In case anyone has ever wondered, I DO realize I’m an inconsistent, intellectually sloppy, lazy asshole a great deal of the time, online and off. I’ve seldom been accused of being a fierce activist, a rigorous thinker, or good soldier.
This isn’t self-deprecation, just acknowledgment that I am those things many probably would describe me as. And yes, of course, I am more. It’s almost 1 p.m. right now, I’m likely to be at least three people before I leave the office for home this afternoon. Like all of us, most of us anyway, I’m many selves and some of them on occasion are wonderfully brave, selfless, focused, and righteously eloquent. Mostly though, it’s hit or miss.
The above musing has been brought to light by some restlessness I’ve felt lately, observing, as I am wont to do, the political spectacle surrounding us. Observing: most days it’s that, a game watched from the distance. During the last season, the long election second half, we were players, or maybe at least waterboys. Closer to the field at least, more invested, enfranchised, stakes were real.
Now back to observing mostly. Of course, that’s a false construct (I hope) but it’s helpful. Otherwise, what are we? Referees? The ball itself?
It’s the “otherwise” that’s making me fidgety lately. I’m a realist, I have a pragmatic, albeit fairly rudimentary, understanding of how our government organization works, how political capital is gained and spent, how consensus is built toward lawmaking, and sometimes even justice. I get that the players, and here I mean the elected, have to stay in the game to score.
So anyway, when I say that I admire our new president, it’s the truth. I’m being honest when I say I was inspired by his campaign and by much of what he’s done in office so far. It’s also true that I’ve been heartbroken by more than a few of his compromises, none more so than those dealing with torture. So far I cannot discern a genuine moral or ethical motivation for his choices in this regard. I wish he was 10 times braver, I find some of his “changes,” if not counterfeit, already devalued, and I wish he was more a leader and less a politician.
Likewise: when I see the progress of my own chosen tribe toward marriage equality and bringing down DADT, I’m genuinely excited. I know these are moves toward justice, and I think they are worthwhile struggles. At the very same time, I feel squeezed in by the accompanying trappings of conformity and assimilation. If I have one true self somewhere in that crowd of changing identities, I recognize that self is inherently an outsider, and I trust the strength and perspective one gains from being counter to, outside of, the mainstream.
That self wonders what marriage equality and serving in the military means when at this exact moment somewhere, there’s a queer or transgendered kid who had to sleep in a bus station last night, no family, no home, no decent job, no supporting circle of loved ones.
Would the fights we are spending so much money and energy on have made a difference to the 10 year old that hung himself because the kids at school called him a faggot every day? And speaking of fighting, many of the elders whose collective shoulders we were lifted on are languishing in single rooms where the only visible culture is one of aging and death. Did they get what they fought for? Are we carrying on with them in mind?
I don’t have an answer for any of this. Except that politics as a pastime seems very often incompatible with the complexities of engaging with the world.
Also that I probably watch too much television.