Tuesday, November 25, 2014

American Crucible

Ferguson, Missouri was licked by the flames of unrepentant grief and anger, when her son, Mike Brown, was judged to have been unworthy of being given a voice by the justice system which supposedly protects him and all Americans from the murderous excesses of society. A police officer, who by many accounts took unwarranted action unfettered by justification, was allowed the triumph of spilling blood in the street.

Ferguson burned.

We revile the idea of violence. The violence of police, who seem less interested in protecting and more interested in assaulting. The violence of poverty, that causes a community to be sown with the seeds of despair. The violence of rage, unloosed with little provocation when the mood suits it. Violence in any form is despicable. We cannot condone the actions of those who thought bricks and bottles were appropriate counterpoints to grief and anger. We cannot applaud those who chose to punish innocent shop owners for the failures of a justice system by torches and thievery. No amount of violence makes the thing better or more palatable.

But we can understand.

For in the breast of every decent and compassionate American is a heart pounding, picturing a Black man sprawled on the ground, a White officer standing over him as rivulets of blood soak the pavement. Within that heart, our blood cries out to that blood, as it is forced to our brain, carrying the chemical equivalent of sorrow, grief, and above all, rage. Like the flames that devoured Ferguson, our anger flows into the tiny recesses of our brains, devouring hope and decency, leaving a furious ash, that would have us strike out and smite those who so gleefully revel in the actions of a rogue police officer.

We, too, are consumed by fire.

Mike Brown and Darren Wilson are far from symptoms of the wider scope that is a society still shot through with racism and hatred, unbent and undimmed despite a century-and-a-half's passing. They are the wound, that now should cause the blood of the body politic in America to flow, to bring the platelets that are required to heal the wound and the antibodies to inoculate us from further outbreaks of this malevolent disease that clings to life within. For when invaded, the body will turn to fever to try to burn away the invading organism, to deprive it of the conditions that allow for its growth. The cycles of fever and chills are meant to break the grip of the infection, to give the body time to build immunity.

So, too, must it be with Ferguson, Missouri. Let the fire smolder and let the chill of November descend. Let us cleanse the American body of this vile disease, which blemishes us and cripples us. Let it be known that no decent American will tolerate the denigration and destruction of any among us, no matter color nor creed. Let it be known that all who are citizens of America have equal rights under LAW, and where that law will not protect all, let us do what we must to ensure it does. Racism CANNOT prevail. We will NOT allow it. We will provide the antidote and the American body will take it in full measure.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Poll Taxing

As of now, you have three days until Election Day on November 4th. Three days to choose candidates and prepare to head to the only polls that count: the ones where the ballot boxes await.

For there's another kind of poll, the public opinion poll. The idea is simple: ask a certain segment of the population how likely they are to vote, if they are registered to vote, and who they will vote for. Tabulate the numbers. Voilá! You know who will win.

Except you don't. You have no actual idea who will win.

Because: opinions ARE NOT votes.

Opinions cannot be stuffed in a ballot box. Opinions cannot be entered in a voting machine. Opinions are NO SUBSTITUTE for an actual cast ballot.

And yet, a "cottage" industry has sprung up around electoral prognostication, the forecasting and foreshadowing of the eventual winners and losers. Reputations and fortunes have been made in "picking" the right horse in the Political Derby.

What you, dear American, may not realize about polls is this: IT IS ALL A SCAM.

You see, when this first began, if might have been about trying to determine who would win or lose, what people cared about, what issues could be made into a means to score points against an opponent. That's no longer the case. No, the opinion poll and its shill the pollster are a means to do something far more insidious: SUPPRESS THE VOTE.

Think of the political opinion poll as a newer, more subtle form of the poll tax, that egregious holdover from previous eras where voters were required to pony up money in order to be able to vote. It was a means to prevent people from voting that parties and candidates didn't want voting, mainly Blacks, but expanded to many other groups where there was need. Indeed, while the pollster may not be asking you for money, you pay them equally well with your apathy. For the pollsters know: a poll really only tells you what people who will answer their phone are thinking. There is a subset of America that is more than happy to answer a phone call and give their opinion as often as you would like, and that is the group pollsters mine, like glittering diamonds, at election time. By mining that seam, they know they can't actually speak to who will win or lose a particular race, but they can work their magic to effect the outcome.

It is a sad commentary on the American electoral system and civics in general, that the American citizen, on average, does not take their responsibility to vote seriously. You note I say "responsibility" and not "right," because while there is an inherent right to vote, that is because it is your responsibility to do so. Every American, born or naturalized, is sworn by their fealty to the Constitution to perform the necessary duty to choose a Federal government that will operate to manage the affairs of the nation. The Founding Fathers created this system, knowing it would only work properly if all citizens performed this duty reliably. Should any significant fraction of the American population decide that voting was too tiresome, too tedious, of too little interest, that would open the door to the politification of government and the disruption of the operation of the United States as a nation.

It was no less august a person than George Washington who counselled against faith in political parties and exhorted the citizenry to ensure the longevity of our country, by performing their duty and remaining engaged in civil dialogue and the affairs of government. Government Of, By, and For The People requires The People be so engaged, for where they are not, the vipers and power brokers surely will reign.

The opinion poll is only the latest weapon in the arsenal of anti-democracy, which seeks to ensure outcomes in elections by keeping citizens at home, by couching their choices in terms of the "lesser of two evils," and by making it clear that their votes can be wasted by voting for those who will "obviously" lose. It is a vast conglomerate of those who actively seek to manipulate the voting will of the public and those who do so, thinking they are somehow supporting democracy, when they are, in fact, hindering it.

If America is to regain her footing, if Federal government is to be made to work again, then it behooves us to shun the polls and their statistics and concentrate on what matters: the vote. Each of us has one vote, each of us should be able to use it, and if attempts are made to dissuade us, and barring that, forbid us from casting our ballot as we are enjoined to, then that is only to the advantage of those forces that seek to manipulate and control government to their own ends. By plying people with numbers, with mathematical certitude, and the aura of an ability for absolute prognostication, the forces of anti-democracy paint a bleak and ultimately fake picture of how our nation will operate, only for the purpose of ensuring it by keeping you at home, sitting on your hands, convinced your vote does no good.

The only wasted vote is the vote not cast. When you choose not to vote, you leave the decision of your fate up to those who are not interested in how their views will impact your life; they only seek to be placed in positions of power where they can enforce those views on you through the mechanism of law. When you choose not to vote, you allow your voice to be swallowed by a cacophony of mealy-mouthing, shrieking harpies that would drag our nation back into the darkest places from which we've fought so hard to remove ourselves. When you do not vote, you consign not just yourself, but your fellow Americans, to be ruled by those who seek only their self-aggrandizement, at the cost of a nation's dignity, honor, and duty to its people.

The poll is a pox on the body politic, along with unlimited campaign contributions and the blather of campaign advertisement. We are so enmeshed in a miasma of apathy generated by these things, that our nation is imperiled, pushed to the precipice of being supplanted in the world as a dominant power by our regression back into ignorance and theocracy. So much blood was spilled to give us the freedom to be the strong, independent nation we became, it is diabolical that we should water down that sacrifice with petty party politics and ineffectual Federal government.

There is time. You have the time. You can become informed. You can make choices. You CAN vote and start the process of change. Vote for the candidate that you can most support. If you can't find one, find someone you think could do the job, and write in their name. If you must, write in your own name on the line. Just take the time, make the determination, then go out on Election Day and do your sworn duty as a citizen. The change may not come overnight, but no river starts without the fall of a a few raindrops. Be the raindrop that leads to a river that scours away party politics, washes clean our Federal government, and nourishes the fields of democracy once more.