Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting Political

Ahhhh... It's that time in a young country's life when so many things are due for a change. That country keeps hearing about "Change" and may even be discovering girls (on the ticket).

For folks newer to the site, here's some background:

The site was originally a bit more political. I was deeply dissatisfied with the Bush administration and the push to war in Iraq (do not equate this with a push into Afghanistan or other Al Qaeda related pushes of the day). The American press was rolling over for talking point dispatches, and more than I was bothered by Bush's strategies, I was deeply bothered by the way the press was happy to play along.

I should note, the force singly most responsible for the creation of League of Melbotis is a thought-provoking conservative in his own right. And while he and I could disagree, there was always an opportunity for me to see things from a new angle. I have no idea if he felt the same way, but that was something I could take away from it.

That's really all I ask out of political discussion. Rational discourse. Keep the emotion to a limited degree (I've been known to get pretty hot about certain issues, I confess), and trying not to deny logic in an argument.

I started LoM in the Boogeyman Era of politics, where the call of the day was "If you don't support X, you hate America", "If you don't buy into Y, you hate our troops", "If you don't agree to Z, you hate freedom", and, my favorite "You're trying to appease the terrorists!". No other time in the history of man has the phrase "appease" been bandied about so much.

For me, the end result of the Bush/ Cable News era, sadly, has been a sneering cynicism about politics in general. Cynicism = bad. If you find our system goofy, go live in Canada, right? Whatever.

Instead, it's been a 7 year lesson in watching the entire populace (who supposedly took high school civics) look the other direction as the law and basic decency have been put to the curb for expediency.

Worse, possibly, it's ingrained in me a cynicism about party loyalists of any stripe. If folks will believe anything That Guy says, why should I believe anything Our Guy says?

It's sort of left me with the impression that we are not so far away from our silver-back respecting primate cousins. There's a reason that against all logic, we spent 100,000 years erecting kings to live in palaces while we toiled on turnip farms and paid them taxes, believing God himself had selected Our Guy for the job. When push came to shove, if we backed Our Guy and adorned him in jewels and let him kick the crap out of us, maybe when the jerks from the other side of the island showed up to kill us and take our turnips, our belief that Our Guy was the REAL guy (and not THEIR jewel adorned guy, who was so obviously a jerk) God would help us smite our enemies.

And because winners tend to write history, sure, God was on our side.

Despite our proclamations of love for the system, I'm not convinced we're not all secret monarchists at heart, in search of a king (or queen). We choose our candidates by how they support the lifestyle we believe we (and everyone else) should be living. We don't look to candidates to change our ways with new and challenging ideas. Every four years is a chance to crown new royalty, and to feel some small victory when or if the victor is the one who confirms our preconceived notions.

If Our Guy wins, things will be better for everyone. He will protect our turnips. Or at least the way we think turnips should be raised and distributed. If the other guy wins, we'll all be turnipless.

The improvement in the situation is that we have an opportunity to choose which guy we're going to go with on this turnip situation very four harvests.

A bit of personal frustration I find in myself is that I absolutely have knee-jerk reactions, and despite the abundance of information available on candidates and their game plans for the future that I came to a decision so quickly regarding who was My Guy. I found myself rationalizing criticisms of My Guy, and backing shakier criticisms against All Those Other Guys. As it's become Our Guy vs. Their Guy (and Our Guy-1 vs. Their Guy-1), things are starting to get serious.

But I don't take any of the candidates all that seriously. You can't.

I often have no idea if My Guy's plans will work. It's just that My Guy's plans sound more like something I'd do than The Other Guy's plans. When I hear our two candidates talking about their energy plans, is it really that shocking that the solution they came up with matches the preconceived notions of their party faithful? Is the science behind what their saying a legitimate response? Why the @#$% are we asking politicians (of all people) how we should be moving forward with energy solutions? Why aren't we finding out what the facts and science are from someone who doesn't have a political stake in this stuff (such as Ms. Paris Hilton)?

We're looking to our Officially Anointed and Elected Sun Gods to pretend they know how to do everything from run international tariff laws to understanding the complex issues behind our natural resources. Luckily, they gladly fake authority and certainty on such topics, and we go right along with it, mostly because it fulfills the conclusions we've already come to.

I quit talking politics on the site because, honestly, it totally wears me out. I say "red", someone else chimes in to say "blue", someone else says "you don't understand colors, moron", and yet another person says "God only likes blue." And the truth is, we're all right and we're all wrong. We won't ever live in a state of utter hegemony in which we're all moving the same direction and the same solutions work for everyone. (You can try this, but then you're a big, spooky country where people tend to disappear when they disagree.)

The fact is, it's a single vote I'll cast in November. In a state that is massively, proudly Republican, it totally doesn't matter what I think (no matter who I vote for). The arcane and out-dated workings of the electoral college tell me that voting in National Politics is, in fact, pointless. And with the results of the 2000 Election, I'm kind of inclined to think the whole thing is so astonishingly flawed that its going to come down to the fact that we have a Republican-placed Supreme Court, anyway.

It doesn't mean I won't vote. It's just... you know, I'm not completely dumb nor overly illogical. And it sure as hell beats the alternative of not having any say. That's been our lot for the vast, vast majority of human history. And, I don't think too kindly of that particular right being infringed upon.

So I vote more for the ritual of the thing, and because I have hope that one day a vote will actually count for something (we do live in a Republic after all, not a true democracy. But things change.). And that my vote can be a reminder to The Other Guy, if My Guy does lose (and he probably will), that nobody walks into office on a 100% mandate. Anyone taking the Oval Office should remember that almost half the country didn't want to see them in office, and keep that in mind when they start making decisions.

But I'll be dipped if that's what I see actually happen. It's hard to not believe the monkeys howling your name and dropping all those red and blue balloons (all for you!) in those first 100 days. You get to be festooned in jewels and tell the whole country that despite the council's decisions regarding turnip planting, you're not agreeing to plant any turnips until they start growing them and distributing turnips in the way you see fit...

We choose our kings and queens in odd ways and maybe by asking the wrong questions. And certainly by expecting them to be all knowing and seeing with their army of advisors. I don't know what criteria we should be using to make our decisions, but too often we seem to make our decisions based on someone else's checklist. And maybe that's what needs to change a bit.

A quick PS: I am neither for or against Sarah Palin, Joe Biden or anyone else seeking office. I've given Palin a hard time the past few days here at LoM and Steanso's blog. This is not to suggest anything about Palin (other than that probably Photoshopped pics with accompanying taglines are amusing). Here's a hoax link.

I could care less about Sarah Palin or Joe Biden other than their official capacities, and more or less the same about McCain and Obama. If you are in some way related to any of these people and become offended by future links regarding stuff I find funny, then my apologies. Any hang up other readers have regarding the sun god worship of candidates is their own.

I assure you, all of this will get stupider before it gets better.


Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem with politics today is that we make it out as a game, like one guy is UT and the other guy is the Ags, and we want UT to win, regardless. Maybe its always been this way, I don't know, but at some point we stopped voting for the guy with the best plan, but instead the guy wearing our home colors.

And as someone who lives in a Republican state, I emphatize with your feelings about voting. Ever four years, I wish I live in Ohio so my vote will count.

I've thought about writing in myself for president this year, or one of my co-workers. Maybe I'll even write-in JMD. Or better yet, you Ryan.

The League said...

I actually had that analogy in as an early draft, comparing college ball and romantic, emotional attachment to formative years as part of our reason for how we vote. And certainly the irrational devotion to something as intangible as "party".

But, I was afraid of mixing metaphors.

I don't think things have ever been all that different regarding voting on the wrong issue. The South voted Democrat for 100 years because it associated Republicanism with the Confederate loss and Yankee carpet-baggers.

It doesn't seem things will change much in the coming years. People like to get behind their banner and whoop and holler.

I guess at least in the modern age all we do after a loss is go back, lick our wounds and plan a new strategy for the next election cycle. It beats mounting armies and laying siege to one another and what-not.

Meredith said...

This is one of the more thoughtful blogs I have read in a very, very long time and thank you for writing it. Lots of very good and true info in here. I agree that people do stick to Their Guy most of the time, and think that is true because of what you mentioned....that My Guy does represent the view that I live by and I like his "plan" better. But we all have to also remember that a President, although a VERY important and visible job, is also supplemented by a HUGE grouping of advisors, cabinet members, senators and congressmen/women.....there is a host of others guiding what happens to us too. That's what's great about the US. It's NOT China with an army of acrobats doing an Olympic opening act in tandem with plastic robotic smiles forced on them by the Powers that Be who will whisk them into obscurity if they disagree with THE Guy.

Thanks for the time you took typing and posting this, Ryan.....loved reading it.

The League said...

Mere, I couldn't agree more about your take on the role of President, especially vis-a-vis the way too many other governments are set up (China being the most visible and growing of the moment).

It's why I can never get too down. I'm in a place where I'm not just allowed to dissent, but its a fundamental right.

Thanks for the kind words on the post.

J.S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.S. said...

I don't really get your post (and I'm not being a smartass).

The League said...

I know. I'm just that darn smart.

I didn't come across terribly clear, I guess.

I was trying to say that we're hard-wired to seek out leaders and put too much faith in them, at our own peril. That faith manifests itself in different, often seemingly religious ways which don't necessarily reflect our supposed culture of equality. And that inherently leads to abuse.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't vote.