Monday, January 3, 2011

JAMES GRADY'S Our Year of Zombie Politics

A SUPER article:


Wait: Even in politics, 2010 was the year of zombies?

Sure, the hot new wonky tome "Zombie Economics" tells how "dead" economic theories walk among us to shape our paychecks, and sure, zombies lumber out of our TVs almost no matter what channel we click to, and sure, my fellow fantasy prose-slingers are flinging new novels about the undead at the dust of Stephen King and George Romero, but zombies as a metaphor for 2010's politics?

Come on!

What happened to vampires?

Vampires are a great political metaphor! Bloodsuckers. Say no more.

But zombies? Who are they in America's 2010 politics?

Not President Obama, who rode into the post-election zombie -- I mean, "lame duck" -- Congress with hordes of RIPS (Ratified Important Political Speakers) proclaiming his shellacking, only to have him then ride out for Hawaii with a couple new notches carved on his gun and a gotchya grin.

Not Sarah Palin, by golly, who's still gotchya wonderin' what the heck kind of creature she is as her cash registers ring and her poll numbers exist.

Not members of Congress who -- except for a few survivors -- either got re-elected in An Election That Meant Something Profound or lost that job only to be miraculously reborn as escorts servicing our corridors of power for whoever has the right kind of dollars.

So if 2010's politics are about zombies, then who must they be?

Are "they" -- us?

You can see where that scary idea comes from: We're all slouching through this gray December with our hands thrust into our pockets, headed over the horizon called 2011, shuffling past 2010's stack of days. Or daze.

We walked through Wall Street's rubble and what's been made afterward with wheelbarrows full of taxpayers dollars and the assurance that we had no other choice, the promise that things will get better, that the bulls & bears "on the street" and in the banks will play nice, will play fair, won't savage us -- again.

We walked the shoreline of our Gulf slick with blood and oil, where the promise had been that that would never happen, or now won't happen again, or is what we must do to fuel our high-octane lives. We walked past a caved-in coal mine in West Virginia where the cost of 29 dead contains a promise of that's just the way it's always been, walked past new armies of giant Don Quixote windmills on our Great Plains that spin promises of clean energy for America with the cash profits spun mostly to foreign companies.

We walked through our local grocery stores where clerks frantically pulled half a billion eggs off the shelves in a salmonella outbreak that was but one of 2010's dangerous food incidents, which killed some of us and catalyzed a compromise victory in the 20-year big-bucks political fight in Congress to overhaul food safety standards set in 1938.

And walked past the Politics Daily report revealing the politics behind our government list of toxins, which nonetheless are allowed seemingly wherever we are and whatever we're doing, toxins that are likely to contribute to learning disabilities such as autism.

We walked alongside shouting hordes of our fellow citizens from every partisan group, watched some self-labeled champions of ordinary real Americans become in a blink bankrolled by billionaires. We watched both parties become cannibals -- not quite like zombies, but . . .

But by our own choice we walked past our old politics -- when a senator would not be re-elected after embracing prostitution and a financial-scandal-tainted congressman would join such a colleague in disgrace instead of returning triumphant to D.C. Yes, back to our center of democracy, where, as The Washington Post revealed the day after Christmas, 35 congressmen and senators on a committee writing rules this past June for the financial industry "in the wake of its 2008 meltdown," collected "$440,000 in donations from that same industry, which was then lobbying heavily for looser rules."

And as we walked past that, we heard all the players use a needle they called bipartisanship to tattoo new battle lines on the flesh of our politics.

Sadly, some of our soldiers who walked the sand of Afghanistan and Iraq left their lives in those boot prints, even though, as Politics Daily's David Wood reported, "Nine years since U.S. forces struck into Afghanistan to destroy the 9/11 terrorists, almost all of the war's objectives remain unreached," and in Iraq, the data and the dead keep piling up.

Meanwhile, wiser heads than ours are proclaiming the worst of these economic times are over, but most of us are walking down streets where signs read FORECLOSURE. Many of us feel like just continuing to walk might be the best we can do right now.

All those punched-out promises we walk past.

No wonder the new album from my generation's Great American Author, Bruce Springsteen, is "The Promise": "And when the promise was broken, I cashed in a few of my dreams."

Been there, done that, adios 2010.

That year, we walked past the news of who died, whether it was someone we knew since second grade but they didn't merit even a single line of an obituary on some newspaper page blowing down the street, or whether they were some headline star of whom we could say, "Hey, I know who that is!" People like Lena Horne, Tony Curtis, Lynn Redgrave, J.D. Salinger, Lucille Clifton, Alex Chilton, or Dennis Hopper, the madman of movies that most American baby boomers define themselves against, from "Rebel Without a Cause" to "Giant" to "Easy Rider" to "Apocalypse Now" to "Hoosiers" to (gulp) "Blue Velvet."

And still we walked on through 2010.

But in 2011 we'll walk on -- with open eyes and scared hearts, because we are not zombies.

We refuse to be just the undead that some in politics wish we were. We refuse. We are the alive.

We're not a slouching horde. We may not agree on why or how we're doing, but what we all want is a better life. If we look around and really see this movie we're in, we'll know we're all in it together, and wherever we're going, we're the ones who've gotta get us there. And we know on that scrap of a newspaper blowing down a nowhere street, what's written on the other side of the obituaries page are the birth notices of children named Maria and grandchildren named Desmond.

We are not zombies. We're human beings. Walking toward our brave tomorrow. Not for nothing, we're Americans. We were born to promise.

Promises still light our eyes. Because we know some promises are kept. We know that our hands create politics' promises. And we know there is nothing more wondrously powerful than our own promise to be true.

No comments:

Post a Comment