Politically speaking, my conscience has circumnavigated the globe. I’ve been places I am ashamed of being found in. But I am home now, and here I will stay.
Michael Savage would call me a red diaper doper baby. When he was Michael Weiner the botanist, he was one too.
It is said that if you aren’t a liberal before thirty you have no heart. And if you aren’t a conservative after 30, you have no brains. I defy this continuum. I can have both.
It has taken me far too long to make the trip I have made. I had to really wander into some strange places to really find out what my heart desired.
For as long as I can remember, I have been exposed to politics. As a very young child, maybe around 7 or 8, I was at my mother’s side unfailingly as she fought to elect candidates who would protect tenant rights in our city. We had lived in apartments in Morristown, New Jersey since the late 70s and there was a long, pitched battle to enact rent control legislation to stop unscrupulous landlords from raising rents to a degree that would force thousands of people out of the leased property they called home. All of my neighbors had lived in their apartments for decades. For almost all of them, it was their final stop-the residences were small, but our community had bonds of steel that you couldn’t put a price on. There was something special about our little development. In its defense I licked envelopes, went door-to-door with flyers and went through phone number lists to contact members of our party, which funnily enough was Republican. That may sound strange to you, that rent control was a Republican issue-but New Jersey politics, especially locally, was unusual. It was the Democratic mayor who was the crooked businessman who wanted to gentrify and profit from higher rents. We ran candidates for council and mayor, and we won more often than not because we had the numbers and we had people like my mother who was no shrinking violet when it came to things she cared about. Nobody was going to fuck with my family on her watch. She was a loyal ally and a dreaded foe.
My mother’s compadres thought I was adorable, helping my mom like I did. I was named “Co-Captain Of The Polls” by the wife of one of our candidates. That really meant something to me. Remember, I was 7 or 8. In the end, the apartment community succumbed to the greedy developers and landlords and my mother made an exodus to the south, where life is affordable. She is still fighting for her and her neighbors’ rights today. For reasons I don’t totally understand, she picked the middle of nowhere to live. I guess she just wanted the peace and quiet-she has had a tumultuous life that I can’t really get into here just yet. And that peace was about to be disturbed by a company who wanted to mine the sandy soil a mile from her little home. It’s apparently a precursor to building material. Her complaints spooked her representatives, who I’m fairly sure were on a first-name basis with my mother. The mine deal was killed, and her idyllic respite is undisturbed, until the next profiteer tries to tear lives up for the love of money. She’s in her late sixties now but she is still very much the force of nature I used to accompany as a child. I was born to a diehard social justice warrior.
So, I suppose that’s why politics is in my blood, and why today I am using my Facebook page and this blog to talk about it so damn much. It matters to me. Your dinner, however pretty, does not.
I forgot about politics for a few years after the rent wars, and again, for reasons unclear to me today developed a political conscience during elementary school. I declared I was a conservative, and I wrote a paper about it that landed me a school trip to the Capitol. I wish I could find that fucker today so I can see what my still forming brain was thinking. It’s possible that once again, I may have picked up something from my family. We were rather religious, and I’m pretty sure that we thought of ourselves as the Moral Majority. We thought Reagan was sent from God himself, even though he was terrible for the working class-but we had that peculiar white suburban affectation that we were middle class and so paid no mind while Reagan declared that government itself was the real problem in America and that it owed its least fortunate nothing. I don’t think my folks put 2+2 together and realized they would be the victims of Reagan policies.
But anyway, yes, I was a conservative at 12. Generally, conservatives think in soundbites, and perhaps its simplicity was a draw. Patriotism and power, God and money-who could argue? I never thought once that my thinking was hurtful, the way I now know that it is/was. I couldn’t vote so I couldn’t do any real damage anyway. I sure wish I could remember more about me from back then, although there were things that I am positive I have locked away on purpose from some years that are blocking me from remembering. I’m not fully functional, you see. Most of you know this about me already.
Around 14 I lost my faith. I don’t quite recall what kind of effect that had on my politics-in fact, I may have lost my taste for it during this time. Philosophy took the place of scripture, and Friedrich Nietzsche in particular was very hard on me. My life had suddenly lost meaning without a faith and a creed. I felt very small, and very misled. Far from being a superman, I was relegated to nihilism instead. And that was just best defense against showing how scared I was of everything.
I’ll pause here. I’ll tell you where I am headed, though.
You gotta pick a side and stick with it.
You have to fight the real enemy. And to do that, you have to know who you are.
And you must realize no one is above this fight. There’s no waking up from this matrix, much as you’d like to think there is.
Refusal to judge properly equals surrender.
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”