Saturday, January 29, 2011

What Makes a Good Citizen?

Did I watch the State of the Union this week? No. What, you may ask, was so important that caused me to miss it? Well, for one thing, my cuticles were a mess and how many times can you simply ignore the health of your fingernails before paying the price? No...actually I was reading a biography of Patrick Henry who, as it turns out, would have been appalled at the spectacle of a President of the United States being treated like a rock star.

I must confess that I haven't watched a SOTU speech since Bill Clinton declared that the era of big government was over. Does that make me a bad citizen? On the contrary, it makes me an American. We Americans are constantly giving the finger to the "good citizenship" crowd over at PBS and C-Span by not caring enough about our democracy. You know, every four years we are treated to the hand-wringing about the 50% of us who don't even bother to vote, for crying out loud. Why, those poor souls over in Iraq stand in line for days at risk to their own safety for the chance to have their voices heard and get their fingers painted purple...they put us to shame!! No, actually they don't. The reason they stand in line for days is because their government SUCKS, their existence so hopeless that the chance to vote is like throwing a life line to a drowning man. When 50% of us don't show up at the polls I, for one, am greatly relieved and encouraged. I'm relieved that the 50% of Americans who can't name either of the senators from their own state and who think that the supreme court is the name of Diana Ross' second album are NOT dumbing down the voter pool. I'm encouraged because 50% of us don't think it matters because we're too busy living our lives in a free country.

Do I vote? Yes. Does it make a game-changing difference to me who wins? No, because I am the captain of my ship and the ocean of my life is too big to be roiled by some nerd from the Coast Guard who thinks all of my crew should be required to wear life jackets.  Yes, I vote, because maybe if enough of the right kind of men and women get elected then maybe the nerds from the Coast Guard will be easier to get along with. But thats about it. Nobody from Washington is ever laying a hand on my wheel.

The SOTU has become a celebration of politics. Its the big show, time for every Congressman and Senator to dress up and maybe get a little face time in their nice clothes looking grave and serious about the business of the Republic. It's almost like the Oscars only with no gorgeous women. Actually politics in America is alot like entertainment...Hollywood for ugly people you might say. But I don't watch the Oscar's show because it goes on forever and everyone is so shallow and self-important. I don't watch the SOTU for the same reason.