We Must Disenthrall Ourselves

Have I ever discussed politics on this blog? Doubtful. I don’t enjoy discussing politics; I find most other people’s political opinions to be misinformed to the point of annoying; and especially online, I find that political “discussion” is nothing more than people yelling at each other for no reason.

That said, this interview with Capitol Hill insider Mike Lofgren is well worth the read. Even though I don’t read political nonfiction (kind of on principle), Lofgren almost makes me want to read his book. Almost.

Here is what I consider the most telling quote from the Lofgren interview:

“We can devise all the clever schemes imaginable to clean up politics and get money out of campaigns, but it won’t work until the American people collectively give up on certain fond illusions: the Horatio Alger myth, American Exceptionalism, and the whole mass of magical thinking that boils down to the belief that God loves America because we’re so virtuous, handsome, and smart, and that we, too, could win the lottery. Well, we’re not necessarily any of those things. The truth is that we lucked into adverse possession of a mostly empty continent in a temperate zone with lots of resources, and straddled east and west by two huge moats. We had firearms and resistance to smallpox, and the original owners didn’t. Virtue had very little to do with it.

“And now, thanks to globalization, our original advantages matter less. Go to certain areas of the once-industrial Midwest. Some of the places look like Dresden after the bombing. We are in a tough, competitive global environment, and we simply cannot afford to squander our potential by playing the world’s policeman abroad and running a healthcare/service economy at home where half the population empties the bedpans of the other half. And plutocracy is not a stable political basis for a successful nation-state. As Lincoln said, we must disenthrall ourselves.”

~Mike Lofgren
in “An Interview With Mike Lofgren, Author of ‘The Party Is Over'” by Leslie Thatcher

Now, before anyone is tempted to skewer me for quoting something so “unpatriotic,” please keep in mind where I’m coming from: I was raised in a country in which any hint patriotism was, at one point, a reason for ostracism if not incarceration. When I hear Americans complain about how Europeans — and Germans specifically — tend toward pacifism and lack of patriotism, my response is: “You can’t blame the Germans; we made them that way.” When the Allies occupy your country for 50 years and, at the beginning of the occupation, arrest you for showing a smidgen of love for your country, you tend to get patriotism trained out of you.

Thus, if anyone chooses to call me unpatriotic, so be it. But our definitions of patriotism probably differ quite wildly.

(And by the way: Lofgren’s comparisons of portions of the Midwest to bombed-out Dresden? Accurate.)

Anyway — Lofgren’s statements. I particularly appreciate his Lincoln reference; in today’s mass hysterical political climate, the voices of dead presidents seem to be the only ones of reason. That said, I don’t think any of us can know their true political or personal motivations in any of the “reasonable” things they said (that history chose to preserve; and, lest we forget by whom histoy is written…). Me, I’ve long believed that at least in the last 75 years, there’s no way any higher-up political candidate can rise to the rank of higher-up candidate without having compromised on morals, ethics, and personal principles.

Think your candidate is a moral, ethical person as compared to the other guy? Don’t count on it. Call me a jaded cynic (no, really, go ahead), but I cannot believe that anyone who aspires to political office can stick to their guns throughout a political race of any sort — whether it’s a race for presidency, senate, mayorship, or prom queen. Someone, somewhere, at some point is going to ask that candidate to sacrifice a principle for the sake of winning. And unless the candidate has dropped out of the race specifically in order to preserve that principle, you can pretty much bet on that candidate having given in to the compromise.

And so, we the People cling to our illusions and continue to throw money at these candidates who can never give us a straight answer as to what they’re doing with our money, what they’ve done with our money, or what they’re going to do with our money. They plump up their rhetoric, put on the nice suits and the high heels, and invite our cameras into their home so we can see what a lovely family life they lead. The compare us to the People of other nations and pat us on the backs for being so much more giving, loving, and compassionate than the rest of the world.

What we refuse to see is that the pats on the pack are really just pats on the head. We’ve gotten our wires so crossed and our nerve endings so numbed that we can’t feel the difference anymore.

Some of you might be trying to guess my political affiliation or leanings based on what I’m writing here. Well, I’ll take the guesswork out: I’m registered independent. Why? Well, honestly, because I think aligning myself Democrat or Republican would be silly. Forty years ago, many of my opinions would have gotten me labeled “Republican.” Today, many of those same opinions would get me labeled “Democrat.” Parties change, people. Staunchly affiliating myself with one would probably mean having to run like heck over to the other a couple of decades down the line. Who has enough energy for that kind of hither and yon? I have a life to live, and it’s more important to me than keeping up with the political Joneses.

And on top of that, neither of our two major parties reflects my worldview. What am I going to do come November 2012? I honestly have no idea. I am sick of being asked to choose between the lesser of two evils. I am sick of being required to choose between two people who have proven, over the course of their candidacy, that they are manipulators, liars, backbiters, backstabbers, people who ingratiate themselves, wasters of money, wasters of time, and wasters of energy. I have no interest in seeing either of them in the White House — and by “them,” I really mean any two Dem/Rep candidates who have been up for election since I started voting.

As Lofgren states in his interview, “One party goes for the cerebral cortex (with minimal success), while the other goes for the solar plexus.” If somebody, ANYBODY would put forward a candidate who could engage both brain and heart in a reasonable, unbiased, non-manipulative manner, as well as prove to me that they didn’t throw other people’s money on the fire of their own selfish ambition, I *might* be persuaded to listen.

As it is, anytime I see a political ad on my TV screen — “approved by” ANY candidate — I change the channel.

I’ve heard all of that drivel before.