In case you haven’t heard, these are uneasy times in Fair Britain.
The UK is now on its fourth prime minister in three-odd years following the recent resignation of former PM Liz Truss after only six weeks on the job – the shortest reign in British history. She was replaced by Rishi Sunak (who?) last week. The British pound has been heading south, and inflation has touched its highest point ever.
Media wags have trotted out the usual apocalyptic gasps – “Chaos!” “Utter chaos!” “Total chaos!” “Teetering on the edge!” “Unstable!”
A right bloody mess, innit?
And yet, and yet ….
The chaos has breezed right past me. Life in our household has changed not one bit amid all this chaos. We wake up, we have breakfast, later on we have dinner, and then we go to bed and do it all over again. I do my chores. I work. I ride my bike, read, nap, cook, watch sports, draw pictures – the normal routine.
It’s the same old same old, chaos be damned.
Is this what they mean by privilege – me being blissfully above the fray because I can afford to be?
Maybe, but I’m cool with that.
The thing is, I don’t care about British politics. I’ve never cared about British politics, and never will. The UK is a fine country, and I like it – but it’s not my country. We’re just foreigners passing through. I don’t know enough about British politics to render an intelligent opinion about it, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t. I just don’t care enough, and don’t care what others think about me not caring.
In fact, not caring is something I wish I could extend to all politics, everywhere, the world over – including back in my home country of the United States of America, which I care about maybe too much, and which seems to be teetering ever deeper into madness. Not chaos – madness. Chaos you can fix. Madness, you cannot.
While the UK deals with its problems, the U.S. is preparing for the midterm (non-Presidential) elections next week in another Battle Royale between the Democrats, who want to please everyone while pleasing almost no one, and the Republicans, who only want to please themselves.
All signs point to a major Republican sweep, after which all voting machines will be melted down and repurposed into guns so that every God-fearing American man, woman, and child can arm themselves against the scourge of foreigners, Socialists, and wine-sipping urban elitists who read books.
I’m kidding (hopefully). What’s true is that the USA is going through another deeply divisive election cycle, and the rhetoric is ratcheted up to a fever pitch. The Republicans will almost certainly win the House of Representatives. They’re a 50-50 bet to also win the Senate.
This is the norm in midterm elections. The party in power – currently the Democrats – loses ground to the party not in power. Voters are fickle, with short memories. They don’t seem to know what they want, other than they want something besides what they have.
One part of me is tempted to downplay this year’s election as just more of the same. That’s probably the smart play, the one that will age the best 50 years down the road, when I’m long gone and nobody much cares about the 2022 midterm elections.
On the other hand…..
Many Republicans, maybe most, seem hellbent on permanently fixing an American voting system that isn’t broken. They keep pushing the narrative that all elections are fraudulent – unless they’re on the winning side. This is the bullshittiest load of bullshit you will ever hear outside of used car lots and college frat parties.
The incidences of voter fraud in the United States are so microscopic they wouldn’t impact an election in a town of 30 people, let alone a country of 330 million. This has been proven by evidence and data. But never mind evidence and data. Social media conspiracy theorists say elections are routinely stolen – and if it’s on social media, you can bet it’s true! (BTW, that BS will probably grow exponentially now that Elon Musk, a self-important prick if ever there was one, has officially taken over Twitter).
If Republicans win enough elections this November – and get the right number of people in the right places when it comes to controlling future elections – they might be tempted to challenge and then void any election results that don’t go their way. I am not being overdramatic here. They’ve already admitted as much. For them, it’s practically a badge of honor.
This is all new ground. It is not the way the country is supposed to operate, or ever has operated. There was a time when the Republican party was guided by reason, and would have laughed at the notion of widespread voter fraud. But that was before it got kidnapped by a posse of populist, nationalist, fundamentalist, anti-science, anti-education, and unthinking posers who seem to want nothing more in the world than to grab and hold power for the express purpose of telling everyone else to go fuck off.
Meanwhile, the Democrats – who have controlled the White House and Congress for nearly two years – just keep sitting on their GD hands and hoping the crazy people will stop acting crazy.
Here on the sidelines, I wonder if I’m watching the end of the Great American Experiment. I wonder what to do about it. I wonder whether it’s even worth saving. Maybe it should die and be reborn. Maybe I’m overthinking it.
Which brings me back to the UK….
I have no idea if the UK is as chaotic as the media makes it out to be. I don’t see a lot of people acting chaotic. Instead, I see a lot of people going about their business in the usual way. This is an ancient country. It’s been through a lot. It’s still here.
Maybe the chaos I hear about is not really chaos at all, but politics as usual. I wouldn’t really know because I don’t stick my head into British politics. The chaos others see I am willfully blind to. Should I trust their eyes, or mine?
Which brings me back to the USA…
What if I didn’t give a shit about American politics? What if I just stopped paying attention to it? How would that change my mindset?
We travel back to the U.S. about every year, and not once in any of those visits have I come up against the anger and ruin I keep reading about. It’s just life as usual. People shopping, jogging, walking their dogs, painting their homes, mowing their lawns, playing basketball, whatever. I watch American sports over here and see the big crowds living it up, happy as you please.
I know the violent crazies are out there. America is a violent country, and always has been. Most of us are just lucky enough to have never come face-to-face with it.
If I’m being honest, I don’t have the first clue about what the future holds for the United States. I only know what I have read in the media I have chosen to consume. About the only thing I can say intelligently is that the United States is no longer a single cohesive unit, if it ever was – and it probably never was.
The country is divided into little nation-states, often along geographic lines. You can choose to live in the one that suits you best – and when we move back, that’s exactly what we will do. I’ll give to the causes I believe in, and vote, and maybe write my representative every now and then.
But I am done with letting this endless hate and dysfunction make me ill. I am done with it keeping me up at night, detonating decades-long relationships, crowding out too much of my brain when there are so many other things to focus on, so much more to life.
I don’t see anything chaotic here in the UK, even though some Brits probably see a whole lot. I have my eyes closed, and they don’t.
I might not close my eyes back in the USA. But I’m going to buy some very, very dark glasses and shove them as close to my eyeballs as humanly possible.
Note: The illustration, I assume, is from the 19th century or so and is maybe in the public domain.