By Steve Klinger
You’ve been in a growing malaise for a couple of years now, watching your retirement account shrink and your home value sink as your nation flounders in gridlocked futility.
Before that, you endured eight years of Bush and Cheney that drained the Treasury and the national spirit with an unjust and immoral war in one country and a bungled, unending nightmare in another. On the home front, an enormous real estate bubble concealed a putrescent financial foundation fathered by greed and government collusion that undermined the crucial regulatory process.
Maybe you thought you saw a way forward and had come out of political hibernation in 2008 and shared that exhilarating historic moment with much of the world.
But since around Jan. 20, 2009, things have gone steadily downhill as you watched your silly hopes deflated a day at a time by the corporatism exerting its reality all around you.
All the while the great purveyor of hope and lofty campaign rhetoric continued to espouse bipartisan solutions in a shark tank where he is the live bait. You began to wonder about his own sharklike traits. Torture, assassination, extraordinary rendition? What happened to the pledges and promises that inspired you? As more than one blogger has noted, real change turned to chump change.
You see rich white men angry that the world is increasingly not composed of other rich white men to help them hold the unwashed masses at bay while convincing the latter it’s all in their own best interest.
Your see young inner city men and women angry that there are no jobs, no affordable housing, no hope, no money to buy the cheap crap from China, where their jobs have all gone.
You see Tea Partiers and middle-aged Heartlanders angry that their American Dream has been hijacked by what they say is big government but what they mean is minority party-crashers who want to redistribute the wealth. Their wealth. Or maybe their potential wealth.
You note that most other Americans are merely resigned, apathetic, distracted and addicted, eating themselves to death on the couch while the reality shows play out their fantasies and society crumbles around them in quiet microfractures. Who needs a conspiracy when free enterprise does such a wonderful job of empowering the oligarchy by drugging the willfully complicit legions with games, gadgets and high fructose corn syrup?
The dissolution of the Great American Empire rattles along inexorably, all around us, yet we still need to find a way forward because we’re alive and people plus planet are suffering – and Election Day 2010 is nearly upon us.
Maybe this is you: Disillusioned by the millions, voters who punched the ticket for change two years ago talk about staying home this time or even voting Republican in their anger and frustration. Those emotions are not greatly misplaced, given the infuriating spinelessness of the Democratic Congress, the uninspired leadership in the White House and the success of the obstructionist, lockstep Republicans. When things seem hopeless, inspiration is in short supply. Once bitten, twice shy.
But take note of this too: Worthwhile change never comes from the top down, and it never comes smoothly and without great resistance. Leadership and vision are born at the bottom and grow up from the grassroots, if at all. Politics, for all its tawdry posturing and phoniness, quid pro quo and hypocrisy, still affects people’s lives in the most pervasive way and is boycotted only at our great peril.
So stay home, watch the wingnuts and sociopaths take control of Congress and you accelerate the corporatization of America; quit now and you concede we are a nation of winners and losers (who must fend for themselves); give up and you invite the church into your bedroom; capitulate and you become part of America’s headlong plunge into darkness, while the rabble are snakecharmed and the privileged steal the rest of the pie.
But there are other alternatives: You can identify and support the candidates who are forces for positive change on the local level, where progress must begin. You can find those who could be enriching themselves in the private sector but choose instead to fight to preserve social safety nets, advance and improve the education system, protect the environment and stand up to the forces of greed and self-interest.
The system is maddeningly imperfect and so are even the best candidates and incumbents. But voter apathy and resignation will only empower those who have built their base on distortion and deception and whose darker agenda will render that apathy a bygone luxury.
Better yet, you can be the change you have come to expect from others. Organize, localize, harmonize with the beings and environment around you. Grow food, share resources, create solutions. Advance evolution. Resist devolution.