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Thursday, March 10, 2011

What is There to Write?

I haven't blogged in a number of days because I didn't know how to approach a pressing topic: how do you talk about literature during times of political crisis? Does it make sense to do so? Is it obscene to do so?

Clearly, parts of the world are in political crisis. And, just as the late-60's became a time for protests throughout the world, we might be seeing the beginning of something similar now. This may be quite a decade we will live through. The Arab protests are one indication. The protests in Madison are another. People of all ages are proving their willingness to march, to stand up and be counted.

It's true that the phenomenon is not happening only among progressives. The Tea Party movement has proven it's appeal: the last election could be seen as a mandate for their calls for smaller government, fewer taxes, and so on. The degree to which it may also appeal to xenophobia is troubling.

My point seems to be that we stand at a political crossroad. Will the moderates and swing voters see the Republican party for what it is, namely, the political wing of the upper classes? Will their anger and frustration be captured by the Tea Party? Apparently, a teacher in Wisconsin voted for Walker in the last election and now felt "betrayed." My sense is that she had a distorted view of the Republican party.

Now things are clarified. The fake phone call in which Governor Walker thought he was talking to a corporate leader proved it. (The ethics of the phone call having taken place I will leave aside.) He admitted to using a "budget crisis" as a pretext for union busting.

What's the alternative? As many have pointed out, the Democratic party has become a wing of the business party as well. They are just a kinder, gentler wing. And this makes all the difference. As the parent of a severely disabled child, I feel directly the difference between Republican and Democratic lawmakers. When the Republicans took over the Minnesota assembly a few years ago a representative was quoted in the paper as saying that we should not be funding every charity case in the state.

By "charity case," he was, of course, referring in part to children like my daughter. The monthly amount we had to pay to keep her in a group home doubled.

Now, the democratic governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, wants to severely cut services to the disabled. If passed by the Republican assembly, his cuts will be draconian. Perhaps, as some have said, the Democrats are the political wing of the business class, only they use a kinder, gentler rhetoric in order to do the same thing as the Republicans.

My sense is not that the corporate interests are completely consolidating power. It's true that those sectors of the culture that oppose it — intellectuals, unions, the Democratic party (sometimes) — have weakened markedly. But they have not gone away.

Let's hope that the protests in Madison are not an isolated final flicker before the corporate state takes over. I hope that power in America waxes and wanes, and that there will be a pendulum shift that will allow the country to once again become a more compassionate, progressive place.

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