Last night a friend said that Republicans are Democrats who have been robbed and that Democrats are Republicans who have been imprisoned. I woke this morning remembering a time 4 years ago when, after attending an inspirational Martin Luther King celebration in Oakland, I discovered that my car window had been smashed and all items of value had been stolen, including my beloved Ray Bans, GPS, a lovely shell covered business card holder from Japan, and my cell phone. As I drove home, carefully straddling broken glass, I pondered what to do. I didn’t have enough money to get a new window. This was my first new car, and I was incredibly proud. It had been keyed after only 2 months in Ashland, Oregon and seemed like a magnet for vandals, its glossy black exterior begging for sabotage.
I have since had my laptop stolen from my car while parked in the driveway of my safe Sunnyvale neighborhood where I’d left my house unlocked most of my life. I remembered my family’s trauma when our plane tickets to Michigan and my mom’s jewelry had been stolen. I was 10 at the time, and it was a real blow to us, as my parents had had to supplement their meager incomes with government food aid, which we appreciated and never took for granted.
But these losses have not changed my view that the criminal justice system in this country is anything but just, nor that militarization of the police has had a crippling effect on the poor, dispossessed, and African American and Latino communities in this country. Being burgled did not turn me into a law and order partisan. What shapes and influences core beliefs I do not know. Suffice it to say that despite my friend’s prediction, I have not become a Republican.
Thinking as far back as i can remember, neither can i remember whether i stole first before becoming the victim of theft or whether and when i began to think there were differences between Republicans and Democrats.
The less i had, the more it became apparent that what i did have was not as important as what i could not lose by theft (my health and mobility; friends, lovers, and family; the ability to explore consciousness and experience joys, etc.). The more i got to know Democrats, the less i was certain that they had absolute differences from Republicans.
There’s a song Mrs. Troll plays for me whose lyrics are something like “…your enemies cannot harm you, but watch your close friends…” and i notice that the theft affecting me personally through the course of my life, and particularly as i do not travel into the zone of others while living in a rural environs happens almost without exception by those whom i have otherwise trusted. When my mother moved to Florida to follow the weapons manufacture job industry the man she married was hooked to and became a Republican i was somewhat shocked, but as i began to talk with her on the phone more i realized that her values were nowhere near my own and had been rooted very shallowly.
As i have grown old i have cared far less for inanimate objects and far more for living beings and the fragile ecology supporting us and the future of all species. Theft of objects (as compared to fluids or ‘ownership’ of harvesting or slaying rights, as of old growth forests) seldom in my zone seems to affect life support systems, but redistributes excess calories. I was watching old film clips of George Carlin making jokes about how houses are repositories for our stuff and know a few for whom this is an apt description. The true test of utility is its transportable quality, in some senses. Footloose and fancy free seems to invite those by whom one travels to pilfer their loose belongings. I was raised to think that all politicians are corrupt and none could be trusted. When the Bushes led the nationalistic response to engage in Middle Eastern Cowboy wars, i learned that at least in some instances Republicans were more interested in (“justified!”) invasion than Democrats. With Obama i was to discover that this difference was only partially marked. With the recent treatment of Bernie Sanders (admittedly not really a Democrat and never accepted by the DNC), it was obvious that that about which i was warned in terms of corruption and politics should not be thought the failure of any singular party.
Seldom do people begin to deconstruct the rudiments of “ownership” to the status of manipulation and control, then to ask what privilege by birth we retain this, beyond being in the right place at the right time and being willing to exercise the leverage available. When all is said and done, a republic established by humans is in no ways comparable to a democracy of species. Neither of the artificial choices presented to US citizens in the guise of parties has any vested interest in long-term ecological preservation or the sustainment and enhancement of human rights, from what i can tell, so aligning with them for more than a strategic and short-term advantage at any particular point seems futile.