Friday, June 22, 2012

The General Election

by Nicholas Allanach

I had planned for a backyard barbecue with friends and coworkers. This afternoon, I was running around Astoria, picking-up supplies and food for an onslaught of guests; however “mother earth” had her own plans. The dark and heavy storm clouds already started gathering in the early afternoon. By the time I had all the limes, tequila, and ice, ominous lightening and thunder had already started rolling in. 

The rain would come and go all afternoon; ultimately, the barbecue and party would need to be postponed, which seemed to work out for the best since everyone preferred to party on Saturday. Admittedly, I had been on a two week “stay-cation” so the thought of having everyone make the train ride over to Astoria, didn’t seem like such a trek to me; after all, I had been sitting around the house for two weeks - completely disconnected from the proverbial rat race. Sure, I had been teaching and answering e-mails, but not having to report to the office, grumble through meetings, or click away at my keyboard, was a long-overdue relief.

Perhaps a party rain-delay was welcome? Of course, the rain would also mean that the Yankees would not be playing the Mets on schedule. Fortunately, I had a fridge stocked with booze and the time to revise my barbecue music setlist and, yes, more importantly, I'd have time to write. Ena and Yoshiko were making some sushi and speaking Japanese. I sipped down some  Flying Dog Ale and wrote...

*     *     *     *

In ways, it has been too long. I've had little opportunity to reflect on the General Election. But make no mistake, this column endorses the re-election of President Obama. I do not think Obama has been perfect, no one could ever be. Despite the setbacks, Republican obstructionism, and American cynicism, I believe Obama has done a commendable job as President. Obama has ended the war in Iraq (a campaign promise), passed the (against much obstruction and immediately, not perfect) Affordable Care Act, and made clear to the American people his position on abortion, gay marriage, and education. Do I want Obama to do better his second term? Damn right! I do not go to the voting booth blindly. 

I am also well aware how important it is to get out the vote. We cannot stand by and allow the Republicans to gain control of the White House. Agreed, I am disappointed with this administration's decisions: drone strikes, continued use of torture, ongoing war in Afghanistan, fracking, etc., etc. The current administration is not perfect; however, I pragmatically and logically think that the "commander and chief" of this Great American “crime family” should be Obama. After all, let’s be frank, the election (despite its failings) will be between an economic system that will either continue to bolster the same aggressive, union-busting, and unconscionable form of unfettered capitalism, or will (at least...) make (however lame...) attempt to push a mutually beneficial social contract for all. "Let's level out the playing field."

Sure, it's all senseless sentimentality, Obama has done “nothing” to push these agendas. But this is a cynical, false, and dangerous attitude to take. Obama has tried; however, he has also faced a constant onslaught of Republican obstructionists and unrelenting usage of the filibuster. Even the “Dream Act” was shot down by these techniques. Thankfully, Obama decided to use the power of the Executive Branch to at least begin taking steps in making our national immigration policy more reasonable and humane. Obama signed an Executive Order that allows undocumented children and adolescents, born in the United States to work and study without fear of deportation for at least two years. Fine. But is that all? Couldn't we do more? Despite my "support" of the President I can also rightfully criticize the administration's deportation of 396, 906 immigrants. This number is much greater than Bush ever deported. Presumably, we shouldn't be concerned by these numbers; after all, according to the ICE “55% of those deported were convicted criminals.” 

These figures are troubling. Why the round up? More importantly, what is the ICE's definition of “criminal”? 

And agreed, there are other issues as well: Guantanamo Bay, the continued and acknowledged support of super PACs, Wall Street, etc. etc. But ultimately, this is all a part of “the game,” right? Indeed, it is a horrid and ridiculous freak show. But, I suppose, it is the “best game going.” Until an alternative is effectively and usefully presented, consider this columnist, fundamentally "sold-out," “still humping the American Dream.”

Turn up the music, wait for the storm to pass, and enjoy our “first world problems” (while we can...) here in the “land of the weird.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

An Intermission

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing."
- Macbeth (Act.V, Scene V)

Despite the gloom and doom, I suppose I remain cautiously optimistic about my own and our collective future. Or, perhaps, I’m just trying to “fit in” by being more realistic about things? Either way, it still seems easy to also feel hopelessly pessimistic and defeated by our ethos; after all, the conversation tends to encourage sentiments of victimization or is just reduced to downright trivial bullshit. 

News of an increasingly warming planet is presented besides celebrity gossip. Criticisms of ineffectual governing and economic power structures -incapable (or just unwilling) to alter their destructive policies- appear alongside sporting events and car commercials. Our collective discourse oscillates between the serious and somber to total farce. As this tragic human comedy continues to bumble along, we -every so often- notice a chasm opening before us and we run - scared. We try to medicate the anxiety and panic away. We sterilize the suffering, which comes easy when digested with the banal. We, as Chris Hedges argues, “escape into illusion.”
Indeed as Trent Reznor sang back in the nineties, “Everything goes away in the end.” Yes we may never have the power or ability to prevent the collapse of our civilization, much as we’re also unable to ever conquer our own death. Powerless to prevent this inevitability, the question then becomes - how long can we prolong our own survivalism? Moreover, how will we experience this moment and life when right now is the only thing we have ever really had any control over? Can we change our individual and collective experience to ultimately become more deep and meaningful for all?

Currently, we seek our fulfillment, enlightenment, and enrichment through cheap instantly gratifying and superficial mediums. Our commercial and consumer culture thrives on our inability to imagine or create new signs and symbols to re-imagine and remake our world for the better. In so many ways, our very identities are associated with the very products and ideals that have been packaged and sold to us. Of course, this is all nothing new, we’ve been aware of what ails us for sometime, but instead of replacing our addictions, we carelessly continue to consume the same corporate codes and experiences, incapable of creating new ones, because it is what comes easy.
Although we pretend otherwise, we cannot reject our own mortality. The fact of our own demise is such a troubling certainty that our cultural and religious beliefs were conceived to appease our fears. The concept of an afterlife, or eternity spent with our loved ones and close to god is a fantastic collective presumption. This idea is potent and highly intoxicating; however, it is also completely delusional. 

All that is real, true, and mutually beneficial has been bought sold and commodified for market value. We have lost our connection to the natural world. We have replaced our archetypes with hyper-real simulations. There is no going back; but perhaps there are ways to establish new codes and new modes of experiencing this quick and fleeting moment called “NOW” before we are truly “heard no more.”