I hate politics. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to separate myself from them, to disengage entirely. It's frustrating to watch the pundits and pollsters and politicians parade all over television and radio with redundant talking points and inflammatory rhetoric. It's all an act, entertainment for us. As I said above, I don't have much experience with any political phase beyond this current one, so there isn't much historical context here, but I can't imagine that it was always like this. There are some progressive politicians that I admire and some truly regressive ones that I can't believe exist, but if you strip away the party line issues, I would say that most of them are practically identical.
But it isn't simply entertainment. There is a truly damaging social aspect to this as well. The political media has managed to get the population squared off against each other. Political issues are seemingly designed to infuriate one side or the other. Instead of making policy on actual, substantive issues, they make policy on wedge issues. And then we all hate each other.
The recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado (about which I will say more on a later post) are a great example of this. Politicians and the media have both tried to find ways to spin the actions of a single individual into their narrative. And we always believe it. I'll admit that it is very seductive. 'Of course the shooter was involved in the Tea Party/Occupy movement.' But that is obviously terrifically damaging. It doesn't matter where the shooter was politically aligned. He clearly does not fit the mold of any major organization, so whatever his past affiliations were, they are irrelevant. Nevertheless, we are all so eager to find further ways to justify our own worldview that we rally to every call to arms we hear.
This is why I want desperately to abandon politics and focus on entertainment and philosophy and cooking. I stop listening to NPR, stop listening to political podcasts and following blogs (I don't watch news on TV, otherwise I'd give that up as well). I have a beer, play some video games and build a little paper toy.
But then I get pulled back in. I am reminded that, although they may well be designed to divide Americans, they are also incredibly important. How can I sleep comfortably when Republicans ignore global warming and enact austerity measures for the poor and middle class while the rich get richer? How can I ignore the mountains of cash poured into campaigns by corporations who clearly have an expectation of some reciprocity once their candidate wins? How can I ignore these things and, more importantly, how are these villains getting elected in the first place? How are these races even close? It's because the other half of America is essentially selfish and horrible. Their worldview is so radically different from my own, I can't even imagine having a conversation with them.
And just like that, I've jumped back in with my pitchfork.
Somewhere, someone is laughing at all of us.