Bear With me, my dad was a preacher. I tend to lean toward parables.
I play the organ at a Catholic Church in small town Central Texas. I'm not Catholic - you'd have guessed that from the whole dad-was-a-preacher thing. It's a good gig and I love the people, but 2+ of my 4 years there have been spent with temporary priests. The one that almost drove me away was a Marian monk turned parish priest who preached almost exclusively on the horrible state of the world, leavened with Tooth Fairy promises that saying the Rosary daily and confessing weekly would magically change everything that is Destroying Our Nation/Church/Society.
He'd rail against sex education and I'd think "God my life would have been so different if I'd lived at a time when teachers were sensitive to the effects of sexual abuse on very young girls. I'd never have made it to 3rd Grade without someone seeing how messed up I was." He'd fuss about religious freedom and I'd think "I wonder how my Jewish friends feel about laws being made that ignore their religious tenets." PS I have the answer, a general fuck you assholes about covers it.
The current moment was always the worst moment in human history. (Oh and Jesus never made an appearance at Father Silly's first Christmas Mass, but the Blessed Mother was so lovely in the stable.)
Parableically speaking, I have similar reactions to posts here and elsewhere about the unprecedented violence of the police, the utter loss of privacy we suffer, the cruelty of corporate culture, the greed of the wealthy, the privations of the 99% in a culture riddled with political/corporate incest, the wretchedness of our education system, health care, safety net, media.
All of those things are real and lamentable, but we are SOOOO much better off than
A) Most of the human race
B) The wealthiest people in the world a hundred years back
Why is it so much more fun to wail and gnash our teeth, where is the energy to push back, to create change? Reading comment threads, my sense is a whole lot of people have given up - the media is too powerful, money is too overwhelming, Democrats and and Republicans are interchangeable.
EDIT: I just got my discouragement. I need successes. I supported EDF, Greenpeace, and every other environmental group in the '80's, which meant daily mail - newsletters, emergency action requests, fundraising requests. One week I quit them all because IT WAS FUCKING HOPELESS. A couple of years later I started hearing from EDF, some good news, some successes. "Here's how your support helped us fight and win". I am never motivated by fear and despair. I fight harder when we're ten points up. I'm competitive - I want 20 points.
If I'm bombarded by "We can't beat Citizens United" I ask myself why you're asking me to send money to a losing entity. If you're telling me that Democrats are no different than Republicans, I want to know why the fuck we're on a blog trying to elect Democrats. It feels inauthentic, like costume outrage, theatre despair.
I read a lot. My dad was the smartest man I ever met, and he read even more. and He could quote vast tracts from Jefferson, Thorsten Veblien, John Adams, Epictetus, Sinclair Lewis, and Marshall McLuhan - the list is too long. I've been bombarded with history since early childhood, and that's an incredible gift.
I just finished reading Stephen King's 11/22/63 which I wish was required reading for progressives.
I was 14 when JFK was assassinated. It was a body blow, even though I was young, and I still remember hearing assholes in the school assembly talking about how it was good that stinking liberal was dead.
I was alive during the years Stephen King writes about, alive when wife-beating was the way to control your woman, alive when beating your kids taught em who was in charge. I was alive when Jews couldn't get corporate jobs, when Jewish doctors were denied admitting privileges to hospitals. I was alive when pedophiles flourished in the secrecy created by our fear of sex and sexuality and I was a victim for 3 years, from age 3 to age 6. We moved then, and I chose blocking it. Bad choice.
I was alive when there was a minimal safety net, when SS might keep retirees out of the poorhouse but the disabled were the responsibility of their families.
I remember the change in the Pledge of Allegiance, the addition of "under God". I remember hiding under my desk to avoid an atomic bomb. I still get shivery scared hearing tornado sirens.
I remember jokes about jigs, I heard Jew-boy name-calling.
I remember when women started wearing slacks around the house, when housecleaning no longer required a starched and ironed shirtwaist, jewelry and make-up. I remember when girls wore skirts or dresses to school and the vice-principal could stop you and measure that skirt to ensure it wasn't too short. Of course it wasn't too short you twit, the damn girdle came to my knees.
My mom remembered the first time her mother could vote. We've had that right for less than 100 years, and the Republicans are still pissed we won.
I was alive and politically active when yellow pollution domes covered every industrial city, when the stench of refineries was unimpeded, when rivers caught fire, when you could slough your skin if you walked into the wrong lake. I remember Silent Spring and clouds of DDT being sprayed at the drive-in while we sat in the car waiting for the movie to start.
I read about the Triangle fire, only one of many cases where profit and greed trumped safety and human decency. I read about 5 year old boys being sold to chimney sweepers for the price of a bottle of gin, about fires being lit under them to force them up into the flues despite their terror of rats, height, darkness. I read about Pinkerton Men breaking union organizers heads with bats, killing them in alleys, threatening their families. I read about young girls entering "Service" at age 12 because there wasn't room in the 2 room house for all the children, so you got out and earned your way pronto. I read about eating cow tongues and sheep heads and being glad for the protein. I read Steinbeck and learned about Woody Guthrie.
This is not the worst time ever, this isn't even close. I'd argue that we're actually showing signs of moral or spiritual evolution. We are horrified about pedophilia. We don't accept rape as boys just being boys. We're outraged when innocent people are imprisoned by lazy DA's. We don't accept that fag bashing is acceptable Saturday night post-bar-closing recreational activity. 40 years ago a call to the cops after your husband beat you was likely to result in advice not to piss him off when he was drunk. Now it's likely you'll get advice on securing your doors, and the assurance that they'll haul his ass to jail if he comes back. That doesn't save enough lives but it's a hell of an improvement.
Citizens United lost to citizens, united. Karl Rove is no longer THE power broker in Washington. FEMA is so effective the Republicans had to block funding to prevent people from getting it that government can be their ally. The EPA has teeth. OSHA is functioning again. We're building goods in America, and exporting them. Unions are probably not going to die off altogether. The Right To Work for Less is not quite as attractive as it was 2 years ago, people are getting it.
Final history lesson. Google SS, Medicare, Civil Rights legislation. Dig in, read what the Republicans were saying, but read further and find out what Democrats were saying. It's a collection of Diary Titles from the Rec list during and after the ACA battles- Weak, Watered Down, Doesn't Reach Enough People, a Sellout to ..., Too Much Compromise, Use the Bully Pulpit, Not Bold Enough! These are the things we're fighting to save today because once passed they could be, and were, improved on over time.
If we were savvier about what's possible we could avoid the time-delay and start the improvement phase as soon as that sucker gets through Congress. When will we learn? Progressives have great ideas, great passion and lousy follow through, especially when we don't get exactly what we thought was best. 2010 was not the time to be dissing health care reform it was the time to run on it, to claim it as a great beginning, to sell it as a model for what government can do to help the little guy.
Immigration reform will be similar - start with the best ideas, take what you can get through Congress and this time could we PLEASE start the improvement phase the week after it passes? Please? Let's just try it, one time, and see if we can avoid the inevitable circular firing squad. I'd really like to see a Dem blowout in 2014, not a repeat of 2010.
Finally, I'm on SS for disability, I've always been a low wage earner so I'm not rolling in dough. I make a little playing the organ, enough to buy food and feed my Kindle addiction. Here's the reality of my poverty. Because of other people's generosity I have a 14" flat panel TV, a computer (14 years old, but it works), internet connectivity, a cell phone, a car, an iPod and dock that give me wonderful music, a slightly tattered Kindle. I have my piano and I can play it at 2AM if I choose. I have my birds for company and amusement and I can feed them the best quality food. Careful shopping feeds me very well. I pay Netflix 14.00 a month for movies and I do just fine without cable because TV mostly sucks. I have heat and AC, hot water and a great shower. I rarely eat out and even more rarely see first run movies. Can't afford concerts but still have access to the best music out there. I buy all my clothes at the thrift store which leaves me enough money for good shoes. If my car breaks down I will find a way to get it fixed, but mostly I work on maintenance. I am not by any means comfortably circumstanced by American standards but most of my problems fall into the Rich white girl problems category when compared to the rest of the world. I think that's true for most of the people here. I also think we could get a hell of a lot more accomplished if we focused on what's working and built on that instead of throwing up our hands about what's not working and wondering if it's worth it to keep fighting.
Yeah, it's worth it.