After the election of 2012, I swore to myself that I would never again get sucked into the cesspool known as American politics. In 2008, when Obama was making his run at the White House, I found myself buying into the whole “Hope and Change” narrative that his campaign was pushing. After attending numerous local political meetings and spending hours at my computer phone banking, I just knew this guy was the “real deal.” Needless to say, before his first term was even up, the bloom had fallen off the rose. I felt betrayed. The candidate that I had supported and invested my time in was anti-war and pro-constitution, but the President I ended up with continued dropping bombs, signed the NDAA into law, and later even extended the Patriot Act.
Being the glutton for punishment that I am, in 2011 I found myself paying close attention to Dr. Ron Paul and quickly became an ardent supporter. I had never before been in a Republican’s camp, but I really liked where he stood in regards to foreign policy and what he was saying about the war(s).
As the primary season progressed, those of us who were active in his campaign sat on the sidelines and watched in disgust as the media marginalized his message, debate after debate. Even with all of the energy that Dr. Paul was generating, it became apparent that the Republicans had no interest in taking his candidacy seriously; in fact, they were dead set on doing business as usual. That year, when he did not receive the nomination, I voted third party for the first time in my life.
Fast forward to 2016, the year I swore I would not be participating in any mainstream political party bullshit – and yet, here I am, obsessed, with almost every post I make being political in nature. I didn’t want to get sucked in, I swear, but as I look around at what is going on in this country, I find myself volleying between disgust, anger, laughter, despair, and the desire to “do something,” even if that something is as minute as casting a vote.
I’ve watched the Democrats embrace a fraud, and I want to scream. Hillary Clinton is the worst of the worst. She has voted for war, and claims she wants to get money out of politics and clean up Wall Street, yet she takes money from them hand over fist. She whores herself out to just about any lobby that will write her a check (which explains her recent change in tune when it comes to fracking). She would now support “responsible fracking,” as if that is a thing. This woman flip-flops more than a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. I don’t want to care about this election, but Hillary makes me.
As if Hillary is not depressing enough, on the Republican end of the spectrum we are watching the rise of Donald Trump. Yes, the reality star Donald Trump. The guy whose hateful, divisive rhetoric has emboldened our country’s Islamophobes and racists to come out in droves. All any sane American can do is watch in horror as his poll numbers continue to climb with every vile, ridiculous thing he says.
However, some might say the country that has been bullying, subjugating, and spreading its arrogance across the globe for decades is finally getting the openly racist, misogynistic, boorish pig it deserves. Watch the video of his supporters assaulting a young black girl at one of his rallies, and you will swear Donald Trump is catapulting us back into the 1950’s.
I feel like over the last few years in particular, America has been experiencing a tornado of arrogance, duplicity, ignorance, and outright deception, and for some reason we still can’t seem to focus on the actual issues that matter. We have come to this place where we find outrage in the most benign of things, and nothing has highlighted this more in recent months than America’s reaction to Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance. The vast majority of Americans found themselves in a tailspin over something they did not even recognize they were seeing until the media told them they saw it. Hell, after a few drinks, I didn’t even know what I was watching, and I was fully aware that it was the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers.
So if you are keeping score, the country lost its shit because Beyonce had the nerve to give a nod to Black history during Black History Month. Go figure. Up to that point, I had not been much of a fan, but that immediately changed. #TeamBeyonce
What I find most offensive about America’s feigned outrage is that most people don’t even know the first thing about the Black Panther Party. Our ignorance would be comical if it wasn’t so pathetic. Here in Smithtown, our schools never taught us about Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale, the NY 21, or Hoover’s fat FBI file. I had certainly never heard of a Black “messiah,” or knew that our government was so evil that it would actually assassinate one at the blink of an eye. I had to educate myself on these things, but first I had to want to be educated.
In America, we love to be outraged over the imagined, but when our fellow brothers and sisters are facing a legitimate crisis, we respond by sticking our heads in the sand; or worse yet, we go so low as to blame the victims.
In the year 2015, over one hundred unarmed Black Americans were killed by the police, some of those deaths documented by video. When Eric Garner’s life was snuffed out and the entire horrific event caught on camera, I thought for sure we had reached the turning point. We hadn’t. Week after week, there is some new victim trending whose entire life has been relegated to a hashtag: Ramarley Graham, gunned down in his own home; Akai Gurley, returning home from work, shot dead in his stairwell; Walter Scott, shot in the back after being stopped for the horrific crime of a broken brake light; Tamir Rice, gunned down in a park a mere two seconds after cops arrived on the scene; Corey Jones, shot to death as he waited for help after his car had broken down. The list of the dead continues to grow while white America quibbles over whether or not it can get down with the verbiage “Black Lives Matter.”
When I look at these candidates, how am I supposed to ignore the perfect storm that is surrounding me? How can I sit back when there is so much on the line this election? I have made it fairly clear that I am not 100% “feeling the Bern,” but what I am feeling is his genuineness, and the fact that Bernie Sanders was on the right side of history during some of our country’s darkest days. With what seems to be more dark days in front of us, why would I not want to see this man, a man who actually has convictions, kick Hillary Clinton’s ass in the primary?
The Hillary Clinton who was campaigning for Goldwater during the Civil Rights Movement is the same Hillary Clinton who dismissed BLM activists for calling her out on her racist policies. She has the audacity to say she cares about the Black community while taking money from the private prison lobby, a system that primarily capitalizes off the backs of men and women of color, a modern day system of slavery.
I know the lesser of two evils argument – fuck, I have even made that same argument on numerous occasions – but this is how I see it for today: If faced with the choice of a mild case of crabs or a raging case of herpes, I am calling crabs all day long. Hillary is herpes, and I challenge anyone to pick herpes over crabs.
So here I am, once again in that old familiar place, doing battle with myself. Part of me wants to believe that I am a “revolutionary,” that I won’t fall for this political game of three-card monte again. But the truth is, there is also a part of me that wants to believe in my fellow Americans, even though they seem to continually disappoint me. I want to believe that one day we will all care about justice, about equality, that we will all judge people, as Dr. King said so eloquently, “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
We cannot give up on this. We must continue to fight, whether we choose to take part in the political process or not. This world may seem unbearable at times, it may seem like a hopeless battle, but radical change does not come quickly. It takes time – probably more time than most of us have left. But there will be others to pick up the torch, just as we have picked up the torches of those who came before us. As the great Hunter S. Thompson said, “Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.” I am so proud to be fighting this fight alongside some of the best people I know, and I truly believe that every action we take matters.
Politics in America is like that little pill addiction I had after my mom died. In the end, it will be our own strength and perseverance that will get us through the worst of times – but when we see that little bottle sitting in front of us, it seems a hell of a lot easier to just take the pill. We are addicted to the idea that someone else can fix this mess. The truth is, we ain’t fixing shit unless we fix ourselves first. I am a revolutionary, perhaps.
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org