Yesterday I ran into a friend of mine at the gym who railed for a good twenty minutes about the state of our country, how bad George Bush is for us, the increasing limitations on our freedoms and rights, etc. Donna told me to read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for a look at what we're heading for.
I was pathetically unable to care. For Donna it all comes down to the kind of world she wants for her two-year-old daughter. That's what's behind her fear of how things are going, and I know a lot of people are motivated to action by what they want for their children. Having children seems to change how one sees the world and the future.
Maybe I'll have to have a child before I can feel motivated again to work for change. I do things in extremes: for decades I've had no political interest, activities or discussions. Then I gave a lot of time and effort to the the Kerry campaign: I hosted a fundraiser, canvassed on weekends, and even lived in Wisconsin for the last five days of the election season, knocking on doors and getting Kerry-voters to the polls. I did everything I could to make sure Bush was not re-elected.
Afterwards, I focused on how Wisconsin had gone blue, even though it wasn't enough to win Kerry the election. I thought I had learned the lesson that I can make a difference. I wanted to believe my political activity would continue as "we" fought the good fight against the Republican agenda. It hasn't.
As Donna tried to impress upon me the urgency of our fading freedom, I felt dismay for my lack of interest. I had realized that I'm another selfish American who doesn't care about the rest of the world, but now I had to admit my indifference to my own life. I really can't think of any Bush policies, mistakes or even attitudes that directly threaten me. I can't be drafted, my jobs (as a waitress and a musician) will never be outsourced, I have no need for childcare, my health insurance is set, I don't have stock market investments, I'm not gay, a political prisoner or in the military, and I lack the foresight to consider social security/retirement an issue for me. What is there to movitivate me to throw myself again into political activity? Even the supposed "women's issues" don't concern me. I'm 38 and don't anticipate having children (indeed, I've given up on ever having sex again), so reproductive rights and childcare and access to abortion just don't touch me. How can I get pregnant if I'm never having sex again? I just don't care.
Right now I'm still not earning enough to live on at the restaurant, but I understand that's because of the January/February post-holiday, snowstorm-afflicted business slump. Each time we start to do well, a snowstorm drives everyone back into their homes again. So my focus is on earning a living and I've just taken a part-time childcare job. Now I'm looking at a 48-hour workweek which I don't like, but that's what it takes apparently. Born middle-class, educated at UC Berkeley and Cornell, fluent "white" speaker, I have chosen a working class job and like most of the servers, cooks, bussers and dishwashers at Carson's, I am working two jobs just to cover the bills. Let's hear it for the blue-collar work ethic.
My other focus is my music career (I believe I should get a decent crowd on Feb. 16, details to the right) and this incipient, possible, it's-gotta-be-a-mirage, why-the-fuck-did-it-take-so-long, maybe *relationship* (not even whispered, but mouthed) I might be at the beginning of. So talk of George Bush just doesn't draw my attention. I'm not proud of any of this and I wish I were a better person who wants to make the world a better place, but I guess I'm not. Maybe once upon a time, when just getting enough to eat for yourself and your family was the priority (in caveman times? In the 50's?) we had the right to just take care of our own and not worry about the rest of the city or the country or the world. And maybe in the 1950's when Americans reached a state of abundance for most, our attention was appropriately shared with other countries that needed our support. But now we've buckled down into a post-9/11 fetal position where we have declared the rest of the world our enemies -- or at least not our friends -- and drawn our focus back to just us. Back to us now. Is that bad? Am I selfishly not sharing my small resources with the poor? Or am I allowed to just work on my happiness and not want to share it?