Thursday, October 28, 2010

Voting on the Day of The Dead

[caption id="attachment_2264" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Opinion by Baynard Woods"][/caption]

It is strange to turn in a column the Friday night before an election, knowing it will not run until the Friday following the election. All writing talks to the future. But it is rarely so obvious. Even the least informed reader will know more about the post-election reality than I can imagine.

Except that I don't think the election will change anything. The Tea-Party people will be as disappointed two years from now as the Obama people are now.

If the Republicans now control the House, but not the Senate, I imagine that DeMint's influence will begin to wane in the Senate because he bucked so hard against the leadership. He took a House mentality to the Senate. And I've got to say, I almost offer him the smallest bit of respect for that. I mean he is a crazy, radical, apocalyptic, fundamentalist, nut-job, but goddamn it, at least he's actually trying to bring is crazy world about. While the Democrats have an extremely lackluster view whose only virtue is that it is better than DeMint's theocratic phantasmagoria-- but it is not my view.

Even when someone else does the hard work for them, the Democrats seem to back away from any real change. California just voted on recrewational marijuana. If it won and they legalized it, the Obama Justice Department has promised to take action against the state. The last three presidents have smoked pot; we spend untold dollars investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating non-violent "criminals" and a majority of voters in a state decide that they're not going to do something so obviously crazy any more and the President who talks about change says "Not so fast."

And a judge overturns "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and, again Obama says "Don't change so fast."  He wants to send it back to the Congress, which is probably now Republican. And oddly enough, it was the Log-Cabin Republicans than brought the case in the first place.

Americans spend lifetimes in hiding because of both of these issues. Countless people sucessfully serving in the military have had to resign because they can no longer take secrecy about their lives. And millions of otherwise productive and law-abiding Americans spend their lives slinking around in the shadows because they want to ingest an herb. They are unjust laws that are both stupid and costly-- and Obama uses his bully pulpit to uphold them.

Even though these are both matters of personal liberty-- DeMint and his faux-populist religious fanatics won't embrace them either.

Only a Republican governs worse than a Democrat. And only a corporation governs worse than a Republican. By nature, the only goal of a corporation is share-holder profit, which has its place—but not in government.

This could be our first election that was largely determined by the influence of anonymous corporate money-- that could come from outside the country altogether. This could be the true death of the Republic and American greatness.

And, part of me at least, says hooray!

Election Day this year fell on All Souls Day or Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, in Mexico where honor is given to all of the dead. The Day of the Dead can be quite festive. The art that has grown up around it-- skeletons performing every day activities-- reminds us of our own mortality.

Joseph Mitchell-- my vote for the twentieth century's greatest writer-- wrote about finding these images in the prints of the artist Jose Gaudalupe Posada. Freida Kahlo turned Mitchell onto Posada's prints where he found what he called the "graveyard humor" he cherished from his native North Carolina.

Others call it gallow's humor. But whatever happened with this election, we could all use a dose of it about now. During the next year, the next decade, we need to learn to laugh in the face of our new grim reality.

It is an opportunity for us all. National decline should be good for our humor and our literature. God, remember how self-righteous and arrogant we were right after 9/11? Not just then-- all our lives.

That's the one value of having grown up in Columbia-- one of the few cities in our county that has been razed, burnt to the ground, conquered. As I've said, I think the National Guard should come and take the flag down and shoot anyone who stands in their way. But I do think whatever humor is attributed to Southerners (and for that matter Jews, and African Americans, and any humor that is not gloating) comes from devastation.

We're all dancing skeletons. Now that we realize it, we can start laughing at ourselves a little.

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