Why Aren’t They Smiling?
Driving up El Toro Road today, I passed three cars with “W-04” bumper stickers and one with a Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker. In the heart of the Orange, this result was to be expected. But with all the alledged “good news” of last week — the polls showing the race to be “at worst” neck and neck — the Bush drivers did not strike me as happy. And at the heart of it, I knew why. They were worried about losing the frills — their Hummers, their swimming pools, etc.
At the Aliso Viejo Barnes and Noble tonight, a columnist from the Register was slated to speak. Even in this age of “conservative” dominion, he was preaching the evil of government. Excuse me? You don’t like what the government does and yet you support this undercutter of civil liberties who is the government? I’m sure that deep down they feel the pain of the contradiction. It’s inescapable. Which is why the drivers on El Toro looked so nervous.
There’s the story of a Turkish poet who was imprisoned by the Ottoman Empire and thrown in the bilges of a ship. For those of you who are not familiar with maritime construction, the bilge is the sewer, where the sailers hang from the rafters and deposit the redigestion of their daily hardtack so that the ship will not become slowly unbalanced by the loss of weight. It’s a fetid place, unchlorinated and stinking of past meals, of intestinal dross and kidney pollution. His tormentors — classic rightists who torture for words — hoped to silence him. But this poet begin to sing all the folk songs he could remember from his youth. After two or three days of his refusal to allow them to rob him of his joy, they pulled him out. They could not bear their failure.
That man was a liberal. Ready to suffer for his beliefs to demonstrate the absurdity of being punished for being alive.
So what I do is smile. I smile because I am a liberal. I smile because regardless of what material possessions they extort from me, what they do to my body, what they deny me for reasons of politics or just juggling the books, they cannot steal my exuberant love for being alive. I smile because I know that I am not a slave to their value system. I smile because all I need is the skin on my shoulders, the hair on my head, a mouth, hands, and feet.
And they don’t know how good they have it. That’s a reason to pity them.