Exit Signs

Like that existentialists’ room with no doors or windows, we are now in what Jean-Paul Sartre called in his play No Exit, “the hell that is other people.”  The month of January has begun, and the silly season that is the interminably long road of time stretching before us between now and the Republican National Convention in late summer is upon us.

I look forward to this year’s general election campaign like I do an invitation to a goat slaughter. Needless to say, like many of us here, I haven’t been able to get too worked up about this season’s Republican primaries, their candidates, last night’s primary in New Hampshire, or the 2012 election in general. It’s not like we were finally getting rid of George Bush and Dick Cheney in 2008. It’s not because I’m a Democrat and the President has pissed me off on more than a few occasions these last two years, or that it’s the Republicans’ turn to nominate a candidate. It’s not about whether or not I am for or against any one party or any one person — because all members of the elected parties have proverbial ‘stains on their dresses’. This is just what Washington has become.

It’s clear on the part of Republicans that the election of 2012, like most general elections in the last twenty years, is not about issues. In fact, its very hard to find that the issues we actually face — like poverty, joblessness, access to affordable health care, an increasingly diminishing environment — have any connection at all to the platforms of the Republicans campaigning for the presidential nomination. Unless of course, you live off a trust fund or you’re a fetus. A bizarre costume contest at masquerade ball in Versailles could be the more accurate summation of the Republicans’ race for the White House so far, coupled with mud-slinging, race-baiting and other egregious forms of pandering to the base.

It’s also quite clear that members of Congress have done their best to try to ‘plow the road’ to advantage their party, attempting to sabotage the country for political gain by their corporate masters, even slowing the recovery of the economy by last year’s late summer debt ceiling crisis — an attempted national fiscal suicide — during a Mercury retrograde no less. That event alone nearly turned the world’s economy to shit. But that did not matter, as long as it could be used as mud to sling at President Obama. Same with their refusal to approve key agency heads like the ones for Transportation Safety or the Federal Consumer Protection Agency, a watchdog department designed to protect ordinary citizens from the loan and credit fraud that tanked the economy in 2008. Stepping around an inert Congress, the President finally had to appoint Richard Cordray to head this agency through recess appointment. The nation’s capitol, it seems, is stuck.

Yet, as the world turns, Congress continues to dig in its heels. As long as it tarnishes the chances for President Obama’s re-election, this Congress will do what it must even if it means fucking the country up further in the process. They really don’t care if you yell. Embracing their corporate cohorts protected by the SCOTUS’ Citizen’s United ruling, the relationship of the Republican Party and their presidential nominees to the reality of everyday citizens does not exist. Why do they do it? The answer is: Why not? They have the time, the money and cameras squarely pointed at them, and their ability to hypnotize others into voting against their own self-interests is legend. The Republican political road show of 2012 is feeling, at least for this audience, more and more like a teleplay by Sartre.

2012 is America’s first official “Citizen’s United” election. By that I mean, according to the Supreme Court ruling, that corporations are persons with a ‘voice’ in our republic. Money, otherwise known as campaign contributions, is the ‘voice’ of corporations. Not that this hasn’t been the case already for several years, but now it’s official. In short, the general elections could be called “Campaign 2012, Inc.” — kind of like the Olympics, with billions in ‘sponsorships’. Should we expect Mitt Romney breakfast bars, official light bulbs of the Rick Perry campaign, and maybe even a pharmaceutical named after Rick Santorum? Perhaps I will leave the symptoms that the Santorum pill relieves entirely up to you. Let’s just say the silly season is made even sillier by the newly encoded corporatization of American politics. The actual passion, also known as rage, is coming from and for us.

We are starting to see the closed off room that is the general election campaign that we have been forced into accepting every four years. We have withstood the psychic assault of character assassination, subtle appeals to intolerance, bigotry, violence and every other base instinct we should have rid ourselves of the day Jack Kennedy died. Just maybe our lack of interest in the 2012 election year is not a signal of social demise, but an initial sign of the returning health of our republic, and that we’re sick to death of this shit. This ennui with the current Republican crop is our impatience with the side show. The political infantilization of the American public has to stop or the world could indeed end.

The Occupy Movement’s standing up to the machinations occurring in corridors of power is our actual social and political evolution — albeit quiet — and it’s taking place right under the television screen. We need to continue being the real ones. Consciously or not, after a season of the Occupy Movement (and more to come), we are standing further and further back from entering that closed off room ever again. We are starting to recognize the circus called Campaign 2012 is just a movie set. The living room we’ve been sitting in, watching the clown show of the Republican primary debates, is just a Neptunian illusion after all. In February, once that illusory planet leaves Aquarius — the sign of the people and groups — maybe the fog will lift and some hard questions will be asked of all candidates running, including the President. Maybe then we can begin to question ourselves and the dazed myopia that has brought us perilously close to taking down a whole lot more than our portion of the continent.

This year, there is support to get out of the room by, twisting Sartre for a bit, recognizing the hell it has been for us — all of us. There’s been a good long thirteen years of it, probably even more, and we don’t have to take it anymore. This year, with this crop of clowns, it’s going to be a long road from now until August. Maybe it’s time to back up out of the illusion of politics — that windowless room. Maybe it’s time to help others breathe in the reality of it — the people who need help, the schools that are getting de-funded, the health care needed by those who can’t afford it, the poisons that threaten not just our grandchildren but their children in coming generations. We need the proof provided by anecdotal evidence that the policies of benign neglect that have plagued the voiceless and vulnerable among us for the last 40 years aren’t working. We don’t have to accept the movie set or a hell we make of ourselves and each other. We don’t have time anymore for ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’. It’s now about all of ‘Us’. Maybe this time, we could get it right. Maybe this time, we could all get up, step back and get out of that sunless room.

About Fe Bongolan

Fe Bongolan is a writer, dramaturge and actor living in Berkeley, California. Along with her Planet Waves column "Fe-911," Fe performs with Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," which produces work empowering the voices of incarcerated women, ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS and young girls. A long-time Planet Waves fan and an employee in the public sector off and on for 30 years, she describes herself a "mystical public servant." When it comes to politics, she loves reading between the lines.
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5 Responses to Exit Signs

  1. Fe Bongolan says:

    GaryB:

    I share your view, though I hope that if President Obama wins, he will have no worry about re-election, and there may be the chance that he can make changes that he wanted to make in the first term, hopefully, “burrowing” enough of the left-end of his administration into the government like Bush did in the DOJ and other departments.

    Then in 2016, I look to Elizabeth Warren putting in a presidential run. She seems like the real deal. This is my hunch, anyhoo.

  2. GaryB says:

    Fe,

    It has been some of the best comedy ever-The Republican debates. However, there is a great sadness. This upcoming election raises the stakes for 2016. If Obama wins as many Dems may assume, he will still be beholden to over $1 Billion of contributors expectations of paybacks and the Pubs will spend just as much or more. 2016 will be a record for campaign contributions whether we rescind the Corporate personhood or not. Until we overcome this concentrated flow of money for benefit we will indeed collapse as a nation as only the extreme interests to right and left will have benefit.

  3. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    Fe:
    Thank you for giving eloquent voice to a passion and rage that many share. The fact that there are many who do or would resonate with your words supports Brendan’s positive feeling as well as your point that there is a way out of that proverbial room would we take it. Until then, we may have to see the absurdity grow. After all, quite recently, one clever fellow nearly succeeded in exposing the emperor by purchasing the naming rights of a state primary. Can product placement and suits with corporate logos be far behind?

  4. Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    It took me awhile to arrive at the point of this piece. But it came like a waterfall theinute I notified Amanda it was ready for view. We need to be ready — this election can and must be about us.

  5. Brendan Brendan says:

    Fe, girl, you have done it yet again. Thank you, for you have said so well what I have felt. Yeah, those last 13-14 years have not gone well for me personally, and finally I feel like I’m climbing out of a big black hole.

    Politically, it feels like we’ve reached that point in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” when the boy calls out the Emperor for being naked: we see it all now, and frankly it’s not all that pretty.

    What I can’t shake (and don’t want to) is an immense feeling of positivity building within and around me. It is very subtle this feeling, but it is there all the same. It also brings a sense of the beginnings of great changes on the horizon, of what feels like a new world being born.

    Yes, the R’s absolutely suck. With the mental midgets that are running (no offense to either little people or runners), it has been mind numbing to read what they say every day. I have refused to watch any of the so-called debates or listen to any speeches at all: they are simply too revolting. There is no ‘there’ there.

    The Dems need to engage in some true contemplation as well: who are we, and where are we going? Some navel gazing as it were, to define their truths, and regain honesty in action and thought. No one should be immune: it needs to start at the top and move downwards.

    That’s my few cents worth, it’s late and time for bed. Have a wonderful week to come, everyone!

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