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.