August 08, 2007

And lo, a great sucking sound

As a friend of mine used to say, more or less, "And lo, the seventh seal was opened, and there was a great sucking sound."

Is there anything more dignified to be said about our horrible Farm and Energy Bills? Granted, I gave it a shot, but that was really a statement about the seriousness required of our activism. The policies, well, suck. In spite of minor redeeming features. Then there's the FISA bypass. Saying that it sucks to have a Democratic Congress cowardly chumps support our president's warrantless wiretapping straddles the line between being civilized and being credible. If you speak of it in very civilized terms you clearly missed the "warrantless wiretapping" part of the previous sentence, and to be deemed a merely adequate possessor of reading comprehension, some outrage is called for. But not too much, that would be unserious.

And you know how important it is to me to take myself seriously. Also, you. You had better take me very, very seriously. Which is why, when I discuss something important and lofty like the laws that govern our country, I use a more respectable word like suck. See, if I were all rabble-like, I might use a word like blow.

As in, "These policies blow goats." Just as an example, you see. I'm not a Republican, I might get impeached for talking too much about blow. As in, "How many Republicans have to get caught with hookers and blow and cash they shouldn't have before Democrats stop trying to imitate their selfish, shortsighted, cokehead agenda, anyway?" Not that I would say anything like that, I'm just illustrating.

Now, as you may know, I'm currently living in Washington D.C. Not the suburbs, oh no, right in the city. Good grief. Now I've been told that this place can give you Beltway-itis, surgically remove your good sense and leave one talking in a secret code that sounds mysteriously like English but is in fact just garden variety stupidity clothed in one-buttocked omphaloskepsis. As you can see, I still retain the ability to engage in full-buttocked pondering, so I'd like to address you before the Beltway takes me. One never knows when it might be the last time I speak to you as a normal, if very geeky, human being ...

So: There are precious few leaders in the world who give a damn about anything but their own gain. Few of those make it into office or any position of power.

I sense that you're about to tell me you already know this. May have known it for some time. To which I say, so what, and more to the point, how are you acting on that knowledge?

I know that many otherwise sensible people are looking at the Democratic candidate field and trying to determine which one of the frontrunners will screw the country up the least. Except that unless you're one of about 100,000 Iowans, no one has to care what you think about that. Yeah, yeah, whatever, they moved the primary schedule up in other states. I doubt it will make a hill of beans worth of difference. I remember 2004, when Democratic primary voters boldly decided to pick the guy they thought everybody else would like, as based on media reports that projected the gripes of individual reporters onto the public they were supposed to be talking about.

I've made my peace with Clinton, Edwards and Obama. Whichever of them ends up at the top of the ticket. Whichever of the others successfully runs for vice president. They aren't Republicans, amen. Do they support policies that suck? And the seventh seal was opened ...

But you, on the other hand, could support policies that didn't suck. You could pick one or a couple things you cared about and you could call your representative regularly to tell them what you thought of recent developments related to it. You could encourage your neighbors to do the same. You could join an advocacy group and agree to make calls to your legislators in tandem with others when they tell you there are important votes coming up. And sometimes, you might keep an eye on state laws related to these topics, because they're bound to come up.

In short, you could lead your 'leaders.' They need the good example. Too many of them sit around waiting for their staff to tell them what their constituents, donors and lobbying contacts think it's a good idea for them to do. If you as a constituent sit around waiting for them to tell you what to do, then it's all donors and lobbyists, who tell your representative, who tells you. See the problem?

Now that we've elected more Democrats, we also need better Democrats. They're not going to magically appear and do the right thing, without prompting, having been wafted into office on sunshine and good wishes. You can see already that too few of them see the logic of impeaching the attorney general for lying repeatedly to Congress and thoroughly corrupting the apparatus of federal law enforcement.

I don't know why they can't see good sense, but it doesn't matter. Intentions come to naught and all we're left with is what we do, and what they've done. Which is practically nothing, and that would be even more of a tragedy if the alternatve weren't Republicans perpetually doing even more terrible things.

Still, there just aren't that many people organized to pressure the government to do the things that would make society just and sustainable. And that's definitely a failure of leadership. On our parts.

Sen. Wellstone won't rise from the dead, as per a conversation I had with some non-profit staffers just last night. Sen. Boxer can't save us all. Rep. Rangel does his best, but as they say, he's just this guy, you know? Rep. Inslee can't be all things to all people, and he isn't even in leadership. It's really too much to expect that the small handful who get the gravity of the situation can do everything by themselves, without an army at their backs, pushing them forward and sweeping their colleagues into form.

As armies go, progressives are pretty undisciplined. Not that I'm anyone to point a finger. Not that a lot of people I admire in progressive politics aren't doing great work and turning out the motivated voters. But we don't take orders, which is fine and in many ways admirable. Though we too often fail then to collaborate, to replace orders and discipline with engaged contact and unprompted concern for each others' interests.

I'm not the first person to make this argument, but the more I learn about the disaster facing our planetary habitat, the more it makes me despair. Howard Dean related again the other day his father's reminder that he had the advantage of being able to look back as well as forward, and to see that it was always going to be a long struggle. Or something like that. It's just that we don't have time for that anymore. Because if we keep doing what we're doing, the arctic ice cap will be gone in 15 years, and that, you had better believe, is deathly, finally, terminally serious.

But no, the serious thing today is to play footsie over whether or not Gonzales, the liar, should be allowed to continue abusing the power of the federal government. Whether Bush's veto threat and Rep. Dingell's intransigence should prevent Democrats from making a statement about fuel efficiency. Whether we want to bet the whole farm or just half of it on the ecological disaster of corn ethanol. And our leaders won't take a stand, won't prove on matters great and small that they can stand up to the biggest challenges we face: the challenges of making sure that we can continue to thrive on what Al Gore aptly called the only home we will ever know.

Meanwhile, the Democrats at large have been keeping their powder dry, and President Bush has kept us safe from Lily Allen. If that seems at all outrageous to you, maybe it's time to do something about it. Maybe it's time for you to lead your government.

Posted by natasha at August 8, 2007 07:48 AM | US Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |
Comments

Now, as you may know, I'm currently living in Washington D.C. Not the suburbs, oh no, right in the city. Good grief. Now I've been told that this place can give you Beltway-itis, surgically remove your good sense and leave one talking in a secret code that sounds mysteriously like English but is in fact just garden variety stupidity clothed in one-buttocked omphaloskepsis. As you can see, I still retain the ability to engage in full-buttocked pondering, so I'd like to address you before the Beltway takes me. One never knows when it might be the last time I speak to you as a normal, if very geeky, human being ...

Oh, don't you worry about that. Your readership will just use a little "extraordinary rendition" if you start to turn into a Very Serious Person (as Atrios puts it).

I'm really not supposed to be talking about the liberal "black sites", but let's just say instead of waterboarding and stress positions, there's patchouli and vegan cuisine...

Posted by: rob at August 8, 2007 02:47 PM

You should know that vegan food is like kryptonite to me. How about a nice Thai red curry with chicken? Not that I'm planning on requiring rendition, or anything. I'm trying to be good.

Posted by: natasha at August 9, 2007 08:26 PM