Time To Participate In Democracy, American Humans
We are, as a people, fairly smart folks.
It’s easy to think we’re all stupid — we do, as a whole, some profoundly stupid shit. (We invented the Slanket. We watch Honey Boo-Boo. We drink soda from a 7-11 “Thirst Aborter” cup that holds more liquid than an elephant’s gastrointestinal system. We eat Funions.)
But all in all, we’re pretty fucking snazzy in the smarts department. I mean, uhh, hello — we humans invented the Internet. And cat videos. AND MOTHERFUCKING DEMOCRACY.
So, let’s all just take a moment and high-five ourselves.
Let’s also admit that, though we are smart, we’re also selfish. We tend to our own needs first — and, to a point, those needs extend to our self-identified tribes, which may be a unit as small as a marriage, or a family, or a town, state, country, religion, geek clique, whatever.
And yet. For selfish people, I notice that quite frequently, we vote against our own best interests. Which actually seems to defy the notion that we are selfish, but aye, here’s the rub: we are often convinced that our own best interests are something other than they are.
We are, in a sense, seduced.
Seduced by a kind of fantasy.
That fantasy is, quite frequently, that we are one day going to be the kings of the castle. That we will be wealthy-ass motherfuckers rolling on a gooshy-wooshy waterbed filled with Goldschlager and covered in cash. We will one day live in the big house on the hill. We’ll have investments out the pee-hole. Simply put —
We vote like we’re one day gonna be rich.
It’s not impossible, after all. Class mobility is a very real thing. We don’t have castes. Our economic status is flexible. We’ve heard countless stories of someone pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, even though nobody’s boots have fucking straps anymore and if they did we’re probably look at them like, “What the fuck is wrong with your boots? OH MY GOD TIME TRAVELER GET ME MY GUN.”
Funny enough, nobody ever seems to acknowledge that class mobility is a two-way street.
So, a suggestion:
Maybe it’s time to stop voting like you’re going to one day be rich.
Vote as if one day you might be poor.
Get shut of the myth that being poor is automatically the fault of the person suffering. I’m not so naive as to say that our fortunes are never our own doing — I’ve known plenty of people who have shot themselves in the ass again and again, earning and owning their many misfortunes. But I’m also not so daft as to suggest that sometimes? Shit happens. A tree falls on your house. The company that has employed you for 20 years suddenly shits the bed and dies, leaving you without work. A loved one dies. Car crash. Identity theft.
Bad luck. Get fucked.
Tell me: do you want to vote for a candidate who only takes care of you in the boom times? Who is there when things are good? Who doesn’t offer you a hand up so much as a pat on the back for being successful? Or is it better instead to vote for a candidate who will help you stand up when you’ve fallen? Who tries to put in place a safety net for before you fall? Who recognizes that sometimes awful things happen to not-awful people and that we need to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves?
Vote like you’re one day going to be poor.
Vote like one day you might lose your health insurance and then get sick.
Vote like one day you might get hit by an earthquake. Or a tidal wave.
Or, I dunno, I’m spitballing here — a hurricane.
Because it can happen to you. And it can happen to your friends. And family. And neighbors. And strangers.
It can happen to any of us.
Needless to say, I’m voting to re-elect President Obama. Because I think out of the two candidates, he’s the guy who’s going to help this country when it’s down. And that’s where we were four years ago. We were tumbling down, down, down the rabbit hole of recession and, at the bottom, depression. Things are, by my eyes and by most metrics, better now than they were four years ago. More to the point: our country didn’t crash into the wall and leave a trail of smoking economic wreckage littering the ground.
I’m not some Big Government guy — but I recognize that government has its place. And I believe that place is to help us when we need it — it’s easy to bemoan socialism or government programs and hand-outs when you’re not a person who can benefit from them. It’s easy to say the government should stay out of our way — but then one day you need Medicare for our aging parents, or unemployment, or ten gallons of free gasoline from FEMA so you can keep generators on for just one more night.
I’m also in favor of Obamacare. I’m a writer and a freelancer. I look forward to having real choice and cost control when it comes to my health care and health decisions.
Has Obama been the perfect president? Did he make good on all that Hopey Changey goodness? Maybe not. Certainly our president has fallen down on the job a number of times. But I still think he answered more of his campaign promises than anyone ever expected. And I don’t think he should be punished for not taking this country from zero to 60 in terms of the economy — any improvement is good improvement. Four years ago we were hurting. Four years later we shouldn’t expect everything to be an economic boomtown.
Now: if you feel that the one who will help you when the chips are down is Mitt Romney, more power to you. Message is still the same: go out and vote. Let democracy have its place. As wildly imperfect as it may be.
Oh, and do read up on your local elections, too. The economy may not trickle down as many once said — but politics sure as hell trickle up. And yes, I know, things don’t technically trickle up but let’s pretend there’s no gravity. SHUT UP WITH YOUR ACCURSED WITCH SCIENCE. We’re playing with metaphors over here.
What I’m trying to say is —
Get out and vote.
(Thanks to my wife for helping crystallize some of these thoughts.)