Darkness On The Edge Of Town

This month marks 36 years since I fell in love with the music of Bruce Springsteen. His Darkness on the Edge of Town album had just come out and I was invited to go to his concert at the old Capital Center in Largo with a friend and her family. And the rest is history. A huge part of my life, actually. Sometime soon, I’m going to post an essay I wrote in 2009 and updated/edited recently about one of my best Springsteen experiences and what his music means to me, but that’s not what this post is about.

It’s about the midterm elections.

It’s about our country.

I admit I don’t get it. Well, I do get it. I just don’t like it.

We come from different places, see things different ways, value and want different things, have different priorities, have our own ideas of how to make things right and our own ideas of what “right” even means. It’s a big freaking mess because we won’t work together to help ourselves. We’ve become extremists. We don’t listen. We use our differences to dehumanize and fight each other AND we’re mostly good people, which makes me totally crazy because what are we supposed to do with that? We’re too blinded by something, and it’s not light, that’s for sure.

There’s a darkness on the edge of town…

I was sick yesterday morning reading all of the garbage on my FB. The kind of sick that makes me feel immobilized. I’m seriously considering taking a break from that place or at the very least, unfollowing A LOT of people. Did you know you can unfollow without unfriending? To temporarily protect yourself from bullshit? While preserving valued relationships? But then that wouldn’t be listening, would it? So I’m trapped. Anyway, I dragged myself out of the house TWICE to walk, to try to kick the shit off my heels, literally. But damn, that shit sticks.

The fact is, in many ways, we’re better off than we were 6 years ago even while I acknowledge that things are still rough for too many people. We have a long way to go, for sure, and yes, too many people are still living paycheck to paycheck or worse. AND the economy is gradually recovering, the stock market is up, news jobs are rapidly being created, unemployment and gas prices are down, troops are coming home, affordable health care for millions of previously uninsured people has been secured. So what happened? Why? The reading and research I do to try to tease it all apart, well, it’s all pretty disturbing. To me anyway.

As a friend of mine wisely observed, and I agree with her, Obama is not perfect, but he is NOT the problem. I know many people think he is and they demonize him relentlessly. What a bunch of hysterical wasted energy, and time and money too. Obama hasn’t been able to do nearly as much as he could have, mostly because of the Republicans who obstructed him every step of the way. That he accomplished things like the ACA is a miracle.The problem is a corrupt government bought and sold by dudes like the Koch brothers. It doesn’t matter who the president is if the legislature has no intention of doing anything that benefits the citizens and the country, and only wants to benefit the power hungry few who have bought and paid for them.

Just look at the obsessive and expensive (to the tune of approximately $75 million so far) efforts to repeal the ACA – which have started up again today so buckle up, friends, because seeing healthcare in the context of the common good is NOT happening in the GOP. Ok, the ACA rollout was an embarrassment and it’s not perfect, but it’s working despite all efforts to sabotage it. And btw, none of the nightmare premium hikes or death panels the GOP warned about. How can we not want people to be able to afford and obtain health insurance? It makes no sense UNLESS you follow the money. And the power. The GOP knows the ACA is far too entrenched now to fully repeal it, but they will not stop trying to chip away at it. For example, Mitch McConnell is back in the saddle wanting to change the full time work week limit from 30 to 40 hours so employers can make their employees work 39 hours a week and then cut their healthcare benefits. Or look at the economic recovery…it might be that the main reason Dems lost the elections is that so many of us are out of touch with reality about what it’s gonna take to make things right. The recovery is happening, slowly, but all of the gains are going to rich people while the median income continues to drop. What do we do about it? The GOP wants us to believe still, again that trickle down economics work. It doesn’t, as we will soon be finding out as the middle class continues to shrink. How about raising the damn minimum wage for starters? Do some unbiased research on the raise the wage movement and find out quickly that there are many more people to be helped by minimum wage increases than just teenagers working their first jobs at McDonalds. That would be a step in the right direction in helping to raise people out of poverty and to build the middle class, creating a stronger and more just economy. But there seems to be an opposition to that kind of strength AND justice within the GOP, which I find totally disgusting. Look at our child poverty rate. One of highest in the developed world, in THE richest country. Let that sink in. Think about all of the implications of it. If that isn’t a moral disgrace and a commentary on this country and its priorities, I don’t know what is. And yet, we elected a bunch of people on Tuesday who want to further slash the social programs these children and their families depend on and to tell their parents to just get a job and shut the hell up about their hopes for a living wage. But hey, we’ll make a federal case out of gay marriage and employment protection because we all know THAT is a significant threat to our great country, just like the illegals. And Ebola. Or hey, do you have a kid heading for preschool or college? Well buckle up again, because while we can and will give massive tax breaks to big corporations and let big money rule our politics, we cannot afford universal preK and btw, how would you like a huge increase in college tuition so your kids can be strapped with staggering debt before their lives even begin? The wealth, income and power inequality and the opportunity gaps in this country are shameful. How could we vote to further harm already marginalized and oppressed people? How could we vote against our own interests? Or not vote at all – yeah, less than a third of eligible voters turned out. What in the hell are we thinking? I don’t know…apathy…the culture wars…the narratives we rally around and believe in no matter what…the liberal or progressive which focus on people vs. the conservative which focuses on…I seriously don’t know anymore but it sure as hell doesn’t resemble the Republican party some of our parents belonged to. And what about God? How can so many of us claim to worship the same God, yet believe and act so differently? Does the GOP really care about “Christian values”? I put that in quotes because we can’t even agree on what THAT means. But anyway, I’m sure many of them do. And maybe I’m wrong, but from what I’ve read about Jesus, I’m pretty sure He would be pro-healthcare-for-all, would support helping the poor, would support fair taxes on the rich and big corporations, would bust up the big banks and yes, would be in complete opposition to the obsessive anti-gay agenda.  I’m ashamed and scared of what this country is doing to the poor, to women, to children, to the marginalized and oppressed. There’s enough for everyone. There’s room for everyone. Why don’t we live that way? (Note – I’ve edited this paragraph so many freaking times because I was not being kind and I want to be kind but it’s hard to be kind in the face of perceived bullshit. At least you know I tried.)

There’s a darkness on the edge of town…

And it appears that some of us think the GOP victories in Tuesday’s low-turnout midterm elections mean that President Obama should step aside or prepare for impeachment or whatever. A 33% voter turn out is no mandate, people. The reality is that President Obama won the past two elections with a majority of the popular vote and he is one of only 7 Presidents to do that; he was elected by the entire country. And this isn’t the end of his term either. If the GOP can show they can govern – not shut down the government or sabotage legislation or chase after a delusional impeachment – in the next two years, then they might have their opportunity to elect a president. In the meantime they should try to do SOMETHING that resembles serving our citizens and country or I don’t know, just shut the hell up and let Obama do his thing because for some reason I think he’s going to toughen up. Nothing to lose anymore. Like an election.

Oopsies. See? There I go again. Sorry.

So anyway, one of the reasons I love Springsteen’s music – the Darkness album especially – is because it helps me feel less alone when I feel this way. So much of it deals with despair and hope at the same time. Despair and Hope. Both very human responses to ugly situations like this. And that’s how I feel right now…in near despair about what we’re doing to each other and how broken all of this is and trying to have hope that it can get better somehow.

PS or Addendum or WHATEVER – it’s 11pm Thursday night and here we go…Ben Carson?! Truly unbelievable. Not unbelievable that he’s throwing his hat in the ring. Unbelievable that there are intelligent, decent people cheering him on.

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