In keeping with the rest of the American public, I feel strongly about this upcoming election. I didn’t used to be so politically interested. For much of my life, I was cynical towards politics. I felt it was a game played by rich liars, who perpetuated their richness by lying. But to tell the truth, I don’t know if I was even interested enough to be as cynical as that previous sentence. I think I used to see politics as detached from what really matters (Town hall voted to allocate x amount of dollars to the construction of a new pool – ok, so what?).
I don’t know where or when, but gradually, things started to change for me. You read a few essays here and there about American atrocities. You begin to investigate more publicly-owned news media. You begin to understand the effects of “corporate interests.” And slowly, you realize that CNN and the Today Show and even the New York Times are not doing a great job. Most newspapers are written at a fifth-grade level. Local TV news is a joke in that it gives very little information (I think the average is 12 minutes of “news” per half hour). And overall, there’s so much we don’t hear or see. The US has sunk three fishing boats off the coast of Ecuador because they thought they were drug boats. They weren’t. They didn’t apologize. On TV here, you actually see footage of the war in Iraq. You see bodies.
I am still pretty cynical about politics and politicians, but since I’ve realized we’re not getting the whole story through mainstream sources, I’m more interested. There is lot to be angry about. There is a lot to be sad about. There’s a scene in the New Testament in which Jesus enters the temple and finds people using it as a marketplace. He gets angry. He overturns tables. Apparently, there are times when anger is the godliest reaction.
I recently read this article by Tim Wise (you should check it out here). A man named Jared Taylor, who’s pretty much a neo-Nazi, wrote an article in which he claims:
In his refutation of Taylor’s article, Tim Wise employs some true intellect. How often do you see a TV debate like that? You watch Bill O’Reilly and it’s all about keeping the debate lively and heated. It’s not about actual logic or reason. I remember getting so frustrated during class discussions in college because people couldn’t stay on one topic. People wouldn’t really address the questions or arguments that preceded them. They’d always bring up some tangent –a related tangent, but a tangent nonetheless.
Iraq has been a mess. After September 11th, we had the whole world on our side. Bush has succeeded in screwing that up. There’s been some major deception and/or misinformation, not to mention what the rest of the world sees as war crimes. And in the meantime, while the mainstream media is entirely focused on a watered down version of the war, this administration has majorly screwed up the environment, public education, media ownership laws, and civil liberties at home. I’m not sure if Kerry will do that much better than Bush when it comes to foreign relations. (In foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans aren’t much different: “Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s secretary of state, once told the United Nations that America had the right to ‘unilateral use of power’ to ensure ‘uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources’. Or as Colin Powell, the Bush-ite laughably promoted by the media as a liberal, put it more than a decade ago: ‘I want to be the bully on the block’” (John Pilger).)
Still, it’s hard to imagine how Kerry could do worse. In any case, I’m still not that interested in being political. But I am interested in truth, and in education, and in access to information, and in being smart, and in morality. And I do think Kerry will be much better with domestic issues. But voting for Kerry is only the first of many changes the US needs to make. As media critic Sut Jhally points out, “we live in a culture in which where things come from and where things go to is largely invisible to us.” In a developing nation like Ecuador, they may not know what their American T-shirts mean. But in the US, we’re divorced from meaning in a different way. We don’t know what our cars mean, or what our trash means, or what our meat means.
I’m not saying I’d prefer that the US was a developing nation. But we can make cars that don’t use gas; we can produce less trash; and we can know and respect the animals we eat. And do we have to kill people just to keep our foreign economic interests secure? We have how many more years of fossil fuels left? Things need to change. Sooner or later, they will.
I imagine that in these last days, coverage of the election has been less and less about the issues. I imagine that the most recent attack ads are pretty bad. I lament that Bush will probably win. But above all, I lament that real information is so hard to find.