October 22nd, 2008

in motion

thinking about the election

There are many things I'm looking forward to in the year to come, but at the moment, I am most eager for this election cycle to just be over.

Out with the old and in with the new, yes, I am optimistic that we will manage to elect Obama and that he will do good things, the first of which will be simply displacing the previous regime and offering us a better narrative through which to define our country and ourselves.  So there's that.  Some sense of hope, of change in the air, of living in interesting times. 

And yet I can't shake this sense of tension and dread, which is partly to do with the state of the economy and other factors, but mainly comes out of the election process itself.  What we're seeing -- the fear-mongering, the fraud, all of it -- is exactly the same old politicking bullshit that's been pulled since the founding of the nation, and Americans respond to it about the same as ever.  Eventually, it always caters to mob mentality and the worst of human nature.  This is not the first election I've voted in where I feel like we're being given a fairly clear and obvious choice between right and wrong (or at least better and worse), and it still boggles my mind that there are people in this country who feel the same way but draw opposite conclusions about which is which.  Election time drives home the fact that our neighbors may view the world in ways that are alien to us.  It amps up our differences into culture wars, exacerbating the divisions between us until they seem not merely variations in our priorities and perceptions, but vast and terrifying moral/cognitive gulfs that cannot be bridged.

This all feels rather ominous and desperate, because with emotions running so high, anything could happen.  I feel like I should be less susceptible to the currents of collective consciousness by now, or at least better buffered against them.  But I'm just as caught up in the madness as I was four years ago, and for once I've even got a candidate I genuinely like and respect, so the stakes feel pretty damn high.  It isn't good for the soul to care so much about something as dirty and unreal as politics.  It's dispiriting to have this barrage of half-truths and emotional manipulations battering at us in full force, and to be confronted by the spectacle of our fellow citizens getting whipped up into a vicious froth.  Like being at the center of a heavy storm with the winds swirling around you and thunder and lightning crashing overhead: the fact that it's happened before and will happen again doesn't make it any less alarming.

I don't want to keep posting about the election; I don't want to keep thinking about the election.  I already voted early; apart from a bit of canvassing I'll do next weekend, my role in the action is done.  And if I must go on obsessing over current events, I wish I could just observe them from more of a detached perspective, because what's going on is absolutely fascinating, and I'd be glad to live in "fascinating" for a while.  But it gets to me, it does.  It wrenches at me and frightens me and infuriates me and makes me despair and makes me dare to hope and worry about what could go wrong.  It overshadows everything, this looming election. It makes us all a little crazy.

Meanwhile, life goes on, and there's no sense in agonizing over something that will happen however it's going to happen.  But I can't stop thinking about it.
in motion


...And then half the time I think: we are living in an age of miracles and wonder, and many things are getting better.  A large percentage of the populations will always be assholes, but most people endeavor to be pretty sane and decent, and maybe the social norms of what it means to be sane and decent are getting closer to what I consider actually sane and decent?  Some of the worst behavior we're seeing around us is just a predictable, angry response to change, the last thrashing protest from obsolete attitudes that are dying out.  Common wisdom shifts to accommodate the new realities that the next generation will take for granted, and the culture moves forward.  So there's that, too.