After the Election

A palpable sense of shock and depression descended on a lot of my friends last night, once we realized that it was another mind-boggling public endorsement for insanity and barbarism. As Mona put it, “Ignorant idiots in the middle of nowhere are the vanguard.”
I was just shopping at the Farmer’s Market in U.N. Plaza and a guy went past me, blabbing into his cellphone. All I heard was “They speak the same language, but it’s a different country.” Presumably he was trying to explain what happened…
A lot of friends who came by our house last night after Dia de los Muertos to see the results seemed to expect me to have some cheerful and uplifting thoughts, given my well-known history of disdain for elections, Democrats, and this whole process.

But I cannot claim anything good from this outcome. More police state, more overtly fascist culture, glorification of a pinhead leader, militarism, bombing, overthrowing other governments through covert and overt means, economic blackmail increasing its vise grip on people across the planet. My daughter Francesca argued with me yesterday that it would be just as well for Bush to win and let the system fall apart under his rule, and that it would happen ever faster, and that more people would see more clearly how corrupt and anti-democratic it all is. Maybe. But I see little evidence for any variation of the ol’ immiseration theory of revolt. People don’t revolt, especially in creative, pleasure-oriented ways, when they’re tired, scared, and under enormous pressure. Most people seem to embrace tired shibboleths, authority, and projections of power and strength (no matter how obviously false) in the bizarre hope that ‘daddy’ will make it all go away… And as someone on another email I got today pointed out, there is a deep tradition of racism and violence in the parts of the U.S. that gave Bush super majorities (the south and empty far west) and his campaign played to that… God, guns and gays in a strange brew of fear, racism, and xenophobia.
People interested in a radical break with this organization of life have to stop and think at least. There are 50+ million people in the United States who hate and fear critical thinking, who do not want to know ‘facts’, who give more credence to the received messages of the propaganda machine than to their own daily truths. But they believe they are honest, true, and living in harmony with some deep “values.” Hard to believe, but at some point we have to accept it at face value too.
In publicly presenting The Political Edge I wasn’t sure how this election would affect our soft claim that the book reveals something bigger about where urban politics is going. I think the book actually makes two contrasting claims: 1. that the Gonzalez campaign was a precursor to a larger re-engagement with politics and a mobilization of/by “young” people; 2. that the politics reflected in the diverse essays in the book are characteristically invisible in our society, that no one speaks for or to this rather large minority that mostly inhabits the Kerry-leaning areas of the country but are not spoken for or to by the Democrats either. Some of this constituency is the traditional working class and working poor (and of course the underclass beneath that). Another part is the growing number of people who are engaged in various projects of personal and community expression, whether artistically, technologically, or culturally. There is a politics of all this activity, but it does not show up in the “political world” as we generally understand it. Thus, my intro to the book is called “What is Political?” precisely to underscore this fact.
Well the sky is still up there. Perhaps it will fall, but I doubt it. But how do we move forward to a new way of political expression, one that can grow, spark new alliances, reinforce basic criticality and mutual aid, promote thinking, vigorous discussion and internationalism?…

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