Separating the People from the Politics

Separating the People from the Politics

I have an old friend here in town — one of those people with whom I was friends in my 20s — and well, we’ve taken very different paths as adults. Her husband works as a conservative activist for a libertarian think tank, and my friend has become increasingly involved with the conservative cause. They’re nice people, who are raising good kids. But they’re also the kind of trust-funders I grew up with, the sort who don’t question their own level of privilege, and who believe that they deserve their bigger piece of the pie. Like I said, we’ve taken different paths.

I’ve been irrationally angry with her since the election. She called to say hello the other day, and I had to tell her that I can’t talk to her for a while, that I’m still too upset about what’s happened to our nation, and that I have to think about how I want to handle their activism.

She was shocked. She thought I was overreacting. “You have to separate the people from the politics!” she yelped.

Isn’t that the whole problem? Politics is about people. For instance, my friend and her husband, if they have their way and manage to privatize social security will gut my long-term security. To paraphrase Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a person?”

But what I find even more interesting is my friend’s shock that I was taking the election seriously. That I thought politcs was more than simply a horse race, that I believed there were real consequences to the election. What I find interesting is that my friend thought my conviction that we’re going to lose the Supreme Court, and hence lose the reproductive rights that were crucial to both of us in our twenties, was hysteria. What I find interesting is that my friend, who has three sons, seemed to think that my concern about an imminent draft was also hysterica.

Perhaps this is what happens when one has “family money,” when one is “wealthy” (never rich, we were taught as children that to call someone “rich” was the height of vulgarity). Perhaps this is what happens when one knows that no matter which way the political winds blow, there is a cushion of money sufficeint to insulate oneself and ones family from the sort of economic ups and downs that effect the rest of us. Or perhaps it’s just what happens when one believes that politics is somehow separate from the lives of actual people, that politics isn’t about the lives of real people with whom one lives in community.

Perhaps this is what happens when one falls prey to that most corrosive myth of the right wing, that it just doesn’t matter. That it’s a horse race.

8 thoughts on “Separating the People from the Politics

  1. Talking to my very conservative, bush-loving republican sister (whom I love dearly) on the phone a few days ago was heart-wrenching. She was so condescending about the way the election turned out, and acted as if I was behaving in an immature way, even though I didn’t really even discuss my feelings of grief with her. But I don’t think it’s because of money (in her case); rather it’s the religion/christianity thing, you know—God’s on bush’s side. Sort of like being on the winning team—she feels smug.

  2. I would very much like to share this web post with a wide variety of people I know. But I’m a weary coward, and won’t share it with people who don’t share my/your point of view. My sharing with them would bring on more derision, more “what difference does it make” (cuz they’re set for life, no matter what the gov. does, it doesn’t affect them — even the environment!!, and if I’m not as fortunate as they are, they only ask who is to blame for that?)

    I didn’t grow up knowing any “trust-funders,” but I’ve met so many of them during adulthood. I remember that finally after 60 years of life, many of those years separated/then widowed, my mother was finally able to buy a 2-flat of her own with some help from her 2 daughters. And a while later, she was pretty much able to support herself on her Soc. Sec. income.

    I guess I should have started investing my son’s child support money in the stock market 20 years ago, just so he doesn’t have to face supporting me 15 years from now. Some people have choices. Lots of us don’t.

    And I think of the fact that there are people far worse off than I am.

  3. A few weeks ago I had a somewhat similar experience talking over dinner with the relative of a friend. The young woman in question was a college student, a registered Democrat with Republican parents (and a sheltered upbringing) who had voted for Bush. She felt that neither candidiate had been all that great (or, it seemed, particularly different); Bush was just better in some way – she may have mentioned education, but I’m not sure – it was a lot to take in. She was concerned that excessive corporate influence over regulation might make our food, etc. less safe, and identified this position with Bush, but didn’t seem to draw any further conclusions. She had heard people worry that Bush would do bad things, but didn’t think that would happen. I didn’t get any sense that she viewed this election as in any way unusual or particularly important.

    I was completely astounded, and just sat there mindlessly smiling and nodding – couldn’t think of anything to say (also didn’t want to start arguing) . . .

    Take the election *seriously*??! Why would you do that?

    I think a lot of people have this view . . ..

  4. trust funders, eh? well at least they’re acting in their class interest, which is more than I can say about most of the electorate.

    but if they’re the kind who actually think they’re helping people by supporting libertarian causes, that’s infuriating for sure.

  5. Phil,

    You mean libertarian causes like abolishing corporate welfare, dismantling the military-industrial complex, reining in Valenti/Glickman and the “intellectual property” [sic] Nazis, pulling out of the Empire, and ending the War on the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendmens (aka War on Drugs)?

    Believe it or not, some libertarians are also sad that Bush won the election.

  6. Thanks for stopping in folks — traffic has gone way up since Body and Soul linked — but if we could keep the flaming down, I’d appreciate it. This isn’t really a forum for political debate about Big Issues — but rather, my small personal weblog about life in a small town and how the community has saved me in my hour of darkest loss. This was a little post about trying to work my way through yet another thorny personal issue … and one I’m still wrestling with by the way. Feel free to take a look around the blog, and welcome.

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