Friday, September 7, 2012

Navigating the Cave

I've never been a very political person. I've always felt too under informed to express opinions with openness and unwavering conviction,  but that's changed in recent years and I am sure I drive my facebook friends crazy with my political blather. 

American life transformed dramatically for me in the Bush years and I grew more committed to understanding the fascinating and depressing landscape of American politics. The Bush era was a definite wakeup call in terms of national security, the economy, our inflated sense of importance and might in the world and blatantly discriminatory public policy, both domestically and internationally. I lived in Rome for two years, watching from afar as the economy slid like so much mud down the side of a great mountain, my eyes opened to the pathetic perception of the United States around the world and the mammoth delusions we harbor as a nation. 

From 2000-2008, we were led on a self-destructive, blinding path deeper into the cave, and when Barack Obama took office we were lost in the belly of it, demoralized by two grueling wars, thousands dead, and the worst economic crisis since the depression. And yet as a nation—despite all that happened, despite the loss of trillions on a trumped-up war, despite the fact that we went from a deficit in the GHW Bush era to a surplus in the Clinton Presidency and back to a deficit under George W—at least half of us remain in complete denial of the very grim reality facing this country and the enormous challenge facing our current President. The America we thought we had isn't coming back, let's face it. It never existed in the first place. 

But we still believe in magic. We even pride ourselves on that belief. Many of us are convinced that the staggering unemployment and recession that resulted from the economic crash in 2008 should have been something from which we miraculously bounce back—even in the face of open, deliberate, strategic opposition in Congress to any initiative put forth by the administration and our Democratic representation. Let's face it. The men and women of Washington have failed us and the Republicans in Congress in particular have made it very clear that the goal is to destroy our President. Representation seems non-existent.

But there have been bright moments, at least for me, a few glimmers of hope. Some significant changes have pushed through and if we truly try to understand them, the more rational among us will ultimately be grateful, rather than fearful and resentful. Fairer access to health care and an attempt to limit the bloodletting by big insurance companies, equal treatment under the law regarding marriage for 4 million US citizens, the right to serve in the military without fear of persecution and loss of vocational security.  These have been vital steps in the right direction—meaningful messages of positive change and accomplishment.  And yet many people—for reasons which completely elude me, which run counter to my every moral tenet and sense of hope—oppose this progress. These are measures that take nothing from their own quality of life, do no harm to the safety and security of the majority, and merely bestow the same privileges on their fellow citizens who just want to be treated equally under the law. What's not to like?

This was an important year for gay and lesbian Americans. Most people have absolutely no idea how much it means to know that the President of the United States says that he's got your back after a lifetime of marginalization (both intrinsically and extrinsically-imposed). Growing up gay in America has been a rough road for millions of people. The heteronormative (Blogger doesn't even recognize that word, by the way) traditions encountered by generations of gay Americans is finally eroding just enough to allow those millions to sense a scant bit of inclusion, the door is slightly open, the concern for personal safety and fear of rejection and even harm slowly dissipating, even if we remain marginalized.

I don't know what will happen if Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win this election. I do believe that they're 100% determined to roll back the progress for which I have been so grateful, and they may accomplish this by relying on the stupidity, lazy desperation and blind faith of those Americans who believe the world is less than 10,000 years old and that Barack Obama "hates America."  It's so easy to fool the people of this country. It takes very little—a few inflammatory sound bites, a handful of lies which pervade the beliefs of the careless, despite proof to the contrary.  So many of us are loathe to face the reality that we won't get out of this mess without some sacrifice and galvanized hard work, that our President has (as someone aptly put it) "led with a compass, not a speedometer." The most dangerous people in this nation are those who think that continuing to pamper the rich will somehow do the magic, will be a better way. We tried the "better way." It led us into the cave.

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