WHY I HATE POLITICS
I am not an objective person on the subject of politics. I have hated politics for most of my life. When I was a kid, the dinner table conversation inevitably veered in that direction. My father was not yet involved in this field — he was still an actor hosting General Electric Theater and, later, Death Valley Days. But he was passionate about politics. I remember fidgeting uncomfortably. I remember wondering why everything had to be cut so neatly along the lines of right and wrong. I obviously didn’t think about it in those words; I have no idea what words I used to myself, but I definitely recall the discomfort.
In 1964, I sat in an auditorium and listened to my father give a speech for Barry Goldwater. I was 12 years old. The memory is seared into my brain: The teenage kids with cowboy hats and button-down shirts, Clearasil covering their acne, cheering for Barry Goldwater who seemed like a rather grumpy man to me. And the adults in their church clothes with Goldwater buttons dotting their chests. I remember my father’s speech silencing the room, and I remember feeling that something huge and conquering was moving toward us and that our lives were never going to be the same. I was right. That speech has been called the one that paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s political career. It made him look like a better candidate than Barry Goldwater. It was called A Time For Choosing, but sitting in the audience listening to my father all I could feel was that my father was being taken away from me and I would have no choice about that.
Personal reasons aside, what I hate most about politics is the meanness, which has grown exponentially over the decades until it has now reached the emotional level of warfare. Yesterday morning at the gym I glanced up to one of the TV sets and saw a picture of Hillary Clinton with the caption: Hillary announces candidacy. GOP sharpens their knives. It’s as if we are electing people on the basis of how many wounds they can survive, or how many they can inflict. When did aggression and survival of the fittest get confused with leadership?
We’ve strayed so far onto this battlefield I wonder if we can ever get off of it. There may well be brilliant leaders in our midst — people who could heal the wounds of this country and this world, who are visionary and wise, but who will never be known to us because they have no interest in the ugliness of the political process. They will remain unknown, anonymous, as we keep tolerating candidates who sharpen words into swords.
When I was in grade school, our history teacher asked, “What is the most ideal form of government?” His answer was “a benevolent dictator.” After so much meanness and ugliness in our political system, it’s starting to seem unfortunate that there isn’t one of those around.