In spite of our culture’s somewhat arbitrary choice of age 18 as signifying maturity, there are a lot of ‘growing up’ moments in one’s life, most of which generally fall into two categories. There are those that life kind of pushes upon you just by virtue of the passage of time, turning 18/21, graduating high school/college, marriage/children, retirement, etc. Maturation moments in the second category generally don’t happen as commonly as those in the first, can occur at any age, and generally have to be earned through some moment of hardship or frustration. Put simply, you experience something difficult or psychologically instructive that grants you a certain savvy about similar situations. Somebody who gets into financial trouble will probably come out of their bankruptcy quite a bit wiser about money. Somebody who gets into a bad relationship situation might learn a thing or two about placing too much trust in others.
That in mind, it’s come to me recently that 99.99999(etc.)% of everything in politics and the media is just complete grade A, weapons-grade, 100-percent-free-of-impurities bullshit. It feels like a pretty big epiphanous growing up moment. I mean, I’m sure anybody reading this is saying “no shit Sherlock” right now, having a good chuckle at my previous naivete. But bear with me. This is going somewhere.
It didn’t used to be this bad. Admittedly during the Bush years I was a bit younger and less attuned to the bullshit than I am now, but I swear the flow didn’t used to be quite so constant. I know that’s just something people say about the past, but it really seems true in this case. I went through a somewhat lengthy period where following politics was a fairly frequent and time-consuming hobby. I suppose I was probably going through that whole undergraduate “just discovered Chomsky and realizes just how consistently a majority of the world is getting fucked over on a regular basis and thinks he is going to be the one who changes it” phase that undergraduates tend to have. Some dopey part of me thought that keeping up on this stuff was part of being a responsible citizen. Such was my interest that I thought I might want to run for office at some point. I subscribed to the Economist and the New York Times, read political blogs more or less daily. Sure, people said crazy bullshit things, but it was rare enough that it was more amusing than anything. That’s completely changed lately. The crazy isn’t making me laugh anymore; it’s just making me shake my head. It’s gone well past funny and deep into the realm of upsetting. I roll my eyes like a teenager a lot these days; the only difference between me and a teenager is that I roll my eyes at people who deserve it.
Granted, the Clinton years drove the right wing a little batty (Vince Foster, the sexy time witch hunt, etc., etc.), but I wasn’t really paying attention back then. They were relatively normal during the Bush years, the earliest moments of my political awareness. Sure we were running torture prisons and starting wars for no discernible reason and losing a few billion dollars in the desert and accelerating the Banana-Republicification of our economy into hyperdrive, but you got the sense that there was at least some rudimentary basic level of civics 101 competence. You at least got the sense that for all the horrible shit they were doing, they at least meant to do it. The Bush presidency may have been an abject disaster perpetrated by greedy, amoral people, but those greedy amoral people at least seemed to be tethered to some recognizable model of reality.
Sweet lord almighty, has that ever changed. If the Clinton presidency drove conservatives off the rails, the Obama Presidency has driven them off the rails into a tree where they exploded Wiley E. Coyote-style. And I just can’t bother with it anymore. I’m not sure which particular thing was the last straw on the camel’s back, but I suspect a good deal of it has to do with the loud, proud tea party congressmen. There can no longer be any doubt that these people will go down as by far the worst elected officials in this country’s history. Worse, the media will give them cover as if this is just business as usual and everything they say deserves to be taken seriously. Never has this been clearer since 2009 than it is right now. Watching these people – particularly conservatives/republicans who supported Bush – try to pretend the country as a whole didn’t rubber-stamp the current surveillance regime in the great collective freakout of late 2001/early 2002 is just more bullshit than I can handle. Watching them try to hang this on Obama, I’m not sure if I should be annoyed with them or feel sorry for them for being such transparent hypocrites.
So, no mas. That’s pretty much it for me, at least until the Republicans are Bob Dole’s party again and no longer Sarah Palin’s. I’m not asking for a conservative party that believes everything liberals believe, I’m just asking for a conservative party that isn’t aggressively anti-knowledge.
I used to debate online for hours at a time, but I don’t expect I’ll be doing that anymore. I’ll just vote, maybe watch Bill Maher and Maddow and Colbert here and there, maybe read the Times very occasionally and otherwise just ignore the whole lot of it. People who pretend a president whose cabinet is stocked with Wall Street bankers and career Washingtonites is some kind of Kenyan commie anti-imperial Islamofascist/socialist (or whatever the holy mother of fuck it is this week) are not people you can debate with. If you keep insisting a horse is a unicorn, there isn’t much distance one can go from there.
I’m glad there are people documenting and keeping up on and trying to defeat at the ballot box the Ted Cruzes and Michelle Bachmanns of the world, I’m glad there are people who follow the circus relatively closely, but I just don’t have the stomach for it anymore. There is too much right with the world – great books and great movies and great food and interesting college classes music and hikes and photography and writing and on and on and on – to care too much beyond just voting your beliefs when the time comes. I’m at the point where I’d almost prefer not to know the first thing about what somebody believes about politics. There are a lot of people who believe all the Obama conspiracy stuff who I like a great deal personally, and it’s dumb to have something like politics – which we all have the barest ability to affect at any level of government – get in the way of any personal relationship. Obviously the way we run the government matters a lot in how society behaves and operates, but as far as how much effect I or any other private citizen has, people take this shit way too goddamned seriously. It has a lot in common with celebrity news, in that way. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Bill O’Reilly used to host Inside Edition.
Of course, having said all this, I expect I’ll write 3,000 words tomorrow about how Darrell Issa and Ted Cruz went through Obama’s garbage and found a half-eaten falafel, proving at last that he’s a Muslim and also the falafel was cold so global warming is teh hoax. But until then, former political junkie, signing the fuck off.