Up until about eighteen months ago I was comfortably politically apathetic. I grew up a punk rock, allegedly anarchist kid, but I guess I never really understood what it was that I should have and could have been doing in order to support the cause. I read Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn after hearing them mentioned in conversations with older punk rock and hip hop kids. From there I went on to learn about Marx and Nietzsche and Camus and Tolstoy and all the other late European philosophers that have largely molded my worldview.
When I first learned about anarchism I was awestruck. I thought it was cool, beyond cool, just a bunch of people living together and working together and caring about each other. The excitement quickly faded and became something much more cynical, I thought it was impossible, I didn’t know why at the time, I thought it was a sociological and economic unicorn. I went from tentatively, hopefully believing that some amazing utopia could exist to believing that it was all just fancy fantasy that those writers and philosophers were comforting themselves with while they watched the world carry on in the same general direction toward impending doom.
Then I got a bit older, still maintaining, at least ostensibly, a strong leftist bent, but never really doing anything with or about it. I had some kids and got a job, dropped out of college a couple times, joined the Army in an attempt to secure my family’s financial future — that was instrumental in helping me understand my own complicity in modern American imperialism. I lived a life, or at least I tried my hardest to do what I thought I was supposed to be doing, as a young American man with a family and some silly idealistic hopes for the future. I pretty much gave up on anarchism and communism and socialism and all the others, though I did hold on to humanism — I thought I could live my little life and be content to directly impact the people I interacted with on a daily basis, and I foolishly believed that I could leave the politics and policies to those other guys, the ones privileged enough to have been given the opportunity to really impact things.
One day in December twenty-thirteen, disaster struck. Long story short, my wife was killed and my family was destroyed. Being a single parent is hard, no matter the circumstances surrounding the situation, nobody should have to face that. Being a single male parent, with no family or friends willing or able to provide material, or even emotional support, is hard. I don’t want to drag you all through the recollection of the events here; just imagine. Being young, in your late-twenties, with five kids to provide and care for, to teach life lessons and give parental direction and support and comfort as they go through the phases of childhood and adolescence without their mother; everyone looking at me like I was some kind of broken freak, the pain and fear, not knowing how to self-advocate — we men are taught to just suck it up, not having anyone to ask for help. All the while having to balance work and home-life, not making enough to pay all the bills, the childcare, the simple shit that we all deal with and just take for granted until we don’t have enough to make ends meet. I don’t want to bum you all out, and I don’t want to throw a pity party, just trying to paint a picture.
So, why am I giving you this back story? Well, I’m getting to that. I was comparatively happy in life, despite the things I went through, I still found a way to keep a roof over my head and stay fed, there are billions of people alive on this planet who don’t have those basic needs provided for. But, I was living here in America, the land of the fat, happy and free, and I believed that there was a path back to normalcy in this great country.
The American Dream. I grew up hearing stories about it, stories just as fanciful and propagandistic as those anarchist utopias we talked about earlier, but I guess that one was dug down a bit deeper inside me. Even today I find myself confronted with some cognitive dissonance when I think about it. Didn’t Great American Capitalism provide all the amazing things we have today, all the simple things we take for granted, and probably couldn’t live without? Convenience, entertainment, instant gratification, service, the internet, movies, skateboarding; all the best shit came from Capitalism! Right? Yeah, but think about all the billions of people who suffer and die in service of a few hundred million Americans and Europeans. Now think about that homeless encampment in the city park you drive by sometimes, scowling as you pass.
The American dream is and has been a horrendous lie the entire time, and they stopped taking applications a long time ago my dude. My peers and acquaintances, mostly white middle class Americans, all heavily bought into this fairy story they heard growing up and are very reluctant, unwilling in some cases, to give up on it. And, it was reasonably realistic for many of our fathers. Despite the fact that many of our families had little-to-nothing in the way of generational wealth, it was possible for an honest, hard-working man to lift himself up by the proverbial bootstraps and provide a comfortable, safe life for his family. Providing he was white, superficially christian, and conforming in all the other socially acceptable ways; but they don’t really tell you that when you’re a kid. Those are things you have to pretty much discover on your own, through life experience. Let’s be real here, folks, that hasn’t been the case in quite some time. My whole life I was being indoctrinated into a lifestyle that ceased to exist a good five years before I was even born! Now, I’m not trying to be a negative Nance here, I’m just keeping it real. The narrative of the hardworking everyman building a respectable life for himself and his blushing bride is all poppycock!
I went through life mostly turned off to the realities around me, the material conditions of my human comrades, the larger implications of my seemingly impotent actions. I had a lot on my plate, I thought I was making somewhat of a difference, I thought it was enough just to hold certain beliefs and be a good person. I thought I was being a good person, going to work and paying the bills and being honest and treating everybody with respect and confronting all kinds of bias and bigotry when and where I encountered them. But I wasn’t doing much more than that, I wasn’t contributing to the fight on a large scale, I didn’t believe that anything I could do would make any type of difference, so I contented myself with listening to Propagandhi and reading communist theory and arguing with my fellow bourgeois asshats over whether Lenin or Trotsky was right (it’s neither, by the way) in our free time; I became exactly what I always thought I’d never be — a complacent American weenie.
It was kinda tough for me when Trump ascended to the Red, White, and Blue throne; but I found a way to ignore it, I still managed to delude myself into thinking he was just a new, uglier face slapped on the same machine that would tirelessly trudge into the future until we ourselves become obsolete. I went to work and went on with my life like everything was okay. Around about the beginning of last year something inside me changed. The racism and bigotry seemed somehow worse than it had been, maybe I just ripped off the apathy-bandages and let it fully sink in. I realized that I’d been contributing to the whole thing, complacence is complicity, and I got really upset. I started thinking, questioning my beliefs, scrutinizing my own actions and inaction. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do, there isn’t a whole lot I can do, but that’s a weak excuse and I know it.
Since then I have made every effort to get educated and keep myself informed. I’ve tried not just to read theory and score internet points, but to focus on praxis, to do things that will have a tangible effect on the world. One of the most surprising things I’ve found myself doing of late is advocating for the Democratic Party. I hate the Democrats, let’s keep it real, they are just as complicit in the state of the world as the Republicans, but there are still some real distinctions there.
We could sit and have endless conversations about the political and economic history of the United States, and there’s definitely a lot to learn there, but I think we should just get to the point and agree that the working class in this country has been without representation and support for quite some time. People of color, non-sexual and non-gender conforming individuals, immigrants, those suffering from severe physical and mental illnesses, those of us living in the margins, have we ever even had representation? The answer to that one is no, in case I was unclear.
So I find myself advocating for the Democratic Party, not just Biden-Harris, but down-ballot as well. The Democrats have demonstrated this cycle that they will at least play nice if we let them win. Trump and the current Republican party has demonstrated that they will only become more extreme, alienating and ostracizing, exploiting and oppressing, persecuting and abusing. The current Republican party is a crash-course in proto-fascism, and so many Americans love it! They love it because it plays on their inherent bigotry and delusional belief in the dead American Dream. The lies that come out of the administration are endless and absurd, and not a single supporter bothers to fact-check. The racism is overt, and they love it! The death of this nation is on the horizon, and it looks like an orange ape holding an upside-down bible riding a police tank blasting Kenny Chesney. I hate to be dramatic, but it really couldn’t be any clearer.
So, I guess I said all that to say that I am proudly going to vote Biden this election. And I’m going to vote for Mark Kelly, Arizona’s Democratic Senate challenger, and I’m going to vote yes on 208, Arizona’s bill to increase public funding for education, and I’m going to tell as many people as I possibly can. Look at me, the self-professed anarchist willingly participating in bourgeois electoral politics! Guess what though, folks, we have to do something, the writing on the wall is there to be seen, and we’re all fucked if we continue thinking apathy is cool. Bite the bullet, suck the egg, compromise, that’s how progress is made, read a book for fuck’s sake, that’s what they were trying to do back when they wrote them!. And I know that supporting these tired-ass politicians means supporting the American imperialist system, but there is no way that we can bring it down from the outside. At this point doing nothing is much worse than throwing in with these Neo-Liberal profiteers. I’d rather abide by the American system, with all its flaws and horrible consequences, than give Trump and his pals a chance to see how much more damage they can do to this planet. I’m sick and tired of hearing my fellow leftists say they aren’t voting. I was one of those guys for the longest time, and I feel so foolish knowing it took all this for me to realize I was really just projecting my own negativity onto the system!
Your vote does matter! And it is part of your responsibility to your fellow humans to use your voice! How dare you call yourself a Leftist and act so selfishly! I’m ridin’ with Biden all the way to the next four years! We cannot put pressure on the administration if we continue to hand the reins over to the people who aren’t even playing the same game anymore. I loved Bernie too, and I miss him, and I’m mad as hell at the DNC for giving us Biden instead of him, but just look at what he was able to accomplish with that platform, they’ll stop giving it to people like him if we take away our support!
Vote. Vote your conscience. Don’t be that guy, you’re not cooler than us, you’re not smarter, but you are contributing to four more years of the hate and violence and exploitation and oppression that have flourished under Trump.