Romney, Obama, and the Story We’re Telling

Housekeeping things: The crack van will go up around noonish tomorrow and stay up as long as I can. Post your links, voter stories, crazy coverage, and cat noises in there. I’ll be in and out until my election party starts around 7.
It would be too easy, today, to say there’s no choice.
There’s always a choice.
I could, in fact, stay home. Not vote. It’s not like Illinois is in play, after all. I could sit here and talk to you about the Green Party or the libertarians or list all the ways in which Barack Obama has disappointed me and this isn’t me mocking people, not even the ones nailing themselves to the cross and then screaming about martyrdom. My disappointments aren’t insignificant. What first aroused my passion in politics wasn’t health care or reproductive issues or even marriage equality, it was the devastation of civil liberties in the wake of 9/11, and on that topic Obama is a slightly less credible version of George W. Bush, perpetuating and in some cases expanding a system that enshrines the idea that we are not, in fact, equal before the law.
Plus, fuck his fetish for bipartisanship, really. Nobody cares about that shit. Every second spent talking about how mean everyone in Washington is these days is a second not spent feeding somebody so until everybody is fed shut up about your parties and how awkward the cocktail hour always is. We spent way too much time on that nonsense.
But something’s happened in the past four years, and most expecially in the past four months.
Republicans have gone absolutely monkey-fuck circus insane.
I mean they have lost THEY GODDAMN MINDS. The personhood amendments, the rape statements, this last-minute thing from Ryan that makes Donald Trump look like Winston Churchill. The equation of birth control coverage with the Protestant Reformation. That’s just the easy stuff. That’s not even how suddenly the debt ceiling was in some sense Communistic, the environment was for fairies, and killing Osama bin Laden was no big deal. That’s not even the birtherism, like what do you think is going to happen at this point anyway, he’s gonna be all YEAH YOU RIGHT and step down because of your trenchant analysis of Xeroxes and stuff?
Note to the unskewed poll assholes, too: Archimedes called, he says you suck, and fortunately so does your mom so if you could please respect the sock on the doorknob this time that would be great.
Meanwhile we had a Beltway press jerking off about how Obama could be getting more done if he was just less mean to rich people, while he was being actually quite nice to rich people, and if Occupy hadn’t spoken up to say excuse me the fuck is wrong with you people, I’m not sure anybody would have ever grown any balls at all.
After the RNC, after three days of no concrete proposals, no ideas, just My Question Is I Hate You, somewhere in there I realized the story they were telling, and it wasn’t a story I wanted anybody to read.
It was a story about how we are mean, and small, and scared, all the goddamn time. It was a story about how limited we are, and how alone. It reminded me powerfully of 2004, which was the first year I watched every single second of the political conventions, and the way even in the midst of Democrats’ white-hot rage against Bush Republicans they were still offering a way out and a way up, a love song about how much better we could be. There was none of that at the RNC. Just day after day of you’re on your own.
And then Sandy hit the coast, and as always happens people were magnificent, and generous. I’ve had this piece bookmarked for a while, becauseit’s right even as it’s wrong:

“If you hadn’t had the storm, there would have been more of a chance for the [Mitt] Romney campaign to talk about the deficit, the debt, the economy. There was a stutter in the campaign. When you have attention drawn away to somewhere else, to something else, it is not to his [Romney’s] advantage,” Rove told The Washington Post.
It’s not the storm’s fault Mitt Romney looked bad. First of all, that’s a lot of pressure to put on New York, to justify anyone’s political campaign, and second of all, no way in hell. But what the storm did do is point out just how far from the reality of America is Mitt Romney’s vision of it, and how powerful a rebuke our ordinary humanity is to the forces of our greatest selfishness, to the depths of our greatest fears. We see ourselves in such moments, and we tell a story not about the people we are, but the people we want to be, and even though it’s only a story, there are worse things than stories. Stories are where we start.
We all have a choice today. For me it isn’t a hard one. I’ve pulled a straight Democratic ticket in just about every election in which I’ve ever voted. But that choice isn’t just about Mitt Romney or even about Barack Obama. It’s about what kind of people we are, and what kind of story we want to tell about ourselves. Like all great stories, it’s not about who’s listening. It’s about what’s being said.
It’s not a perfect story. There are parts of it that are lovely fictions, and parts of it that are horror, tragedy, farce. Tthere aren’t easy villains in it, or easy heroes either.
It doesn’t have an ending, not yet.
But I want to know what comes next.

5 thoughts on “Romney, Obama, and the Story We’re Telling

  1. And what is there to say, after that? You nailed it, beautifully as always, Athenae. Thanks.

  2. Never forget that the down ballot races are where you will choose the people who will try to either support or strip you of your civil rights in the years to come.

  3. I often share what you write. And I always tag it: What. Athenae. Said.
    Thanks for this, and for everything else, too.

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