Conventions and Discontents

I am, as I write this, on call as a home support volunteer for the Radical Reference people who are at the Republican National Convention. So far this has not entailed any actual work on my part, but that doesn’t mean that things haven’t been happening. It’s very weird in many ways to be so far from it all. My best friend lived in the Twin Cities for a decade, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time there myself. And

My friend doesn’t like election years because they seem to divide people too easily. I don’t like election years because I feel like none of the divisions create any spaces I can claim.

I’ve always felt that elections in the US are basically about choosing which flavor of capitalism you’d like. I got that from hanging out with the socialists, of course, but that doesn’t prevent it from being true.

I worry sometimes that by moving to a place where my vote, at least at the presidential level, truly does not count, I’ve just stepped off the edge of the political world and turned into the sort of person who is happy to sit on the beach (or in my case the mountain top) and watch the world as it burns. Of course, I’ve always said that voting is the least thing you can do politically, especially voting for national office. It stands to reason, therefore, that I ought to be able to go on doing the other political things that I do, such as volunteering with Radical Reference. But distance does make a difference. I can hardly imagine attending a candlelight vigil — much less a rally — any more, and yet I used to do that sort of thing all the time. I wonder if by being so far away from meetings and conference calls and marches and coordinating committees I am also far away from the things that they stood for, if I am losing my grip on them. I talk to people all over the country, and sometimes even the world, almost every day, and since they are almost all librarians, I have often a lot in common with them. In the last couple of weeks, though, reading blogging and tweeting and whatever the hell it is we do on FriendFeed, I’ve started to feel like I’m talking to people who mostly don’t know me at all, and that’s a little disturbing.

Of course, it’s good to be exposed to variety. It’s good to consider other viewpoints. But I think again and again of the story about the man who kept proclaiming his beliefs, even when people thought he was crazy. “Why do you keep speaking?” a young man asks, and the man says that sometimes he keeps speaking to change the world, and sometimes he keeps speaking so that the world doesn’t change him. That’s what I’m doing, I hope, these many years after the very first New Rambler.

2 comments

  1. Laura, I find librarians to be wonderful web company, but I’m not one. Fwiw, I follow you on FF specifically because of your politics. What actually made me click the subscribe button, after seeing you pop up on Friends of Friends for a while, was when my wife put out a call for science-y books for a young person, and you shoe-horned Cory Doctorow’s latest into your reply, because it had computer science in it. It does of course and in spades — and maybe it’s only for my generation that computer science isn’t normally filed under “science” — but you pretty much had me at Little Brother. :)

  2. keep speaking!