The Failure of a Lifetime

So I’ve been a tad quiet. Actually, I’ve been fighting the urge to read and write about everything that’s been going on. I’ve barely even read the responses on the usual sites as I just can’t face them. Tuesday night was a long and painful evening that sent myself (and millions of others) into a serious bout of depression. I could barely look at anybody at work the next day, and the only reason I’m feeling ok right now was the opportunity to hang with Joseph last night for the first time in months. Otherwise, I’ve been angry, sullen, and tempermental. It’s been a tough week.

I fought the urge to write earlier, because there was so much wrong that had occurred, I couldn’t figure out where to start. Do I rail against the system, the participants, the results, the future, the past, or what? I needed to chill out for a bit and just deal with my immediate life. So I went through the motions, did my work, ate, slept, etc. And lo-and-behold, I have emerged from the other end (relatively) unscathed. So where do we go from here?

Ugh… we go pretty much no where. Back in 2000, the electoral process failed. The right guy won (well, the better guy), but the system betrayed the country and reversed that decision. We can all argue and bitch about how it was stolen (and, of course, it was), but it was an extremely flawed and archaic system that had somehow remained in place that allowed it to happen. It was the failure of the people to recognize that a change needed to be made that setup that unbelievable screwup, yet even worse was the failure of those same people to enact a change to prevent it from occurring again. Somehow, from my very first civics lesson in elementary school I recognized that the system needed to be fixed. And yet those with the power seemed to ignore this gigantic flaw.

As the tallies from 2000 hit the telly, I thought the public outcry would finally make it all better. Instead, the limited attention spans of the mindless minions that make up this country let the perfect opportunity slip by. And the problem remained. And then the problem shifted from the system, to the man it installed. A man who squandered away the support of the entire world and a nation united behind him to viciously divide the constituents whose interests he was supposed to be representing. A man who felt that his faith was enough to lead people against common sense. A man who spread so much FUD, he made SCO look like the ACLU (ok, way too many acronyms in that one). A man who arrogantly pushed his own agenda ahead of that of the people. Now he became the problem, and the system fell to the side. Fast forward to Black Tuesday…

The electoral process is no longer the problem. Forget the fact that the Republican Party almost assuredly conducted some sort of fraud in the key battlestates to swing yet another election their way. Forget the fact that Ohio and Florida were the only places where exit polls did not match the supposed results. Forget the fact that Kerry and company gave up without a fight, leaving their supporters lying in a ditch on the side of the road. Forget the fact that once again the flaws in the system will be swept under the rug. It doesn’t matter. Let’s make pretend that Republicans definitely swayed Ohio and Florida to the tune of half a million votes each. What would that give us if corrected? It would give us a Kerry victory based upon the same flaws in the system that aided Herr Bush’s rise to power in 2000. Can you really justify it this time around? In the end, Bush would still have a 2.5 million advantage in the popular vote. The process itself was not the failure here…

The failure was with democracy itself. The main reason that I choose not to vote – and one that I only danced around in the discussion last week – is that I view democracy as one of the weakest forms of government. And most importantly, it is a government that does not scale at all. Take a look at the results – more than half of the country wanted the warmongering imbecile to have another 4 years. This is not a mistake of punching the wrong button or reading a ballot upside-down or having a name the identical to a felon. This is a matter of people being stupid and not truly understanding what’s at stake, and that is the big gamble that democracy takes.

Walk down the street. Grab a random person. Ask them for life-altering advice. Are you suddenly going to follow their words as if they really understand the issue? Of course this isn’t a perfect analogy (they never are), but you get the idea. The majority of people – particularly in the case of a nation with over 250 million – don’t get it. They don’t think things through, and they are led like sheep – by sheep. And I’m not just talking about Republicans here. Otherwise, why was Kerry the pick when someone like Dean or Clark was such a better candidate? People don’t think on a grand scale. And yet somehow we overlook this fact and believe that giving these same people the power to pick the president (or any other major ballot) will suddenly make them pay attention.

But in the end, all that matters is what the majority of people punch. It doesn’t matter that most of them didn’t think about that choice. It doesn’t matter whether that choice is the right one. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fair decision or an oppressive one. It doesn’t matter if it expands freedom or limits it. All that matters is that the votes were made.

And in the end, that does not scale. When stupid expressions like “flip-flopping” can make a difference without any real substance to back it, and a realistic plan including “a global test” is mocked out of pure ignorance, you have a problem. And face it, with over 110 million voters, you just can’t reason with them. I’ve listened to plenty of “conservatives” talk, and you can’t even reason with them on an individual basis. How the hell are you supposed to make a difference in the thinking of millions of people who think reality tv is the greatest thing since sliced bread? And yet all of these people are not only allowed to vote, but encouraged to.

Thus the basic misunderstanding about democracy continues: Democracy is about freedom. BULLSHIT! Democracy is about popularity. It is a majority rules system of government, and if the majority of people in a democracy think that portions of the populace should be denied basic human rights – so be it. That’s what democracy brings with it. And with enough FUD you can convince millions of people that anyone different should be treated differently. And suddenly freedom disappears, and we are left with nothing but empty choices.

So, what’s the answer? Well, I can think of one decent option, but I don’t know how likely it is. But when I look at that big colorful map of the US, and can’t help but notice how much the ignorant views of the Midwest and South are dictating a federal government that also oversees the liberal Northeast and West Coast. Is that freedom? No. It is the freedom of illusion – as if giving people the choice between a couple of crappy options suddenly makes them the master of their own fates. Especially when the views of millions of others also dictate the results. And, for some reason, I see no reason to participate.

I miss the 90s. I didn’t think Clinton was an incredible man or president, but you know what? I could ignore the government for the most part. I knew I didn’t really have a say in anything, but nothing deeply affected my own life. The status quo worked pretty well, and there was even at least a bit of a progressive movement going on. Now, we just keep on moving backwards. And all those jokes about leaving the country if the asshole was re-elected are suddenly coming full circle. Since Tuesday I’ve had multiple discussions on the subject with different people – including a very serious one with Lisa regarding the distinct possibility in the next couple of years. I don’t like the direction this country is moving in, and I don’t want to be any part of it.

What are the options? Go ahead and try to fix it. It’s not likely until people start to feel the burn of the real world. Not until people see the real destruction and poverty and oppression that tears apart those that we claim to defend. And I fully welcome that possibility. But in the end, people are too complacent here, and there is too much ignorance to correct. Instead, I’ll keep my eye on how things will break, and keep my eye on our possibilities for escape. As Iraq declares a state of emergency it becomes more and more obvious that Americans in general just don’t get it, and never will. And the politics of failure are running me ragged – my friends and I should not be depressed beyond consolation on the basis of election results. Disappointed… not depressed.

I need to turn my attention elsewhere for now. As I said, I’ll keep an eye on things… but it can’t be my focus anymore. I need to focus on the good things in life… and politics in America isn’t one of them. I truly believe that this failure is greater than anyone estimates, and I fear what the results may be…

7 thoughts on “The Failure of a Lifetime”

  1. You aren’t the only one who feels this way. (Yeah, I know you know that.)

    My good friend, Elizabeth Formoso, and I are seriously planning what she’s called an “intentional progressive community.” The idea is simple. We find a place that suits all of us, with certain “necessary” amenities nearby (such as health food/organic stores or CSGs, a decent commute to NYC or other suitable large town, for the cultural benefits, etc.) Together we’d form our own small progressive community that works in cooperation with one another, aiding one another in the care and education of children, planning intellectual and cultural events and the like.

    The homes should, ideally, be about 15 minutes from one another and there should be a suitable meeting place (like a community center) nearby.

    Ideally, Elizabeth wants to move somewhere needs progressive votes or influence, like PA. (we’re looking at places like Stroudsburg and Swat For me, I’m more interested in interacting with my community in a real way, as in you know actually interactiing, talking, discussing, supporting… We’d also pursue various political or societal reformations and charities to better the world, in whatever small way we can.

    You and Lisa want in? I’ll send you the log of emails E. and I have had back and forth.


  2. Sandy – I can’t speak for Lisa, but it’s a possibility. Send me the info you’ve got so far. At least it will keep me in the loop.

    Josiah – I was about to correct your word choice, but then I realized that both seceded and succeedded work there 🙂 . And to be honest, the government of choice would probably be… representative democracy. I probably didn’t make it clear enough in my rant (I’m not sure how clear any of it really was), but the main problem with democracy is scale. If we can keep it relatively small, allow for real states’ rights, and get rid of the political parties than a democratic government can provide for everybody’s needs. It would certainly explain why most of Europe seems to succeed where we fail.

    Here’s the basic premise for my thoughts: Imagine New England forming a new government. The electoral process remains about the same as now. You suddenly have far fewer people to convince about who is the best candidate, and even if the choice isn’t perfect, that person won’t have the right to curb the states’ rights. So if New Hampshire decides to ban gay marriage – whatever. All the other states would have the option to keep it legal, and the liberals can simple move into those states if they desire. The main thing is, for democracy to work, it has to move from the bottom to the top, not the other way around as it does now.

    I have some other ideas for government, but not fully thought out. If I have the time to fully expand upon them, there might just be some essays forthcoming.

  3. Thought you might find this interesting; seems Howard dean and Bev Harris managed to bypass the diebold software and directly modify an MS Access database to directly change the vote totals on a test machine… in about 2 minutes.

    You’d think we’d have a more relaible system in place for electing our President than an unsecured database running on Windows.

    And if the Diebold machines aren’t a concern, there’s always these cards, which seem to be the sole factor in which Florida counties bucked all trends and exit polls.

    Happy thoughts.

  4. It’s interesting to consider thinsg like the “Dixiecrat” vote. I mean these people have the right to vote in a Democrat primary, but as stated, do not like the Democrat candidates. So why not organize and mass vote to select the worst possible candidate available for the “opposing” party? Maybe that’s how we ended up with Kerry.

  5. Interesting, that’s the reason I support the electoral college.

    Concerning the typo, it was one. I’m learning DVORAK and I keep messing my vowels up. Serendipitous really.

    Finally, as a technologist, the state of electronic voting scares me.

  6. I’m just getting around to responding to these comments – I forgot about you (I suck).

    Sandy – That’s why I hate the whole “party system”. It makes it too easy for people to divide simply by labels and sabotage each other rather than actually trying to work together.

    Josiah – I’m not as against the electoral college as I used to be. I think it really just needs some reform right now. And yes, electronic voting scares the bejeebus out of me at this point.

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