I’m retiring from politics. I’d managed to avoid engaging in the political quagmire for months on end, largely because I publicly pledged to do so after the media and politicians created an extremely volatile, self-fulfilling prophecy of racial discord, hatred, distrust, and violence, all in the name of advertising clicks and other ulterior motives. I knew dipping a toe in that toxic cesspool would be sheer masochism. Anything you say about politics, any position you take, is going to be controversial and make you a target of hatred, even if you are resisting extremism or trying to bridge the gap between binary belief systems. In today’s political climate, when you advocate, root for, oppose, or resist whichever political position, or candidate, you become a front-line grunt fighting in the culture war, rushing headlong into the roaring slaughter.
But you must participate! It’s your civic duty! You must vote! White silence equals violence! You are either with us or against us! All art is political! If you are not political, you are supporting the status quo! All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent! And yet, if the tyrants themselves stayed home, there would be no tyranny. You only want people to get out and vote if they are going to vote for your candidate. What if there was a war and nobody came?
Recently, I succumbed to anger and indignation at the outrageous hypocrisy, forehead-slapping-worthy inanity, and gratuitous violence and destruction that are the tragicomedy of American politics. I’d say the dominant emotion was anger. I went to sleep angry, and I woke up angry.
I vented my spleen in a couple long posts about how we’ve given up on truth in favor of narratives, and how this is not the time to crush our political adversaries. I spent an entire day, and late into the night, crafting that last one, with edits the following day. And that means I didn’t do art, or exercise, and otherwise derailed my routine. Maybe it did some good to combat the narrative. Maybe it was a waste of time.
I noticed what it did to me, and how it made me feel. Suddenly I was in the fray, fighting in the international political culture wars. It was doing more immediate damage to me than any good I could hope to achieve. I knew this already, and it’s why I didn’t engage in the voting season, which is the season of anxiety. But here I was reminded again, because of the stark contrast to my general mental and physical state before I chose to put myself on the battle field. Politics are toxic shit. Or is that, “politics is toxic shit”? Ah, you say, “his politics are toxic shit” but “politics is toxic shit”. In that case it’s grammatically correct to say, “Politics is a shit sandwich”.
If I don’t write about politics, than it has much less of a deleterious effect on me, because I don’t feel as compelled to research it, understand it, get all my facts right, and I’m not busy honing interior dialogues in my head. I’m not waking up in the morning with a realization I need to type up.
I had altercations with family members who strongly support one end of the political spectrum, or are at least fervently against the other. I shut down someone who made a comment on my blog that I found highly offensive. I’d have been better off playing computer games.
We’ve reached a fever point of competing, one-sided narratives, so that any divergence from allegiance to this or that set of conclusions can pit you against your neighbor, or family members. This is partly due to the wild accusations, exaggeration, and the most inflammatory adjectives used to demonize the opposing elite politicians jockeying for a seat at the table of power and influence. If people demonstrate and break windows for your team, they are exhibiting unrest. If the other side does it, it’s domestic terror!
We are meant to take it onboard as our own life and death struggle which elite politician in the ruling class will be crowned king or queen of the prom. That would be more absurd, if the media and politicians hadn’t used the country as a toy, fomenting hatred out of thin air, in order to conquer political territory and claim the bounty. If nobody took the bait, most the problems that make it onto our dinner plate would vanish.
Even this post is political, because people will obviously insist that whichever is their political or ideological opponent really is all that horrible, that there’s no exaggeration, that there aren’t words strong enough to convey the horror! They might say that the media and politicians didn’t create the problems: it may have inflamed them a bit, but surely they didn’t manufacture them out of thin air. They may insist it’s my duty to fight for their cause, or I’m part of the problem.
2021 is starting off even worse than 2020. But part of what made last year suck so hard was internalizing the conflicts, getting angry about this or that idiotic behavior, worrying, debating, and creating stress. In order to do my best to salvage this year, and not have a repeat, I’m going to try not to post anything about politics. I did manage that for months on end last year — and it was a relief — so I know it’s possible. It also means not making comments on other people’s blogs, or YouTube videos, and not responding when family members share their political views, or the political news they think is urgent.
If you insist I fight for a cause, and that I must be political and take a side, than consider my silence my fighting technique, and my staying out of politics my cause. Go tell a Buddhist monk that silence equals violence. Anyone whose managed a few minutes of decent meditation– I’ve got at least 5 under my belt — knows that real silence is an achievement in itself, and has its own broad, radiant, effusive power. And you can always just be glad I’m not fighting on the other team.
I’m afraid the cadres will have to go to war without me. I’m going AWOL.