Real life and politics

T.A. Barnhart

Real life and politics

Brad Avakian addresses DPO Central Committee in Eugene

While I spent the weekend with Democratic Party activists in Eugene, my daughter-in-law’s baby decided to start the birthing process nine weeks early. Real life takes many forms.

Fortunately, mom and as-yet-unborn child are doing well; modern medicine is amazing. I couldn’t sleep Saturday night with the worry nudging sleep away, but I attended various meetings the next day. Business as usual. In the midst of the dramas and drudgeries that are the stuff our of daily lives, people like me retain their commitment to party politics.


Ignoring politics is both futile and self-destructive. Look at Wisconsin: in 2010, voter turnout was abysmal, Scott Walker and the GOP took over the state, and the interests of the non-voting Democrats and their independent supporters were hammered. Whether or not a person chooses to vote, elections happen and someone wins. And then, as in Wisconsin and elsewhere, the winner wins big, and the big winner is a raging ideologue, they tend to stomp hell out of their opponents.

Not voting is surrender. Capitulation. And it’s dumb. The people who are suffering the results of poor turnout in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere have only there ownselves to blame. They could have stopped this from happening.

I have two sons whose educational opportunities got screwed by Measure 5. My older son will be going to Afghanistan later this year. His wife struggled to get one of the rare places in an Oregon nursing school, finally gaining admission to George Fox: a long commute from their home in Silverton and private-college expensive. On top of all this, the world my granddaughters face is fraught with peril. And some brutal political actors.

Politics matters. A lot.

Almost every aspect of my life – and your life, as well as my children and grandchildren’s lives – is impacted by politics. Ignoring the processes that lead to the decisions that affect our lives – ignoring politics – is like getting on my bike and heading down the road with a blindfold on. And no helmet. The only potential for any kind of good outcome is if someone captures the disaster on video. At least my demise would go viral.

Not everyone needs to attend the quarterly meetings of the Democratic Party’s State Central Committee. In fact, I highly recommend that most people avoid inflicting that kind of burden on themselves unless they want to be a party leader. For me, hanging with the insiders and leaders of the party is worthwhile; it helps me as I work to engage other Democrats in Multnomah County to support our candidates and our goals. But that’s me; that’s what I’m doing as a citizen paying attention to politics.

What I’d like to see from other citizens is that they actually pay attention to politics. Not 24/7, not every single day; just enough to be aware of dangers and opportunities. No one should be caught off-guard when they receive their ballot in the mail — and they should not be tossing them aside. In Oregon, we have almost three weeks to fill in the ballot; that’s more than enough time to spend an hour learning enough to complete and return your ballot. And that’s just the simplest, most basic requirement of a good citizen taking responsibility for his or her political community.

I get angry when people try to separate “real life” and “politics”. Humans are social creatures; we function best in community with one another. Politics is the way we figure out how to do so in peace despite our differences. Ignoring politics, pretending you don’t have to have anything to do with politics is a diminishment of yourself as a human being. I love my family, so I expend a lot of energy in politics in order to try to make the world a better place for them.

I don’t want to be ashamed of myself when I look at my granddaughters and think of the world they’ll be living their lives in.

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