Our fair state had an initiative 1107 on the ballot, which passed resoundingly and as a result, banished sales tax from the important necessities of life: soda, candy, and bottled water. This is surely good news for all those living on the edge, who’ll now be able to afford just a little bit more candy, or perhaps another six pack of Coke, or even the convenience of expensive water that comes in bottles which will ultimately pollute oceans and landfills, while drawing down much needed aquifers so that Coco-Cola and Nestle can squeak by for their shareholders. Yes sir – candy is important in these tough times. Thank goodness the American Food and Beverage association had 16 million dollars to spend on killing our state’s tax on these essential items.
Forgive the sarcasm (or don’t), but the 1107 scene seems a fitting metaphor for our entire national politic. We want cheap candy, and corporations and politicians spend billions telling us so. I know the red people think I’m talking about the blue people’s desire for subsidized health care, but I’m not talking about what blue people want. I know too, that blue people think I’m talking about the red people’s hunger for the simple sugars of smaller government (perhaps with a cup of tea), but I’m not talking about what red people want.
I’m talking about what we all want, at least some of the time:
We want to be able to buy stuff made overseas where workers are paid for a day of work what we might make in an hour here, and yet keep living wage jobs alive here in America, so we can stay above water on the houses we own, or perhaps be able to afford one someday.
We want gas that costs less than $3 dollars a gallon (look at how lucky we are with the cheapest gas in developed world…way down there at #101 between the powerhouses of Namibia, and Bangladesh), so that we can drive wherever we want, whenever we want, even though the net result of our habits means that we, who are 5% of the world population, are consuming 20% of the world’s resources. Many of us, apparently, don’t seem bothered by this at all, and only want to find a way for it to continue, if only for another decade or two–even if it means risking another Gulf disaster, though it would be better if we could drill off the shore of somebody else’s continent.
We want the cheapest food on the planet, but we also want that food to be free from pesky e-coli bugs and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, in spite of obscene conditions that are commonplace in industrial agriculture–conditions that are a breeding ground for these very diseases, over which we’ll sue food manufacturers. Oh, and we all want lawsuits to decrease, and corporations, including farms, to be held accountable.
We want the government out of our public lives, but if we’re red, we want them to define the family for us.
We want the government out of our private lives, but if we’re blue, we want them to regulate banks and put a tax on carbon.
Everybody wants the government out–and in. The reds and blues just want them out and in, in different places.
We’re hungry…and though there are nuanced differences, I’ve gotta say that I’ve heard little, on either side of the aisle, that offers anything more than sugar. There are no talks of sacrifice, personal responsibility, the honest challenges of the global economy and outsourcing, the hard choices that will be required to reduce the deficit and the real risks that will create to the economy, or the cost of our American, individualistic, consumeristic lifestyle that has come to be called “the American dream.”
It’s candy, people–and whether it’s blue jawbreakers, or red licorice whips, we’ve wanted it and feasted on it in various colors for the decades. Pardon me for not thinking that returning to red licorice whips will deal with the deficit cavities in my mouth, or the insulin shock coursing through my regulatory body. It’s not that I thought the blue jawbreakers were better; it’s that the colors change, but the ingredients remain the same.
I need something nutritious–real food, broccoli perhaps. This real food will require some preparation, and will shock my taste buds that have been eating tax-free, and even government-subsidized candy for years. There’s not a cry for broccoli because the truth of it is that no matter how much all of us on either side of aisle rejoice or decry what happened this week, we’re addicted to the sugar of cheap gas, mind-numbing television, and cool clothes and iPads made in developing countries. Me? Guilty as charged.
So I’ve come away from this election cycle neither afraid of the red licorice, nor believing it will make us healthier. Instead, I think we need to re-evaluate our individual and national priorities, defining what “the good life” is really all about. Is it individual or communitarian? Is it working towards global interests or American interests? Is it seeking to preserve upward mobility, or redefine the good life? These are important and needed conversations.
That project might sound too huge, so how about just munching on some broccoli? Maybe a night volunteering in a homeless shelter, or a trip to Goodwill to give stuff away, or a home-cooked meal with the neighbors will be a start. I don’t know what it is for you, but I know I’m hungry, and taking steps towards real food is freeing.
I’m looking for a little dialogue here – what are your next steps, or thoughts?