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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Vote Here


I should preface my remarks with a short explanation as to why I haven't written in a while. The full truth is never short, but suffice it to say that there are two causes: not being able to see very well, and that other thing.

What is that other thing, you ask? It's not simple in its cause but quite so in its effect. While interested in the world aroung me, I've gotten to where I want to gag at any more headlines about this Little Rascals race for the White House. As a voter I realize that I have two decisions left to me before November, since my state doesn't hold its primary until May 6.

The Republicans took all the fun out of things with their loser-take-all system, leaving no prolonged and nasty struggle prior to their summer convention. The Democrats, meanwhile, concocted a real doozy this time, with accusations, innuendo, and unveiled insults flying all over the place. I'll look at that for a moment:

The choice (if you will be kind and call it that) is between a Harvard law professor turned senator and the wife of a former president turned senator. The professor hasn't quite got the knack yet of filtering his remarks before uttering them. His opponent, whose combined income with her ex-president husband totals a measly $109 million over 7 years, accuses the professor of being an elitist.

If they keep at it, the level of public discourse might actually reach the level of the ocean floor.

Just Wondering over at Vim & Vinegar regularly points out something that is lost in this sandbox-style election: there's all kinds of stuff happening RIGHT NOW that should wake anyone up. Like.....

The economy. Less said about it the better. It stinks, and it's going to smell a lot worse as time goes on. There was a joke going around in the 1970's in which a sign of the times was an unemployed airline pilot waiting in a gas line in his Volkswagen Beetle with $50 worth of groceries in the glove compartment. Back to the future I guess.

In a recent report, the average high school graduation rate was below 44% in a large number of cities. Nashville and San Jose did the best, with almost 77% graduation rates. If you need me to explain to you the long-term consequences of such numbers then you have my sympathy.

The Decider is still deciding, in his own rather spectacular way. His 9/11 speech, his Mission Accomplished speech, his Katrina speech....well, they all sort of got mulched and combined and now his assertive voice proclaims over and over that 1, he doesn't get it, 2, he doesn't care anyway, 3, rich is much better than poor, and 4, the American people may not be worthy of his leadership after all. With all the department creations following 9/11, with all the resources poured into intelligence one seems to have informed the president that $4 a gallon gasoline just might be around the corner. But he isn't worried; all his friends say they're doing quite well, thank you. And that is all that matters.

This is ancedotal, and therefore has no weight except with and upon me. But recently I had to travel to Florida. Toodling along I-95 at 70m.p.h. (causing enormous inconvenience to those needing to go faster) I took note of the large number of rather expensive vehicles heading southwards for the annual Spring Break season.

It struck me that John Edwards had it wrong. We don't have two Americas. We have two completely different WORLDS. In my youth the Best and Brightest launched America into a quagmire. Their sons and daughters have done it again. Difference is, in my time every guy had to sweat the draft to one degree or another. What I saw blazing down the interstate that day was a class of people whose reality is so far removed from the reality in which I live that I'm left almost speechless.

These people have so many choices....ones that did not exist for the majority forty years ago and do not exist now. Maybe I saw a future president, vice-president, or speaker of the house pass me by that day. Years from now they can at least say they didn't avoid the draft, since there isn't one.

But what am I doing here? It's class warfare, right? I fail to recognize that my betters, whether then or now, are imperfect in their decisions yet totally immune from consequences. In fact, the "leaders" seem to crawl out of every bucket of manure smelling like a book-deal rose.

So be it. But the end result is such an imbalance of life; such a fission of realities that one side will never feel commonalitywith the other. Ever. I am a firm believer in the foolishness of having a multi-linguistic society. But I realize that as bad as that is, it doesn't compare to having people living in the same nation so separated.

In his book, TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, John Steinbeck made the observation that with the then-new (it was written in 1960) vending machines, a person could travel across the entire United States without speaking to a single soul. It came true, but I don't think Steinbeck ever imagined we would travel our nation and not even look at each other.

The price to be paid for this political/economic Tower of Babel will be borne by the many. The few, the lucky, the self-chosen will remain aloof and wait until the dust settles.

The eyes say, "enough!" They blur and halt anything longer than this. The mind, though, travels on, trying to make sense....trying to see that glimmer of hope that the nation that was paid for with blood (not dividends) might return to an even keel.

To borrow from and paraphrase T.S. Eliot,

This is the way the nation ends,
not with a bang, but with a very profitable whimper.

Cross-posted at

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