I enjoy talking. You know this. But talking itself is not so intriguing, it is the subjects that fascinate. Something I enjoy discussing is politics. However, as with most topics, the older I get the less I feel I know and understand (as a home exercise, contrast this with how incredibly certain I was ten years ago). No subject better exemplifies this as politics. It is not to say I don’t have strong opinions, but I shied for a long while from the subject because—frankly—it had gotten out ahead of me. Peripherally I am aware of political happenings but honestly my understanding is no deeper than that of any other Wal-Mart-frequenting American tub of lard and it shames me to the point of silence.
Consider also that I find the state of affairs in the last six years (give or take) so repugnant and so fraught with a sense of futility that more than a cursory evaluation finds me quivering in an impotent rage focused on a shamelessly corrupt and power-mad administration, a fruitlessly inept (and equally repugnant) opposition party, a complicit and lazy media and a maddeningly indifferent population that my recourse and my defense mechanism is assimilation and quiet despair. I take no pride in this truth. The last portion—the greatest portion—of my angst is aligned like a sniper’s scope on my own casual denial of responsibility and recursively I frustrate myself into a deeper well of miserable inaction.
Yesterday I had a strange wake-up call. It came from, of all places, a candidate for president. I’ve been snarlingly cynical of our electoral process in the past and I can’t claim a full escape from that bitterness. However, part of my disdain has focused on the fact that so much of electoral process centers on reactionary platforms (“Vote for me! I’m Not-the-Incumbent!”) which result in a lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting. Without realizing it the two-party status quo-titians drove from my heart the hope that I would ever find someone I’d be voting for versus just picking someone to vote against.
Then a co-worker mentioned the name Ron Paul.
Now, I’m going to be earnest in this post. Exuberant. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. You can stop reading if you like. I won’t hold a grudge. Either way, I found something while reading about Dr. Paul that I thought was dead and gone: Hope.
See, I hate the way America is heading. The tightening of freedoms, the aggressive foreign policies, the general sense of divide between the populace fostered by a decidedly non-neutral media that fails its audience at every conceivable turn, the constant barrage of government-knows-best programs and policies and the name-only divide between members of the main political parties. It’s enough that I’ve seriously considered abandoning the US altogether. If our leaders aren’t embarrassments for their personal exploits they are petty thieves and swindlers and if they aren’t merely greedy for tiny power and indifferent to their constituents they are flat-out tyrannical and manipulative.
I look at other Americans and I see them either willingly mislead on the premise of moral solidarity (backed up by nothing in terms of actions, by the way) or angry but only to the point of a witty bumper sticker or a clever t-shirt. I hate both and I sympathize with all. I’m the one dying for a true leader. I’m the one disillusioned to the point of passive semi-apathy. It’s sad and it’s pandemic and it makes Canada or France or Japan look like nice places to hunker down. Except… well, except they aren’t the USA. I don’t know when it happened or how I was indoctrinated into it, but I want to love this country. Those ideas they taught me when I was in grade school about how America was all about freedom and equality and trying to do The Right Thing… well, I took them seriously at the time. It made sense. It sounded like a place I’d like to live. I believed then that it was the kind of place I did live in and that made me proud.
It still sounds like a place I’d like to live, I’m just not sure it’s that anymore. Maybe it never was, but it’s less so than it used to be and it’s going the wrong way. I’m sick of it. Other people are sick of it. We’re sick of being hated for our country as it’s run by people who forgot that “freedom” isn’t the opposite of “what everyone else thinks.” We’re sick of working so hard to be proud of our home. Somewhere in this place is something worth believing in, but it’s hard to see it through all the shouting faces and colorful Fear Charts and choking irony…
I was talking about Ron Paul.
He’s this presidential candidate, see? He’s trying to win the Republican nomination.
But stay with me here. This is the problem, in a nutshell. Things are broken. People aren’t running on the democratic ticket saying, “here, let me fix them.” They don’t want it to be fixed. They don’t think it’s broken. Or at least they don’t think it’s broken enough. Saying they aren’t Bush isn’t enough for me. Saying isn’t enough for me. It’s the same old story and at some point we have to be sick of it. So sick that we start to wonder whether these finger waggling clowns are really talking or if they’re reciting. So sick that we have to question whether they’re saying what they feel or what they think we want to hear. So sick that we have to remember that back in the day Bush seemed kind of clueless but potentially less frightening than Al “I Hear a Whale Crying” Gore. They’re puppets. They’re punchlines. They’re playing us for fools. CNN tells us Barrack Obama or Hillary Clinton can be the next president. Fox News tells us it’s Mit Romney or Rudy Gulliani and I wonder why I even care. Black, white, male, female, democrat, republican… aren’t they all just money-soaked Pez dispensers waiting to betray our trust and abuse their power?
They can abuse it in the name of security, they can abuse it in the name of the economy, they can abuse it in the name of the environment or the poor people or the middle class or the rich or the minorities or the taxpayers or the atheists or the devout and it all means the same thing: Nothing.
So this Ron Paul guy. He’s different? Mm-hmm. Right.
We’ve been there, done that for eight years. React. Try the other side. Eight years later: React. Try the other-other side. Again. Just react. Flip the pancake. Turn the cheek. Definition of stupidity.
So maybe we can stop reacting. Maybe we can stop hoping or pinning hopes on unworthy recipients. Let’s start thinking.
I keep digressing. I’m sorry.
Ron Paul. Listen, I can’t tell you what to do. I don’t want to. In a way, that’s the point. Neither does Ron Paul. Don’t believe me. Please, just don’t take my word for it. Google Ron Paul. Try his Wikipedia entry. Consider this: I don’t agree with him. Not on everything, but that’s not a problem. Because here’s the thing: I agree with his approach. I agree with where he’s coming from. What he’s saying isn’t particularly partisan if you believe the CNN version of partisan politics. He’s a mishmash of radically liberal ideas and staunchly conservative stances. He’s a Libertarian (of sorts) running on a Republican ticket. Whatever.
Here’s what you learn from knowing that he’s not welcome in either party: He’s smart enough to know that running on a third party ticket is suicide. Also, “conservative” republicans mostly aren’t. Plus, liberal “democrats” mostly aren’t. None of them can distinguish themselves because they all talk teeny variations on the same pointless theme. Leave it to the guy that only the Internets love to have something different to say.
Check out what Paul has to say about religion and government and the reach of each within the other’s affairs:
The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion…
The Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian yet religiously tolerant America, with churches serving as vital institutions that would eclipse the state in importance. Throughout our nation’s history, churches have done what no government can ever do, namely teach morality and civility. Moral and civil individuals are largely governed by their own sense of right and wrong, and hence have little need for external government.
Yes. Religiously tolerant? Natural separation versus legislative? Does that make sense to you? It’s not reactionary like the “Ban all talk of God!” patchouli/granola dimwits and it’s not arrogant like the “We are a persecuted majority!” tunnel-viewers. If you accept a simple principle that the Constitution has merit and is worth preserving not just as an artifact but as a guide crafted carefully by people who’s values we share then you note that there is a component of that guide which indicates that the sponsorship of faith by the state is fatal and the exorcism of it from all apsects of life is impossible and unconscionable. It’s there, if you choose to see it. To think about it.
One more example. One I disagree with, perhaps, to show how voting by lists of shared “positions” leads to tax-raising conservatives and environmentally-unfriendly democrats as their allegiances shift with the rustling of a breeze through their clotheslines drying laundered bills.
From the article on Wikipedia about his political positions:
The only 2008 presidential candidate to earn Gun Owners of America’s A+ rating, Paul has authored and sponsored pro-Second Amendment legislation in Congress. He has also fought for the right of pilots to be armed.
In the first chapter of his book, Freedom Under Siege, Paul argued that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to place a check on government tyranny, not to merely grant hunting rights or allow self-defense. When asked whether individuals should be allowed to own machine guns, Paul responded, “Whether it’s an automatic weapon or not is, I think, irrelevant.” Paul believes that a weapons ban at the federal or state level does not work either. “Of course true military-style automatic rifles remain widely available to criminals on the black market. So practically speaking, the assault weapons ban does nothing to make us safer.” Rather, he sees school shootings, plane hijackings, and other such events as a result of prohibitions on self-defense.
So I disagree. I think guns are too readily available and too poorly regulated. I think the NRA are a bunch of psychos and may they shoot me in the face to prove my point. But I see what he’s saying and in a way he may be right. That’s the thing about disagreement about political issues: It’s so theoretical that “right” and “wrong” are actual barricades to progress. Everyone is so committed to being correct that they forget how pointless it may be. Correct is not the issue, the issue is better.
Ron Paul, in this issue, defaults to his reasoning. 1) The Constitution has merit. The Second Amendment suggests citizens may keep and bear arms. Logically, okay. That’s not flawed. 2) Liberty is valuable. The limitations on people’s freedoms are usually not the answer. I may disagree in this case, but I can’t disagree with his consistency and the place he comes from. More freedom is better, and I’d rather err on that side of caution than the other.
You know, the way we do now.
I just discovered Ron Paul. Who knows, he may be a lunatic and I may sheepishly return to my tail-tucking rathole of fear and resentment and ineffectual, uninformed fist-waving. But I’ll tell you this. I watched the Ron Paul “A New Hope” video and I read the Wikipedia pages and I searched the Googles and as I saw more I felt something return that I didn’t know was missing.
Hope. You know? Hope.
As usual, he’s a candidate that has a long climb ahead of him because he doesn’t play by the usual rules. Which is to say he’s got a million to one chance. But that’s the thing about hope: It doesn’t let odds stand in the way. I think of a country with Paul as president and I think of a place I might like to stay. I think of a country that would elect a guy like him and I think of a place I’d be proud of. I think of a country that cares enough to try something that isn’t the newest menu item at Taco Bell and I have hope that the future isn’t dark.
It’s not that Ron Paul is magical. He’s just a guy, I’m sure. But he’s just a guy I’d not just grudgingly pick over the other slimeball; he’s a guy I want to vote for.
Listen: I changed my voter registration to Republican so I could vote for him in the California primaries. It’s the least I can do.
But don’t listen to me.
Don’t follow me.
Read the articles. Do the research. Find a way to care just enough to realize that this matters. Go looking for your own hope. It doesn’t have to be the same as mine. I want you to be free to have those differing—disparate—opinions. I want to talk about it. Not scream, talk. I hope you want freedom too, and as much of it as you can get. If so, maybe you’ll find hope where I did. I hope you do. It’s okay if you don’t, though. Because the point is simply this: For once, in years, and now at last…