Our business within this common mortal life

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.

3 thoughts on “Our business within this common mortal life

  1. I really liked this post. Especially the last part. Maybe it’s because I just passed a milestone birthday and attended another relatives funeral. Maybe it’s because another family member is now stuck in a tiny room because she can’t afford both her $900 a month meds and her rent. And all around her are Red staters who believe that “socialized medicine” is evil.
    The lack of empathy for other’s that is fostered on the right has a huge negative spill over to all of us, yet our attempts to make change are marginalized and attacked by the right. I’m sick of the “violence” first people and the ‘free market can do no wrong’ drones. And of course the most ironic thing is these comments are usually coming from the people in the think tanks that are living on subsidies. Subsidies that are often generated by families that were/are robber barons and who live on gaming a government system and avoiding taxes.

  2. Thnx spocko. The uncharitable bile will reach record heights during the healthcare debate. “healthy” having to pay for the sick…

  3. VirgoTex,
    Observation’s good. Lets you know when the sky’s falling, so you can get out from under the big pieces before they hit.
    I know what it’s like to be six or seven different people in the course of a workday — and I’ve had to explain, sometimes, to coworkers that because one of me is old and fat and has bad knees doesn’t mean another one of me can’t be delighted with getting out from behind a desk into the open; that because one of me is a farm kid doesn’t mean another one of me can’t be appalled when a foodmaking plant doesn’t protect its products from rats, roaches, bird droppings and dead squirrels — we milked pasture-roaming cows by hand, yes, in a barn where we could feed them in a stanchion — but we scalded and sanitized all our equipment, buckets, filter-funnels, crockery jars and lids, ladles, churns and butter-molds, and we bathed the cows’ udders with warm clean water, so this business of confining mobs of Holsteins in undrained lots then swapping machines from one udder to the next without so much as a wet-wipe is incredibly unsanitary despite its ‘efficiency’ and ‘maximal profit per animal unit’; that because one of me used to be in the Air Force, and I like the occasional beer at the end of a hard day, plus my command of the language when I drop something heavy on my foot or pick up something hot or break a dish in the sink and cut my hand would put Mike Rowe to shame, doesn’t mean all of me can’t respect a church and its members for the good work they do and the reverence they hold their mosque, temple, worship circle, or sweat lodge; doesn’t mean that though one of me hates ladders so much I throw up before I climb one, I still love flying so much you don’t have to pay me on days I get to ride an airplane; and that all of me, together, can’t laugh at the stupid or be appalled by the cruel or pause to stare in amazement at the sheer unadulterated gorgeousness that is the Texas outdoors, catch my breath and feel my eyes sting at Joe Biden or President Obama or Stephen Colbert appearing on a USO show for the GIs overseas, or delight in the antics of any species’ young, let alone cry when a Stephen Tyrone Johns is murdered as cruelly and senselessly as a Dr. George Tiller.
    Observation’s the key to living well, VirgoTex.

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