often cross the line between being opposed to a practical, legal, or political precept and condemning all those who fail to fully agree with or support them as being immoral and/or stupid.

Photo: Masked Marauder

No matter how we may try to mask them, our true natures come out when politics get going.

I understand about passionately held beliefs and feelings. And I understand that many people in my country equate their passionately held beliefs and feelings, since these have often been arrived at by means of heartfelt thought and study or even, frequently, by what they are sincerely certain is some form of direct communication from a Higher Power, also know in their hearts and minds that these must be the governing directives of the nation. But as much as they might love to live in a theocracy, this country is officially not that, and in fact was founded in fear of and opposition to the idea that one specific religion should not only dominate but control or outlaw all others. As much as those whose beliefs and feelings tell them this should be officially a godless country might wish it so, that too would oppose the founding precept that one’s religious inclination, or leaning entirely away from religion, was not the defining factor that should govern the nation. I don’t hate religion or religious people, nor agnostics, nor atheists. What drives me crazy is people who confuse or conflate their moral systems with the functions and dysfunctions of American law. And that it gets in the way of what could so often be less hostile, more productive discourse.

Along with deistic religions and anti-religions, we are a country full of secular religions, which in my view (!) comprise not only the commonly referred to ones like ‘alternative belief systems,’ say, non-theistic philosophies, but also major social and educational and fiscal ideologies, and most especially, the pursuit of power and wealth. Whether the latter two come through the romanticized American ideal means of being honest, hard-working, and clever or by means of being successfully manipulative and lucky may again be the matter of much debate, most of it driven by our own takes on morality. But we give great leeway to those who achieve one or the other, and most of all, to those who garner both. And then we revile them for having risen too high.

Photo: Not to be a Big Pig about It...

I can’t help feeling like we’re a bunch of wild pigs, and I, the worst bore among them.

So we find ourselves in the throw-hat-into-ring stage of pre-election politics, as we get to do every four years in this country, and are more than ever inundated with that outpouring of purulent political sputum and venom that makes us all resemble some kind of hideous mutated hybrid, Homo sapiens Ultimate Fighting x Grand Theft Auto, rather than reasoning rhetoricians in debate and the pursuit of a nation’s better future. I suppose that it’s only natural we Americans should so commonly say that candidates for public office here have thrown their hats into the ring, given the phrase’s pugilistic origins. But it’s an unpleasant characteristic of ours, to say the least, that we seem to prefer combativeness to dialogue and action to diplomacy or contemplation.

We’re even expert at redefining all sorts of things; it makes it easier to take sides when we make sides. So not only do we have a supposed bipartisan political system—a concept problematic enough, if anyone actually intended to encourage and support any attempt at accurate representation of a wholly diversified national population—but the reigning parties are called Republican and Democratic. At face value, sensible enough, considering that this country is theoretically a constitutionally limited democratic republic, by definition. Yet neither party’s identity is fully congruent with the concept for which it’s named, nor perhaps was it ever so. The present version of each party is dramatically different from its own historic identity in many ways, too, because the national population’s majority and minority concerns and desires have continued to change over time. And don’t get me started on how different, how varied, are the definitions both parties and individuals give to words like Conservative and Liberal in pursuit of political ends. No worries; masses of us who are too lazy or foolish to examine the evidence or question the sources will simply fall into line and start passing on the same stuff as though it had any validity, spreading it on thickly and dispersing it far and wide.

Photo: All We, Like Sheep

Follow the herd, or you’re un-American!

What it all means to me is that my normal level of intense distaste for all things political ratchets up higher and higher with every moment that puts us closer to any election, but especially, to presidential ones. Every day seems to add another clownish, insecure, angry, prejudiced, reckless, self-aggrandizing, high-powered fool of one sort or another happy to thoughtlessly throw gasoline on the fires with word and action, without regard for all of us other clowns. Keep a good thought for all of us: this country, that we might somehow rise above all of our petty normalcies, and yes please, for me. That I don’t just go crazier than usual myself before all of this quiets down a bit again.

Photo: It's a Real Head-Scratcher

Am I crazy, or is this whole thing just a serious head-scratcher?

10 Terrible Words that Shouldn’t Exist in Any Language

Digital text-illustration: 10 Terrible WordsOne person who hates is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. One who cares and shares? Perhaps the only antidote.

As I recently said to my friend Maryam: poverty—both of concrete, material resources like food and shelter, and of intellectual and ephemeral resources (education, spiritual enrichment, the arts, community engagement, etc)—seems to me to be perpetrated and perpetuated more by selfishness than by an actual shortage of any of those resources. The rich and powerful always want more riches and power, and what they do have makes them able to afford and acquire more and to keep their feet firmly on the backs of the have-nots. Plenty is never enough. The resulting imbalance is as old as history, and rotten as ever. Only those who will speak up and resist entrenched inequities and injustices will have any hope of making change.Photo montage: Wolverine & Badger

The badger and the wolverine have a reputation for being among the most tenaciously savage brutes of all the mammals. Yeah, Honey Badger even has his own meme to show for it. But let’s be honest: no beast of earth, air, or sea has a capacity for vile, rapacious cruelty rivaling that of the human animal. Even creatures of the natural enmity of predator and prey compete, fight, kill, and are sated. They have little apparent ideation of hatred and war to match people’s. A wolverine or badger will fight to defend, or to kill for food, but unlike the human, doesn’t seem inclined to attack indiscriminately outside of its primal needs for safety, shelter, and food; when the skirmish is done as efficiently as possible and the need assuaged, the sharpest of tooth and reddest of claw among them doesn’t do an end-zone dance to celebrate its pleasure in winning but will usually depart the scene or go to rest for the next time of need. The remaining food and shelter and other resources stay in place for whatever creature comes next, hunter or hunted, cousin or not.

Can we humans not learn from such a thing? I’m pretty sure that if we destroy each other and ourselves in our constant self-righteous, self-congratulatory belief that we deserve everything we can get our hands on, Honey Badger won’t be the only creature that doesn’t care.

A Plague on All Our Houses

Even the most steadfastly unquestioning among believers in various versions of mainline religions will allow that, if their deity cares for them as a shepherd cares for sheep, their own religions, yes, even their own temples, mosques, and churches, sometimes harbor wolves in sheep’s clothing. Partisans of every political and philosophical school of thought have seen the unmasking of many such monsters that have hidden behind the guise of goodness and faithfulness, selflessness and judiciousness, or at least experienced the dire effects those have on the lives of the truly committed. There are reasons most languages have such large inventories of words like heretic and traitor, infidel, apostate, renegade, impostor, infiltrator, double agent, betrayer, and hypocrite.
Digital illustration: A Pox on Both Your Houses!

So it astounds me every day that such experienced, otherwise reasonable people are either afraid, or simply refuse, to regularly and thoroughly question and examine the sources of their information, whether they are people or inanimate forms of evidence. Even among the most dedicated, wise, and well-meaning persons the human flaws we all bear cause mistakes and missteps. The most widely accepted proofs of truth may have come about by means of equally imperfect human study and the telephonic accidents of human transcription and translation. No matter how inspired the origin of the wisdom, it can’t be guaranteed to get to the page and from hand to hand, meeting to meeting, one end of the surprisingly not flat earth to the other, without sometimes being misinterpreted or co-opted, whether it’s by the false sheep in the flock or by our own good intentions.

All I can say is that if such stubbornness against rigorously examining our beliefs and every source of them is at its roots a terror of self-examination, we are doomed. We will forever repeat the grim side of human history, by acting out of doubt, cowardice, and ignorance, assumptions that have as much chance of being incorrect as not, and hidebound inability to see the wolves in our very midst for fear of discovering our own culpability. Circling each other with rapiers drawn and fighting to uphold traditions or beliefs or codes that we have so ingrained that they are unquestioned no matter how wrong, we will only deserve the curse of Shakespeare’s Mercutio—who, by the way, may or may not have said “A plague a’ both your houses,” in the original text, but various scholars over the years have guessed at such a reconstruction of it. Even Shakespeare, that demigod of English literature, is only as reliable a source as the many readers and interpreters since his time can determine, assuming that there was one playwright and poet of that name and not, as some believe, some cadre of the great literary minds of that era. Don’t get me started.

I will say right out that I know full well that I am guilty of being poorly or misinformed on a host of topics, and a stubbornly slow learner on top of that. I am trying, however I may stumble along the way, to grow beyond such ossified thinking. If only we could all begin with the premise that the fault might be not in our stars but in our selves, I think we might discover that our reliance on incomplete or incorrect information puts us constantly at risk for inner and outer conflicts we ought to have laid aside or, better yet, avoided altogether. The Other Guy might in fact deserve a listen, and acting first, asking questions later is not a conversation but is likely instead to end in swords crossed and lives lost. Acting in haste or acting in hate, the result may be the same because we were ill prepared to ask the right questions, let alone come to a wise and humane conclusion as a result. There are, sadly and unquestionably, baddies among us. But even so, if we all insist on clinging to our own versions of the truth without regularly and rigorously questioning their verity, then the attack we are all under begins inside, not from any external enemy, real or imagined.

Damaged

photoFortresses

Wars build walls

On a foundation of

Corpses–

The evil and

The innocent alike–

And what do the walls

Keep in?

Keep out?

How is it that

Battles can be declared

Won or Lost?

For both sides die,

Both parties always

Somehow

Lose land and goods

And certainly, soul;

Starve in the snow or

Roast in the heat,

All the while watching

The world they knew

Reduced to ugly

Holes and rubble and

Its storied walls replaced

By a fortress that

Is really

Only a new prison

poem