After one devotes months of one’s life to a small town campaign for Town Board destined to lose – which, accordingly, fulfills that destiny – what could be a better soundtrack than Elliot Smith?
You disappoint me, you people raking in on the world
The devil’s script sells you the heart of a blackbird
Shine on me baby, ’cause it’s raining in my heart
Sun’s rising on a chopping glare
Rain dropping acid bought up in the air
A distorted reality’s now a necessity to be free
It’s so disappointing
First I put it all down to luck
God knows why my country don’t give a fuck
Shine on me baby, ’cause it’s raining in my heart…
Ah, it always sounds better with the music, doesn’t it?
“It’s 2:45 in the morning / and I’m putting myself on warning…” I love that one.
My friend Natalie uses this phrase “not for anything” a lot, I can hear her saying it right now, launching into a hilariously tragic tale of her amazingly screwed up former job as a food scientist for a major supermarket chain in its death throes, with all the accompanying layoffs and doomed money-saving gestures and you’re just going to have to forgive the stream-of-consciousness bullshit and run on sentences tonight because I’m just sad, OK?
Natals uses a few phrases I’ve never heard anyone but her use, which makes sense because she talks more than anyone I know including – possibly – me, which is really cool in a certain way. So:
Not for anything, but I’ve been what could rather derisively be called an “activist” since I was about 14. And, and also you’re going to have to forgive me the…well, what’s a better word for “goody goody?” – you’re going to have to forgive that kind of talk tonight too, because the deep down truth is that since I was 14 I’ve always gone deep.
In the animal rights world there was (is? I no longer know) a big schism between the “animal welfare” people – who would be happy if you adopted dogs from shelters and didn’t declaw your cats and ate humanely raised meats – and the “animal rights” people, who were (are!) fond of comparing themselves to slavery abolitionists. Animal rights people are not in favor of “humane meat” – we know that animals are their own little dudes, here for their own purposes, and we don’t really have a right to do shit to them. Live and live, fuckers, you know?
I loved that division, loved taking sides. The junior high girl with a big Ayn Rand crush loved that there was a right answer and I could devote my life to living it out on ever deeper levels. I loved learning the rules of veganism – could you eat bread? What on earth is “vegan shampoo?”
I like climbing mountains. (Not literally, of course, bleh.). Oh man, I just talked about this last week on the old blog, didn’t I? (“I’ll make my pie crust from scratch, thank you.” Remember?)
I still do. I’m not a libertarian nut, far from it, but I believe firmly in absolute right and wrong, and the vital importance of setting up your life in the very most correct way possible. Not because of some fucked up ideas about getting into heaven, but because of the old-fashioned hippie idea of karma. Sleeping well at night. We all live on this planet. Simple shit like that.
So I’ve always at least had that – I know I pick the right fights. I don’t really compromise.
Can you see where this is going? Think back to your college affection for Ani Difranco – “what doesn’t bend breaks,” remember that song? Early Ani was really good, wasn’t it? These days we wouldn’t be caught dead, sadness. I think it has to do with horns, really I do. Horns are the downfall of many a band.
Of course, what this means (not the horns, necessarily) is that I lose. I always lose.
And I’ve perfected the liberal art of the sad phrases everyone says after a loss. “We really learned how to run a good campaign.” “We planted a few seeds of consciousness.” “We’re helping to build the party.” “We did really well considering xyz…” “We sowed seeds for next time.” “We brought a much-needed perspective to the debate.” “We brought out voters who otherwise would not have voted…just not enough.” After a while it fades to random phrases: “grassroots democracy,” “proud of ourselves.” “not a waste at all.”
I think about my little business, and how I’m so proud of how I run it. And I try not to think about how a big corporation undoes all the tiny little environmental and human-rights and whatever gains I’ve made in one second just because their paper is not recycled for one day. I tell myself that small businesses, local politics, regionism are the long-term solutions to the larger problems – but after a loss I just want BIG. I want to be Whole Foods on these horrible days, I want to take over, I want to gentrify, brand my message, abandon idealism in favor of WINNING. Just once. I just want to bend a little and work for the candidate who is going to win, instead of the candidate who is right.
But, oh, 14 hour day of campaigning on 3 hours sleep plus one small stand up meal 6 hours ago plus one beer plus one defeat. Oh, 29-year-old optimists with bigger hearts then they had ever wanted to admit who still have hopes for this sad little human race, and what are we going to do when things are so unimaginative and partisan and sad that little old Margaret can’t even get a seat on the Town Board because the small-minded Democrats are so angry because the Green Party deposed their beloved leader four years ago or whatever that they won’t even endorse us even when we are the candidates who so clearly represent their values? Oh Democrats, who just spout Nader Nader Nader over and over, even though they have been proven wrong again and again and again, what is to be done with you?
I want to be a little kid-activist again, the one who didn’t see all the defeat and small-mindedness ahead. When I was twelve and had just stopped eating meat I wrote a terribly treacley (yet, strangely, easily published) poem with lines like “and the bee flew by me, because it knew I wished it no harm.” Cause and effect. Not eating meat would protect me from bee stings forever. I think of this poem every time the wasps that are slowly taking over the house sting me immediately upon walking outside in the summertime. I finally had to buy some mainstream horrible wasp-killah spray, and I watched the wasps die and told myself not to flinch.
But not everything is a metaphor, and it’s not kill or be killed out there, and I’m now entering my 28th hour without sleep.