On Being All Political And Shit

Over the last year, my approach and attitude toward politics has evolved. That’s probably true for most of us. A year ago, I was engaged and optimistic about the possibility that Bernie might beat the liberal establishment and make a serious run at the White House. I was in McCarthy, Alaska a year ago, and I went to a Democratic caucus where something like fifteen people showed up, which may not sound like much to you, but McCarthy is a remote community that is literally at the end of the road, way out in bush Alaska, so fifteen people represents roughly half of the winter population. The caucus turned into a party.

But then the establishment struck back and Bernie got booted out, and since then, our political situation has only devolved in a downward spiral of outrage and cultural dysfunction. The worse it gets, the more I find myself single-pointedly posting politically. I can’t help myself.

I don’t apologize for filling my social media with political shit, but it’s odd because I’m not sure that I like it that way. I’d like to broaden my horizons a bit. For example, I’m a new author, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, trying to build a writing career and publish a novel. So from a marketing perspective I know that I should be posting stuff that’s more neutral, less politically charged, in an effort to broaden my influence among potential readers. I know this, intellectually, but it doesn’t stop me. I’m undeterred, day after day posting on politics and power and socialism and, of course, Trump. Is it possible to break out?


We Americans are typically hesitant to talk politics or even to engage in the political process. We differ from Europeans on this count. I’m speaking very generally, but this has always seemed to be the case, at least in my lifetime. I’ve always felt hesitant to talk about politics, getting the general sense that such topics were a bit too controversial. Certainly there is a time and a place a certain grace that should pervade a productive political conversation, and I’ve most definitely been guilty of turning people away with my tone and approach. Even so, I think that it’s true that we Americans are less politically engaged than others around the world.

Now we live in a polarized political climate, and maybe the tide is turning. Certainly in some sense it’s become trendy to be political. But as usual, I push things a little further, and now I find myself preaching the gospel of socialism or speculating on Californian secession. I don’t apologize, but at the same time, I’d like to be a bit more expansive.

In my defense, I do think that our lack of political engagement is why we are in this shit storm. Politics is about power, true, but politics is also about what kind of people we want to be. It’s about what kind of culture and society we want to live in, and that means there’s something very moral and deeply spiritual about it all. And I think that’s what has always compelled me to be politically engaged, now more than ever.

As we witness ourselves stepping toward the edge, speculating on the possible collapse in our government and democracy, certain unspoken questions seem to lie just under the surface. Talking about healthcare isn’t just a numbers game, it’s about the essentially spiritual nature of who we want to be. Are we so individualistic that we have to protect an individuals’ ability to generate personal profit, even if that means denying millions of people access to basic healthcare? That’s a question of values. Is personal enrichment a higher value than civic duty or caring for one’s neighbor? The answer has been “yes,” but many of us are coming together to challenge the spirit of this conventional worship of individual self-enrichment.

I ought to be broadening my posts right now, and dammit, I’m going to try. But it isn’t easy. I’m fixated. I care about the world, as many people do, but in another sense, it’s all still compelling, this human drama, especially now. It’s all becoming one big cultural train wreck from which I cannot turn away. Or maybe it’s more like the Titanic. We all have a sense of how this is going to end, we can read the tea leaves and see that the big barge is heading toward the ice berg, but we’re compelled to keep trying, the sense of urgency only increasing as things become more chaotic.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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