Thinking About Difficult Questions And Hard Choices By Kyle Leach

Thinking About Difficult Questions and Hard Choices By Kyle Leach

About a week ago a friend of mine sent out notice, to all who would listen, that she had, finally, had enough. She’s gracious, kind, smart, funny, giving and among the most dedicated and passionate people I know.  She is heavily involved in politics, has been for as long as I have known of her, starting at the local level and moving up to the top. She let all of us know that she was changing her focus, turning things on end, and would not do what she has always done. She was going to turn her mind to her community, to service, but not through politics right now. She was going to think and do differently. She also let everyone know (who didn’t already) she was taking off the gloves, she was taking no prisoners, and you didn’t want to be on the other end of those gloves. She wasn’t giving anyone a pass anymore. She is also renewing herself, something that is probably long, long overdue.  

Her awakening was not ideological; she sits squarely in the uber-progressive realm, as I do. That did not change. She realized she wanted to change how she was reacting to the situations around her and how and who she allocated time to. She chose to stop listening and sharing the propaganda around us and started telling truths. Though she never participated in the peddling of fear and hate, that both major political parties deal, she did decide she would reject and counter both of those. She’s looking at more options, broadening her outlook and forecasting, and finding places that she can create and build and collaborate anew.

You are probably wondering where I’m going with this. Yesterday, after talking with Stan, I made my own decision to shake things up a bit, as my friend has. I’m going to go on a partial hiatus for about four months. I’m not going to abandon the things I do or the positions I hold, but I’m going to shift my attention to museum work, gardening, art, writing, poetry and place politics and digital and social media in an auxiliary position. The main thrust of what I want to do will be those things that sustain the good things in humanity and that push us to create and build new things.

When Stan and I met sixteen years ago the world was in much the same place it is now, just less death, destruction, and fear and hate had been manufactured. If you didn’t notice all the horrors of the world then, and I do mean horrors, you weren’t paying attention before it directly affected you. A ponderous chain has been built by our society in those sixteen years Jacob Marley would tell us. 

In those years Stan and I have built our life together and have grown and changed and influenced each other in ways I never imagined. We have always had a good life; difficulties abound, mainly from outside forces, but not when compared to the horrors most people of the world must endure daily. We’ve spent a lot of time investing in the future, ours and that of the world, but I forgot to live in the present and find the joys that come at you every day. I don’t know what I will do but I expect we will make the day trips we have planned for years happen, go out and see and meet people in odd and unfamiliar places, have brunch and dinner with old friends,  and hopefully some of the new. We won’t be able to afford the honeymoon we never took, but I bet we can find other ways to celebrate our love.

Many of you know I am a Dem town chair, the chair of a Dem collective, and I hold an at-large seat on the county Dem committee. I contribute to many Dem/Progressive websites and admin just as many. I’ve made a concerted effort to get people involved online and to get them to be good digital citizens. I’ve tried as often as I could to get the Dems to use online tools and to adopt them as early as possible. Those things won’t change, but I am going to change how I approach these and how and when I contribute.  I’m not going to make them a priority over the other things I have mentioned. I’m a digital immigrant; I understand how important technology is for our future and I love using it, but I’ve realized over the past few months that social media has become an unhealthy distraction for me. In some ways it has become toxic for me, so much so it is obvious now that I need time, much more time, away from it. A tool is only helping you when it lessens your burden or makes getting to a goal easier.

Since I won’t be here too often to chime in on political affairs I’ll close with some thoughts on that, because I do believe it is very important to be involved, to voice yourself, and to vote, even if that vote, that voice, that involvement  seems meaningless from where you stand. Those things are only meaningless if you don’t do them. 

There isn’t any subtle or nice way to do the next part, when your nation is a supersized, self –involved, 24/7, televised, shit show of political WrestleMania.  In November most Americans will feel they are faced with two choices, from the two largest parties, when electing the next president of the Republic, if we can even get them to a voting booth.  Both have ascended to acquire their party nomination, for all that is worth. Both have acquired massive funding and endorsements, for the little that is worth.  One is equal parts failed billionaire businessman and closet fascist, with hints of megalomania and apparently a complete lack of empathy and no awareness of even some of the simplest concepts of our government and our history.  The second is a wealthy, corporatist, neoliberal whose sell by date expired about eight years ago and has not lived a normal life for at least two decades. Out of touch doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface.  It’s like someone forgot to go shopping, opened up the fridge, found the two old boxes of baking soda hanging around in the back, and has now decided to sell them as a grand, sumptuous buffet. 

No matter what pleasant marketing you hear or what glossy words come out of their mouths believe none of it. Question everything about them.  If I believed in god I would think she was playing some kind of cruel cosmic joke; I don’t and this isn’t funny at all. Neither will help our people or the people of the world.  Neither is a good choice, in fact despite what you hear, both are very bad choices. Call them out when they lie or are wrong; make them crawl for every inch they seek to gain. Most importantly, do not let them rewrite history, especially their own. They deserve no less for seeking such a high office and deserve even more scrutiny once they hold it.

A less sizable portion of the population will have an interest in the smaller parties. You won’t hear much about them or the candidates from those parties. Corporate media completely shuts them out, they have no voice on election commissions, and most laws make it very hard from them to function.  Money also keeps them from progressing; our society requires large amounts of money to clear paths, build momentum, and bring in people. All of them are making gains since the proliferation of social media and online social networking. They are a long way from being viable- that is they can’t threaten major candidates yet, but everything has to have a beginning. People who vote for these parties or those that leave lines blank or choose to vote by write in, tend to be demonized, ostracized, and demeaned openly by both the two largest parties and candidates and supporters from those parties. This is a behavior I find most distasteful and reprehensible. This election season has been brutal in this respect.

If we really want people to be a part of the process, if we want them to vote, we should be coming from a place that supports that, no matter who the citizen chooses. I may not like that someone will vote for a fascist, but it undermines our process, it undermines the Republic, it undermines us ever getting to a representative Democracy if you do not honor the right to choose freely and unencumbered.  

Knowing all of this, I think everyone should be asking themselves some tough questions:

·         How did a possible fascist ascend to the status of a nominee in one the major parties? What ties does this have to our sexist, racist, xenophobic past and present? What are we going to do about it?
·         Why is the other nominee doing so poorly faced with such an opponent?
·         Would the nation be better off with more parties that are only publicly funded? How do we make that happen?
·         Can we make our campaigns more efficient for our people and cut down run times for campaigning?
·         With both major party nominees being highly corporatist, how do we get money out of politics, when both parties seem more than willing to keep taking any cash no matter where it comes from?
·         How do we change how politics is covered when the media is corporate owned and controlled by so few?
·         How do we report, investigate, and audit, in a world where corporate interests control and manipulate information so readily? 
·         Are we being feminists when we trumpet one female candidate and ignore others because they are not part of a major or an opposing party?
·         Why are both major parties so opposed to a national voting holiday?
·         If we can get more people to vote and participate in the process, how do we make it easier for them to get elected to higher office, once they have experience, when the process we have now prevents that at every turn?
·         How do we get the entrenched elites to hand over the mantle to younger voices more in tune with the present concerns of society?
 This is hardly a complete list, but it is a good start.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. That is up to you. I can make you no promises and unlike so many in the political world, I cannot tell you our future. That depends so much on what every citizen does now and what they will do. I will offer this advice before I go. Try new things. Learn new things. Be around people who aren’t like you. If you aren’t involved in your neighborhood or community look for ways you could connect to it. If you are unplugged, plug in and if you are plugged in all the time, unplug.  Serve on committees or task forces or councils. Donate your time to non-profits. Run for local office and keep trying if you don’t make it the first time.  Find as many things as you can to enjoy and do them often.  

 Question everyone and everything. Vote in every election, no matter how crazy the candidates seem.  Find ones you like and support them.  All of these things will strengthen us and fortify our spirit, as individuals and as a nation. We’ll need that because in four months when I reconnect, no matter who will be in the oval office next year, we will have the fight of our lives on our hands. I imagine anything before will seem like child’s play. See you all in four months when I’m recharged and reloaded.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via / CC BY-NC