Friday, September 4, 2009

Fear and Loathing In Jersey

Watching elections in Jersey is akin to rooting for the shark in Jaws. You know he's going nowhere, but there's going to be a swath of destruction left in his path before he's gone. Since we somehow got rid of the concept of anarchy, it also appears that we are doomed to watch the movie forever, like cockroaches trapped in a B-movie Hell.

Elections have become the stuff of legend, and not in a good way. Behind in the polls? Announce your opponent did a little side deal with a subordinate. If the story's not strong enough to clear a news cycle, drop hints about the possible 'intimate' nature of their friendship. Don't feel you're getting your points across? Start talking about how the other guy screwed everything up, but never mention how you're going to fix things. Want to win the day come First Tuesday? Pay the other guy's street people extra to sit home and watch reruns of Gunsmoke.

To answer the Torricelli question, we became an unforgiving people when we became an uninvolved people. Machines take over the daily labor tasks once done by hand; computers make even the worst typist not have to worry about running out of white-out or bond paper--every moment of our lives focused on producing more with less effort. On a deeper level, that has infected our daily thinking--why look for substance when the 60-second spot damns the other guy without really saying anything? The commercial serves as the dishwasher for the analytical part of our minds--it does the work researching the candidate, so you don't have to.

Give me the guy swinging an ax, not a chainsaw, to fell a tree. Give me the craftsman building a desk, not the factory worker manning the milling machine. These are the people who built America--men and women not afraid to have their brow sweat and their nails chip. People who knew that a representative democracy meant that they needed to elect somebody who represented them--someone hardworking, who understood what it was like to go without, and was grateful for what they had earned. People who took the time to see who they were electing for themselves, not just passively listen to a voiceover dripping with venom rail on about the inadequacies of their opponent.

For too long, we have accepted the status quo as mental pablum. Well, no more. This year, the choice is simply to 'four-get'--get up, get working, get thinking, or you'll have nobody else to blame when you get stuck with someone who, unfortunately, has the gravitas of a cheeseburger.