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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Symptomatic

I've been watching you all pretty closely since the election. I've seen the memes, the clever tweets, the pledges of solidarity in resistance, and the outraged shitposts. I've spent some time trying to come up with a more tactful way of phrasing this, but I don't think there is one:

You're wasting your time.

In a week, Donald Trump will be president of the United States. Both houses of Congress are under Republican control. The ACA will likely be repealed with no replacement set or even planned. Planned Parenthood may well get defunded. There will absolutely, without question, be plans to invade Syria by the end of the year, if not sooner. When (not if) Trump and Putin decide their bromance has run its course, our nuclear arms race will once again ramp up to a scale I haven't seen in my lifetime. These things are not potential outcomes if we don't reverse course, they are eventual inevitabilities that are now out of your hands and mine. We dropped the ball a long time ago. It could be argued that fumble happened before folks my age were born, but we certainly failed to jump on that fucker.

Source - Washington Post
Dammit, guys...

The last time Americans took a meaningful, efficacious stand against their government was when Nixon was forced to resign in shame in 1974. Actual journalists - people who went into the world and collected information, investigated leads, and wrote stories and news reports based on what they saw with their own eyes - uncovered evidence of a conspiracy to undermine the machinations of the democratic system. Even before any criminal wrongdoing could be pinned on Nixon, he had lost the confidence of the American people to the point where his only choice was to leave office, in hopes of distracting everyone enough to escape prosecution.

And it worked. His shill of a VP, Ford, granted Nixon an unconditional pardon before it was even clear exactly what he should be charged with. And with that act, a Pandora's Box of underhanded political subversion burst open. Nixon's fateful, "If the President does it, it's not illegal," may have cemented his legacy as a crook, but it inspired a whole generation of up-and-coming hucksters, who, before that moment, would probably have pursued careers in law, banking, human trafficking, or some other long con, where the people are expendable, and the profits are ensured. But Nixon made it clear to anyone who hadn't been aware before: the ultimate con is public service.

After half a decade of the good-hearted but ineffectual Carter bumbling around the country smiling and making everyone feel better about having gotten rid of that "one bad egg," a charismatic actor took office in the biggest landslide victory against an incumbent president in American History. With almost no leadership qualifications beyond his charm, Reagan read the American people a bedtime story for 8 years, while the Republican party gutted every progressive social advancement this country had made since Reconstruction in the name of economic progress, and recruited an army of amoral sociopaths into the newly booming fields of investment banking and corporate lobbying. Throughout the Clinton and Bush administrations, these not-particularly-new, but certainly newly invigorated professions chipped away at the few oversights and restrictions that kept them playing by the rules of average people. By the time Citizens United became a thing, there were less members of Congress not on a corporate payroll than there were members of Congress who were a racial minority (for the record, that number is 17%, compared with 38% of the country's population). As long ago as 2010, there were three senators and NO REPRESENTATIVES that hadn't taken money from a corporate source.

Look. I know you're angry. I know you're scared, either for your own future, or if you're a white, cis man, with a job and health insurance, like me, for the futures of those you care about. But memes like this hot garbage:

Source - Hear7Breaker, Imgur
Because if it doesn't relate to pop culture, who gives a fuck?

...show me exactly how deep in denial most of you are. Let's set aside the fact that Bernie Sanders will be lucky to live to see the next election. Let's set aside the fact that if he's still the only one working toward actual systemic change in our government by 2018, we're all beyond fucked. How many people would we have to elect to both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the midterm election to ensure any chance of real campaign finance reform before the next presidential election? If we, the people, and our yet-to-be-named grassroots champions took back all 33 seats of the Senate and - fuck it, let's dream - half of the House in 2018, sure maybe then the remaining Wall Street cronies would be scared into changing their step for fear of not surviving another cull. But how good do you think our chances are of even taking 10% of either house? And who do you suggest we vote for?

Here's a list you may have seen, of Democratic senators who voted against a bill that would have reduced the cost of prescription medication by allowing its importation from Canada:

Source - Probably someone who still has a landline

There it is. Bad grammar and all. Simple instructions for effecting political progress. How many of you shared that? Cool, cool. How many of you dialed any of those numbers? Yeah. Me neither. Sure, maybe there's legitimate reasons they voted against the bill. I read there was some concern over ensuring the safety and integrity of those drugs and the certifications behind the distributors. That seems valid. Why couldn't they just augment the bill to fix that? Because that's how the lawmaking process works. How, specifically? I have no clue. And neither do you, because right now, there's an anthropomorphized rolled up piece of paper named Bill singing in your head, wondering if he'll become a law, and that's all they taught us. And your congressperson knows that. So even if - best case scenario - I called up Sen Heinrich and didn't get a staffer (or even if I did), and got to say, in the colloquial New Mexican jargon I'm sure he's accustomed to, "Eeee, Marty, dafuq?" and he spent an hour ensuring me that there were real, non-money-based reasons for his vote, I'D NEVER KNOW IF HE'S LYING TO ME OR NOT.

Hell, let's just pretend you called up your Senator and his response was a flat, "I voted the way I got paid to vote, and what the fuck are you gonna do about it, punk?" What would you do about it in two to six years, provided you managed to stay focused and angry long enough? Because if I was still living in New Mexico, I'd fucking vote for Martin Heinrich again, because the other asshole wants to turn the state into a frack party. And so we trudge onward, choosing between the lesser of two evils in every election on every level, wondering why only people in Vermont in the 70s had the presence of mind to elevate an honest man to the point where he could yell loudly enough about the societal inequity we take for granted that it gets 15 seconds of airtime in a 24 hour news cycle.

Where's your Bernie Sanders? Which of your city council members, or State Representatives, or County Commissioners do you believe actually cares more about bettering your life and actually serving the public than their own pocketbook? How many Leslie Knopes do we actually have in this country, and how many of them are gearing up right now to run in 2018? Enough to take 10% of the congressional seats and a third of the Senate, running against incumbents that have been raising money 80% of their waking hours for the last six years? And who's going to finance them?

I'm sorry if I'm bumming you out. Thank you for reading this far if you have, but it's pretty important for me to be blunt at this point when I say this is a battle we lost decades ago. There is no "reforming" the American political system. The mess we're in now is not what is causing your terror. The mess is symptomatic of your terror. This system was brought about because the only things that motivate and galvanize large groups of people in an effective way are, to borrow from a fallen hero, Fear and Loathing. This country and the system by which we are now ruled, were built on the fear we feel of that which we do not know, and the loathing we cling to for anyone who is different from us. The idealized goal of this American Experiment was to see if a set of inclusive laws could bring us together despite that, and forge something greater than the sum of its parts. And despite the fact that the architects of that system did not actually mean to include anyone who was different from them, we took them at the letter of their word, and have strived for 200-odd years to reconcile that ideal with reality. But the tools of Fear and Loathing are much too universal of keys to the psyche of millions who will always be manipulated more quickly and easily than they will be educated. And that thronging horde will always be mobilized against progress and against the dismantling of systems that perpetuate it.

You see, we spent the last eight decades, since our country became a major world power electing leaders under the assumption that they were working to ensure our safety and prosperity. But for half of that time, they've been working to secure only their stranglehold on the minds of those that gave them their power in the first place. And in the meantime, enough of the rest of us are comfortable enough that, despite our outrage, we're not going to rock the boat hard enough to flip it. But someone will eventually. Maybe even soon.

When the "revolution" comes it will not save us. The oppressed will rise up eventually, and history tells us they're more likely than not to become the oppressors. We will lose everything good we have in this country - things, social policies, infrastructure - but the people who already have nothing won't be any worse off. Only then will all this come crumbling down. When people who already have nothing have nothing left to lose, they will bring everyone down to their level. And we have, as a society, already made it clear that we will not raise them up to ours. We have marginalized our brothers and sisters for so long over skin color, gender/gender identity, sexual preference, mental ability/illness, economic classification, education level... just because a few of us share memes about how we now "ride for them" doesn't mean shit if the system that gave us the internet to share them on was built and continues to be supported on their backs and the backs of those like them.

Look. I know you're not responsible for the way things are. I'm not either. But I'm complacent. And so are you. And no amount of memes, or calls to your congressperson, or visits to the homeless shelter, or clever signs, or disruptive marches is going to change that. I'm going to be OK, whatever happens in the next four years. But that's because I was born a straight, white male, and I sold out my dreams and my idealism to work 40 hours a week for a corporation that doesn't give two singing fucks about me, and only pays me a reasonable wage and provides me with minimal health insurance because they're trying to appeal to a demographic of wealthy, guilty social justice warriors, and it's good marketing. But if I use their name in an blog post, you bet your ass I'm shitcanned and panhandling within a week.

So I cling to what little I have, because while I've always had little, I've never had nothing. I'm not rocking the boat, because I can't swim. But I genuinely hope the folks freezing in the water drown us all soon. Because throwing them life-preservers isn't helping their hypothermia, we're out of life preservers, and that blanket you've been crocheting since we hit the iceberg is soaked. We deserve what we get.

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