I am not politic

One of the by-products of having been raised poor and later working class is my ongoing challenge stating what is politic. I am often in the position of saying what is deemed unwise, not judicious, or imprudent. For many more years than I care to estimate, I have been cautioned, marginalized, and – at times – excluded for doing just that.

More often than not this habit has been a problem in my view. I have felt sad about the doors closed to me and the acquaintances that do not flourish into friendships. I imagine conversations that say, “We cannot invite so-and-so and have Gary there, too.” It is not that I am particularly harsh or mean. I am just not politic in many cases.

For example, if someone is talking about a recent rash of break-ins in my neighborhood and expressing dismay over the state of Milwaukee, I may contribute that our comfort with huge economic disparities based on historic and current racism is a contributing factor, a factor hard to recognize as we zoom through the city on a freeway instead of drive through it on a local street. Next topic. If someone is talking about young people being oppositional, I am may observe that I enjoy seeing them find their ways in places where we have become resigned. Next topic. When my LGBT pals talk about how awful the LGBT community is or question if there is even a community at all, I am likely to chime in that the long-term effects of oppressive systems include distrust of one another and of our institutions. Again, next topic.

Leora 1930sMy habit in this realm does not come from being a member of any high school debate team or from male domination. It comes from my mom. During my childhood, in scores of ways, she would ask, “Why would anyone put up with that bullshit?” Because she was both poor and an assimilated Jew, this may have been her way of giving – tzedakah – when she had no money. Maybe she was embodying Ozer Dalim – helping the down trodden. Or, perhaps her poverty and too-early independence because of being orphaned as a young adolescent didn’t instill an effective governor on her utterances.

In any case, I have my mother’s patterns in being something other than politic. I no longer regret this as much as I once did, and I fight it a lot less, too.

It is with this awareness that I comment here on an aspect of the social media debates on the Democratic Party candidates for their presidential nomination. I believe that both Clinton and Sanders are worthy candidates. This is not a statement I can make of the surviving candidates among the Republicans running for office. As the primary season has progressed, Sanders has been hammering away on moneyed oligarchy and corporate welfare. Clinton has been releasing one impressive policy position after another, often showing the absolute best that technocrats have to offer.

As in every single election in which I have voted since 1966, I am ambivalent about both front-runners. I may favor one over the other, but I know I will vote for either should the need arise. My struggles in deciding are rarely between “the lesser of two evils” but rather between the “better of two good-enoughs.”

Some Sanders supporters have suggested that they cannot support Clinton if Sanders is not the nominee. I believe that this is short-sighted and it prompts me to questions what it is they want for the presidency and the nation. On the other hand, some Clinton supporters have extended their outcry about what they view as the core of sexism among Sanders-only voters to include all Sanders supporters.

Even though I planned to vote for Secretary Clinton in the primary, these social media comments have prompted me to examine my thinking about both Sanders and Clinton as candidates. Here is what I have come up with.
• I planned to vote for Secretary Clinton because she is the more politically astute of the two in national circles. I did not like her husband’s administration which gave us the politically expedient “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Defense of Marriage.” I don’t like how the World Trade Agreement has worked out for the US, especially as workers here and abroad have suffered under its provisions. The very provisions of the Affordable Care Act which are making hospitals and big pharma rich today at the expense of working people are the ones favored by then-First Lady Clinton when her husband was in office. My ambivalence about her candidacy is her unwillingness to openly call these policies failed. I find the behaviors of her critics who talk about her voice, her smile, and her attire reprehensible.
• I planned to pass on Senator Sanders in the primary because is less saleable to the general public in an election. I suspect Republicans are sitting in the reeds until after the convention, loading their big guns to aim at either Sanders or Clinton. The kerfuffle known as Trump is a real issue for Republicans, but we should not be confused that they do not also have the long game in their sights. I actually agree with the Senator that corporate welfare must be curbed and truth telling about international trade and armaments are critical if we are to move forward as a nation. I share his uneasiness about the relationship of big business and Wall Street “bankers” with Secretary Clinton’s campaign.

My mother with me in 2009

My mother with me in 2009

I don’t think either candidate is doing a great job on addressing racism or individual freedoms for LGBT people and others. Either will do better on these issues than their Republican counterparts.

In the end, the outcry of Clinton supporters has helped me to re-examine my positions. I will certainly vote for Secretary Clinton if she is the party nominee. However, I have reversed my decision and voted early for Senator Sanders because his are the principles I favor of the two. I understand that the politically astute among us will argue that winning the general election is what it is all about. To that I would respond like I would at any social gathering: No, leading our nation is what it is all about; winning the election reflects how it has devolved in our seriously flawed party system.

If I were to advise the Clinton campaign on their social media it would be to not use feeling bad about ourselves as a major tool to garner support or avoid defections. There are the non-politic among us with whom that can backfire. Thanks, mom.

2 thoughts on “I am not politic

  1. How different we are in this respect, Gary. Your upbringing taught you not to put up with bullshit. On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they can’t believe the bullshit up with which I put! Bear the cross, sigh to god, wait for heaven with the patience of Job. But actually, when you read Job, he’s more like you than me!


    • Well, sort of, Tom. (BTW, I have always loved the expression “up with which I put.” Good usage at times demands dopey construction, doesn’t it?) The other part of the message was that I needed to consider my “betters.” However, in action, my parents — particularly my mother — refused to acknowledge that there were betters. She taught a lot and mostly followed her own teaching.


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