Monday, August 23, 2010

#74 - Getting Off the Political Merry-Go-Round

When I was younger, I used to be very much into politics. As the Editorial Editor for my high school newspaper, I came out in support of the then very real possibility of gas rationing. This was easy for me as I did not have a car. I also wrote about censorship and book burning involving a school board in Kansas.

I would often play devil's advocate; it rarely mattered the subject. I enjoyed the exchange, the banter, the give and take. It made me feel alive.

I say all of this as prelude to discussion of some of my recent experiences on Facebook. I have one Facebook friend, a former colleague in another life and another career who often posts political items, items that to me seem incendiary and designed to arouse anger, passion, and debate. All too often, I take the bait and find myself arguing as one self-proclaimed progressive against a wall of conservative thought.

Every time I allow myself to get sucked into one of these debates, I tell myself it will be the last time. I find myself exasperated that they won't even listen to or consider an opposing view, and I am sure they feel the same way about me.

So why do I continue? I suppose it must be the remaining idealist in me, though these opposing and often intolerant voices are slowly beating that idealism out of me. They aren't changing my views merely helping me to realize that politics is ultimately all a game.

I am rapidly concluding that governments - Republican, Democrat, or even Communist or Socialist - don't really care about me. Governments are about two things, when it comes to it - power and control, and they cater to those who can help them get it and keep it. If it were different, the rich would not be getting richer while the poor get nowhere, and corporations would not be seen as having the same freedom of speech (backed by 1000s of times the money) as  individuals.

This realization is likely why many argue for term limits in government. Sadly, I think all that will do is increase the number of people who grab for more power in a shorter period of time by creating a bit of a revolving door effect.

None of this is helped by the fact that the two major political parties seem unable and certainly are unwilling to work together to accomplish anything of major benefit or importance. I believe this will only get worse after the November elections. Since the minority party typically gains seats in midterm elections, I think we can all look forward to two years of infighting, back-biting, and legislative stalemate.

So, I am going to try to give up what has long been an intellectual passion of mine: politics. For me, it may well prove to be as difficult as giving up smoking is for others. But I managed to do that once upon a time, so this may not be as hard as I think.

I have reached the conclusion that life is too short, and there are other things I'd much rather be doing that arguing with people I often don't know and usually don't agree with. Listening to music, for instance. Solving a challenging crossword puzzle. Reading a good novel.

Top of that list would be taking the trailer out for a weekend somewhere, anywhere. Besides, I feel much more alive sitting outside my trailer in a campground overlooking a river or a lake than I ever feel arguing political points on Facebook. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

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