Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Disneyland Republic

I Voted! Should I vote or go to Disneyland? Both are exercises in facade, at least that’s what it feels like. This election, this country, politics in general–it feels like I’m living in a theme park. Now entertain me. All of you: news networks, candidates, elected officials who get to decide whether or not my vote gets counted because of any number of unpublished, anachronistic technicalities. Entertain me. Let me take your picture. Wave to me. That’s what it feels like.

Please forgive my sarcasm and malaise on a day that feels so important to so many. It’s a day when the people get to speak. Instead of meeting in basements and making alliances, instead of stockpiling weapons and recruiting people to fight for a cause, Americans head out to the polling booths today to enact a gentler more civil kind of revolution. At least that’s the facade.

In this theme park we all get to cast our vote, but not all of them are counted. Scratch that, in this theme park all of us get to vote if we can afford to stand in line for 12 hours while we are skipping work to do so. We get our votes counted if there’s no chad left hanging. We get to participate in a government by the people, for the people, if the state supreme court decides that our vote gets counted.

On the morning of this historic day, I can’t help but temper my hope with questions. Do we have free elections if those eligible to vote aren’t allowed to vote? Are elections free if our votes aren’t counted? And finally, the biggest question of all. This goes out to all of my theme park buddies who, like me, are so entertained by this facade. Do we care if we’re free as long as we’re entertained?

6 Comments

  1. Yes we can haz hope!

    Seriously, what’s wrong with a little hope? Though I would say that voting is the first step of civic responsibility. Certainly it does not guarantee democracy — as taking a vitamin does not guarantee longevity — but it’s a start. If you think you can change things just by voting, then I can see why you think it’s a facade. But for many voting today, voting is not the source of the hope, it’s the ritual at the end of a long process of volunteering, donating, and engaging their neighbors.

  2. Yes. Thank you.

  3. I agree with stonyhill that a little hope is not a bad thing, and that voting has symbolic power.

    Rekonstruct: I also really like that you compared voting and campaigning to Disneyland. I especially like it in light of Baudrillard’s declarations that Disneyland is the facade that is supposed to look fake so that we can convince ourselves that the rest of our lives are real (as opposed to hyperreal).

    The following questions emerge for me:

    Is voting and campaigning the facade that we need to see as fake so that we can feel like the volunteering, engaging, an donating is real?

    Has the facade replaced the real, so that voting has lost its symbolic power? In other words, do we now equate participation in politics with voting and being entertained instead of a more complete engagement with the political process?

    I don’t know the answer to either. It probably depends. But I think we are in ‘real’danger as soon as voting loses its symbolic power. As soon as we pass from the symbolic into the hyperreal–as soon as the dichotomy between ritual and efficacy disappears–then we lose any chance of change from the inside.

  4. I hear that. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t hope–wouldn’t bother talking about politics if I thought there wasn’t hope. That said, this election–well, the past eight years leading up to this election–has revealed the facade behind the facade. Campaigns are pretense. We know this. We are fairly comfortable with this. What hurts is that there is a facade behind this, that regardless of party affiliation, government has the best interests of the country and the world in mind. I remember when we argued over whether or not taxes were good for the economy. What has been revealed in the last eight years (and more if we look back at declassified documents) is that government has a mind that is at best tangentially related to the people that it is of, by, and for.

  5. With the full dissemination of the political reality already in progress, we are dangerously close to a loss of the symbolic. It’s cute to make fun of the news, what’s not so cute is that the hermeneutic poor media has entered into a closed loop iteration with culture where the copy becomes the news becomes the copy becomes the news…

    Luckily, we are skeptical of that hermeneutic. That posture gives us the time to consider a reintroduction or rediscovery of symbol in what is left of our politic.