I haven’t written about politics here in a long while, so God save me as I dip my toes back in the treacherous political waters we all find ourselves in these days. And mind you, my absence in expounding on political matters is no reflection of waning interest or a suggestion of apathy. To the contrary, I care more than ever and have been following the political climate closely these past few years. Heck, I even learned how to use Twitter to follow the stuff.
It’s just so very noisy out there. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is happy to shout that opinion from the rooftops, and I have yet to find that reading an opposing opinion changes my own. We’ve all sort of doubled down, I think. I don’t know if that is good or bad, it simply is. As a nation, we are deeply, troublingly divided. I’ve read the phrase “cold civil war” and it rings true.
This morning I was scrolling through Twitter, which is generally the first thing I do upon waking. No doubt that isn’t the healthiest, most productive way to start one’s day, but Twitter has replaced the kitchen radio for me, in terms of how I access news and stay informed.
This was one of the first things I saw on my feed:
Mark Ruffalo, a man whose politics I admire and who I find is lovely to look at, refers to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as “the one.” “The original progressive,” Ruffalo says of Sanders.
A few hours later, lo and behold, President Trump tweeted his own missive, which looked and felt eerily similar to me:
“I am the only one,” Trump writes.
I find both of these tweets equally troubling, indicative of the cult of personality that we as voters and Americans have enabled our politicians with that is ultimately harmful to us as citizens and as a nation. When we expect a glorified, romanticized “one” to save us, whomever that “one” may be, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility of being an active, engaged citizenry.
Donald Trump cannot save us. Nor can Bernie Sanders. We need to stop expecting them to, as that responsibility is ours, collectively. I will leave it to the political scientists in the room to define our government as a democracy or a democratic republic, but if 2016 taught us anything, it is that there are very real consequences to elections.
When we stop voting, when we disengage, telling ourselves that politics is ugly and corrupt, when we rely on the premise that the ship will right itself, we are adding to the problem. When we get angry and withhold our votes if our candidate lost, we are adding to the problem. When we put blinders on to the plight of others because our 401Ks are doing just fine, we are adding to the problem. When we tell ourselves that politicians are all the same, so our input, interest, and participation are irrelevant and unnecessary, we are adding to the problem.
There is no “one” to save us, so don’t believe the hype. If a candidate suggests himself or is comfortable when others suggest that he is the “one” or the “only one” to save America, I hope you know that that is a political tactic, as old as the hills, employed by politicians who heed their egos over the needs of many. Bad men work to convince you they are the “one.”
Remember that as we head into primary season in a few months. There is no “one” that will save us from ourselves. Only we can do that, by voting, engaging, reading, thinking, and understanding that we have an obligation and a duty to stop expecting old men with big egos to save us.