I don’t like national politics. I am fascinated by it, but I don’t like it. It frustrates me to no end. It’s pretty obvious that our country is a house built on a bad foundation, but instead of ever addressing that, our national politics just argues over how elaborately to decorate the living room.
People get so wrapped up in what their team is supposed to be that they have no real understanding of the game they’re playing. I’m old enough to remember when the Democrats forced the Republicans into pandemic shutdowns. These days, the Democrats are in charge and they’ve decided against shutdowns, instead opting for confusion over how things are so much worse now than when they weren’t in charge.
But I digress. The point, again, is that I don’t like national politics. It always feels like the country is a car that won’t start and the Republicans and Democrats are running competing garages. You take your car to the Republican Garage and they call you back the next day to tell you it’s ready. You try to pick up your car, but:
You: Why is my car on cinder blocks?
Republican Garage: We’re saving you money.
You: By stealing my rims and tires?
RG: Bald tires won’t be an issue for you now. Think about it.
You: Um. But my car needs wheels to drive.
RG: Oh, we already stripped the wires out of it, so it wasn’t going to drive anyway.
You: Wait. What?
RG: We also added an extra gas tank and relocated each one to just behind your bumpers. And, before you say anything, yes, we filled your airbags with shards of metal.
You: What the f—?
RG: We also installed new locks so you don’t have to worry about those people, if you get my meaning.
You: You mean Black people.
RG: Not the word I would use, but yes.
You can’t tell if they’re screwing with you or trying to screw you over, so you decide to take the car to the Democrat Garage. Six to 10 business days later, they call you back to tell you it’s ready. You go down there and:
You: OK. I mean, I have to ask: Why did you replace all four of my actual wheels with steering wheels?
Democrat Garage: Um, brand new steering wheels! And we replaced the windows!
You: The windows weren’t broken.
DG: Thank goodness, right? Plus, we painted it a new color!
You: Why did you do that? Also, it looks like it’s the same color.
DG: Of course! That’s because we painted the original color over the new color!
You: What is happening here? Does the car even start?
DG: Take a look at the new hood ornament! It’s right inside the glove compartment!
You: Oh my god. Does the car start?
DG: I’m happy to tell you that you are going to spend more money on this than you ever have before! [Pours a single glass of champagne]
You: Holy shit. This car still won’t start, will it?
DG: We called the Republican Garage for their advice. They had a pretty cool suggestion about some new locks…
You: I don’t…
DG: Look, they didn’t get everything they wanted, but we also didn’t get everything we wanted! And honestly, I’m a little offended you haven’t thanked us yet.
It may seem like I think national politics is a lost cause. I don’t. I think it’s a funhouse mirror reflecting local and state politics. Contrary to popular belief, change doesn’t come from the top down. Almost every single national movement that’s brought about any kind of change in this country has started on the local level. For example, national fascists only recently started whining about Critical Race Theory after enough local bigots started making loud enough fools of themselves at school board meetings.
Fortunately, they’re not the only ones with voices. From the Dec. 13, 2021, Press Herald: “The Maine Legislature is launching a pilot program to assess how certain bills and policy proposals would affect people of color and other historically disadvantaged racial populations.”
That’s right! We’ve been writing laws this whole time without taking into account how they would affect the actual population! But unlike a lot of other states, that’s changing in Maine.
And that’s how it starts. One state, one community, one voice at a time. And before you know it, you’ve got a movement. If you’re sick of the hard-right turn the country is taking, run for a local office. Get online and find local organizations that are fighting. Make a personal resolution to do something. It’s just about that time of year anyway.
Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.