Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Sometimes I just get so tired.

I could talk about the mini-furor over Kerry's claim that he is the preferred candidate of foreign leaders -- a claim explained in this article -- the Right's attack on Kerry for saying this, and the article in last week's Economist that frankly discusses why the vast majority of people around the world (leaders and "plebes") would clearly prefer Kerry to Bush. To summarize that article, the rest of the world believes that Bush is a lying sack of sh*t, and that he would be thrown out by any country that wasn't willfully numb, but Americans believe Bush must be telling the truth because it is obvious that Bush believes his own lies. That is, unless you have the air of used-car-salesman about you (e.g. Clinton), you must be completely virtuous in all ways. This is a country that learned nothing from the Nixon administration, nothing from Vietnam. Do we have to have tapes of Dubya saying bad words? (They already exist, by the way.)

I could go into all that, but I won't. It's like crack. If you want the hookup to political stuff, you should read Atrios and Talking Points Memo and The Note. There's not really any point in regurgitating the same stuff, except to ensure that the five or six people that read this blog catch the latest juicy stories. Like this one, which takes the AWOL story to a new level. But though it provides an electric jolt, it is hollow and self-defeating. Like crack.

Of course, there is a very legitimate argument that the thing to do when your civilization is collapsing, like Spalding Gray said, is to use history as your art. And there is much to use as the raw materials. I see a nation that has divided into two camps, and though I am still a young man, I suspect that this is something new -- or at least something that hasn't been seen in a century. America is far more evenly divided than in the Vietnam era, as popular discontent brews and the press regresses into a daycare full of weak and mumbling toddlers, waiting to be spoonfed by the grownups, afraid of saying anything worth hearing because that would alienate advertisers. America is being deafened by a murder of crows, each cawing louder so that they won't be lost in the din, each motivated by the fear of silence. And yet this clamor is not a unifying force. Unlike in the past, when both Americas listened to the same Walter Cronkite, the two worlds now get their news from different sources, read different books, check different Internet sites, and listen to different pundits. In fact, when I have conversations with people from the Red camp, I am amazed at how little of the negative facts they know about the Bush administration -- not that they discount those facts as part of their overall analysis, but that they never hear them in the first place. Yet, the same is true of the Blues, whose reflexive attitude against the Bush administration veers into the same "Clinton said it so it must be wrong" error that hampered the Bush folks. America is Balkanizing itself, and it scares me. Genuinely.

But it's like crack.

I am slowly coming to the realization that I have problems of my own that deserve a higher priority. That my passion for politics is a form of personal evasion. That there are more important things than being the eight-hundredth blogger to link to a political story.

I keep thinking about the song "Music and Politics" from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a jazz-hip-hop tune where the MC (Michael Franti, now part of Spearhead) riffs about how his mind gets swamped by neverending thoughts about music and politics, both of which have the semblance of importance but which get in the way of deeper understanding. (The song is available at the iTunes Music Store.)

"If ever I could stop thinking about
Music and Politics
I would tell you that music is the expression of emotion
And that politics is merely the decoy of perception"

(Funny aside -- when trying to find a link for the album, I found a 1997 article that talks about how the album has remained relevant despite being recorded in 1992 -- though the author thought two sentiments had become dated: "George Bush has got to go" and the songs protesting the Gulf War. It's a damn shame that the worm has turned and the album has become fully relevant again.)

But that's the point -- there it is again. Like Franti, I'm addicted to music and politics. It seems like I could sit all day and listen to music and talk about how amazing it is, and I could inhale music like a suffocating man, and write for hours about how inspiring it is to me. If I allowed myself, I could spend $500 a month on music, easily, and burn ten discs a month of music mixes. And I could rage and rage again at the hypocrisy and lies of the political world, and write biting commentaries on the Web and carry on bitter conversations with my friends.

But none of it -- not one bit of it -- is half as important as making a scrambled egg for Jonah this morning. Or the gentle, unspoken trades where Shannon and I take care of Jonah so the other can catch up on sleep. Or the tired, exhilarated feeling when I go for a run with the dog. And it's been a devastating adjustment process to realize that the things which make me feel passionate can also be a poor use of my time. I have been running myself ragged, and thought it was justified because I wasn't "wasting" my time. But there's more to life than not wasting it.

That's what I should write about.

If ever I could stop thinking about music and politics, I would tell you that none of us have enough time.

I would tell you that the limited supply of time is not the saddest thing in the world, nor a demon that we must fight to the death out of a sense of honor and valor and despair.

I would tell you that I embraced the finite world and -- much to my surprise -- I felt relief.

If ever I could stop thinking about music and politics.

 10:06 AM

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