the politics of politics and identity | July 17, 2009


I've been learning a lot about myself at work these days. There's the general stuff, like how much I hate emails and meetings and bosses (they can be so bossy sometimes), and then the major stuff, like how much I'm really not that in to politics.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to know what's going on in the world. I vote, read the paper, watch Macneil Lehrer and Charlie Rose, even write about politics from time to time. But I'm not necessarily "in" to politics. I've gone on marches, but I would never organize one; have never joined an explicitly political organization; and of course, famously, didn't call or canvas a single person to vote for Obama.

I did shoot a documentary of canvassers in downtown Brooklyn, though. And maybe that's just it: I enjoy politics as an observer, unwilling to get mired in the endless (and quite silly, I might add) left-right debate, progressives and conservatives like two kids on the playground arguing about whose mom is better. The answer is neither because there is no objective way to measure them, the two moms -- or ideologies -- are equally distinct beings governed by different systems of thought.

That kind of simple partisanship, though, is certainly at the heart of American politics, and makes for really bad government. Policies are molded more by fear and rhetoric than concern for the commonweal.

Most people are too small-minded to govern. I could toss out the names of two dozen pundits who think it's all either red or blue, and thank God they're not in any public office. Reality, unfortunately, is more like a shade of purple.

Rather than get caught up in the fray, I prefer to stay far enough back to see the reds and blues blend together. I wish more people approached government with that kind of pragmatism, call it wisdom. Without it, as it stands now, politics is the ultimate exercise in futility.

I always had a sneaking suspicion I was more of an abstainer than anything else, but it took a political job -- or rather, a job at a political documentary film company -- to realize that I don't really care that much. My compulsion is more to understand people, society, and the nature of social change than the political game. Why I likely was more fascinated by the phenomenon of a Barack Obama, than by the man himself or his politics (even less so now!).

That being said, I'm not so naive as to think the personal is not political. That my being black, African, American, female, and educated means nothing. Take one look at this circus of a confirmation hearing, and you can plainly see how simply being ethnic -- for lack of a pithier, less vulgar term -- is taken as a political statement, in contrast to neutral, objective, impartial whiteness.

Food for thought.

You Might Also Like


Popular Posts


+1 347 857 9224