XXX Elephant-on-Donkey Action

It’s election year.  That wonderful time when Americans remember their civic duty and turn out in record numbers to vote.  And a time when we all engage in serious, thoughtful debate about the direction our nation should take over the next four years.

Oh, sorry.  I confused election year with the So You Think You Can Dance finale.

Most people are capable of seeing that the country is drifting farther and farther apart, politically, with the moderate voices in the center being completely drowned out by the screaming coming from either side.  This isn’t news.  It’s been happening for over a decade.  The issue seems to be that no one realizes that it’s a serious problem.  And I don’t mean that no one is paying lip service to the fact that it’s a serious problem.  Because everyone is.  But no one is actually doing anything to change the conversation.  Instead, they’re just yelling harder in the hopes that the other side is going to magically crumble into dust.

Unfortunately, I have to be somewhat partisan and lay the blame for this at the feet of the Republicans.  They were the ones who started this by creating the “Moral Majority”, which has since spiraled out of control.  By tying themselves so intimately to the conservative Christian block of voters (who have a scary amount of money at their disposal), they guaranteed that they would never be able to put forward a candidate with any moderate views on social issues.  The result is that John McCain (circa 2000) can’t win a primary but John McCain (circa 2008) can.  All he had to do was completely throw out his previous platform, built on compromise, campaign-finance reform, and generally sensible (if still conservative) views.  Oh, and he had to make Sarah Palin his running mate.  Meanwhile, any congressman who may be willing to reach across the aisle has to be willing to say goodbye to his seat, because they will lose any hopes of funding for their next campaign.  Anyone who can’t see how the Republican party has been hijacked by extremists is living in a dream world.

And Democrats don’t come out of this looking too great either.  While the party has managed to maintain a fairly healthy shape (yes, a party that doesn’t act as one solid voting block is functioning well), many Democrats have sunk to the same rhetorical level of their Republican counterparts.  I’m seeing more and more posts on Facebook and other online forums that characterize Republicans as “evil”.  Instead of trying to reach out to the few remaining moderates in the party in an effort to bring things back in line, Democrats are helping to create a wider gap.  And dialogue has become all but impossible.  Any debate devolves into both sides screaming, “You’re lying!”

This isn’t how a two-party system is meant to work.  The system was created with the idea that compromise between the parties would not only be possible, but that it would be necessary for the government to function properly.  And historically, the last time issues got this divisive, we ended up having a civil war.  I’m sure there are some people out there who would be able to make the historical argument that this divisiveness is just a continuation of a conflict that never really ended.  But they’re way smarter than I am, and I’ll wait for them to write the books.

In the meantime, I’d like to believe that it’s possible for dialogue to start again.  For Republicans to stop engaging in scare tactics.  For Democrats to stick to their guns without stooping to petty arguments.  We’re meant to be able to have debates about politics without hitting someone.  Maybe we can try to get back to that.

Not all Newspaper Columnists are Created Smart

Yes, I have a blog.  And yes, it’s been a few months since I last posted.  Blame my hectic work schedule or my complete lack of motivation to post anything: your choice.

At any rate, I’ve gotten a tiny bump in motivation from this article:

Now, Ms. Singletary seems like she has all her ducks in a row today.  I have no idea what she was like in college, but if she was even close to this ridiculously stuck-up, I’m sorry to hear that she missed out on all the fun bits of school (and life?).  She seems to be laboring under the impression that life is a game, and your score is quite literally based on how much money you’ve made.  If you have a job making a lot of money, you’re winning.  If you’re in the arts, you’re losing.  And who cares about the human element, right?  Life isn’t about whether you enjoy what you do every day.  It’s about whether you can get into pissing contests with your old friends at college reunions.

And I don’t wholly blame the author for her views.  She’s been conditioned by the relatively recent change in how we perceive a college education.  A university education was never supposed to be mandatory, at least not until recently.  University was where you went if you wanted to further your education and generally increase your knowledge.  When you went to school, you didn’t necessarily need to know what field you were going to go into, but you’d generally know that you were going to university in order to pursue an intellectually demanding career path, in medicine, the law, the sciences, and even politics (back in the day, that used to demand some intellect).  Today, you are expected to go to college if you want to work anywhere above the sales floor of a major retailer.  As a result, we have this cultural expectation that college is about preparing us for the “real world” (as opposed to the vastly underrated imaginary world), and that our professors are supposed to get us jobs instead of educations.

Jobs are great.  And there’s nothing wrong with centering your life around getting a good job to get more money so you can have better stuff.  Go for it.  If that’s what makes you happy.  This seems to be the crucial point that Ms. Singletary missed in her article.  Your job isn’t just about the paycheck (as someone who worked their way up through the newspaper business ought to know).  It’s about how you feel after a day of work.

Up next: Why that common household item not more than two feet away from you is giving you cancer.  News at 11.

Performance Art, My Ass

Someone linked this story on Facebook (I don’t know if that’s ironic), and I felt compelled to comment.

For those of you who are too lazy to read the article, here’s the summary: this woman is planning on giving birth in an art gallery.  As a piece of performance art.  She will follow up on this by chronicling the child, dubbed “Baby X”, through its developmental years.  Now, far be it from me to say that what she’s doing isn’t art.  Heaven knows, I don’t need anyone coming after me for past projects I’ve been involved in.  What I will say is this:

Fuck.  You.  Lady.

What this woman is doing goes beyond unethical into grotesque and reprehensible.  I don’t care what point she’s making.  For all I know, it may be a valid one.  I certainly don’t get that from her generic rant about Facebook turning the personal into the consumable, but maybe she’s got something worth saying.  I don’t know.  And I really don’t care.  Because whatever point she is making is being made with a human being.  This child isn’t the subject of her art, it’s the medium.  She is quite literally using the baby-to-be as paint on whatever her metaphoric canvas is.  Now, there’s been a lot of interesting choices in medium lately.  Artists have been using pig’s blood, urine, human feces, semen, and a host of other ridiculous things to create works of visual art.  Fantastic.  Whatever floats your boat.  Go for it.  There’s one crucial difference here.

This child is a sentient life form without the capacity to consent to anything.  If a scientist decided to use an experimental drug on their baby just to see what the side effects were, it would be called abuse.  And that’s exactly what this qualifies as.  This child is being used in this piece of performance art without its knowledge or consent.  Beyond that making for one fucked-up upbringing, it damn near qualifies as rape.  Now, I’m the last person who’s going to go around touting the moral bedrock of “family values”, but there is a line.  And this woman is crossing it.  Big time.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, where the fuck is this kid’s father?

Artists are in a unique position to send a message to an audience in visceral, unexpected ways.  The best art shocks and provokes its audience.  But if all art is going to be a commentary on the human condition, then it needs to have an element of humanity in it.  This borderline sociopathic plea for attention certainly lacks that, and it is beyond appalling that any gallery was willing to put this on display.