My confused political identity


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EMPOWERMENT AND LOVE 3.

 

Another title for this blog could be, “Being a stranger in a strange land, what do I do?” Maybe even, “…who am I?”

That is, I am not sure where I am located, or could be located, on the usual political map. Given all my basic political dispositions I think of myself as firmly planted on the left. But I have never been comfortable there (here?) ever since I was deeply and passionately involved in the Columbia University student strike way back in ’68. At the same time I have never found any kind of fit in the middle or on the right as I have known it. Coming to know, in recent years, some conservatives who can keep a distance from the dogmatism of the right, I am relieved to discover people who are open-minded and respectful of difference, without having to give up their basic political orientations. One thing we seem to have in common is a lack of rage as a primary motivator. The one thing I see in common between the radical left and radical right is an ideological driven rage as people’s primary political motivator.

My rage is a good indicator of my quandary about my political identity. I am usually not enraged at people.* Take the CEO’s of the most un-self-regulated corporations and banks, for example. I have plenty of rage at what they do, but since I don’t know these people I don’t assume I understand why they do what they do. I am even very biased to believe that if I heard and understood their stories, I would be far more saddened by their traumas and emotional deprivations than outraged at them for what they are doing. This without losing any of my outrage for their doings and what they are a part of.

But then my outrage at those behaviors and the systems they are a part of, don’t really come to being a major motivator. It’s not that I don’t foam at the mouth at particular atrocities that penetrate me more deeply than most of them do. No, that certainly happens. But then any form of systemic intense blame of other people disgusts me. Yes! Truly disgusts me! Full frontal judgmentalism! Whatever direction on the political compass it comes from. However, when it comes from “the left”, I find it depressing as well. Sometimes to the point of feeling, What the fuck is the point! I react this way also to the intellectual hubris I so often experience on “the left:” Have we no humility!

For this reason I have a very hard time identifying myself with “the left.” I know I don’t belong in the political mainstream, even though I respect the importance of having people of good heart, keen intelligence, perseverance, and strong stomachs working there. (God! where would the world be without them, even if their hands are dirty. Aren’t mine!)

No, I belong in the margins where people are struggling to build alternatives and to find out what will make the world work better. But try as I have, I just haven’t found a space in those margins where I can feel I truly belong. There’s too much rage, too much certitude, and too much judgment of people rather than to their stupid and mean actions. I just don’t find enough people who have awakened one morning a while back with a liberating scream that, I just don’t want to wake up anymore hating capitalism. I want more out of life.

 

*This is no claim to sainthood or emotional consistency by any means. Last year, for example, I was obsessively hating another movement person for months that required a personal retreat of several weeks that were full of some wonderful TLC to let go of my wanting to “take the mother-fucker out.”

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