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Musings on July Fourth: When Politics is Everything

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These are the definitions of “politics” according to Dictionary.com:

"Politics: The art or science of government or governing.
The activities or affairs engaged in by a politician, government or political party."

Politics used to be a realm unto itself. There would be that maelstrom around the Beltway and smaller galaxies revolving around places like Lansing, Albany, Denver, Austin and Sacramento to name just a few. Then there was the buzz of mosquitoes hovering over the cities.

The people got together and voted others into office, instead of relying on monarchy or tyrants to enforce the rule. That was the American Way. Rarely did politics cross over into other areas of life, and for the most part, people liked it that way.

Many of the first settlers in New England arrived looking for religious freedom. In England, the church is state and vice versa. Therefore, although this country is religious, we have adopted the concept of separation of church and state. Our government is unique, as it was founded on the premise of less is more, intervention-wise. For the most part, people liked it that way.

Most people don’t think too much about politics, government or politicians. It could be because of laziness, or it could be that we are secure in knowing the worst case scenario couldn’t possibly happen here. In America, we make history, we don't repeat it, right? Most natural-born Americans take their freedom for granted, because they have known nothing else. It's the land of milk and honey, of opportunities untold. Immigrants who come here by choice realize the jewel this country is. My mother was an immigrant and loved this country so much, she gave up her birth language and wrote poems about America in English.

I spend a lot of time in my yard gardening. When doing so, a great many thoughts pop into my mind as I’m turning earth, weeding and transporting rocks from one place to another. The United States is like my back yard. There are beautiful spots and some not so pretty. There’s an area devoted to foodstuffs, a calm area, another that’s noisy with flowers. It’s a work in progress; there’s always urban renewal. For the most part, my yard is a glorious retreat.

I had a thought the other day: Politicians are like creeping Charlie. If this invasive plant threatens to strangle a rose bush, I’m there to pull it out.

In the last hundred years or so, politics and the government have found a way to invade our everyday lives. In my lifetime, there have always been taxes and regulation. There have always been wars and a need for the military.

Before we knew it, our government became bigger. More invasive. Little by little, freedom is being usurped and the explanations always point toward a "common good," an excuse made by both sides of the aisle.

Our government wanted everyone to own a house, so it indirectly provided loans to the disadvantaged who, it turned out, were unable to pay. Now, the government is in our banks and brokerage houses. It’s running our automobile industry. It’s planning to take over health care. It wants to mandate how we get our energy.

It shapes our media and our thinking by entwining itself into everything.

It’s all politics.

Now every facet of living has a political connotation and potential political fallout. No matter what opinion you may have formed, just the act of doing so puts you in the bullseye of the opposing camp. If you believe in a woman’s right to choose with regard to abortion, you’re apt to upset a Republican. If you question the theory of global warming, you’ll rattle a Democrat. Likewise, people are judged by the news they watch (Fox = conservative, NBC = liberal) or by the car they drive (gas hog = redneck, hybrid = environmentalist). Whether you buy organic or shop Walmart, somehow the action is a reflection on your politics.

About Joanne Huspek

I write. I read. I garden. I cook. I eat. And I love to talk about all of the above.
  • Jordan Richardson

    Interesting piece.

    I live in Canada, where our government is perhaps even more involved than yours. Our government is involved with our health care, with our industry, and so forth. Yet for some reason, the majority of Canadians do not have even a passing interest in politics American-style.

    We don’t have countless political pundits ruminating over our government’s latest moves. We can’t be bothered to go out and vote. We hate the idea of having another election. Yet most of us are generally satisfied to be living in a country with government health care, unemployment, and so forth. Most of us wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    Why is that? Why do Canadians (and others around the world) tend to be less engrossed, less involved, less (dare I say it?) obsessed with our politics? While American television offers “THE Place for Politics” and a horde of gutless pundits, Canada’s CBC snugly fits its “Politics” program into a half hour of television. Why? If our government is “more involved” in our day-to-day lives, as you say yours is, why do we not seem to care?

    In your article you say that you long for the days when day-to-day living can be free from politics. I wonder what you’d be willing to give up in order to have that occur. You clearly want some form of government protection, you certainly would want roads and maybe even incentives for businesses to operate and police and fire departments that do their jobs. For some reason you draw the line at health care (I assume), though.

    The point is that life can be free from politics. Day-to-day existence need not be a revolving door or a vicious cycle of being fearful of “government encroachment.” So many posts and articles in BC Politics, as good as they are to read, are about the same thing: government, big scary government.

    Every facet, every potential “tax,” every potential plan, every potential passing of gas from a politician is analyzed and repeated and analyzed and given over to the pundits and so forth. It’s turned through the spin cycle, given wings to fly, and people obsess over it.

    While I wonder why we Canucks don’t do it quite the same way and why it seems we care less about politics, I guess I wonder even more why it seems that you Americans care so damn much about it.

  • Jordan Richardson

    By the way, Happy 4th of July!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Happy 4th, Joanne.

  • m ark

    “Well, everything is political. I will never be a politician or even think political. Me just deal with life and nature. That is the greatest thing to me.” — Bob Marley

    …or one could say, “Don’t dream it. Be it.”

    How’s your garden this year, Joanne?

  • m a rk

    (…sounds like a fascinating story!)

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    The tendency of writers on here to put all politicians into the same pile, and then spit on the pile, is, just possibly not very skilled or interesting thinking, even from someone who has “a great many thoughts” while gardening and feels compelled to share them with us.

    You can apply a few valid generalizations to “politicians” as a group: their main interest is in being re-elected, and to that end their main activity is raising money. Those two attributes apply to left, right and center, and they are the reason for most of the wrongs in our political system.

    But to claim that politicians’ aim is to take over more and more of Americans’ lives and businesses is a gross distortion. Republicans and libertarians in congress, in statehouses, and on sites like this one rail against ‘statism’ and ‘socialism’ constantly.

    And even Pres. Obama and his cabinet pay constant homage to ‘the free market’ and ‘the capitalist system’ and are careful to repeat, frequently, “If you like your current health care plan you can keep it.” You can accuse them of insincerity if you want, but they are not proudly taking over auto companies and banks. They are presenting their policies as necessary responses to an emergency.

    Another, perhaps larger question is whether Americans may actually want the government to run many aspects of their lives. Try talking about privatizing Medicare and Social Security and see what kind of reaction you get on Main St.

  • http://tolstoyscat.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    “Know your history.” – Bob Marley

    A great piece by Native American scholar Ward Churchill.

    “In my view, those, Indian and non-Indian alike, who do not recognize these names and what they represent have no sense of the true history–the reality–of North America. They have no sense of where they’ve come from or where they are and thus can have no genuine sense of who or what they are. By not looking at where they’ve come from, they cannot know where they are going or where it is they should go. It follows that they cannot understand what it is they are to do, how to do it, or why. In their confusion, they identify with the wrong people, the wrong things, the wrong tradition. They therefore inevitably pursue the wrong goals and objectives, putting last things first and often forgetting the first things altogether, perpetuating the very structures of oppression and degradation they think they oppose.”

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Cindy, you really crck me up sometimes. “Native american schola Ward Churchill” indeed.

    dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Try talking about privatizing Medicare and Social Security and see what kind of reaction you get on Main St.

    The response you get depends a lot on WHICH Main Street you ask the question on. The response in Texas is going to be a lot different from the response in Michigan. IMO more of the country needs to be a lot more like Texas and more of the country needs to be a lot less like Michigan. How you can live in Michigan and look around and think that more of the same is going to solve your problems is utterly beyond me.

    Dave
    Writing from the backseat of a Dodge Charger (last of the ass-kicking pre-Obama American cars) on the way to Boston on July 4th.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Dave – at least it’s a Charger and not a Caliber, which is one of the most diabolically awful cars it has ever been my misfortune to drive.

  • http://tolstoyscat.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    “Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience, and a slavish enthrallment to those in power.” – Leo Tolstoy

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I had the misfortune to rent a Caliber a few months ago. It looks like a scaled down Charger but seems to have the engine and overall design quality of a Geo Metro.

    Dave

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The problem with patriotism and with independence day is that in America they have now become symbols divorced from the substance of the principles on which the nation was founded.

    Dave

  • http://tolstoyscat.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Right Dave they have the wrong ideas.

    “The spirit of 76 means that wealthy agrarian families told the king to fuck off and established their own plutocratic nepotism so that they could own Africans.”

    “Around 5,000 blacks served in the colonial army. At first only free blacks were accepted, but the shortage in soldiers led to the conscription of slaves. Blacks fought with whites in unsegregated units. Americans Indians, threatened by colonial expansion, most often fought for the British, and after the revolt ended their claims to land and self-rule were largely ignored.”

    Excerpts from: The Murdering, Thieving, Enslaving, Unlibertarian Continental Army
    Posted by Stephan Kinsella on July 3, 2009

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Kinsella’s perspective is just a little bit slanted. Most of those who fought for a large portion of the war were not wealthy land owners or even farmers. A great many of them were craftsmen and merchants from the cities of the northeast who had no interest in owning slaves and an entirely different agenda. His quote applies to a handful of the most notable leaders and not to the majority of them and certainly not to the thousands of working-class people who did the actual fighting, not because they were conscripted but because they believed in what they were fighting for.

    Oh, and those Indians fighting with the British? They engaged in genocidal attacks against white settlers and in settling old grudges with other Indian groups, massacring whole villages including women and children. Oh yes, and in the south many of those indians owned black slaves themselves. Hell, there were even quite a few black americans who owned slaves.

    So please, stop spewing such silly crap.

    Dave

  • http://tolstoyscat.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Dave,

    There was a program on the History Channel yesterday. I didn’t watch but I think I’ve got this right. I was told it was about supernatural consultation during various presidencies. Woodrow Wilson is said to have consulted Edgar Cayce, Nancy Reagan went to a psychic when she thought Ron’s life was in danger. And George W. had a magic 8-ball on his desk. ‘Hmm, let’s see, should I invade Iraq today?

  • http://tolstoyscat.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    /ignore Dave’s snotty remark

    Dave,

    I am under a different impression about history. Are you sure you are not just looking at what suits your own view?

    For example, all 13 colonies were slave colonies. There was slavery in the north for 200 years. It did not get written into high school history books. Indeed, it was never written about much. But it was written about, Dave. The same attitude toward blacks existed in both the north and the south. And it was slavery that built the north and the south. Sort of interesting that for over 200 years slaves made the country, yet when slavery was over, we find the people who actually built the country at a great disadvantage, a disadvantage they were to enjoy from then on.

    William Penn had slaves, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson; so did the families of Abraham Lincoln and William Henry Seward. You know this. You know men were given cash bonuses to fight and promised land in the west and still there weren’t enough volunteers and so there was conscription by states into the military.

    I was reading that there were actually four times as many blacks fighting for the British as there were conscripted into fighting for the Continental Army. The blacks who fought willingly for the Continental Army were under the impression that some of this freedom everybody talked about might somehow apply to them. The Indians and presumably the 20,000 blacks who fought for England, knew it would not.

    Those merchants and craftsmen you mentioned though Dave, they were in for a surprise weren’t they? We find, by looking at the Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion and the Fries Rebellion that the interests of the ordinary working people were to be subordinate to the banking interests. The military was sent in to crush the ordinary folks in the interests of protecting bankers. Those working class fighters certainly were surprised when they lost their property because they were off fighting for the freedom of the upper class, weren’t they Dave? I guess they didn’t realize that the Declaration of Independence was just propaganda and was only meant for a certain class of people. It wasn’t really designed for those working class much more than it was for Indians or blacks.

    I am curious to know why your historical accounting seems to always leave off the evidence that doesn’t go along with what you like to believe? When I look at history, I look at what kind of story do the living people want to tell and why. In whose interest is the story? What will it say about its tellers. Is it a fair accounting if we only look at one point of view? How can we know history if we only look at one perspective? Dave you only hear one historical voice, the one that is in agreement with the reality you wish to create.

    Your version sounds like it was written by Disney Dave, it goes along with this version, which is what children are taught: Schoolhouse Rock – No More Kings

  • Baronius

    Jordan – It could be that Canadians are largely in agreement about the role of government. In the US, we have two (more like five) very different attitudes toward government, so there is an argument about every policy.

    Happy (belated) Canada Day!

  • Arch Conservative

    You see……….Bob Marley was a dumb shit who died of cancer because he refused to let the doctors cut off a cancerous toe and it spread to his brain.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Some people are fools when it comes to their own health (like me), but they know what they are talking about. Listen to Marley’s song, “Buffalo Soldier”, Bing.

    Joanne, there was never a time when politics wasn’t intertwined closely with American life – and when the sturm und drang of political discourse didn’t occupy people’s minds. Your article sounds like those folks in Japan 100 years ago who used to look fondly back on the Meiji Restoration – looking back to a golden time that never really existed.

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    I guess that’s the first sign of getting old, Ruvy.

    The second sign is when you actually enjoy pulling out weeds and moving rocks.

    My garden is suffering this year. I could blame it on global warming, but that’s political. The weather last month was much like it is in San Francisco, cold, wet, gray. (Heh… the same but without the culture, the ocean and the sushi.) My tomato plants are spindly and yellow.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    The second sign is when you actually enjoy pulling out weeds and moving rocks.

    Sick dog that I am, I’m getting to enjoy pulling up weeds (my sons can move the rocks). This is especially true since we got a notice that some stupidvisor from the district council was coming to inspect yards for cleanliness and those that did not measure up would get a NIS 660 fine (about $165). So, when I have the energy, I pull weeds and cut them – but since I do not have the energy and it is as hot as hell here (well, maybe a tad cooler – we’re in the mountains) and terribly dry, I’m hiring someone to do the job….

    I couldn’t garden if my life depended on it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joanne and Dave -

    No offense to either of you, but at NO time in America’s history has there been a time that politics ‘rarely crossed over’ into everyday life. Of course it sure seemed that way when we were younger, but now that we’re older and more aware of what’s going on, we can’t help but see more of the world (geographical, cultural, and political) around us.

    Another factor is the speed of the spread of information. For instance, the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 took place AFTER the treaty was signed ending said war.

    No, we will never see

  • Glenn Contrarian

    (comment #23 continued here (grrr…))

    a time in our lives again (as long as we have our whole minds) where we will not see the ‘intrusion’ of government.

    And my suggestion is this – it’s like the corruption in the Philippines that I wrote about: it’s everywhere and it’s not going to change, and it’s not meant to hurt any particular person; so instead of simply bemoaning the government of America, work with it…and work to make it better (which Dave is doing (even if he’s working for the wrong side IMO)).

  • honma akan

    fox news really had you strung along, didn’t they? Your mind is bought.