Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Descamisados and Village Barista-ing

This is the shirt that I wore to work a few weeks ago. The RNC had just gotten underway in Tampa and I had a minor moment of panic when my alarm—set to NPR—did just that, (alarmed me.) Being frightened for the future of your country while you are still groggily coming out of dreamland is not pleasant. Certainly, the anxiety that I feel about the future of my country, versus the fears that someone waking up in Palestine or Syria might have are markedly different. And I am grateful for that difference.

But, since I don’t have to worry that I or my family will be executed for any of our political activities, I am free to move on from the basic tenets of democracy. I have a graduate degree in a field I love, a bachelor’s degree from a decent school, and I currently balance two—it was three for the summer—part-time jobs and, yet, because of my student loans, I am unable to afford health insurance, which shouldn’t be a luxury item anyway. I have been looking for better work for two years. I don’t mention these facts to whine—two seconds thinking about Iraq or Afghanistan or the Dust Bowl 2012 affords some great perspective on the challenges of my own life—but more as context.

Despite my own situation, I simply cannot find the economy to be the most important issue in this election. The social issues that are at stake are too vitally important.
A sampling of my political thoughts and views:
  • Consenting, aware adults should be able to marry who ever they choose. Committing to love someone for the rest of your life is terrifying to me—more power to those who can do so. Good luck and god bless.
  • All rape is legitimate, all rape is forcible, all rape is wrong. There should be no excuse lurking in terminology for a rapist to hide behind. No woman should be forced to have a baby with her rapist. End of story.
  • I don’t want a bunch of old, idiotic, corrupt men deciding what is best for my vagina and me. How about I agree to make good choices about which men are allowed access to my vagina (hint: NO ONE in the Congress), and Congress agrees to back off? I would also like birth control to be as available to me as Viagra is to those who “need” it.
  • Or, if we must limit access birth control to keep Jesus happy[1], let’s increase social services because people will still have sex and then babies/new citizens who will need things like medicine and housing and education and jobs and food.
  • I would like to have the government mirror the demographics of the country today, rather than mirror the pigmentation and gender of the Founding Fathers quite so closely.
  • We need to do better by our military, starting by not sending anyone to war until all diplomatic avenues have been fully tried and exhausted.
  • That pesky issue of climate change. I, for one, was grimly amused by a hurricane nearly hitting the GOP convention. And yet, they still ignore the issue. Small, family businesses who grow food to feed the hunger of our great country are being hammered this year by heat and drought and storms like none on record, and not everyone is on board with this new weird ass shit reality being an issue worth talking about? Where do they all think these climatic changes are coming from?[2]
  • Voter ID laws? From the party that wants to decrease the role of government in our lives? Come on. I want leaders who are smarter than me and this ain’t a good start.
But I digress. I turned off my NPR radio and, like a kid jamming her doll into her backpack to bring to school for reassurance[3], I donned my Obama/Biden shirt from 2008 and ventured off to my job at a small café. Unsuspecting me was taken unpleasantly by surprise when coffee-buyers began talking about my boss’s letter in that day’s paper. I opened to the Editorial section and proceeded to read about how my employer would like to get Obama and his small business hating administration out of office and return this country to the principles that made it great in the first place.
It was an uncomfortable day at work. Especially as about 20% of the customers mentioned how much they loved the letter. [4]

I can agree that “if you have a business, you didn’t build that” is a tempestuously bad statement for a President running for re-election in a crap economy to make. Even just stringing those particular words together so that they could later be taken out of context is unfortunate and scary when the stakes seem so high. Personally, I understood the words to mean something along the lines of  “it takes a village to raise a business.” I gather that not everyone took the statement, out of context, in the same context that I did. I think of that business-raising village as people percolate through the door, looking for coffee and muffins. No customers, no business. I get it—my bosses took an admirable risk, opened a business, sold enough coffee to hire me, now I have a job and we can make more coffee for more people and I can contribute to the local economy.[5] I am clearly a beneficiary of the entrepreneurial spirit of my employers.

It’s this idea of totally disconnected individualism that I find disconcerting—as if any business or person or state or country exists in a total vacuum. Could any of us do anything without each other? Very little, and not too well, me thinks.[6]"We must hang together, gentlemen[7]...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately,” according to Benjamin Franklin. I find that to the perhaps the single greatest principle that has ever made this country great.

My understanding is that the country was founded on the ideas of fairness and equality, and that the government is a structure to provide leadership, justice, and services to its citizens. The government, like the Postal Service, was never set up as a business. Now that corporations are people, perhaps that has changed, but I do cling to the idea that we are still by and FOR the people.

To end, today is the gubernatorial primary in New Hampshire. My café job is near the local poling place. I contemplated wearing my Obama shirt again, as I don’t have a Jackie Cilley shirt. But what would be the point? I quite literally can’t afford to antagonize my employers and don’t want to anyway. If we’re all hanging together, raising businesses and sharing services in this big cozy village, we would do well to try to be kind, tone down confrontational rhetoric, and, specifically, not wear a particular shirt just to be a smart-ass. I can understand where my employers are coming from. I disagree, but that’s beside the point. They know I disagree, but I still have a job. This is good.[8]

So if you have an election to get to today, chop chop and get thee to the polls. Personally, being a big nerd, I like to vote whenever possible, simply out of respect for the right. There are people fighting, dying, and killing, for the privilege to vote on their leaders. I care far more that you vote than who you vote for. Of course, it’d be swell if you voted for Green Socialist-Democrats, but that decision is, of course, your business.
Granite Bunny

[1] Given the nature of His birth/conception, I don’t really trust His feelings about contraception.
[2] When I did relief work on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, someone overheard a guy saying that Katrina was God’s vengeance for abortion being legal. His proof was that the eye of the storm looked like a fetus. So there are some theories out there, other than say, science and what you can see with your own eyes.
[3] Grades K-3. Only sometimes it was my teddy bear.
[4] Except, they called it an article. It wasn’t an article. It was a letter to the editor. Right up there with people not understanding what the President can and cannot do from the Oval Office (read Jon Stewart’s America: The Book if you need to brush up on your civics), I hate when people don’t use the correct terminology, especially if the incorrect term somehow applies greater gravitas and authority. Articles appear in Orion, the New York Times, US Weekly, etc. Letters to the Editor are as often from crazy cat ladies as they are from the politically disgruntled, both of which happen more often than letters from the politically astute/socially aware. And blogs are the province rambling bunnies, apparently.
[5] And Sallie Mae.
[6] Okay, Thoreau, try it. Spend a full winter day with nothing that another human being was ever involved in creating. Let me know how it goes. “Brrr. I’m hungry...”
[7] Recent research shows that this sentiment ought be extended to all people, not just dudes.
[8]Wait, I can disagree with my employers about politics? Cool. Thanks, Labor Movement! 

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