By Ken Krayeske • 1:19 AM EST
W orking on Nader's 2004 presidential campaign, we endured all sorts of calls from people who once were Ralph's biggest fans, from all across the country, urging him to drop out of the race.
We defended Nader's Frist Amendment rights on the phone, and tried to hang up with them in under 30 seconds. Why waste time? Interoffice banter referred to these callers as chicken-shit liberals or viral progressives.
The name-calling allowed us to dehumanize the other, the enemy who we thought was with us, in order to protect ourselves. It's kind of easy to label Joe Schmo from San Francisco an idiot when he calls you the same for trying to actually implement the progressive policies you want.
But how do you respond to those you love who disagree with your policy ideals? Your friends are your mirrors, the saying goes.
I feed the illusion that I surround myself with people who demonstrate characteristics I want to see in myself: smart, critical thinkers who are adventurous, brave, bold, courageous, fearless, loving, caring, compassionate, generous, funny, fun-loving, mischevious, mysterious, skilled, filled with wonder and awe, real, dispensing with pretense, among other things.
To expect everyone I know to fall in line with my views is a fallacy, and it would make for a boring world. Yet the past couple of days, ideas I hold as naked truth, so natural as to be undeniable, have been questioned by people who I thought shared such convictions with me.
For example, my mom is a justice of the peace, but she swore to me she will not marry gays in Connecticut, despite the recent landmark CT Supreme Court ruling and the promise from legislators to codify said opinion into statute.
Clearly, I learned my ability to persevere and stick to my guns from somewhere. She and I have not always agreed on my politics, which is understandable because she has read a conservative daily newspaper for more than 35 years.
Yet she always treats my friends as family, and when I asked my mom if she would marry my gay friends, who she has welcomed into her home previously, she said no. That hurt.
I understand the conflict the new law presents to her lifelong practice of Roman Catholicism. The Catholic Church has a relatively schizophrenic attitude on what it refers to as sodomy: It's to be protected if a priest does it to an altar boy, but to be condemned if two consenting adults in love practice it.
Somewhere in the New Testament, a character named Jesus utters the wisdom: "Give to God what is God's, give to Caesar what is Caesar's." So marriage is traditionally the domain of the church, but a JP is a secular state actor who confers rights and privileges to married couples.
A priest will say "marraiges are made in heaven" and "man cannot break what God has joined" at a wedding. The JP says "By the power vested in me by the state of Connecticut, I now pronounce you man and wife."
Sorry, Mom, but I think the legislature needs to mandate that JPs have to marry gays and straights in order to be JPs.
Or take one of my friends who got arrested for marijuana - smoking on a city street late one night. A virtual SWAT team descended upon said friend sparking up a one-hitter glass pipe.
Once stuffed in a paddy wagon, said friend endured a night in jail, $1,500 for a lawyer, and a year's probation. A SWAT team? For weed? What a waste.
Today, this friend told me that the economy is too weak to legalize marijauna. "People are too afraid of crime," friend said. "The political atmosphere isn't there." And besides that, no one will stand up for it.
Okay, that is like saying we can't end slavery because we are in a civil war, or that we can't legalize abortion because women are dying in back alley abortions.
The war on drugs is a genocidal proposition, where America stocks its prisons better than any country on the face of the planet. Yet we can't end it because people are afraid of going broke and getting robbed?
I have trouble comprehending the reasoning that allows us to say, yeah, I am a productive citizen who contributes to the general welfare of society, but I accept arrest, humiliation, and the government prying into my private life because said government deems conduct I engage as harmful to me.
Whereas, the warehouse prisons will make me a better person. Why do we engage in such illusions? How do we convince ourselves we are right?
Probably because another friend texted me from a special farm in California, where the plants are taller than he is. And no, he is not upset that he left a corporate job to cultivate the funky, skunky smelly green shit. Cali is a foreign country. How do we import its way of thinking?
California can get its shit together, and effectively legalize it, but some who smoke weed here think it should remain illegal because the public is afraid of crime?
The worst "legalize it" conversation I ever had was with some potheads who said weed should remain illegal because to bring it above the table, to regulate it and tax it would ruin the underground culture and mystique of weed. What?
This self-defeatist find-any-reason-not-to-rock-the-boat progressive logic I see in anti-war friends who make sizable donations to the Obama campaign.
Obama is a candidate for perpetual warfare. Sure, he promised to look out for the little guy this week by espousing Hillary's idea of a 90-day foreclosure freeze, but generally, Obama would use the residents of those houses as cannon-fodder for doomed imperial adventures in Asia.
Not to repeat myself from previous posts, but I cannot fathom how people who I have professional respect for, people who I think argue intelligent positions and demonstrate clear thinking, as well as a good sense of justice and an ability to see right and wrong, can legitimize Colin Powell's so-called Pottery Barn Rule - you break it, you bought it - as applied to Iraq.
Aside from the fact that most retailers write off breakage, this rule smacks of such American exceptionalism and hegemonic, megalomaniac thinking, that America can and must and is destined to save the world - that it is absurd.
But we can't withdraw now, who will fix the mess we made? Not us. We made the mess, we have to leave. Imagine you're at a party, and a neighbor you didn't invite walks in, smashes the dining room table, busts all the liquor bottles and pisses on all the food. You don't listen to that jackass when he says "Don't worry, I'll throw you a new party, where you can choose the hors d'ouvres." You call the police and arrest the sonofabitch.
A restatement of the Pottery Barn rule reads "you invade it, you own it." The nonsensical, logical conclusion of that rule arrives at Hitler still occupying Poland, France, Belgium, Norway and Czechoslovakia. Why can't we see that? Why are we willing to let the rude party guest defecate in the kitchen sink?
Is it a question of that point of view not being discussed in the marketplace of ideas, the so-called media? And thus, I wonder, why is it I feel so alone among my friends and family after I read this Chris Hedges' piece?
I place no hope in Obama or the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a pathetic example of liberal, bourgeois impotence, hypocrisy and complacency. It has been bought off. I will vote, if only as a form of protest against our corporate state and an homage to Polanyi's brilliance, for Ralph Nader. I would like to offer hope, but it is more important to be a realist. No ethic or act of resistance is worth anything if it is not based on the real. And the real, I am afraid, does not look good.
Somewhere along the way, I have misread myself and my closest acquaintances. Does it mean I need to get new friends? New family? Or do I need to find new ways of convincing them of the merits of my position?