The U.S. House of Representin’ in Idiocracy is a madhouse. When Joe is sworn in as the Secretary of the Interior, he takes his seat in the balcony with the other Cabinet members. He looks down into the gallery. It is dimly lit. When Joe is sworn in as the Secretary of the Interior, he enters the chamber and sits in the balcony with the rest of the Cabinet. He looks down into the gallery. It is dimly lit. There are spotlights roving across the Representatives, who don’t sit at desks but stand in a mosh pit. There is even a center-hung video display like you’d see at an indoor sports area. Six giant LED screens. Ring displays showing weird ASCII characters.
Someone plays an entrance theme consisting mostly of a cowbell and grunts. Strobe lights flash. An announcer says, like he was announcing a World Wrestling Entertainment performer, “Ladies and gentlemen…the President of America!” Camacho comes out of a side door screaming. He’s dressed in lots of red and white stripes with a cape made of the union blue. (n.b. The federal code forbids the wearing the flag as apparel.) He does some made-up karate poses. There are logos on the rostrum and currency sheets for wallpaper. He stands at the lectern and begins his address to the Representatives by saying, “Shut up.”
There’s a kind of ritual to his entrance, but the proceedings are all chaos. I think if you mentioned the Jefferson’s Manual you’d be accused of talking like a fag. (Jefferson’s Manual was penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and still stands as a guideline for how the House and to a lesser extent the Senate runs its…but there I go talking faggy again.) When the delegation from South Carolina start talking smack, he grabs a semi-automatic and shoots it into the ceiling to get everyone’s attention again.
Ordinarily I might try and critique this as some abstract interface for the task of vetting a Cabinet member or legislating, since it is meant to be that, but Idiocracy is just too far gone. Plus, tomorrow is the midterm elections, and it’s more instructive to talk about its tone.
What makes this scene so marvelous is how un-governmental it all is. It’s macho posing and buzz words. Insults and tribalism. It’s a circus (without, in this case, the bread). Empty promises and showmanship.
Come with me now to walk far, far back from it all, to try to get it all into view and really think hard about the scope of the institution we call government. We grant this thing the highest authority that we possibly can. It has power over our life and death, war and money, our children and our environment—and it is only right that this trust be met by the occupants of that government with gravity, some serious consideration for the power with which they have been entrusted. It is grotesque for it to become a show. When people think corporations and government should be best buds, and the highest offices of the land become a shill for product. When the participants conceive it as a high-school parking lot gang fight where scoring insults against the other team counts as some beer-swilling victory while, you know, actual human suffering and violent death occurs as collateral damage. When they justify horrible things by saying, “You had your turn.” When demagogues keep you stupidly, stupidly distracted.
If this is government, we shout at the screen, those morons in the electorate should replace it with something better.
Replace it with something better
We’re not done with reviews of Idiocracy, but tomorrow is the 2018 midterm election in the USA.
If you’ve stayed with me this far it means you’re probably not a supporter of The Tire Fire in Chief, since, as fascists, they tend to be fanatical and abhor dissent, and would have left the blog long ago. (They will not be missed.) So you’re probably not one of them.
If you’re a progressive or even a moderate, you’ve been as shocked as I have over the past two years, and you realize how much of a disaster this administration has been. Your mind has hopefully already been made up. In early voting or by mail you may have even already voted. Rock on.
Some of my readers may have genuine hardships that prevent them from voting, even in early voting states or by mail. Please do everything you can. Remember Uber and Lyft are offering free and discounted trips to polls (there are even carpool sites), and in most states your employer is required by law to give you paid time off to vote. (Check here.) Some voters will be victims of suppression efforts and holy shit I’m sorry about that.
But let’s presume that there are yet a few undecideds, or who are choosing not to vote out of some sense of hopelessness or protest. Maybe you have some Russian troll farm meme in your head that is preventing you from voting. Not voting may feel like resistance, but it’s actually surrender. With all the voter suppression underway, you’re letting the oppressors win. With all the wrong in the world, you would be complicit. So get over yourself. Stop the decline into Idiocracy. Our choices aren’t perfect. They never are. They never will be. But even if this choice is not perfect, it is clear. The GOP is wrecking democracy, ruining the environment, and making people suffer for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy and their old, white cronies. Broadcast Democrats may not be the answers we need in the long run, but they are the only thing that can stop this Idiocracy, right here, right now.
Let me close with a great screed by Lori Gallagher Witt about why she is a liberal. You are a sci-fi fan. You’re used to entertaining the notion of alternate realities. Imagine a world where the following becomes true.
- “I’ve always been a liberal, but that doesn’t mean what a lot of you apparently think it does. Let’s break it down, shall we? Because quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of being told what I believe and what I stand for. Spoiler alert: Not every liberal is the same, though the majority of liberals I know think along roughly these same lines:
- I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
- I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe Obamacare is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
- I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt.
- I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work. I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating this. Somehow believing that makes me a communist.
- I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something besides lining corporate pockets or bombing other countries while Americans die without healthcare.
- I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
- I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; compulsory prayer in school is—and should be—illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize my right to live according to my beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity”—I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
- I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the same rights as you.
- I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc).
- I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything—I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation.
- I believe our current administration is fascist. Not because I dislike them or because I can’t get over an election, but because I’ve spent too many years reading and learning about the Third Reich to miss the similarities. Not because any administration I dislike must be Nazis, but because things are actually mirroring authoritarian and fascist regimes of the past.
- I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege—white, straight, male, economic, etc.—need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized.
- I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun. (Got another opinion? Put it on your page, not mine).
- I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person?
- I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. There are too many sustainable options available for us to continue with coal and oil. Sorry, billionaires. Maybe try investing in something else.
- I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
I think that about covers it. Bottom line is that I’m a liberal because I think we should take care of each other. That doesn’t mean you should work 80 hours a week so your lazy neighbor can get all your money. It just means I don’t believe there is any scenario in which preventable suffering is an acceptable outcome as long as money is saved.”