Tag Archives: politics

trigger warning: election 2016

three wise monkeys

 

It’s nearing the end of October, and the presidential election of 2016 is only a week away. The above image reflects the general attitude of the American people voting for either Clinton or Trump in November – see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – then cast your ballot, pull the proverbial trigger, and turn away as the illusion of democracy implodes.

Our votes are as insignificant as our lives to these people, who are very far removed from the actual plight most Americans face. Both Clinton and Trump are multi-millionaires, both have accumulated their wealth through shady business dealings on the unfortunate backs of others. The majority of Americans do not believe that we hold any power, they do not think that change is possible, and although they may bitch and moan about it, they behave as sheep who follow the herd, who are implicit in upholding the status quo, and who shut their eyes and ears and mouths about lofty ideas about change and revolution.

The majority of Americans are overwhelmed with the basic tenets of survival. We wake up each day, work, work, work for the almighty dollar, so we can pay our bills, keep our homes, keep our families healthy, and buy all the things that are supposed to make us happy. Who cares about the planet, or other races and cultures, as long as we are doing okay? We are lambs being led to the slaughter-house. We are a people who have bought into the system for so long, we have become an integral part of it, and we refuse to see it.

When we awaken, we take to the streets, our voices and hearts carried away by visions of how things could be, and we are put down by a militant police force and a divisive, apathetic society. When we awaken, we begin seeing the irreparable cracks of this broken place called America. When we awaken, we refuse to take part in our own undoing.

I’ve written about the rise of third party candidates, who I now prefer to call “alternative party candidates,” as even the connotation of the term “third party” indicates a less-than or inferior position, which is created by the existing two-party system consisting of Republicans and Democrats. I propose new terms – Remocrats and Depublicans – ones that truly speak to the two-sided double-speak of these two parties, which are built on the idea of duality, where neither can exist without the other as it’s opposite, and yet, they are the same.

Remocrats and Depublicans operate in the same way – using fear of the other. These two parties have successfully inculcated the idea that they are the ONLY viable parties in America. Why? They have consistently used “divide and conquer” methods to retain control of the government. They have played the American people as if they are two bitterly opposed sports teams, and you are forced to choose a team.

People hold onto their “party allegiance” much in the same way as their favorite sports team. Win or lose, once they’ve been given a team (usually by family affiliation and socio-economic status), they are in it for life, and will stand behind their “team” no matter what – a flawed analogy, yet only flawed by it’s own design, for this is really how things are.

But … aren’t we free to vote for other parties besides Depublicans and Remocrats? Shhhhhh …. Hush! You must be a child! Alternative parties – how dare you even suggest such a thing! They won’t win, ever! We won’t let them win!! This is America god dammit, and in America, we only want a winner. You know, if you vote for an alternative party – you might as well throw away your vote! I mean, this is only the ILLUSION of democracy – so shut up and get with the program! This is politics! This is no place for idealism!!!

Do you want Trump to win?!? Do you want a reality TV show celebrity and shady business mogul as president, who has no actual political experience? Are you a bigoted, racist, short-sighted, filthy rich, sexist, misogynistic egomaniac? Because that’s what a vote for Trump signifies! You better vote for Clinton – because if you don’t – it’s all YOUR fault that Trump won!

Do you want Clinton to win?!? Do you want more American-based abuse in other countries, more Clinton foundation pay-to-play government schemes, more lies, more pandering? Are you a willfully blind, secretive, filthy rich, pseudo-progressive egomaniac? Because that’s what a vote for Clinton signifies! You better vote for Trump – because if you don’t – it’s all YOUR fault that Clinton won!

It’s at this point that people start crying about Bernie Sanders. Things would have been so different if he were allowed to compete fairly!! Remember the wave of “idealism” that Sanders rode throughout the primaries? You know, that thing we are supposed to forget about in politics? That thing that the DNC ridiculed about Sanders’ supporters? That was real. It was real because idealism IS a part of politics. What was unusual about Sanders is that he rode this wave of idealism throughout the democratic party primary – and not an alternative party.

Remember all the reports during the democratic primaries that spoke directly to fraud and suppression? That was real, too. No one should be surprised when Hillary Clinton wins this election.

But … Hillary Clinton will be the first woman president! Just like Obama was the first black president! In four years, the democrats will most likely roll out some other “first” to pretend that they are forward thinking. Maybe Michelle Obama will run! That way, the Clinton machine can continue the way it has since 1992. Won’t it be wonderful to vote for a woman?! Now is the point that you are supposed to agree, and forget everything you’ve ever heard about what Clinton has done.

Yes, it will be wonderful to vote for a woman! I can’t wait to cast my vote for Jill Stein – a woman with integrity. (oops! another “i” word that, along with idealism, we’ve come to associate in politics as suspect and naive) And guess what, I’m not voting for Clinton OR Trump, not even by default. I’m sick of hearing immature and short-sighted people braying about what they’ve been told that means. I’m voting for the person and the party I think can help bring desperately needed change to this country.

Jill Stein, along with Ajamu Baraka as her running mate, is a strong candidate, with an impeccable record of political activism. The Green Party has a very strong, impressive, and yes, idealistic, platform that I truly believe in – because I know that they truly believe in it, too, and they will work to make these ideals reality. Alternative parties have been marginalized so far and for so long, the American people have been manipulated thus, and they are actually seen by some people as the villains in this, and any, election cycle. And yet, the real villains take center stage.

While I’m ranting about this, I just want to say one other thing: If you are an artist who has made a living by presenting yourself as alternative, risk-taking, and edgy – you have no business vilifying alternative parties and Trump while drawing hearts around Hillary Clinton, and forbidding people to disagree with you because it’s your opinion. This shows an extreme level of cognitive dissonance, and brings the legitimacy of your art into question. The personal is political. Art is political. You have some serious self-reflection to do, as do your supporters.

I am aware that the jig is up, the rig is in, and that we will never really know the true election results, the way that we never really knew just how well Sanders was doing, and the fact that it never mattered anyway. The Democratic Party could have become a party that truly embraced progressive change, instead they were hellbent on a coronation. History will show this was a critical error in judgment – much in the same way that the Republican Party’s support of Trump will be seen as a critical error. The two-party system is dead; they’ve committed political suicide. We will feel the effects of this for many years to come, and the rise that we’ve seen this election cycle of alternative parties will only continue to grow.

I truly believe that, in the words of JFK,  “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution  inevitable.”

If the democratic primaries have shown us anything, they have shown us that the people behind Clinton (big banks, lobbyists, billionaires, corrupt world leaders, the media, etc, etc) will stop at nothing to make her president. Trump is a straw man, set to burn. Alternative parties are routinely denied media coverage. They were denied access to the presidential debates because the committee is run by Depublicans and Remocrats – they were denied a voice and the ability to access millions of people with their message. Yet, people are finding alternative parties through social media and other alternative news outlets, and are supporting them in record numbers.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. Truth and Reality can be difficult to digest. Change is hard. Complacency is easy. In this world, people sometimes make a choice to live in a world of illusion, because to acknowledge truth is too hard. This is why “ignorance is bliss” but “the truth will set you free.” You can view the current two-party system as the blue pill, and alternative parties as the red pill. “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” (The Matrix)

Perhaps this election cycle has really come down to this idea put forth by Marianne Williamson:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Maybe that is why people continue to support our oppressors through the two-party system, and why idealism and integrity have become dirty words in politics. Many people do not really want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes, because it may be uncomfortable, and they want to preserve their illusions.

Nevertheless, many people understand the necessity of change, that revolution is not easy nor comfortable, and it is worth the risk to seek what wonder there is to be found on the other side.

 

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on voting, elections & politics in america

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I had my first experience voting when I was in second grade. The year was 1980, a presidential election year, and my teacher carried out a “mock-election,” as per the instructions given in our scholastic news leaflet, which was an adjunct to our social studies curriculum. I remember that there were 3 candidates shown, including a picture of each, a short bio, and a very vague description of what they hoped to accomplish as president. Politics were not really discussed in my home, and I didn’t know any of the candidates. I remember wondering why there were no women choices, or why there were no other races represented. Nevertheless, I chose the person who had been a peanut farmer, because I thought being a farmer was cool, and I think I liked the idea of a farmer being president.

The votes were collected, and my choice was severely defeated. I remember feeling a little embarrassed as my classmates crowed that they had chosen a winner. I had clearly chosen a loser. Yet, I didn’t exactly regret my decision … I felt like I was forced into making a choice between only 3 people. I wondered who came up with those choices to begin with. I remember thinking that a movie star probably wouldn’t make a good president, even if he was popular among my classmates. I thought farming was a noble pursuit. What happened in my classroom was a small microcosm of what would happen in the general election; Reagan defeated Carter, and won the election by a landslide.

There are so many things about this experience that would resound in how I viewed voting and politics later in my life. I was a weird child, no doubt, but I really did wonder why there were no women or men of different races when I first learned about the presidents of the United States. I really did think about the implications of what it meant to be told that you can choose the president, but you have to choose among these specific people. Perhaps this also speaks to my later radical, feminist, democratic socialist leanings, or even my tendency toward championing the underdog, but I wished I had better choices, and I still thought that a farmer would make a good president, because I loved the earth and I loved helping my grandmother in the garden. There was nothing glamorous about Carter; he looked sort of humble, and part of me thought that he would make a good president because he looked like a regular person – one of us. (Interestingly, Carter did an amazing amount of good things for people outside of politics, after his presidency and throughout the rest of his life.)

 

 

Of course, if you know anything about Reagan’s presidency, you know how that worked out. In the next two elections, Reagan, then Bush, won. I was disgusted by what these people stood for, and I didn’t think they represented me, much less the majority of people in America. I was still not able to legally vote, but my feelings about the whole process didn’t change all that much from what they had been when I was 7 years old. By the time I was 18, I was already jaded by the whole process. I don’t consider myself a political person. I used to think that I was an idealist, which seemed to be at odds with the business-as-usual game of politics. Nevertheless, in 1992, I was caught between “rock the vote” and the same 3 choices … I registered to vote during Lollapalooza under a festival tent, declining any party affiliation, because I saw Democrats and Republicans as two sides of the same coin. Of course, there are other parties to choose from, but everyone knew that the final race would be between Democrats and Republicans. I had learned from the time I was child that “you lucky Americans are so free that you get to choose your president! Here are your choices, pick one!”

That year, I also learned a bit more about party affiliation and primaries when I went with a friend to vote in the Democratic Primary and neither of us could vote because neither of us were registered Democrats. I had been swept away with voting fever, my past cynicism temporarily quelled, thinking that the primary held some key to the choices given on election day. Still, there was gender and racial bias, but that was America, right? The system can’t change overnight! Jerry Brown seemed better than Clinton, at least, or so I thought at the time. But being locked out of the primary, even willing to overlook all the things I had learned about how insidious the whole thing was, I saw how deeply our choices were already made. Who chooses the president really? How can you win the popular vote and not the electoral vote? What the hell are delegates anyway?  What is the role of money and corporate sponsorship in terms of who is allowed a voice?  Do votes by the people actually count?

Again, if you know anything about the 1992 presidential election, you know that Clinton won, not only the democratic primary, but the presidency. I voted for Clinton, but it was a begrudging vote. I wanted to vote. I wanted to exercise my right. Yet, anyone who said that they smoked pot and didn’t inhale was a major bullshit artist in my book, and I didn’t trust him. Nevertheless, the long standing Republican agenda of being against abortion, against welfare, pro-gun, and essentially pro-capitalist in every sense of the big money corporate world did not agree with me. I was simply voting against something, not for something. I didn’t have a political party to stand behind and support at all costs, even blindly. And honestly, I didn’t think my vote even mattered in the long run. I didn’t see that a single president, either Republican or Democrat, could affect the kinds of promises made during their election bids, or the kind of change I wanted to see. There are other aspects of the government to content with – the senate, the house of representatives, etc. This isn’t even getting into the lobbyists and corporate interests lurking behind everything in American politics. No single person holds that much power. I feel that the president is a kind of figurehead, to tell the truth.

 

 

However, figureheads, even symbolic and ideological figureheads, are important. They represent us as a country. They represent who we are; they hold a mirror to ourselves, and to the rest of the world. That is why by the year 2000, I was caught up in voting fever again. I was so thoroughly against Bush becoming president, I voted while in labor with my second child. That night, I went through triage with the election results on televisions in the hospital. My daughter was born a little after 10pm. My mother visited me a little after midnight, and I asked her who the president was. “We don’t know,” was all she said. “What?!” This was a situation unheard of in my lifetime. We simply didn’t know, because all kinds of shit was going down in Florida, which happened to have Bush’s brother as governor. What happened in the 2000 election that left the American people without a president for several weeks, as the votes in Florida had to be recounted because of an outcry that the voting system was being rigged?

How exactly did so many voters disappear from the rolls – mostly young people, Democrats, “minorities”, and people with low-incomes? How many polling places had machines that didn’t work? How many opened late, closed early, or didn’t open at all? What about entire ballot boxes from “certain” areas that simply disappeared? How did Bush become president when Gore had won the popular vote by a half a million votes – yet they each needed to win Florida – Bush’s brother’s territory – to officially win? This was so outlandish that it could not be hidden. Even when the numbers came in, they didn’t add up. The election was rigged in Bush’s favor in front of the eyes of the entire country, and no one could do anything about it. Besides Florida, voting irregularities in the 2000 election were reported across the entire country, and it is estimated that between 4 to 6 million votes were left uncounted.

The same thing happened in 2004. And it happened again recently, during the primaries for the 2016 election – in Arizona, in New York, and in god knows where else, because we only hear what the media reports. A few thousand here, a few thousand there … these votes go relatively unnoticed. A few weeks ago, it is estimated that 126,000 voters were purged in Brooklyn alone. At first, people were outraged. People were demanding answers. What answers have been given? It’s been a few weeks, life goes on. There are no answers. There will be no re-vote. We’ve accepted that Clinton won the Democratic primary in New York, even though it put Sanders at a serious disadvantage in winning the nomination going forward. But wasn’t that the point? Right, we get it. Politics as usual. We’ll fall in line. We are a nation with A.D.D. We are a country with selective memory. We blink and the issue is in absentia. We have other things to worry about, things we can control, or at least, we perceive that we control far more than we actually do. There is rent to be paid, mortgages to manage, bills, insurance, utilities, etc. We have families to take care of. There is work to be done, we need that almighty paycheck. That’s America, where roughly less than 1% of the population hoards most of the wealth, and the rest of us are millions strong, struggling every day.

 

 

So here we are again, 2016. It’s an election year. My 7 year old self would be happy to see that we’ve had an African American president, but my conscious self knows that he was a figurehead put forth by the Democratic party; nothing has truly changed. My 7 year old self would be happy to see a woman running for a chance to be president, but my conscious self knows that gender is not a definitive issue; Clinton is a politician’s politician, she’s had her hand in every pocket she could put money into, and she’s bought her way this far. I see her as a person who is both power-hungry and untrustworthy, a person who will say anything she thinks the person she is talking to wants to hear while taking care of her own agenda secretly. My 7 year old self would not be so surprised to see Trump doing so well … I saw how people loved Reagan, how Americans worship their celebrities, how fear controls the American people far more than love. My conscious self remembers the 2004 election, when I sat on the couch and cried, watching the map of America bleed red from the center, ice-blue around the edges, barely containing the whole of it. My 7 year old self would have chosen Sanders, the one who appeared to be one of us. My conscious self wants to choose Sanders, knowing that he may not even make it that far, because I want to see America as a country I can be proud of, a country who has stayed true to its roots, a country whose founders wrote the constitution on the wings of revolution and hope, and who would be dumbfounded to see what we’ve become.

I don’t consider myself a political person, but perhaps I am more political than I think. I refuse to accept business-as-usual politics, because this is not the way things have always been in this country, and I do not believe that is how things should be or how they need to be. The past 16 years have seen a growing number of unprecedented abuses in our voting system, as well as in the system itself, carried out in full view of all, and it is amazing to me that Americans can stand for this. We are a country founded on the tenets of revolution – together we stand, divided we fall. If we stand together, we can accomplish things we can only dream of. I still believe that this can happen. I believe that the foundation of this country is our people, not corporations, not the corporate interests of those in power and those who hold the wealth. This country belongs to all people – no matter what their race, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic level happens to be. And I think that we need to care for each other. It seems odd to me that this is a radical, revolutionary idea. It just seems like common sense, but perhaps I am still an idealist, after all.

 

 

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