I've written about this before and will most likely repeat some of my talking points.
Let me start with a little story. Should I really have to say this? I'm from the American Southeast. Every flipping point we express starts with a story. Even science ed is prefaced by stories before anyone gets to the meat of the facts we're supposed to absorb. But I digress.
I'm from the American Southeast. Of course, I digress. Everything we write or say wanders through mental pigtrots before we arrive at... Okay. I'll stop.
In the mid-eighties, I attended an art school in the East Bay. For one of my classes I had to document the visual and texual evolution of a comic strip. So many of the usual suspects were done to death. After all, this school was located right on the Oakland/Berkeley line. It was a storied landmark of mid-century counterculture. Owsley Stanley sold Blue Cheer on the steps leading down to the sidewalk in front of the campus. The instructor who taught that class was probably on the brink of shooting up the bad public sculpture in Nahl Garden if he had to read one more paper about Doonesbury or Mister Natural.
So I picked Little Orphan Annie. (For those who know me, yeah, I know. Really? No Pogo Possum?) Even though I was living in the Peoples' Republic of Northern California, resources were thin on the ground at my school regarding Pogo. I was so over people starting up conversations just to hear me talk, the idea of going to Mills or Berkeley and asking for whatever they had about Pogo made me feel -What's a good, polite word for this?- disinclined.
I don't remember much about Little Orphan Annie except the scolding tone got to me and I'd do some research and then flee to the Pacific Film Archive to watch East European animation for the rest of the afternoon. One thing that stood out was the repeated warning to keep your politics to yourself. Every election cycle, there would be a strip with someone badgering a neighbor to reveal how they cast their vote. In the last panel Annie and Daddy Warbucks would appear to remind everyone that talking about your vote was not only rude, it was un-American! Right Sandy? ARF!
Here I was, right in the middle of an election year and... You want to know what is more disappointing than turning in your V card? Going to vote for the first time and your options are Reagan/Bush and Mondale/Ferraro. Politics permeated everything. I couldn't go buy a graphite pencil or take a walk without someone shoving a clipboard in my face demanding to know where I stood the on the election or Sandinistas or if I cared about the snail darters. (Pro tip: Yelling "A snail darter ate mah deddy!" will scare away some members of the Birkenstock crowd.)
By the time I returned to Beulah Land, I was pretty firm about my left to center views and had a fairly well-developed loathing of my fellow progressives. I voted, but my energy went to specific causes that were important to me. I got the vibe that public figures who got teary over the babies at St. Jude or the AIDS/HIV death tolls one minute and turned around and voted to abbreviate the rights of the same people on those lists were pretty much full of it.
Over the years, the more I knew about Of The People people, the more I realized what they did and said had nothing to do with the greater good or leaving a better place for the generations to come. This was all about winning and power and money. Voting was not a grand exercise in showing democracy in action. It was about holding my nose and pushing the button every two to four years. So I decided to be good for goodness sake and let the cults eat each other.
The culty "them versus us" dichotomy has gotten worse over the years. Families, friendships, and marriages that might have weathered differences in the past have devolved into socially balkanized units who talk the same, walk the same, and love or hate cilantro and pineapple on pizza.
It was in this environment that I created an artist and artisans group for my suburb of the Greater Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Area. It was and is a growing thing with good people, some of whom are trying to make a living by making and others who see it as a hobby that speaks to them.
Warning: I'm heading into another story.
One of the members made beautiful things. Their work wasn't just clever. They were making the kinds of things that could eventually be viewed as family heirlooms. All of us were awed by this person's talent.
Via backchannel, I contacted a friendly acquaintance who runs a gallery and represents this sort of artist. I asked if he wanted to take a look at the work they had posted and possibly represent them.
The next day, I got messages from group members complaining about this artist. What I saw was a beautifully executed item of an image that is now associated with extremists at one end of the political spectrum. I tried to reach this person, but they had disabled messages, so I finally had to take the post down, as well as some retaliatory posts from the other end of the political spectrum.
I posted a message restating that everyone needed to holster their politics at the door. This wasn't the place for it. Some people liked the post. Not a word from the political posters. I also contacted the Gallery Guy, who was one of the people who reached out to me. He told me he wanted to take a wait and see attitude. Things got fairly quiet and I got back to the task of finding resources for the art people.
Then it happened again. Monday the image went up and I was not quick enough in taking it down and gallery guy saw it and noped away from this artist. Here was what he had to say:
"Going to pass on this one, J. I'm sorry because I know you were trying to help (redacted) and me. Just to
be clear on this, it wasn't about (their) politics. You know I have people from all over the map on my
walls. When someone shows you they can't behave in an online forum, it's a good bet they're going to be
hard to deal with at the gallery. They are talented and I hope they find their niche. It's just not at (redacted.)"
This has me frustrated and sad. The artist did this out of loyalty to political leaders who will never know his name and would not care that he screwed himself out of a decent side-income. I seem to be saying this more and more often. When you set out to own the fascists and own the libtards, the person who is more than likely going to get owned is you. People smarter than I am are addressing the bigger issues. Let them go macro, I'll stick to micro. We're shitting the bed every time our populace lurches to one side or the other in futile search for that sweet spot where one foot stays uncovered and the cool side of the pillow stays cool. I am talking about something a little more localized, doable on an individual level, and a part of being a good earthling.
To the point (Really? NOW you want to get to the point?) quit trying to turn your life into a hybrid echo chamber and hugbox of people who think, talk, act, and live like you. If things feel flat and shallow and you feel peevish all the time, it might be because you have lost the ability to tolerate any form of disagreement. I'm not saying you shouldn't take a stand for the things that are important to you. Relentless screaming with no interludes of inside voices and -YES- the blessed quietitude of listening wear everyone down. When everything is critical, nothing is important.
All of those politicians, every one of them: The Clintons and Cruzes and Trumps and Bidens of the world really don't give a damn about the people who argue and advocate and vote. (And we do need to vote!) It's up to us to care for each other. People? In the big picture, we're all we've got.
picture credit: This is an internet meme. If anyone knows who made it, please let me know so I can give them credit. Thanks!