Friday, December 31, 2004

Why am I Not Bummed?

We have a president, foreign and domestic policies, and an ascendent political party that I do not support. In fact, if I had four legs, all my knees would be jerking at the previous sentence. So why am I not bummed out?

Further disclosure: I have a Bush voodoo shrine in my office, consisting of all the solicitations I received from his re-election campaign. (It didn't work.) I responded several times to the telemarketing calls from Tom DeLay's fundraising machine, requesting that he return to his true calling in the extermination business. (Perhaps he thought I meant he should exterminate the Democratic party.) One evening a week, I turned over our office to a Kerry campaign phone bank, and made calls myself—one of my least favorite activities, even when it's for my own personal benefit.

You get the idea. I was not a fan and am not at risk of becoming one.

But neither was I despondent the morning after, and two months later, I have not once considered exporting myself to Canada. In the spirit of my new mission, I thought I would share some of the reasons why, and in future posts, may expand on some of them.

1. Most of life is not national politics. It's not politics, period. It's love, work, friends, getting enough playtime and enough sleep. It's also about dedication to a higher purpose, but as so roundly demonstrated, that's not the same as getting your candidate elected.

2. Things don't always turn out as badly as we fear. The human race got this far despite plentiful mistakes, repeated royal screw-ups, and a few disasters. Darwin's phrase, after all, is survival of the fit. I'm all for the best and brightest, but suboptimal gets to fight another day, too. Sure, some stakes are higher than ever, but throughout human history, there's been no shortage of smackdowns with dire circumstances. This may not be totally reassuring if you measure happiness by your net worth or the state of the polar ice caps, but it may help you focus.

3. The middle is still bigger than the extremes, But who wants to magnify the mundane? The news, popular culture, advertising, the legal system and great art all thrive upon Sturm und Drang and playing off contrasts and conflict. Most of us prefer to watch craziness, not reside there full-time. No true national majority is defined by fringe issues, any more than most relationships are defined by what happens for a few minutes in bed.

4. Bush is not as dumb as he looks. He's wrong about many issues—or right for only a small group of people—but he is not clueless and he is not invariably wrong. Reading Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack helped me get beyond the cartoon Bush. I'm more able to fear his ideas without being afraid for his competence.

5. We've gotten through these things before. When I was 20 during the Vietnam era, I had come to the conclusion that jail was my only honorable, ultimate option. I would not fight, not flee, not claim to be a conscientious objector, not work the system by going to divinity school or the National Guard or acting crazy. I was doing pushups and practicing my stone cold stare. Then I drew draft number 275. Since Nixon left office in disgrace, we've weathered Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2—each flawed, each human.

Finally, in 2004 I met so many people who care about their families, their communities, their country and their planet, I have difficulty believing we will all fall apart now. And with the sap meter thusly rising, it's time to adjourn.


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