Saturday, October 4, 2008

"good evening, my friends"

at the moment, I am holed up in bed on this beautiful saturday fall afternoon because I am so congested that I can hardly breathe. last night I took some sketchy evil-blue expired cold medicine in the cabinet that definitely put me to sleep but gave me totally wicked, crazy dreams. I'm pretty sure Sarah Palin was in at least one of them.

I listened to the VP debate on NPR (we don't have a tv). I hate politics. they are nothing but bad theatre. good theatre is hard enough to watch sometimes (especially when it involves musical numbers), but politics are just painful. Sarah Palin, however, is hilarious. I felt, and NPR analysts confirmed, that Palin and Biden were locked in this kitschy, folksy battle towards the end, with each trying to out-ordinary-american the other with wholesome anecdotes reminiscent of the fireside chat days - only with significantly less substance. I thought of this post by Tim Wise on the ridiculous ways politicians manage to get out of saying "white americans." the way whiteness is normalized, well, all the time, but especially in politics, is staggering. I thought of a drinking game where you take a drink every time there is a euphemism for "white" used, but I imagine you would be dead before the end.

I hate politics. I vote, yeah. and even though I take him with a grain of salt (per the advice of Glynn Owens, my first academic mentor and eighth grade history teacher), Howard Zinn explains why I spend so little energy on voting and politics better than I ever could:

"I'm talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth.

But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.


Yes, two minutes. Before that, and after that, we should be taking direct action against the obstacles to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For instance, the mortgage foreclosures that are driving millions from their homes-they should remind us of a similar situation after the Revolutionary War, when small farmers, many of them war veterans (like so many of our homeless today), could not afford to pay their taxes and were threatened with the loss of the land, their homes. They gathered by the thousands around courthouses and refused to allow the auctions to take place.

The evictions today of people who cannot pay their rents should remind us of what people did in the Thirties when they organized and put the belongings of the evicted families back in their apartments, in defiance of the authorities.

Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens."

that said, I kind of can't believe it's almost november and it's almost time for bush and cheney and their ilk to slink off into the night. 8 years with that man! jesus.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Grain of salt is right. Howard has been giving that same speech since the 'sixties. At first he's inspiring, but after awhile, it's just tiresome. "We all need to rise up and do something...whatever that might be."

Sorry to sound like an old cynic, but, you know, he speaks from the comfortable position of someone with tenure.