Vote, then Knock on Wood; Or, All I want for Christmas is Direct Action!
By Michael McGehee at Oct 30, 2010
“What is 'it,' this tragic comedy, or comedic tragedy,” you might ask. It’s voting in our rigged political system with no follow-up of a massive, popular, autonomous, social movement to compel the political and business leaders to do as we say. Which is, “Shut up, geezers and get out of the way. Your time is over. The Days of Old are behind us. The cold death of winter is done. Spring has come and gone. Summer has left us too and it’s time to collect our harvest.” Then we take our thumbs and forefingers, flick and say, “Shoo, fly. Don’t bother me.” Just like we would fling a soggy booger. Or we all bust out singing, ?This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius!? Or maybe not—
Of course, that hasn’t happened. We still live in a capitalist, classist, militaristic, petrol-imperialist, authoritarian, sexist, racist, ecologically destructive and superstitious society. Voting Democratic hasn't changed any of that. (In many ways it has reinforced it, especially the superstitious part which is really odd since so many supporters of the Democratic Party come from the pro-science crowd and claim to be disciples of logic and reason.) Hence, the tragic/comedic broken record.
I have studied our species closely. In my spare time I am somewhat of an amateur scientist. I haven't discovered the Theory of Everything. Though, I have observed that we often for superstitious purposes. People used to look around and ask, "How did that get there," and then reply with, "God put it there." Now we look at things and see all the problems we face: Unemployment. Foreclosures. Income, gender and racial disparities. Wars. Climate change. Bailing out Wall Street and bailing on Main Street. Police brutality. The TV show, Desperate Housewives. All the horrible things that plague us. We see these things and ask, "How will we get out of this predicament," and we reply, "I will vote." We vote because we want to right those wrongs and we think voting does that. (We don't want catty, superficial, sexually objectifying TV programming; we want more Extreme Makeover: Home Edition because we like to see people coming together to take action in helping the vulnerable among us because we are moved by their heart-felt stories.) But voting doesn’t right them. That’s the comedy. Then comes election time and we vote again. What do we get? The TV show, Cougar Town. Now it’s a tragedy again. Things remain pretty bad. Comedy. We vote again. Tragedy.
Hypothesis: humans are intelligent beings who often lack the follow through. Please peer review me.
I would like to think the liberals are at least “slowly” learning their lesson; I would also like to think that many of the jaded liberals who fell for the $700+ million PR branding campaign in 2008, and who might sit out this mid-term election are instead focusing on movement building; that since 2009 they have gained some higher level of consciousness in regards to how our political and economic systems work; that the bitter experience of being burned by politicians who make empty promises has taught them the valuable lesson that being a rube is no way to be; that we—without leaders—have to change the world ourselves; that they have birthed some systemic analysis in their minds (a poet might have wanted to use “hearts” just then but I am not a poet and I remember what my father once told me, “Son, you think with your head, not your heart; your heart is meant for pumping blood”) that have taken root and has begun to germinate.
The metaphor I envision to accompany this is not some dope choosing a bulb of some beautiful flower and thinking it will plant and till itself, or that the manufacturer will do the work for him or her (because you know the manufacturer would like nothing more for you to not bury it and then in your dumbfounded confusion come back and buy another bulb and repeat ad nauseum. Can you say “ca-ching”?), but a thoughtful, cognizant person carefully finding that plant that best expresses their personalities and desires, finding rich, unpolluted soil in which to plant it, and with spade and watering can in hand, nurture it with clean water and lots of warm sunshine.
I would like to think all of that because (I like to think) late last year in a fit of desperation, I abandoned my sense of logic and reason (I am not generally a superstitious person or a Vulcan) and drove my 2007 Mazda 3 to the Parks Mall. I marched in, sat my 29 year-old tokus on Santa Claus’s lap, and looked that jolly fat bastard in the eye and said,
Santa, all I want for Christmas is for folks, especially the liberals, to get that voting is not enough; that thinking so is a silly superstition and if they are going to insist in taking this delusion hook, line and sinker then they might as well knock on woof for all the good it will do them; that choosing between two narrow options on who gets to represent Wall Street (while seeing who can take the biggest crap on the working poor) is nothing to get excited about; that playing Follow the Leader is not the same as liberating ourselves; that we—men, women, gays, straight, whitey, people of color, immigrants, students, retirees—gotta build self-organized and self-managed unions and movements if we want anything to really "change."
He looked at me real closely. It felt like a lifetime but was probably only a few seconds. He picked up a big, old leather book, rummaged through the names and came upon “Michael Bradley McGehee – 29, Kennedale, Texas” and with a twinkle in his eye he said, “Hmmm. That sure is asking for a lot, Michael. Basically, you are asking for liberals to stop cheerleading for the Democratic Party, to see voting as a means and not an end, to go into the voting booth knowing that regardless of who they vote for they will have to struggle with the politicians because in our rigged political system there is a dictatorship of capital and if they vote they are not choosing someone to represent them but the person they think they can struggle with the least like some proverbial "path of least resistance," and to become radical organizers and activists dedicated to transformative social change. Do I have that right?" I nodded in affirmation. "Let me think about this. Hmmm. It seems you were an awfully good boy this year. I tell you what. I will see what I can do.”
I got down, marched right out of the mall, got back into my car and drove home. I never told anyone about it. Not even my wife. I thought it might jinx things. And then I started thinking about how absurd the whole thing was. Surely, to ask Santa for this wasn't any different than liberals voting for Democrats and expecting something in return . . . other than the same ole compete-for-corporate-financing hogwash that passes for "politics" in this country. I was leaving change up to the sole inhabitant of the North Pole; I was expecting him to lead the way. I reminded myself of what Eugene Debs said about following leaders. That we shouldn't follow anyone because even if some Moses could lead us into the Promised Land then someone else could lead us out; that if we move forward, and find our way out of this capitalist wilderness, then it will be the result of a growing consciousness and determination to make the world better, not deferring and genuflecting to authority, or exercises of superstition.