It is safe to say that the life of a rat is defined by fear. Just minutes ago I was sitting on a stoop in Manhattan's East Village enjoying a pink hue that was settling into the darkness of the night and was impressed by a rat's deft navigation of the shade that sits beneath the cars lined on Stuyvesant Street. Cautionary hesitation be struck the rat at each sight of light. Its fractured glide to (in a morbid sense) meet its maker - a human laid piece of cheese - marveled me. So if the life of a rat equates to the sum of fear it faces throughout its existence, which it paradoxically removes itself from in an attempt to fulfill its hunger, what defines the life of a political animal?
Holding the same imaginative properties as the arts, sports, and even love - politics enables one to live outside of himself. There is a beauty in being vicariously placed into a story or into fervent feelings of another.
I saw this beauty less than a day ago.
The tedium of college certainly wanes on the mind, and yesterday, my first day off in sometime, I decided to read something for me for a change. Essays In Love it was, Alain De Button's debut and my book of choice. Caught in a three-hour oasis of imagination, De Button took me into an orbit of love - that of my past and that I look to have. And like Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao, De Button's protagonist tapped into the hopeless romanticism that lives within. A void was filled and in turn I have been more open to the tedium that is college.
So what is it about the political sphere that rejuvenates the mind enabling one to bear the humdrum that is life? Is it perhaps the pursuit of perfection that enamors us so much?
If progress was, say, the bridge between the good and the bad; the good would thereby be placed on the horizon. With each step forward, thirst for the good traverses past the mere desirable, over the grouchiness of hunger, and enters into a famished like enchantment ("I am just so damn close!").
In America, its minorities have become its face (i.e. BARACK OBAMA). And low and behold, the nation has found itself only wanting more, birthing the anti-establishment movement into the 2016 presidential election. With progress we become beguiled by the good, obsessed with it. For most college students, Bernie Sanders is the good that sits on the horizon.
I came into contact with this good two or so weeks ago when I went to a Sander's rally in New York City. Consuming Bernie Sander's political rhetoric in the flesh bore reactions that developed with time. I found it hard from an objective - human - level to not be moved by the righteousness tethered to his ideology (Can you really look past equality?). Sanders provided me with the opportunity to see the shared, human, connective-tissue as palpable. As I moved with his words, my palate became cleansed and my body refreshed. I was, perhaps, created anew.
The dichotomized frame Sanders presents to the masses demonstrates the mutual occupation the good and the bad have within the American space. Sanders shapes his message on the grounds of economic inequality and how that in fact mutes the voice of the masses. He calls for a "political revolution" and defines it by, among other things, "a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors." Capitalist greed, which can be marked by Wall Street is therefore, as suggested by Sanders, the root of all evil. Sanders is the physical manifestation of the good that opposes this evil and fills out the frame.
Jettisoning through the generational threshold, Bernie Sanders attaches himself to the change enacted by the leaders of the civil rights movement. There was a subtle, yet recurring juxtaposition between Bernie Sanders and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the rally, located at Washington Square Park - the merger between Manhattan's East and West village - Rosario Dawson concluded her opening speech by emphasizing, in a tone on the verge of unnecessary and seemingly backed by an agenda, that "this man, Senator Bernie Sanders, walked with Martin Luther King, who had a dream of civil rights and then died when he tried to push that dream too much further." Sanders followed suit and mentioned more than once that he did march with King and has been on the right-side of moral history.
Dipping into the civil rights era America supplies Sander's audience with an image of an America that was torn and also of an America that is still torn. This strategic use of imagery is the fodder of Bernie Sander's appeal. His selling point is distilled through the suggestion that he, and his political revolution, will enact the same magnitude of change as Martin Luther King did with the civil rights movement.
The Sander's rally was an escape from reality. I was inundated with the good that lives within the candidate and the good that the candidate is seeking to implement. However, with time, the good that I felt waned. When I was finally able to digest the rally and all that it offered, my feelings changed.
Removed from the powerful feeling of being a member of a righteous political movement, I was able to reflect upon Sander's message and the current state of the Black community. In this reflection, I considered the fact that I am African American, with an African American president, which is a direct result of the efforts of people like my grandfather, Earl M. Johnson, Sr., who was Martin Luther King Jr's lawyer in the State of Florida in the 1960s. Things have changed.
Things are not perfect, however.
My community need not be reminded of the difficulties we face. In the Hip Hop era, there was Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and a litany of others who have fallen through the cracks. But before those of the present day, who were cast down the hall of no return by the cold and lethal touch of racial injustice, there was Rodney King - caught in the liminal space between the post-civil rights and civil rights generation.
But as I pondered the evolution of the Black experience, I wondered with a tender curiosity what the change Bernie Sanders is looking to enact would look like. Sanders presents A: what needs to be changed (economic inequality); B: the method (break up the big banks, in effect take from the rich and give to the poor as Robin Hood did); and C: the effect of change (wealth distribution). This articulation of change is what moved me. However, while I probed the grand scheme of the minority experience, I question how filtering money into social institutions will remove deeply rooted racial hate in America. Compounding this consideration with a look to the other side - the Republican Party - who is led by a candidate that almost celebrates bigotry, I fear that Sanders notion of change has become inflated as it is not grounded in a far greater barrier - the polarization of the American psyche.
My curiosity eventually morphed into disappointment (I almost didn't vote). As I took a look at the larger political space, I can only see that this nation is in the middle of ideological civil war. The pursuit of Sanders perfection is aimed in the wrong direction.
In a more theoretical sense, "there is a tyranny about perfection, a certain tedium even, something that asserts itself with all the dogmatism of a scientific formula," which De Button points out to suggest that perfection should not always be the aim.
That being said, I did vote. In the end, I rather a more connected American than a perfect America, and there are candidates out there that can give me what I am looking for.