Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A retrospecive on the formation of my political consciousness, as framed by two elections.

When I was 19, I voted in my first election. It was the 2008 election campaign that came at the end of the Bush Era, and the Republican and Democratic parties had selected Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, respectively, as their candidates. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the distant facts they always were ever after their respective Invasions concluded. The Great Recession was  just beginning to build its disastrous momentum, and only concerned those who operated in the planet's economic mesosphere.

I voted a day early, at an adobe facade-fronted art gallery that was just a building or so away from the Otero county courthouse. The line was short, populated mostly by the elderly, and moved quickly. I arrived at the booth with not the quivers of anticipation I expected, but rather a subtle energy sourced from the execution of civic duty, however token it truly was in the face of the continued existence of the Electoral College.

And I voted for John McCain.

The reasons why I voted for him are as clear to me to this day as they were when I blacked out the candidate selection bubbles, shadowed by booth curtains from the low autumnal sun those four years ago.

I expected a maintained course. I voted for an America that I perceived to exist during my formative years: one where merit, cleverness, and diligence were the sole devices one needed to secure a prosperous future; one where the freedoms of speech, faith, and expression would be infringed upon by none; one that exercised military force without remorse nor restraint against those that would compromise the endeavors of its citizens.

I thought that the freedoms to privacy that the PATRIOT act infringed upon were necessary sacrifices for the sake of national security. I expected any social programs aimed at alleviating the plight of the poor to either not come to fruition, or to manifest as clumsy and ineffectual in the least, or unearned and unwarranted at most.

At worst, which I believed I expected, a John McCain presidency would be a known evil – a natural and necessary continuation of the Bush Era. I could not estimate the trajectory of an Obama presidency, and though I applauded his eloquence and the historical nature of his nomination, he was an unknown factor.

Upon watching Barack Obama's victory though the very same monitor that I am typing these words into, I neither lamented nor rejoiced. It was a game well fought by both sides, and I did not think myself slighted, nor did I feel wronged.

The nigh cataclysmic events of the subsequent 4 years would, I expect, forever shatter my placid illusions of Pax Americana.

When the stock market's ballistic dive was fully executed and the crisis was fully manifested, I was left ignorant and bewildered. Through computer monitors at home and in class I dragged myself through a crash-course on macro-economics to understand just what was occurring and why. The alarm that glowed from every LCD screen I watched the world out of came to be reflected in my person.

Unemployment erupted as the corporate giants that, we to whom were for so long told were responsible for America's economic might and prosperity, purged millions of workers. Those who's employment were not terminated saw themselves stripped of benefits and driven to work more and more for less and less under threat of destitution.

As so many fell at terminal velocity to the very bottom of society, thus many more came to the revelation that this was not just the consequence of a single event, but rather the greatest transgression of a larger, sinister mechanism. The great recession became but the largest war crime in an orchestrated campaign – one waged by the obscenely rich and politically influential against the multitude, who's only offense was to dare to not be relentlessly greedy.

We looked up from the bullet holes that perforated social programs, the great American middle class, the poor, workplace benefits, industrial and financial regulation, the health care system, and higher education, and beheld the gold plated guns that were so expertly aimed.

And it was the Obama administration that fought hardest to mend those wounds, by pushing bill after bill that were in turn blocked just as viciously but more successfully by a Republican Party that was either ideologically aligned against his efforts, or otherwise bought and paid for those who reaped unimaginable sums from the status quo.

This was made possible by those who believed themselves alienated and wronged by the trillions given to insolvent banks by the Obama administration, a measure that was a lesser evil committed to prevent the greater one: a total economic crash. Their votes, guided by the subsequent deception of the Republican party, would turn congress into an instrument with which that party and their sponsors would use to obstruct the president at every turn.

Along with the revelation of a concerted economic attack against a vast majority of American citizens came a more salient view of other vectors of oppression, that against all sense and human dignity persist to this day. Sexism was alive and well and persistent, and growing ever bolder with every right reclaimed by women. Racism – despite Barack Obama's presidency – remained a troublingly durable social pathogen. The crimes committed against those who dared deviate from heteronormativity grew ever more numerous, despite every stride towards justice and equality.

The spark that would ignite my fuming political dimension into a firestorm would flash in late 2011, with the arrival of SOPA and PIPA – two pieces of legislation backed by media industry oligarchies that would have been used to silence the Vox Populi of creative expression. Though professed to and presented as means of controlling copyright infringement, their jagged particulars could and would have been employed as weapons against any smaller creative outlet that would generate and distribute content independent of those industrial powers.

SOPA and PIPA served to crystallize the conflict between corporate power and the greater populace in a context that I hold above all other things sacrosanct: that of artistic, and thus personal, expression. At that moment, I discovered a truth of this world that had lingered just out of full cognizance: tyranny cares not for its origin, and is the ultimate expression of any great power.

It was from the perspective of this discovered maxim that so many evils in the world were given new significance and meaning. Racism, classism, sexism, heteronormativism, nationalism,  and so many others were given a unifying framework: that of one or a few individuals holding power over many, and doing everything necessary - and excessive - to ensure that their power remains inviolable.

I and millions of others expressed our condemnation of those pieces of legislation and became drops of rain that coalesced into a storm that extinguished those most incendiary and potentially disastrous instruments.

It is thus in this election that I applaud Barack Obama's second triumph, after a campaign that proved to be but one more theatre in the war of the financially powerful against those less so.
This election cycle was one whence corporate power was given unlimited political voice, and held hostage against their employees their livelihood, and thus by extension, their very lives. It was one in which in governor Mitt Romney they selected the perfect representative of their methods and goals.

It was thus that Senator Romney, and by extension the corporate oligarchy's lunge for supreme power over a country on the precipice, was rejected.

Due to my own negligence, I was unable to acquire an absentee ballot. Though my vote goes uncounted, my words will have to demonstrate my support in its stead.

It is now that I wonder if the future will either validate my hope, or erase what exists of it. However, no matter the course that these next years take, I have resolved to ensure that every political action I make will be to undermine the attacks of the powerful against the rights of those less so.

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