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Monday, September 15, 2008

Tell Me If This Makes Sense

In 1974, when I was eight years old, I watched a movie on television called The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. The movie, based on a novel of the same name, chronicled the life of a woman born into slavery, who battled segregation and racism and eventually became active in the Civil Rights movement.

I remember being so upset about what I saw in that movie, and my little girl image of our country and what was fair and how people should be treated was incredibly incensed. I asked my mother what I could do and she told me if I was that upset about it and wanted to do something, then I could write a letter to the President.

So I did. I poured my heart out to the President. In my mind, I really thought that he would read my letter and believed that he was all-powerful (like other mythological characters) and could fix the problems of racism and hatred. I did get a very nice letter back from President Ford (lol, some lackey in the Department of Little Kid's Letters to the President), who thanked me for writing and for expressing my concerns. (I have that letter in my scrapbook somewhere. I'll have to look for it.)

I remember reading that long-awaited reply and being disappointed and realizing that the President actually was not going to help me with issues I felt very strongly about. Does this sound familiar?

***

I mention this story because in reading recent posts and "news" items (I refuse to call it actual news until the journalists in this country grow a freaking pair--yes, I'm quoting Saturday Night Live--and do their jobs) and other bloggers' comments on the incredible drama and furor over lies and lipstick and sexism and racism and creationism and books and war and the economy, I think we are all letting this insanity turn us into those innocent eight-year olds who think that this time, this candidate, this party can fix things. Every four years we go through the same damn thing.

When the truth is, they can't. I don't think either party really knows how or even where to start. Let's face it. If your life has improved dramatically over the past eight years, then I wonder what income bracket you reside in because it's got to be helluva lot different than the one I'm in, and I'm going to guess that you're in the minority.

That being said, I think the Democrats totally wasted their mandate from the elections in 2006. They blew it completely. They didn't change or do a blessed thing in Washington for the past two years. They wussed out in every possible way.

This doesn't mean that we shouldn't vote. It means that voting is more important than ever. Not because we think that the next President of the United States can fix things for us, but so that that person who gets elected knows that ALL of us care. We care a very great deal. That once and for all, we might have the strength as constituents and citizens to hold them responsible and accountable. That we will not hear blame being passed around like dinner rolls at the table.

***

It would be very nice in our little communal escape from reality to think that a candidate really is just like me or you. Just like in the movies. Like Jimmy Stewart's character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he's just a small-town guy who wants to build a boy's camp and learns the hard truth about the corruption in Washington, and his heart is broken, even though he triumphs in the end. But the naivete of that character is the same as our own, and it is what all politicians play into (and I mean all): our little fantasy that they are one of us, that they care about us because they are us.

People, let's wake up. None of these politicians are us. Let's take of the rose-colored glasses already. None of them are us. But it doesn't mean they can't work for us. (Please understand, this doesn't mean I have an idea of exactly how we do that.) What I do know is that this country is full of good, hard-working people who are all tired of getting the fuzzy end of the stick.

And that brings me back to US. Not the US as in USA, but the us as in me and you. I don't care if you are a Democrat, Republican or the myriad of other parties in this country that don't have a voice, but listen up: When we allow them to divide and conquer through slander and name-calling and non-issues (I guess now I'm considered an elitist, by the way that half of the propaganda rolls right now), and then they can divert us from the issues that affect our futures, they weaken all of US, as in us, as in me and you. The Blame Game just cannot fly anymore. Wall Street is crumbling before our eyes today, as I write this post. Who's gonna bail out the fat cats? Us.

And that means the Blame Game cannot fly with us anymore. If we don't like the way things are, then WE have to become US and do something about it. But we need to educate ourselves about the issues, on what the facts are and not the hype they're handing out like milk and cookies after recess. This is not a reality tv show or a beauty contest or Platoon or another episode of the West Wing.

***

I'd like to think that the little 8-year olds in all of us can rise up together, and say ENOUGH. I'll meet you on the playground. Let's show these other kids we mean business.

Resources for smart kids like us:

http://www.factcheck.org/
http://www.publicagenda.org/
http://www.votesmart.org/index.htm

And if any of you have resources to share, please let us all know. We are all in this together.

18 comments:

smithkaichjones September 15, 2008 at 2:55 PM  

WOW! And I do mean WOW!

:) Debi

ModernTanguera September 15, 2008 at 3:04 PM  

Great post! The big I see is that we need to care ALL the time - now and after November 4. We don't need to elect the right person, we need to make sure the person who IS elected (and the white house staff, and congress, and our state and local elected officials ...) continues to work for us. We need to keep tabs and respond and make our positions clear. Because, as you said, nobody is going to just go in and fix things for us.

TheElementary September 15, 2008 at 4:43 PM  

Your posts always get right to my heart.
I love this:
"If your life has improved dramatically over the past eight years, then I wonder what income bracket you reside in because it's got to be helluva lot different than the one I'm in"- someone needed to say it and you mastered it.
This country was built on hard work and responsibility, not sitting back and letting others do the work or taking the blame. It only takes a few generations to undo that, but then on the bright side, it only takes the same to bring it back. That's what will fix it, if people are committed to some very hard work over the next few years to try to get the country back on track. That's why, though I already know who I wouldn't vote for in a million years, I also know that putting too much faith in the other party is very wrong, and would be foolish. The people have always been the foundation for change.
You said what I was thinking and what I'm sure many are thinking. I can't stand this bitterness and biting and name-calling. We're all after the same thing- to make this country better.

Christina September 15, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

I left the rose colored glasses at the side of the road along time ago, especially after the cheating that went on in this last election.

"It" starts at home. No candidate can help with taking care of business at home.

Great post, my friend!

Octavine Illustration September 15, 2008 at 5:33 PM  

i love this post and actually just wrote something similar today as well. as usual, it seems we are on the same page. you have written so beautifully and so passionately about the state of our union. i am genuinely scared.

willow September 15, 2008 at 7:58 PM  

Hear this? I'm applauding!! :^)

namastenancy September 15, 2008 at 8:54 PM  

So beautifully written that it makes my heart glad. As an "old" feminist, anti-war and civil rights marcher (back in the day), I've been saddened by how few people are paying attention to the things that really matter. I guess that years of bad TV and even worse education have not trained a lot of people to look beyond the surface but then, I read your blog and the comments of your friends and know many people who are out there, day in and day out, struggling to keep democracy alive. I give to various organizations and try my best to educated, when I can and I know that I'm not alone. Keep the faith, TangoBaby! Keep the faith!

Bill Stankus September 15, 2008 at 10:24 PM  

As she said, keep the faith.

Perhaps the method for success, politically speaking, it to do with what works best.

Find similar people - organize - gain some muscle - get your people elected and then do it some more.

It's a long hard struggle and there's many pitfalls, but as science always moves forward, so too can fair minded people.

Maybe you're that first person, the one who takes that step over the line in the sand.

mrs. sarah ott September 15, 2008 at 11:42 PM  

tangobaby! guess what came in my mailbox today?!!!! your baby and then some! what a treat after a long hard day at work to get the mail and its a real package from a dear blogger friend. you must be my dearest friend i've never known. i knew you were sending me those things but for some reason i just hadn't expected it at all and so i was so delighted. it was better than christmas because it was so random and unexpected. i love it thank you tangobaby. i am very greatful for your kindness.

Carol September 16, 2008 at 3:18 AM  

Great post!! I work for a Bank, and even in Britain we're feeling the impact of the Lehman Brothers collapse. Even though I obviously cannot participate in U.S elections, I do feel that the issues which you've addressed in your post today apply across the board. We often have these same problems in British politics too.

It starts with us, I agree.

julochka September 16, 2008 at 5:14 AM  

bravo girl! excellent post!!! you make me want to vote in illinois AND arizona, like i did the last time. yup, that's how much i cared! :-)

studio wellspring September 16, 2008 at 9:05 AM  

oh hell yeah, this is what i'm talking about baby. when people start to really understand that this is all about us, united and focused and exerting ourselves, then things will begin to change. one of the biggest problem our country faces is apathy of the population and the exploitation of that apathy by people in power.
thanks for the reminder that ultimately it doesn't matter what party you side with, it matters what you actually do with each of your 24 hours in a day.

karey m. September 16, 2008 at 9:08 AM  

eggs-zactly.

just had tons written, then backspaced out. sometimes, political thoughts are best kept in my little brain. xoxo.

paris parfait September 16, 2008 at 10:51 AM  

Yes, yes, yes it's up to us to participate - we can't just sit around waiting for someone else to fix things. We have to get involved and make change happen. Brilliant post, my clever friend. xoxox

Christian Cagigal September 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM  

Preach Sista!

C

tangobaby September 17, 2008 at 2:31 PM  

Hi guys,

Thank you ALL for such great replies! How fun for me to answer each and every one of you here...

Hi debi,

See, I told you that you inspired me. And I really mean that. We're all so much in the very same boat together, aren't we?

;-)

Hi moderntanguera,

You're right. We can't just care for that one day, but for every day afterwards. It sounds like such a tall order for most of us, but I think this election has shown us more than ever that we can't NOT be involved in our government.

Hi theelementary,

It is amazing to see things change so much in just a few years, if not over a generation. We've never seen a real revolution in our lifetimes and I wonder if things will come to that extreme.

Hi christina,

Yes, I know that. You are very good at expressing the way things are as you experience them. If only the candidates could read our blogs, huh?

Hi octavine,

I know that all of the intense bitterness is bringing a lot of our national issues and insecurities to the fore...but I am trying not to be worried until after the election, so then I know what hand we're dealt. But I understand. The stakes seem incredibly high this time.

Hi willow,

Thank you! ;-)

Hi namastenancy,

Boy, I'd love to hear more about your good old days. I think they would be very inspiring to lots of people these days. I agree 100% with you about the television and education...but I won't go there right now. Perhaps that is a post in the making.

Say, we really need to plan our date. I'm gonna email you!

Hi bill,

Welcome to my blog and thank you for your comment. I've never felt inspired to participate in the political process until this election. Here in SF, I think people are mobilized and ready to vote. Everyone here talks about the election. I worry about the swing states, or those where voter registration is very low. There's not much I can do about that, but hope that other people are reaching out and registering voters.

It occurs to me how sadly misused our civics classes are in high schools. I never had any teacher really explain to me how important it was to vote. We need to start with kids when they are young, and teach them that. Don't you think so?

Hi sarah!

I'm so happy you liked the present and hope you will tell me more when you get a moment. Isn't it fun to get a present in the mail? I enjoyed sending it to you.

xoxo

Hi carol,

I don't know enough about financial markets to make any sort of predictions, but I just assume that things will get worse before they get better.

I also assume that politics in Britain are not so f**ked up like they are here, or at least they're more civil? Maybe it's just the nature of the beast.

Hi julochka,

How many states can you vote in this time? I swear, I won't tell a soul!

Hi ms. wellspring,

Apathy and disconnect, exactly. Can you imagine what this country could be if politicians had to kow-tow to the wishes of MOST people and not the radicalized extremes?

Perhaps the Peach's generation will learn from our mistakes. I know you will raise a bright and wonderful daughter.

Hi karey m,

I'm sure we would have loved to read your comments before the backspacing occurred, but it is intimidating to talk politics and not offend someone, somewhere, right?

Hi paris parfait,

You are my ideal role model for getting the word out about what reality is and what the implications are. Thank you for providing a place where people can get a lot of very important information!

Hi christian,

Thanks! :-)

Greg September 18, 2008 at 11:20 PM  

guess what?

Lighter lit at the N Judah Chronicles!

Why?

BECAUSE YOU ROCK!

Your honesty, combined with your kindness and sensitivity and overall common sense?

Lighter lit.

Rock on.

tangobaby September 19, 2008 at 4:40 PM  

Hi greg,

Thanks so much! I love your lighter!

I am really looking forward to meeting you next week come hell or high water!!!

;-)