The Shame in Taking Sides
I want to consider myself independent. This is not a life assertion so much as a political identification. But of course it is meaningless; flawed. None of us are independent, standing on the outside of roiling reality and proclaiming ourselves truly on the sidelines.
There is a toxin to the political culture of today, a brutal heavy bag workout that eventually makes us wish to beat our opposition to death before we pass out, with broken hands, slumping down into greasy sweat on the floor. And yet none of us are true, none of us are really non-partisan, and the fact that there are so few organized choices to align ourselves with is what has created such a fucked up and broken system of not just social and political interaction, but of civility, of the quest for what remains of truth.
Okay: when I was eighteen and still in high school, the manipulative recruiters swamped themselves into our political science classes (called ‘social studies’ in those days, and looked upon as an innocous study of history and constitutional structure, broken apart into the right or left wing biases of our teachers), and demanding that we join forever into whichever vague ideology their cults propounded. Even then my suspicious nature declared me independent (although for some reason I joined the ‘Libertarian Party,’ having no idea whatsoever what they stood for; the first individual I voted for President in 1992 was some forgotten douchebag named ‘Andre Marrou.’ He was some unknown Alaskan state politician who was shortly thereafter replaced as the third party figure by H. Ross Perot. I still, to this day [and I refuse to research this] have no idea what the man stood for. I knew even then that he would never be President. I did not care. It was a protest vote. I was Twenty years old in 1992.) None of the major and eventual candidates meant anything to me. I refused to accept, or even acknowledge them. Thus, Bill Clinton became the President as I came of age. I grew up in an age of scandal, regardless of both the good and the bad that the man accomplished. I grew into a man as the Democratic system that we pretended to abide utterly collapsed into the partisan cruelty that John Adams warned about:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
This warning has defined the United States of America, not just politically, but socially ever since.
And so I rejected both political parties, as I am sure many of you have done (no matter where you live, here or there or anywhere else, our disillusion with both our leaders and their opposition creating a struggle for hope that is coughing up blood and seeking some sort of terminal compromise). We all live in this spiteful world of team rivalry and envy, whenever the other side rises into power, and somehow we equate morality and patriotism with whichever side we root for in the game of national salvation.
It is an apocalyptic time, sure, but this is not a new thing. Revolutions have consumed humanity over and over again, some seeking justice, while others suggest oppression, a singular leader pulling us free from whichever fears and miseries plague us for the moment, from whichever struggles the harsh reality of the world has imposed upon us. They all tell lies as promises, and make sure we are converts before turning everything around to define a singular enemy. And yet since no individual is singular, and since no one believes in the same thing for the same reason, we all must become vindictive. We must paint one another as exactly the same, within our compartmentalized and increasingly meaningless sub-sections of a sub-section, and we winnow down so far and so deeply that nothing means anything any longer.
Politics is all about taking a side. Imagine being a college football partisan, shouting in the stands in favor of the school you attended in an increasingly distant past, still a fan regardless of the changing times and the representation no longer having anything to do with you. Imagine yourself in the stands over that one weekend you decide to resume some fragment of your youth, and pretend that you are exactly the same as the young partisans rooting on their friends and classmates. And then transform this into a political rally, regardless of whom you root for, or whichever side you morally choose to take. Try to see the difference. Try to pretend that your rooting interest is not just for your personal favor, but for the betterment of the world . . .
You can’t, can you? I know that you can’t. You wish to ignore the scandals–even the crimes!–committed by these people that in your youthful ignorance you chose to ignore. And those of you who were merely counterpoints (I was personally a counterpoint), rooting against the home team, you are really no different, in effect, than the blank party loyalists who can only paint those on a different side as the definition of evil and the sort of character worthy of your mindless hatred.
We live in this world today. The media celebrates this (try watching or listening to a home town sport’s team’s broadcast, rooting endlessly for their employers, sometimes condemning them for their failure, and see if the breath people take is any different than those on a partisan news channel trying to elevate their own personal favorites.) We watch the world unravel as a form of entertainment, one person or idea on a hot streak, while another is slumping and eventually cut, or at least sent back down to the minors.
It is disgraceful, the emptiness of taking sides. The idea of Nationalism, for all the poison that has been inserted throughout history to the changing variations and meanings this term evokes, it is really meant to be about the support of your own nation–of your home team. And yet even this concept has become so divided, so structured into the pro and con of whomever you are forced to represent, that nothing any longer seems to matter. There is shame in taking sides. There is treason. It is even a crime. And yet this is where we live in this modern world, allowing outsiders to manipulate our sense of reality, or even going so far as to believe the soulless lies of others, and thinking that whatever unestablished node of reality must be the absolute truth because it makes us feel better about the failures of ourselves and our national reality has become.