ON THE AVENUES: Ghosts within these stones, defiance in these bones.
A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
“Might the accused gentlemen be prepared to admit their mistakes and publicly drag themselves and their politics through the mud, while at the same time admitting the strength of the Soviet state and the correctness of our collectivization strategy? That would be nice.”
— Stalin, note to Molotov (1930)
It is my theory, one subjected to earnest consideration and reconsideration about as often as spike-helmeted insomniac Helmuth von Moltke habitually polished and revised the Schlieffen Plan – only for the meticulous German general to be foiled by mathematical equations pertaining to amassed railway logistics – that insofar as ordinary humans ever think much at all outside the limitations of their own corporeal and localized skins, they prefer fixing their gaze on faraway topics rather than the street where they live.
Except for potholes.
Everyone bitches about potholes.
Stated another way, apart from the minimum daily requirements of family, work and the perpetually horrible service at McDonald’s – and as God is my witness, I’ve never going to eat there, ever again – we’re at our most passionate and insistent when ranting and raving about matters over which we have little input, and most of the time absolutely no control whatever.
Let’s face it. There’ll be zero opportunity for most of us to quiz Kanye about his tweets, or personally threaten manufacturers of firearms. We have nothing to do with the outcome of basketball games unless we’re participating in them, and the royal couple of the moment isn’t aware of our existence.
On and on it goes, and we remain ordinary Joes, just plain schmucks, the 98% of us, and yet we’ll prattle forever about occurrences a million miles away from the front door, even as only 17% of registered voters in Floyd County bother offering their insight into purely local issues by voting in a primary election.
Now, I’m not here to argue with the unmistakable verdict of so many non-voters, who instinctively grasp that with 35 variations of Ranch dressing on Kroger’s shelves and only two hardwired political parties, there’s no sense in voting given the absence of any semblance of genuine choice.
What’s more, it’s all about the money, isn’t it?
Yes, it is about the money, which flows from our salad dressing selections, soft drink addictions and McDonald’s melancholy meals straight into the mouths of the engorged corporate wealth mongers hovering above us – but let’s not complicate the argument with pitchforks.
Non-voters merely reinforce the participatory conundrum, wherein anyone can walk outside at any time they like, risk arrest (or internet video notoriety) by filling potholes with arsenic-laced oatmeal, or better still, by painting phallic symbols around them, but almost no one does, and yet these same folks are quite positive they understand the inner workings of Donald Trump’s brain, having never once met the man.
Consequently, my latest variation on a theme: We’ll get involved locally only for so long as we’re spared responsibility for our opinions. In fact, the less we can do about anything, the better.
At the end of the day, perhaps it isn’t a bit counter-intuitive that so many people refrain from involvement in local political decision-making, because politics is about the distribution of power, and as such, there’ll be winners and losers.
When there are winners and losers, there’ll be arrogant triumphant pricks and downcast sad faces, sometimes accompanied by rancor, and these hard feelings can run deep – then without notice, the fellow who absolutely hates your guts turns the corner at neighborhood stop ‘n’ rob and comes face to face with you, right there by the rotisserie hot dogs.
And then what?
I’ll tell you what.
You remain true to your principles.
You indulge in meaningless pleasantries, smile and grin.
Then you return to the business at hand of calling out the villainous petty bastard, because even Trump himself once inhabited a venue smaller than the vast United States, and the grassroots remain the most relevant of laboratories.
The self-appointed community pillars detest you, eh?
It’s how you know you’re on the right track.
As a non-swimmer who dove into the deep end just shy of 14 years ago and did my share of thrashing, at least until I learned to tread water by gathering a few stylistic chords into a floatation device and patrolling a corner of the pool, I’ve learned about the vacuous viciousness of big fish in small ponds.
Many, especially the ones gathered together into a governing clique of circled wagons fed by dependable rivulets of pay-to-play for sustained beak wetting, don’t much like being questioned, challenged, or exposed to the cleansing properties of transparency.
That’s why they should be, and relentlessly.
They’re actually capable of incredible feats of creativity, although not unless the task at hand is evading questions, dismissing challenges, keeping the room dark, and exhibiting symptoms of junior high school snobbery – making a show of looking the other way on those rare occasions when they walk past you on the street (because their gas-guzzling, tinted-window sofas on wheels are so pricey and comfy, and besides, don’t you have a car?), removing your address from an e-mail list or slapping your back a little too forcefully when exaggeratedly feigning a display of good-old-boyness that might easily be mistaken for deep-seated anger issues.
That’s why you keep at it.
It’s why you don’t quit.
Their greed and clannish bad behavior is predicated on power, entirely insignificant on a global scale, but all the more annoying here on the flood plain owing to the sad absence of both humility and gravitas.
We just keep digging. Our motivation is based on principles like fair play, justice and equality of opportunity. We can’t wait for these to trickle down from above, but must do what we can to expand them, right here … right now.
Allow me to state this clearly and with the utmost force, because in the city of New Albany, the major obstacles to progress are DemoDisneyDixiecrats in the lamentable habit of viewing their multi-salaried chief campaign finance accumulator, Mayor Jeff Gahan, as the most glorious of all Great White Hopes.
It’s absurd, and it’s a viewpoint of jaundiced self-delusion, one that this blog will continue to contest, disprove and oppose. Perhaps there’ll come a time when the administration’s abundantly burgeoning bad karma coagulates into a massive sewer fatberg and explodes into the faces of the poseurs.
That would be nice.
So-called Democrats, if you’re tolerating in New Albany what you’re decrying elsewhere, then the looting clique isn’t to blame. Rather, you’re the hypocrite, and it’s YOUR problem to resolve – and honesty’s always a good place to begin if you’re serious about supporting a civil society.
Old dogs can learn new tricks, but zebras assuredly cannot erase their stripes. I’m entering a phase of my life where there’ll be less time to devote to the blog, even if my dander remains at highest-alert dudgeon.
I’m not going away, and neither is this soap box. The more they ignore us, the closer we get – and stealth is a many and varied treasure, capable of being molded into numerous tools.
“After one comes, through contact with its administrators, no longer to cherish greatly the law as a remedy in abuses, then the bottle becomes a sovereign means of direct action. If you cannot throw it at least you can always drink out of it.”— Ernest Hemingway, from “Death in the Afternoon”
However, I could use some help, so consider this another in a series of requests to become a part of the written, expository resistance effort.
Please consider submissions to NA Confidential. You needn’t be a polished professional writer to be eligible for inclusion, because I’m certainly not. I can help you state your case, acting as an editor and advisor.
In terms of editorial thrust, longtime readers know I’m a contrarian progressive socialist, a misplaced European who values books, a disgruntled former everything and a hopeful future something. If you’ve read this far today, you know exactly where I stand going into the 2019 municipal election cycle.
However, opposing points of view are welcome. I’ve always read them myself, and still do.
What I will not do apart from rare occasions of Facebook-impelled intellectual rabies – and conceding this blog’s identity policy (anonymity only under strictly defined circumstance – is to block, ignore, silence and disenfranchise you from expressing your point of view.
It’s what some of Team Gahan’s and the Democratic Party’s bootlicking functionaries have done and continue to do to us, so to hell with all that.
Let’s see if we can level this playing field a tad. Take away their money, and what have they got?
Nothing, that’s what.
April 26: ON THE AVENUES: The wonder years.