Campaign 2016: Me and Shuman…
A favorite comic book cartoon from my college days was illustrator and philosopher R. Crumb’s Shuman the Human. He was a regular everyman character in Zap, Mr. Natural and several other underground comix (period spelling) which I devoured greedily. My most memorable strip shows Schuman in a gathering of friends where he announces, “Let’s all stop playing games… for Five Minutes!”
The strip moves through several frames where the friends and Schuman look thoughtfully at each other, making no sound or comment until the last frame, where with a huge grin, Schuman says, “There! Now wasn’t that a great idea?”
That summed up my view of the leadership of movements in general. It has stayed with me since then. I’ve been a confirmed non-joiner with a possibly more than healthy skepticism applied across the board. On those few occasions when something became so important to me that I became involved, even to the point of heading up a local business leaders group, making public speeches, etc., I could hear Schuman, quietly calling from the edges of my awareness, reminding me. Inevitably, the tide turns, and those who don’t slide with it end up high and dry. Been there. Done that.
This Presidential campaign year has certainly brought back most of my skepticism. The Nation is polarized as the established two-party system seems to be failing. Alternative candidates are beginning to be given press coverage but I’m worried that the coming election may yield the most splintered results we’ve seen in generations. There are many good ideas out there, but Schuman again reminds me that they might be pushed out in front for the wrong reasons. Or not. I have to decide which. I will vote in the coming election, not because I’m part of any team. Not because I’m emotionally compelled, but simply because it is a duty that citizenship carries. I’m not going to vote according to any spoon-fed ideology, either.
Political parties are opportunist animals. Living things that respond and exploit the prevailing conditions in the same way all living things do. They survive and evolve and plot their agendas, often independently of the actual needs of their adherents. They paint their illustrations six stories high, with Hollywood lighting and a swelling soundtrack. But, I don’t have to buy a ticket, do I? If I get an email from “Barack Obama”, or from “Jeb Bush” (I’ve gotten both regularly for more than a year now), both go into the trash heap unread. I’ve been around long enough that I can smell a pitch when one comes calling.
I’ll use my own brain to answer my own questions the best way I can, and when the day comes to go to the polls, I’ll be voting with Schuman standing right next to me, reminding me that I’m not voting to feel good about earning the “doing the right thing” badge. Not to feel like I’m a member of some exclusive club that “gets it”. Not to deny anything to someone I disagree with or get even for perceived slights; but rather, to vote in support of the candidates I feel will be the best choices in office for the Nation’s well-being. I’ll let the self-congratulatory back patting remain on Schuman’s agenda. Still, I’m glad he’s my friend. I hope that we can find our way out of this terrible spot we’re in. It might require us to lay down our bright banners and roll up our sleeves. Together. Jus’ sayin’.
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R. Crumb has released an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis which is worth a visit!
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