I spend very little time watching, reading, or listening to the political discourse these days. For awhile, just after the 2008 election, I was under the mistaken impression that things would improve; that the inanity was somehow going to dissipate with the presence of an intelligent, well-spoken man behind the desk in the Oval Office. We all know that didn't happen, don't we?
We all know that, if anything, the right has become more shrill and more inane in its proclamations and accusations. Including taking every disastrous, unpopular result of eight years of Bush Administration policies and immediately projecting them on to President Obama. The Economic Crisis? Obama's fault. The Bail-out? Obama's idea (No one mentions the free bailout money the Bush Administration dished out shortly before Bush left office. It's like it never happened…) It's Obama's fault that he has been unable to wave a magic wand and create new jobs for everyone who lost theirs as a result of a runaway financial system left unregulated by the Bush Administration. The Gulf Oil Disaster has been characterized as "Obama's Katrina," even though it was most probably the result of at least eight years (prior to Obama's election) of rule by a Big-Oil Puppet King. Last week, Michael Steele decided to add the war in Afghanistan to the list of Obama's transgressions. (We are supposed to forget this war has been going on for eight years and Obama's only been in office for two…)
And then there's Sarah Palin.
If I let myself think about it, I would still have a nearly irresistible desire to put my house on the market, pack my bags and my animals and head for some remote backwoods in Canada to live out my life in blissful political ignorance (with better health care…)
But I don't let myself think about it. In fact, I just can't go there, because it's all so flagrant and hopeless, this hype/attack/demonize/destroy political method that has taken hold of our country. For the past two years, I've been (metaphorically) trying to function with my fingers in my ears and humming really loud. I almost get to the place where I can choose my own reality—that I'm actually living in a country (a world?) governed by grown-ups. And then something happens that rudely drags me out of that rarified space and douses me with a bucket of cold, green, slimy reality.
Something like that happened last week. I was behind the counter at the café, and an old gentleman walked up to the counter and asked where the offices for the phone company were. (In fact he asked for the wrong phone company…the one that covers most of the county but NOT our little town. Evidently, he finds it inconvenient to read the name at the top of his phone bill…) Maybe it will just be easier to relate the conversation:
LOG (Little Old Gentleman): Do you know where's the office for (wrong phone company) around here?
Me: We don't have (wrong phone company.) We have (right phone company.) And their offices are right across the street.
LOG: I went over there. But there's nobody there.
Me: I know. They don't have a customer service office over there anymore. You have to call the customer service number on your bill.
LOG: Well, I done that. And she keeps sayin' all these things that don't have nothin' to do with what I want. (I assumed this meant that he got lost in electronic phone menu land and didn't hear an option that appealed to him…)
Me: Yeah…sometimes those phone things can be kind of frustrating…
And then he launched into the story all about how his phone bill was fouled up and he got it fixed once, but he can't find the right people to help fix it this time. Went on and on for about five minutes, while I was politely trying to extricate myself from his tale of woe and get him to move on so I could wait on the customers in line behind him.
Me: Well, you just have to call that number and see if you can get to the right person.
LOG: Yeah… But ever since that Obama got in, ever'thin's been messed up…
That's right, folks. This Old Gentleman was going to blame Barack Obama for his woes with the local telephone company.
That's how far the poison has spread. How ingrained and integrated into our society this insane bullshit has become. That some little old guy in Nameless Small Town, USA believes that anything bad, anything negative that happens to him personally is the direct fault of the President of the United States. And, by god, he is going to cast his vote for the other side next time around…because the phone company messed up his bill.
I turned away from that suddenly insane exchange with the Little Old Gentleman, with my fists balled and an almost overwhelming desire to go and beat my head against the nearest wall…