Meditations (Politics): "As California Goes..."
"As California Goes..."
Viewed from Michigan, my home state where I’m visiting family, the California recall election looks both silly and significant. ''Crazy Californians'' will indicate on Tuesday whether America has hit bottom, or the world will have to suffer through another four years of Bush Jr.
The at once millionaire-funded and populist special election is to decide whether to remove Governor Gray Davis from office and replace him with one of 150 or so contenders (only a few are serious candidates). For people who have been visiting Pluto for the last couple months, the leading candidate to replace Davis, should he be booted out, is Arnold Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. the Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, and Total Recall Robot.
The local news last night, here on the Michigan peninsula, had an announcer saying, with a straight face, “we will have the latest from the California election we’re all looking forward to.” Why is the rest of the nation so interested in the inane details of this phony election?
Like so much else in America, the answer is a contradiction, and therefore itself a riddle. On one hand, people don’t give a damn what happens in California or anywhere else because 98% of the population is utterly self-absorbed. On the other hand, those “crazy Californians” offer a diversion from the seemingly insurmountable problems of a country mired in Bush-shit, as well as the excruciating sameness and boredom of life in America.
California is continually referred to as “the 5th largest economy in the world.” (Some of the less current media sheep apply the old designation of 6th.) The world economic ranking is a phrase that indicates both the importance and isolation of California to the rest of the country. No other state receives such treatment. You never hear of Michigan, for example, being referred to as ‘the 89th largest economy in the world,’ or whatever it is.
Given that the rest of the world hardly exists for most Americans, the ranking is a two-edged sword. On the surface, it conveys the powerhouse that California is, not just economically but culturally. But there is a subtle scapegoating going on, as the Golden State is cast in the image of a state wild-child.
Indeed, as America lurches from one dark escapade to another, largely because the unilateral polices of our Alfred E. Newman look-alike and act-alike president, it is convenient to be able to point to one of the states and call it crazy.
No one actually wants California to go down the drain. But few see the seriousness of the situation either. America’s most populous and diverse state is, like nearly all of the rest of the states, facing a fiscal crisis of unprecedented proportions. So why are Californios about to kick out Davis and elect a mega-star of violent movies?
Because they’re mad as hell and they want to fake it some more. In California, as in the USA in general, there is no reality except what people decide is real this week. That’s why a slick Austrian body-builder can come to this country, learn the arts of mass deception, and achieve his goal of becoming king. Having attained the pinnacle as a muscle man and a movie star, it’s time to rule another non-designated sport, politics.
This election is a referendum on whether America has hit bottom, or still has a long way to go. As much as people around the country ridicule California, they know that it leads in every important category. There is an old expression-as California goes, so goes the nation.
We sure don’t need another hollow Republican in high office. This is a moment of truth. Hope for the best, but expect the worst.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.