I had every intention of going to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity. The spectacle and clarion call, the gathering of moderates was seductive. However, in typical moderate fashion, I didn’t figure out a plan to get there. By the time I realized I should have booked a bus ticket on MegaBus or Bolt, they were already sold out.
So instead, I spent my Saturday restoring sanity on the home front. I cleaned my bedroom. I cleaned the bathroom. I vacuumed. I groomed my cat. I folded laundry. I organized the stack of ungraded papers for my review. I took a walk around the neighborhood. I bought a latte. I did most of this in relative silence. I refrained from checking my twitterfeed for updates of value and snark regarding the day’s events. I peaked once. Kid Rock performed? (Dude, like seriously?)
There were shows I’m missing. A happy hour I would’ve liked to have gone to. At the very least, I would’ve loved to rub elbows with the young progressives and shared in their sideways glance, witty banter and commentary about a comedian who’s righteous indignation against the tide of batshit crazy in our political discourse has manifested itself in a not so cleverly disguised get out the vote rally on the Washington Mall. Instead, I’m here in Brooklyn. Unable to check into foursquare to unlock uber swarm badges to acknowledge that I exist among the crowd of young(ish) moderate voices in American politics. I’m fine with this.
Earlier in the week, I talk to my mom about the Wisconsin senate race. She asks me what I think. I tell her it doesn’t matter what I think, ‘What do you think?’ She says she got a call from someone asking if she is going to vote Feingold. She tells me she told the caller that she hadn’t made up her mind. She tells me that they all sound the same to her. I think that was the moment that my moderate cool boils to seething vitriol.
You’re the kind of voter I hate, I say.
She says, Why?
You need to find out this shit for yourself. I’m sorry (for cursing). Your only answer is you’re voting Feingold.
I fail to connect the dots. My mom needs to know my opinion and pushes. She says, I remembered that you worked for Feingold, so you must have some thoughts.
I tell her I need a senate that doesn’t paralyze the executive branch. 18 months in, Obama still has to fight the senate for simple appointments within the administration.
I say I’m not happy with the Democrats, however, my alternatives on the Republican side are not reasonable. They have subparty within their party, who ostensibly believe that the President of the United States is a fascist, socialist, communist, Muslim and Kenyan national, a sleeper cell waiting to overthrow the American Democracy. I tell her these epithets read like another way to say nigger.
I say I need Senate rules to change; that filibuster super majority split in the Senate needs to disappear.
I say I need the old guard to fall away so a more progressive legislative agenda can move through.
I say that dude who’s running against Feingold is bat shit crazy and I’ve lost my tolerance for these folks.
I say you need to vote where your values are. The stakes for this election are just as high as they were in 2008. In fact, higher this time, as they will be higher in 2012.
I say, you need to vote with the next generation in mind. Vote for Andre’s generation. Andre is my ten-year-old nephew. He doesn’t have a voice but he’s the generation I’m thinking about if we don’t push for a progressive agenda.
I say all of this to her. I didn’t even see Obama’s Daily Show interview until Thursday night, online.
The week after Obama won I decided it was time for me to read One Hundred Years of Solitude. I had been avoiding the book for years. Marquez’s writing intimidates me. It’s gorgeous, dense, dreamy and intense. Something in me aspires to write like that. Something in me tenses when I read it and feel like I may never get there. Given the magnitude of the week’s events, the tension of that campaign, the anxiety we all felt during the campaign, it felt like it was time to read something epic. Monumental. We had just moved a mountain.
When I think of the book now, I think of Aureliano Buendia. I don’t think there was anything in Aureliano’s demeanor, early on in the novel, to suggest that he’d go hard to the liberal agenda in the mythical town of Macondo. They were divided: red and blue. When the conservatives asserted more control over they ways of their daily lives, with their rules, edicts, Aureliano listened, and listened and listened. The turn itself, the moment in the novel when Aureliano decides to fight in the name of Liberalism rises up in my memory:
Since Aureliano at that time had very confused notions about the difference between Conservatives and Liberals, his father in law gave him some schematic lessons. The Liberals, he said, were freemasons, bad people wanting to hang priests, to institute civil marriage and divorce, to recognize the rights of illegitimate children as equal to those of legitimate ones, and to cut the country up into a federal system that would take power away from the supreme authority. The Conservatives, on the other hand who had received their power directly from God, proposed the establishment of public order and family morality. They were the defenders of the faith of Christ, of the principle of authority, and were not prepared to permit the country to broken down into autonomous entities. Because of his humanitarian feelings Aureliano sympathized with the Liberal attitude with respect to the rights of natural children, but in any case he could not understand how people arrived at the extreme of waging war over things that could not be touched with the hand…
…but on a certain night when Gerineldo Marquez and Magnifico Visbal were speaking with some of their friends about the incident with the knives, they asked him if he was a Liberal or Conservative. Aureliano did not hesitate. “If I have to be something I’ll be a Liberal,” he said, “because the conservatives are tricky.”
Aureliano becomes a Liberal in response to voter fraud.
“This is John Connor. If you are listening to this, you are the Resistance.”
I recognize with great respect the fragility of democracies. It is a system of balancing opposites, a social contract between governance and the governed, working to achieve the greater good. I don’t like extremism of any kind. Religious extremism led to the crusades, the moral complacency of Christians during the Holocaust, the bombing of buildings, suicide bombings. Surely, the life of man isn’t brutish and short. There is a middle ground.
”I’m sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments. No, wait. I’m not. Gay kids are dying. So let’s try to keep things in perspective: Fuck your feelings..’
The stakes are high this election. As they were in 2008. As they will be in 2012. I don’t need a cable news network (real or fake) to tell me so. I read a lot. I read newspapers (online), magazines (mostly online). I seek curated news commentary from a select group of sources. The New York Governor’s race has been distilled to a choice between reasonable and batshit. The filibuster will survive the next session of congress and if I wish to see a progressive agenda, I need a supermajority. I want a climate change bill; I want the removal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I want to see gay marriages protected under the law. I got a financial regulation bill that I’m somewhat satisfied with, but it could go further. I got a health care reform legislation that could grow wider, insure more people. I want Guantanamo closed.
I want equal protection under the law for all — no exceptions. I want to protect the rule of law, which means prosecuting terror suspects under our laws, in our courts. This is reasonable. Laws were created by reasonable people. This detail may not seem as if it’s something under siege, yet it is.
I cannot enforce civility in political discourse. It’s an intangible. I try to the best of my ability to practice what I preach: use facts to combat vicious fictions. Ultimately, I have to put faith in the will of civil society to acknowledge what is and is not reality. I can only hope reality wins on November 2nd.