Suburban Epiphanies

One of the advantages of living in the Jersey suburbs with your sixty-three year old retired father is that you get to perform all manner of menial tasks in a futile attempt to mitigate his desire to prevent idle hands from lingering about. (It’s worth pointing out that my Internet traffic in recent weeks undoubtedly proves just how Sisyphean his task really is.) Yesterday it was shampooing urine stains left by my now deceased geriatric dog out of the carpet in our living room. Today it was blowing the leaves on my front lawn as my uber-conservative neighbor pounded cold patch into our driveway (did you know that if Obama wins, we can all stop working, and someone will drive a truck around and give us money everyday? Hot damn!!!).

As I was blowing the aforementioned leaves and watching them fly up into the air only to fall back onto some previously cleared patch of grass, I had an epiphany. I noticed that my next-door neighbor’s lawns had also managed to accumulate a fair amount of leaves since they had last been raked, so, rather than establishing a clear boundary between the three properties (a kind of leafless DMZ, as it were—oh snap! You love the subjunctive voice), I opted to clear their lawns as well (ok, just the halves that were contiguous to my parent’s property.) This ostensible random act of kindness was not, mind you, because I am in possession of any kind of highly evolved sense of community, nor was it due to my recognition that my neighbors and I were engaged in a collective struggle to thwart these autumnal invaders; rather, it was because I knew that those same frackin’ leaves would eventually blow back onto the areas I had just cleared. In other words, if I blew the leaves on my neighbors lawn as well as those on my own, it would mean that I would not need to worry about raking up any maverick detritus that might flout the sovereignty of suburban property lines and launch cross-border incursions later on this week.

So what’s the point, you ask. The recent rhetoric being bandied about by the McCain/Palin campaign—the use of epithets like Socialist, Communist and Marxist as part of an attempt to discredit the Obama/Biden campaign—has afforded liberals an opportunity to test new strategies for parrying such attacks and winning over misinformed voters. Unfortunately, the Democrats have largely fallen back on the failed strategy of appealing to the perceived “better angels of our nature,” a strategy which invariably leads to their invoking some manifestation of the quixotic motto “E pluribus unum.” However, the 2000 and 2004 elections (even if they were stolen) reveal the powerful role that an ignorant (dare I say self-centered) electorate can still play in deciding who will lead our country. The trouble, as I see it, is that young voters (let’s say for the sake of argument 18-38) are still highly susceptible to bankrupt political philosophies like Libertarianism (Aw, you’re a Libertarian? That’s adorable! But it’s grown-up time now, so pay your freakin’ taxes and think about how much it would suck if we had to drive on dirt roads all the time. Ingrates!!!) or the hyper-masculine tenets espoused by modern-day Republicans (Wars, whether cultural or military, and tax cuts are always sexy when you aren’t personally suffering their effects.). Thus, when liberals claim that government programs are important to ensure that there is some degree of parity regarding access to affordable education, health care, housing, etc., they are often confronted by a series of unrelated right-wing talking points and political bogeymen that alleged conservatives conjure up as political straw men (we’ve all seen the perverse delight with which Republicans talk about welfare mothers, garbage-pail kids, late-term abortions, etc.).

So, how can we countervail against such ignorant tripe? I’ve found that the only way to talk to rabid ideologues is in terms that they can understand, i.e., failing to take care of those who are struggling will inevitably come back to bite them in the proverbial ass—Don’t want to provide adequate funds for failing school districts? Then don’t complain when people working minimum wage jobs screw up your order at the drive-thru. Don’t want to pay higher taxes to provide health care to everyone? Then don’t cry when your premiums and medical bills rise to offset the costs of clinics and hospitals treating the uninsured. Don’t want to raise the minimum wage? Then stop whining about the fact that no one can afford to pay the costs for your plumbing services and that your business is suffering as a result. Don’t want to live in a country that is ethnically and linguistically diverse? Then move somewhere else, a–hole. You can even pepper your stump-speech with folksy wisdom like, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or shit flows downhill, or you’re a d—bag. To be sure, Obama has attempted to raise some of these issues when speaking with constituents (watch the video of his chat with Joe the Plumber), but until members of the mainstream media start calling out Republicans for their disingenuous claims about the important role government plays in our daily lives, we all need to take on the responsibility of talking to our misinformed friends and family. The bottom line is that the meme of an evil (read: European) government that redistributes wealth and/or opportunity from hard-working Americans to lazy Americans is total BS, and people need to be called out on it. Our economy is only ever as strong as the men and women who form its base. Now go out and rake your neighbors’ leaves!

Ron Paul ’08!!!

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