Things I Don't Spend Much Time On Anymore

For those of you who found me through comments I've made at other blogs (such as the inimitable Shakesville), you may have noticed that I tend to comment (frequently) on some topics and leave other topics pretty much alone.

Oh, I read all the posts, even most of the comments, but there are some issues and areas that I simply don't give much of my energy to anymore in terms of outflow.

For example, you'll rarely find a comment from me on a thread that is purely confined to discussion of recent political events. That may seem counter-intuitive, since it's probably clear that I have an activist streak a mile wide (or at least the residual of same).

The reason is this: I've been around for quite a while now.

I cast my first presidential vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976 (the Bi-Centennial! Rah! Rah! Rah!). I didn't cast another vote for a president who actually won for another 16 years. I lived through the Reagan era as a social worker working for a government agency with low-income and homeless populations, and witnessed, up close and personal, the morass that is "welfare agency as a small boat manipulated by political tides".

When my "ally" Bill Clinton won in 1992, we were "standing at the threshold of a new era![tm]!" I canvassed and volunteered for the '92 Clinton campaign, and got a whole bunch of queers to give up a whole bunch of their money to the man who was going to champion our rights. I was so excited!

When he wrote, and then signed into the law, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", in his first year of presidency, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I never, ever, saw it coming, I swear to you.

Let's just say that on that day, my belief in political solutions was seriously eroded. OK. Massively --and perhaps, fatally -- eroded.

It's not that I'm encouraging people to ignore politics, exactly -- but I find it personally very hard to "get it up" to experience true outrage over various political shenanigans that I have, through hard experience, merely come to expect.

Like the new Congressional "leadership". Yeah, sure, I did afford myself a moment of giddy exhilaration after Election '06 -- a brief hopefulness that I was yet again standing at the threshold of some new "new era".

But I must say that I haven't been all that surprised at the slippery-slidey erosion in congressional fortitude amongst the Dems.

I'm no longer shocked when candidates, pundits, and office-holders are revealed as hypocrites, harlots, and hacks.

Frankly, I'm more often amazed when a politician is ethical, follows through on a promise, or takes a truly courageous stand in the face of popular opinion or partisan opposition.

I have paid my dues as an activist. I've protested, canvassed, sat on PACs and advisory councils, organized grass-roots actions, raised money, signed and gathered signatures for petitions, come out publically in a major newspaper, directly confronted racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, and classism, served as a legislative aid, marched with union workers, people of color, queers, homeless people -- I spent the bulk of nearly 30 years immersed in political activism.

After all that time in the trenches, I came to this conclusion: I don't think that changing politics will necessarily change our culture. I think that changing individuals will change our culture, because these changed individuals will vote for candidates who will change the face of politics.

So, while I occasionally allow myself a moment of strumg und drang over things political, I tend to conserve my energy and steer it into interactions and actions that I think might actually create change in the world.

People still seem astounded that George W. Bush won a second election (if he did, in fact, win a first one). One thing that I noticed, though, was that most of the people that I know (and yes, I do know some) who voted for Bush actually voted FOR him, whereas most of the people I know who voted for Democratic presidential candidates weren't really voting for anyone -- they were voting AGAINST Bush.

Energetically, I think there is a vast difference.

That was one of the reasons that I issued the 30-day angst-loss challenge. I'm more interested in actually changing things, now, than just getting myself worked up, talking myself down, and going on my merry way.

Here, at day 15 of my own angst-loss experiment, I must say that it has been helpful. I've sent over 15 written communications to congresspeople, government agencies, and advertisers, I've kept my mouth shut at times when I might not have otherwise, because I was just about to piss and moan rather than think and act, and I've generally stewed in my own juices just a bit less. I'm not sure that my communications will actually do much of anything to change the minds of the currently-installed politicos, but it has helped me to know that I did something.

In spite of everything I've experienced as a "political being", I suspect that we are now at an important crux -- that we actually are at the threshold of a new era -- on the verge, or maybe in the midst of, a great cultural change -- and I believe that this change can be a change for the better. I don't believe that I will find that reflected in the mainstream media. In fact, I think the MSM is frantically attempting to distract us away from the fact that we are changing.

In the USA, for the first time in history, we have a majority of full-grown adults who have never lived without the concept of email and the internet. (Why do you think the corporations are all so hot to control the web?) I think that this concept alone has the capacity to shatter the insularity with which this nation has clothed itself.

The capacity.

So, I want to put my energy on the web to the best use that I can think of --awareness-raising, connective dialogue, and hopefully, transformation.

(OK, that entire thing was probably distinctly unfocused and rambling. Fuck it. It's late and I'm tired.)

ps. Don't worry. I still vote -- I just don't scream and yell about it. Hurts my throat.

Posted byPortlyDyke at 2:03 PM  


Unknown said... July 24, 2007 at 1:00 AM  

I like this post a lot, and I only have one point to niggle with, and then only a little bit. The Democratic leadership in the 2006 Congress is, I think, getting the short end of the stick a bit because they haven't been able to come through with everything us activists wanted, but I don't think they deserve all the blame. In fact, I don't think they deserve much of the blame.

Pick any seventeen Republican Senators--it doesn't matter which ones. They're the culpable ones. Any seventeen Republican Senators could have brought an end to the war in Iraq, put through universal health care, brought an end to DADT, funded stem cell research, or impeached this executive branch--any of the bills which have come to the Senate (or hopefully will) have been stymied by 17 men and women who have put party before country against the will of the American voters, and it's hard to blame Pelosi and Reid for that failing.

They're not blameless--when Bush vetoed the first defense spending bill, I think they should have said, "you sign it, or you sign nothing." They deserve some criticism for backing down. But all in all, I think they've done some good stuff that has been derailed by 17 Republican Senators.

We'll get to see if the House is ready to fight when it comes to these contempt hearings. I hope they have it in them.

Bradley said... July 24, 2007 at 10:59 AM  

Long-time reader, first-time responder...

I just wanted to let you know that I thought this was a fantastic, insightful post. Communicating with individuals is a lot more pleasant than yelling and fighting and raging on, and-- I suspect-- a lot more effective too.

If you're looking for something to read, I'd suggest Natalia Rachel Singer's memoir Scraping by in the Big Eighties-- your first-hand exepriences witnessing poverty and misfortune during the Reagan era reminded me of parts of that book.

PortlyDyke said... July 24, 2007 at 4:59 PM  

Thanks for your comments, both "Mr. B's"

Brian, I agree that the Dem leaders don't deserve ALL the blame. However, I think that they were handed a powerful mandate, and that they would be faring better right now if they had actually used it. At this point, my opinion is that they have established a precedent of "We'll back down", rather than "We'll step up".

Bradley -- Yes, I've read Singer's book, and related deeply to most of it.

FriĆ°vin said... July 29, 2007 at 9:35 AM  

This is ironic. I was looking for your comment at Shakes so I could snag your blog for my roll and I noticed you weren't on the political posts so I went to the Pub where I knew I could easily find you!

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