Saturday, June 9, 2012

Something that Made Me Mad

The other day, on NPR, the place where I get a lot of my news, I heard the story about the fundraising battle of the two presidential candidates--mounting into the multimillions on both sides, one striving to outdo the other, two gladiators fighting with dollars. This broke my heart at the same time that it prompted the anger surge that could turn a vulnerable type into a monster. What a waste, I thought. Put the multimillions into the schools and the refrigerators of hungry people. Use it to fix the infrastructure and clean up environmental disasters and provide health care for people who need it. Don't piss it away on attack ads and all the rest of the stupidity. I wonder how many people really are undecided as to their vote (I mean, really undecided, not just in the answers they give in opinion polls) and/or are swayed by all those speeches and ads and bus tours. And by the way, as Gail Collins wrote in the Times a couple weeks ago, why are we even going to bother with the Democratic and Republican conventions--and all the waste of money and time and resources they entail--when we already know the outcome of both?

Anyway, it made me mad--with a bitter feeling--more than I usually feel about political issues or questions. I'm far more interested in literature and art and sociological/anthropological questions. It rattled me (and by the way, that's not a rattlesnake up there; it's a python). And it was a feeling that's been hard to let go of. At the same time, it's a feeling that's hard to know what to DO with.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my friend Margaret. She lives in DC, and I hadn't seen her for a long time, and it was wonderful to see her, and we had a great afternoon, sitting in my yard and drinking homemade ginger limeade and catching up on old times as well as the present. But as it approached the time for her to leave, our conversation sort of veered into the dark territory of uncertainty about the future and the economy and all the rest.

It seemed important not to part from each other with that kind of darkness in the air, so I told her about Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif's commitment to optimism as a moral imperative, which I have written about here before. And that seemed to soothe Margaret a bit. And then she told me how living in DC had gotten her addicted to following the news, in every detail, including reading every opinion piece, and how this had really come to wear her down, especially last summer, during all the budget shenanigans. And she told me that she had decided to almost 100% swear off reading the news, and especially opinion pieces ("They're just opinions," she said), and that as a result, she has come to feel far more centered and peaceful, focusing on the pieces of the world that matter most to her and that she can actually affect. She also mentioned how much she appreciates Jon Stewart and his take on politics, as well as the rally he held last year, and which she attended. And together we expressed awe at what he did that day, and especially (in my opinion) the piece he did at the end, about how humans really do know how to cooperate. Look at what they do every single day to get through the Holland Tunnel.
 And with that, we finished our ginger limeade, and Margaret had to move on to her next stop.


Jody said...

Wow, Susan, you express some of the same things I've said to Marty regarding political campaign spending!

Susan Messer said...

Thank you, dear. It's good to feel that connection with you across time and space, thinking alike even if we didn't know it. said...

My husband and I are addicted to news - Brian Williams, Rachel and MSNBC in general. In reality we watch "preaching to the choir" news, as I think most people do. The intelligent among us, especially our generation, has reason to be appalled by what we hear and see. Waste of money and distraction from the important issues is the talk from both political parties. Tell me how good your car is. I don't want to hear about the competition. That request seems to be gone along with the car dealers on Livernois.

While Gail Collins and Paul Krugman are brilliant, their efforts, too, are repetitious. The most intelligent write about their opinions, which are not necessarily reality.

These are bad times partly because voters do not pay attention or are not educated (or both) about the truths of literature, art, and sociological/anthropological truths. I will add musical lyrics to those truths that are ignored.

So, what to DO with those feelings? All we can do as individuals is to live our lives with dignity and compassion and carry a plastic bag to clean up the mess left by those who don't care. We can still chose to support what we wish, thereby creating hope and optimism to at least a small degree.

Susan Messer said...

True. Sometimes the most we can do is quietly clean up the small messes that others leave behind. thanks for reminding me that this is meaningful work. It's easy to get discouraged.

Jim Poznak said...

The wasteful spending is terrible, but so is the influence over politicians that the big donors are buying.

Susan Messer said...

True, dat. It's bad from many angles.