Time to roll out an old complaint. This is going to sound horribly arrogant, in no small part because it is, at least a little, but I sometimes wonder if humanity in general and Americans in particular are mature enough for democracy. When push comes to shove I do not actually believe that. Maturity really is not a prerequisite for self determination, at least absolute maturity is not. That is a good thing too, because Americans are really immature about their politics. Going back to my oft used comparison, Americans treat politics like a football game, rooting for their team even when it is clear when their team is not rooting for them. So long as their guys are winning they don’t care what they are doing and when they are losing anything the other guys do is wrong.
Case in point this little comment I read in response to a friend’s status:
“I’ve been posting about the militarization of the police for a long time on Facebook and up to this point very of my few Democrat friends seemed concerned.”
Color me skeptical but somehow I suspect that posting started on January 20, 2009. For eight years of the Bush-Cheney administration few, if any, self-described conservatives and/or Republicans had any problem with the militarization of the police. If you weren’t doing anything wrong, you didn’t have anything to be afraid of. That was the mantra we heard from the right over and again. Then the country elected a Democrat, and a black one at that, and, bam, epiphany time. Suddenly police departments with military grade equipment is a big concern for them.
This epiphany coincided with a similar one from liberals/Democrats that, hey, maybe authority figures aren’t so bad after all. If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you don’t have… hey, wait, this sounds familiar. Suddenly lobbing missiles into civilian populaces was acceptable for “national security” and extra judicial killing was acceptable for the same and if you aren’t with us you are ag… wait… familiar again. On the other side of the aisle we found a new respect for the institution of the Presidency.
This does not end at law enforcement or foreign policy issues. Twelve years of Reagan-Bush were accompanied by (completely justified) vilification of “voodoo” trickle down economics. Come January of 1993 the script entirely changed. Now Democrats were reading for a part in “Dr. Strangelove II: Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Deregulation.” Bill Clinton and his friends in both parties in Congress accelerated the gutting of New Deal era stop gaps designed to protect the country from another Great Depression all so the top 10 percent could make out like bandits in the stock market (yeah, I know the chant is “we are the 99%, but the last 9 of those forgot about a lot of their country men during the tech boom.) People who were outraged about Reagan’s “welfare queens” dig now embraced “fiscal responsibility” so long as that fiscal responsibility did not touch companies like Lockheed Martin and Westinghouse and hurt their portfolios. It was all acceptable, because now their guy was in the White House.
I would hope that we were not that hypocritical and shallow about our values. It is worth noting that this seems mostly to be a Democrat/Republican dichotomy and not a left/right one. Say what you will about the lunatic fringe of the tea party, but they stay on message. The same can be said of radical left (who no, I will not call lunatic fringe, I have tested their ideas and for the most part, not found them wanting. Sorry if I offend you by not dancing the false equivalency tango.) I suppose it is not so surprising. I use the sports analogy and to be frank I see the same convenient ethics in folks’ support of their teams. If their rival’s star player is caught with his pants down it is an outrage when he gets a slap on the wrist, but if it is their QB caught for the same offense, then that same slap on the wrist is a witch hunt. I don’t hear any Steelers fans clamoring to kick Ben “Embodiment of Rape Culture” Roethlisberger to the curb. Like I said, immature.
That word probably makes it seem like it is no big deal. After all, kids are immature and aren’t they so adorable with their antics. The thing is our antics in our political “beliefs” have real world effects. People die because of our childish handling of our democracy. We support hawkish policies when our team is in the lead and watch the collateral damage (read: senseless loss of innocent life) pile up. We support deregulation policies written by the big donors for both parties when our guys are in the lead and people right here at home starve to death. Forty percent of our country men are living on the edge, and quite a few of those have fallen over and all Democrats or Republicans do is finger wag never seeing that “their” team is as corrupt as the other one. Democrats and Republicans all worry about a corporate take over of America, they just worry about it more when the other guys are in the Oval Office. They take the easy way out of blaming the other guy, rather than listen to folks willing to try something new, and we suffer as a society for it. Your immaturity is a very big deal.
Being a grown up is scary. It means making choices and sacrifices and sometimes choices about sacrifices. Actually, there are a lot of choices about sacrifices, because that is just life. I don’t think Americans are unwilling to make sacrifices. After all, we are the same country that rationed in the middle of two world wars. We are often generous when the pain of others slaps us across the face and we cannot ignore it. We do, however, seem to have a hard time doing the grown up thing and making the hard decisions about what sacrifices are worth it and which aren’t. Better to leave it in our “betters” hands, so long as our “betters” are those we identify with. Well we don’t get an out for that. it is a cop out and I think you know it. Every bad decision, every back room deal, every bomb dropped and every kid shot down in the streets, that’s on all of us and no amount of cheer leading for Blue or Red is going to take that away.