Political Headlocks

“Why don’t you ever have fun?” This is the question that Durwood Willis, a fellow seventh-grader asked me as he held me in a headlock at a party at a classmate’s house. I responded with a shrug of the shoulders and an answer about how everyone always seemed to be doing all of the same things. Even as a 12 year old, I was always the most serious girl in the room.

I have been trying today to understand why it is that I have such a problem identifying with my age group, or even more difficulty trying to understand the generation directly younger than me. There is something identifiable in their political zeal, I possessed that all though high school and college. Confession of the day: my freshman year of college, I had a Dole/Kemp sign hanging on my dorm room window. I had no problem spouting off my unresearched opinions to any person that came in my way. Then, something happened. I spent four months in Africa and saw the world in a whole new way. I came back and started spouting my opinions on the opposite extreme. I sat in the library for weekends studying political theory, concepts of distributive justice, and the like. It gave me passion; I was full of zeal, but I still couldn’t transform it into realistic practice. Instead, I liked speaking in theory and about sweeping notions of justice and ethics, right and wrong. But ask me a question about how to turn John Rawls into practice to actually change the lives of the people of Africa, and I was stumped.

It wasn’t until I actually left the academic world and faced real life, without my parents financing my ability to think great thoughts, that I realized that without a realistic means of transferring my idealistic notions of the world into actual experience, I could think and say all that I wanted to, but I could never claim to really be changing anything.

The reason that I wanted to write about this is because I feel legitimate concern that as Americans, we are currently operating as me, circa 1999, full of emotion, not full of realities. Back again at a different university, I listen to students once again carrying on about what they want the world to be without any clue of what the world actually is, and the realities that we are confronted with. In some ways, maybe Durwood Willis was right about me, because I have a hard time having any fun knowing that for all of our pretty talk about things, so little is actually accomplished. But it seems like no one cares about the difficulty of actually doing anything if you wrap your speech up in such lovely rhetoric.

I mean, who cares if you are Barack Obama and can call your plan universal health care when it really isn’t, so long as you can give a nice speech to wrap it up in? Then you can go on CNN and claim that “mandates” for health care are like forcing homeless people to pay mortgages, and without the slightest sense of irony believe that you have made a deft argument. Too bad that health care economists disagree with you, because you bank on the fact that no one is going to bother reading a boring study done by someone with a PhD when they have you to vouch for the fact that your program is actually practical. I mean, no one is going to think for five seconds that when health care coverage isn’t mandated, if it is made available to all to sign up for at any time or not sign up for, their choice, that people have incentive to free-ride in the system and then only decide to actually purchase health care coverage when they become sick and then costs for everyone in the system rise, thereby making the plan too expensive to maintain. Barack, you know no one is actually going to think about that when they have you declaring in your commercials that you are offering a “universal” health care plan?

What bothers me the most, is that the most educated people that are supporting Barack these days are the same ones who are totally willing to take his words at face value, even when even the slightest amount of research can show you how contradictory those words are (ex: Idaho rally: I support the second amendment; 1996 candidate questionnaire: I support banning the manufacture, transport, and sale of handguns). These are the people who maybe want to be inspired, but are forgetting that there are other people in this economy who are just trying to get by. These people are worrying about where their next mortgage payment is coming from, how they are going to be able to pay for their kids’ braces, not whether or not you version of hope is an adjective or a verb. I have read the exit polling data from most states, without fail, people who feel like they are falling behind in the economy are supporting Hillary in numbers, whereas those who make over $100,000 a year are supporting Barack.

I still like thinking pretty, idealistic thoughts, but I am happy to be on the side of the candidate who is supported by people who want to see action as well. Whether or not Barack Obama favors this kind of realistic campaigning is yet to be seen. Right now, Hillary has committed to holding debates to discuss the issues in depth, Barack has yet to do so. He prefers those energetic rallies where as little detal can be said is possible. I can relate to that notion of wanting to be inspired. But I want something more than inspiration from a political candidate, I want action. So perhaps in my caucus here in Washington State on Saturday, I might once again be feeling like I am in a headlock being asked why I am against having fun. But that is just because I think there is too much actually to do.

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