Sit Down and Be Counted

Anyone with eyes, ears, or any combination of the above is probably aware of the debt ceiling talks the failure of which will supposedly bring our great nation to its knees, yank open the door of the American outhouse and reveal us in all of our unmentionable glory. Third world, here we come!!

Granted, I’m no economist, but I have watched enough weather reports and lived through enough duct tape and plastic wrap terrorism scares to entertain a certain amount of doubt as to the truly catastrophic nature of these proceedings. I am, after all, from Missouri, and I demand my grain of salt! In short, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Still, while it’s not the possibility of Armageddon that worries me, I must admit that I AM worried. And increasingly irritated. You see, I made the mistake of paying attention to my elected representatives (not necessarily elected by me, but elected nevertheless–oaths of office and all that jazz). I made the further mistake of expecting them to act elected. In other words, to go expeditiously about the business of running the country, in my stead. Instead, everybody stares fixedly into 2012 (or whichever election cycle comes next) and ignores the very present business of watching out for those who put them where they are. Those, I might add, whose “hard-earned taxes,” which many of our politicians have literally sworn to protect, ensure they receive a paycheck every so often.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not one who insists that representatives must be passive conduits of their constituencies’ will. Frankly, I vote because by so doing I create a job the main concern of which should be the development of expertise. The persons we elect are given the responsibility of spending their days gathering information we cannot take the time to gather. Their life’s work (for as long as they’re in office) should be dedicated to ensuring that the American people are free to live their lives. Big, giant, HUGE responsibility on their shoulders. (And don’t tell me this is cruel and unusual expectation–they asked for it, when they ran.)

Why? Because I don’t know diddly-squat about a whole lot of stuff. And I have my own job to do. And if the crowd tried to rule itself–if we went the route of pure democracy–we’d all be killed in the ensuing stampede. There’s a reason classical writers weren’t fans of mob rule, as they thought of it. On the other hand, it is the job of an elected official to learn, to interact with his or her constituents and colleagues with a view toward solving the problems that you, I, and Tom down the street are ill equipped to address.

This is not to say that voters should not strive for understanding, an effort rendered all the more difficult by epidemic media stratification. We can go too far in releasing the reins of power, and then we end up…well…where we are right now. A situation may arise where representatives forget they had constituencies in the first place and imagine, somehow, that the process of governing is really a shiny new chess board for them to play with. Move here, block here, and meanwhile the checkmate lands on us, we the ever-lovin’ people…

Keeping this in mind, look at Washington as it sits right now, as we barrel toward cataclysm, and tell me what you see. The really disturbing thing is that, for all the talk about impending doom, no one seems terribly alarmed. Two possibilities present themselves: 1) Nothing’s really happening, and all the talk is a cynical attempt to prey on the uninformed sitting in front of the telly, with the intent to defraud us into feeding the bit, or 2) something is terribly wrong, and everyone who’s supposed to be looking out for the nation’s welfare is too busy measuring to notice. Either way, my friends, we’re being had.

This is not a partisan complaint. Neither side of the aisle seems to care about the “maddening crowd” of which the American public is composed. They say they do, at the top of their voices. But they don’t. Or they would get over themselves, sit down, and actually talk, to us, to the president, to EACH OTHER. One side says: No new taxes…but we’ll keep wasting yours in these endless, pointless, self-aggrandizing, grandstanding walk-outs. The other side says: No entitlement cuts…but we’ll happily sit here dicking with each other until your entitlement collapses on its own. I am not about to choose sides here. I’m not supporting one side or the other–merely pointing out that, as things stand, neither side is apparently capable of supporting itself.

Nobody is doing their job. Not our politicians, and not us. So what are we going to do about it?

I’ll tell you what I plan to do. Nothing. At all. I’m sick of tea parties that, regardless of intention, only serve to recreate the problem. I’m tired of conservatives who are so afraid to move that they never get anywhere and of liberals who are so eager to advance that they frighten everyone out of following them. I’m fed up with new presidents that morph into the old and old presidents whose ghosts will not be laid, no matter how hard we try.

So, come November 2012, you’ll find me sitting on my hands with all the determination I can muster. Because it strikes me that silence alone will tell, given the circumstances. Pundits talk about record voter turnout…so let’s give ’em one. A LOW one. New people keep telling us what they’re “going to do,” and we keep listening to empty campaign promises. And again and again we stuff seats with stuffed shirts. We have to break this cycle. But we’re not going to do it by playing musical chairs. I’m beginning to think that the only way to make our voices heard at this point is not to say anything at all. Maybe these folks, who seem incapable of hearing piercing screams, will perk up the old pitchers if they’re confronted by a deafening silence.

Here’s my recommendation: DO NOT VOTE. Don’t do it. Don’t let them fool you again. Because, while the faces may change, the collective brain drain remains the same. Every. Single. Time. So, when November rolls around next year, sit it out. Remind them who’s in charge. Make them wonder what’s going on. Let’s take a page from our representatives’ play book, stop fighting each other, and start fighting them. Sit down and be counted!

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