November 6, 2012: the two Americas

I've found that I've had to take time away from monitoring political news over the past month. I've been cranky, out of sorts, and just no fun in general. I try—and mostly succeed—in keeping my mood hidden from loved ones and acquaintances. They've supported me over the years when things in my life weren't as rosy as they are now, and anything I can do to pay it back I do, even if it's as simple as keeping my mouth shut when complaining isn't warranted and won't better the situation. Most of my friends and family aren't as obsessed with politics as I am.

So while my sanity demands that, say, I stay away from blogs on the weekend and instead wallow in my own hobbies, the moment is too important, the stakes too grave for me to ignore politics for too long. The basic requirement of good citizenship is to be informed about what's going on; in a democracy we should all be politicians, and not leave political work and thinking solely in the hands of our betters. That the majority of our citizens don't think that way is one of the reasons why the Republic is in its current parlous state.

I've been thinking today about why this election matters so much to me, why who is in the White House and in control of Congress is of such existential importance. Haven't we all managed to muddle along, whoever happened to temporarily hold the reins of power? Isn't political life something that happens far away, with no real consequence on our daily lives? The sun will continue to shine, we'll continue to go to work or school—or not—and the world will keep turning. I remember when Bush won in 2004, one of my friends said, "Well, it's only another four years. Everything will work out." Political tides have come and gone, and the country still stands, if on wobbly feet.

But we're at a pass that even Bush II didn't bring about, although the forces he unleashed made it inevitable. On November 6th, and in the months leading up to that date, two Americas will be challenging each other for supremacy.

One is represented by this:

Or how about this:

Or this:

This is an America that's forward thinking. This is an America that values the worth of every individual. This is an America that looks after its citizens, that realizes that we are all in this together, and that when one of us suffers we are all lessened. This is an America where it isn't all right for those with wealth and privilege to do whatever they want to do simply because of that wealth and privilege. And it's no coincidence that this America is represented by the skinny black guy with the funny name.

Then there's this America:

Or this America:

Or this America:
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This is an America of a paranoid fever dream. It's an America represented by liars and hucksters, by conspiracy theorists and religious radicals, by the super rich seeking to get richer, and by their useful idiots in the poorer classes who think their way of life will come to an end if the wealthy have to pay a bit more in taxation. It's an America where we don't care for one another, where government is shrunk enough so that it can be drowned in the bath water, where we would be left to our own devices and reliant solely on our own resources. It's an America that is antithetical to a decent, civilized life.

It is an existential choice that faces this country in the coming months. This is not hyperbole. The America represented by the right wing knows this is its last shot at power. The America we believe in on this blog and others like it is the future. It will come. But there are questions. Will it come now, in an orderly fashion, with a minimum of conflict? Or will it come later, after years or decades of strife, when the country is in such a state that the status quo won't do?

It's to answer these questions that we volunteer, give money, write blogs, talk with friends and neighbors, do as much as we can, because all we have at this moment in history is ourselves and each other. This is our St. Crispin's Day. There's nothing left but to do the work.

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