Watching that Stewart/Colbert rally yesterday, I was struck by Stewart's closing remarks. I'll post a video here, but the gist of what he said was that outside of Washington, in our own lives and homes, Americans are working together to get stuff done EVERY DAMN DAY. We cooperate to get things done at work, get kids to school, address concerns in our small communities. We, as individuals, have a history of working across our own aisles to get from one day to the next. I don't think about the individual politics of the people working to fix my car when it needs serviced, or the guy who delivers my mail. I don't think about the politics of the people at our small community theater where I sometimes get to perform, or the politics of the people who come to the shows and afterwards tell me that they really enjoyed what I did up there.
I was struck last night, while sitting with my family on my porch and giving out candy to the many trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood, that I wasn't thinking about how their parents who were walking them around were going to vote on Tuesday, or if they were going to vote at all. We have a large population of Hispanics here, but no one was wondering if they were here legally or if they spoke any english and if they said "Gracias" instead of "Thank you" I was going to acknowledge it, even though it's one of only about 10 spanish words I know. The conversation afterwards was not about how they should learn to speak the language, but about how adorable that kid looked in his costume and how he didn't want to come up to the porch until he had put his Captain Hook "hook" back over his hand.
Stewart said "We are living in hard times, not end times". The expressions of anger that we are seeing now from the right (and earlier in the decade from the left) are scary when you are someone who is not used to acting out yourself. It solidifies in your mind the idea that if you express your opinion, there will be consequences. All of a sudden, the stakes feel too high and even if you're not in the position of being wrestled to the ground and stepped on, it feels like you might lose friends or family, lose a job, lose some face if things you believe in don't turn out the way you think they might. Talk about climate change...this is the political climate we live in today and it is absolutely getting more heated.
This country has real problems, hard problems. I agree with something Matt Taibbi wrote discussing the rise of the Tea Party to prominence:
"Our world isn’t about ideology anymore. It’s about complexity. We live in a complex bureaucratic state with complex laws and complex business practices, and the few organizations with the corporate will power to master these complexities will inevitably own the political power. On the other hand, movements like the Tea Party more than anything else reflect a widespread longing for simpler times and simple solutions—just throw the U.S. Constitution at the whole mess and everything will be jake. For immigration, build a big fence. Abolish the Federal Reserve, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education. At times the overt longing for simple answers that you get from Tea Party leaders is so earnest and touching, it almost makes you forget how insane most of them are."
I don't think that people like Sarah Palin or Christine O'Donnell are evil people hell bent on destroying America. I think they are people who recognize that there is a real longing for things to appear simple and easily definable. It's a nice idea, but it's not where we are. Shit is hard, complex. It's going to take people smarter than you, smarter than me to fix. No offense to soccer moms or common sense, but climate change, immigration, wars and deficits aren't comparable to the struggles you've faced as a mom and if your answer to anything and everything can be summed up in two sentences involving the words Constitution and hard working Americans, then I think it's safe to say you don't understand the question fully.
People work hard, and are still poor. People work hard and still can't afford health insurance. People work hard and can still face an impossible choice between necessities and even more necessary necessities. People sometimes do everything they are supposed to, adjust their expectations, live inside their means and still end up having to rely on government assistance in the form of food stamps, unemployment, disaster relief or yes, something like health insurance legislation which allows their kids to stay on their insurance policy until they are 26. People still end up with no car, no job, no place to live, no options because they were not able to anticipate any and all threats to their existence and simultaneously prepare. I don't know. That doesn't seem manipulative and spoiled and greedy to me, it just seems human. And the human aspects of social spending are what I respond to. It doesn't feel like something that only happens to the stupid, the lazy, the complacent. It's feels like something that could happen to me, to any of my family or friends.
I'm going to vote on Tuesday, and I hope you do too, whatever your political bent. We are all right, we are all wrong and casting that ballot reminds me of filling in a box on a standardized test for a word problem that you're only guessing at. Trains leaving the station at different times and people making stops and changing trains. There's a lot of math. I never thought they gave you enough information. I don't know enough, couldn't possibly know enough to say 100% for sure if it's the right thing to do in the immediate or in the long term but the instructions were clear. "Fill in the circle completely and make your mark dark."