Friday, September 21, 2012

Adam Boles' Voice

Dear Gov. Romney,

          In his keynote speech at the Republican Convention a few weeks ago, New Jersey governor Chris Christie shared a litany of the “hard truths” you will tell us that “we need to hear” in order to right the American ship. While the “truths” Christie outlined seemed to me to be specious at best, it turns out he was on to something. You have, despite yourself, told us all the hard truth about how you plan to govern were November’s election to go your way. In a moment of uncharacteristic transparency, you may have finally told the American voting public, in no uncertain terms, exactly where you stand on issues both domestic and foreign.
          To echo your own five-point plan for America, here, in easy-to-read bullet points, are what seem to be your real intentions for the country:

                    1) Vilify any citizen who accepts a “handout” from the federal government as a “victim,” and refuse to govern them. This includes the working poor, the elderly, the disabled, students, and military veterans. “My job is not to worry about these people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
                    2) Dismiss women and people of color as mere tokens to whom — when you’re not in a room full of wealthy white people — you must pander in order to win an election. Joke that your chances of election would be made better were your parents actually Mexican — “It’d be helpful if they’d been Latino” — while at the same time victimizing yourself as a poor little rich kid who can’t catch a break in a world overrun with liberal bottom-feeders.
                    3) Eschew the possibility of compromise in the Middle East by advancing the notion that the Palestinian people, and the rest of the Muslim world for good measure, have no interest in a life devoid of violence and hate. Instead, call for a policy of American leadership that has us “kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”
                    4) Explicitly outline the social and economic hierarchy which resides at the base of your plan’s ideology, placing financial power brokers like yourself at the top, and those who feel entitled “to healthcare, to food, to housing” in the most advanced industrialized nation on the planet on the bottom.
                    5) Reaffirm that the only economies that matter in this country are not the ones that take place around a kitchen table in a house with an underwater mortgage, but instead move among the inner hallways of financial institutions, and that those markets will thrive only when the magic wand of your election is waved. “If we win on November 6th, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future… We’ll see capital come back and we’ll see — without actually doing anything — we’ll actually get a boost in the economy.”

          You should know: there is a persistent cliche about the upper echelons of the Republican party that is popular among the liberal set in this country. This cliche paints a picture of GOP higher-ups as disingenuous robber-barons who mete out a thinly veiled agenda from their elected offices, serving only to line the pockets of their financiers — who will, in turn, line the pockets of the politicians in any number of ways, both legal and illegal — while, at the same time, pandering to the lowest common denominator of voters. These voters, as the cliche goes, are too stalwart, too uninformed, too xenophobic to pay attention to any issues other than those that involve guns, religion, and the most basic misunderstanding of abstractions like “freedom” and “liberty.” The GOP politicians use well-wrought rhetorical techniques to secure the votes of this section of the electorate while simultaneously enacting policies and legislation that go directly against the interests of the voters who support them. There is an image in this cliche of a dark, wood paneled boardroom, an inner sanctum where the Republicans gather to discuss how to gut federal and state programs put in place to ensure the stability of the lower classes, not because of some Randian ideal involving boot straps and self-reliance, but instead to ensure that they and their cronies can have as big a piece of the economic pie as possible; to reinforce the low stature of the block that voted them in, to keep them down, so that they may be voted in again. That’s the cliche.
          I’m not big on cliches. I find them suspicious and filled with potholes where things like nuance and specificity ought to be. This is certainly true of the picture I just painted. It’s a spoof taken up by political humorists, and is best embodied by the character of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. It is only a cartoon, right?
          It isn’t often we, the public, get to see inside the gilded dining rooms of $50,000 per plate fundraising dinners, and it is even less often that we get to hear you, Mitt Romney, speak your unedited mind. One would assume, before the release of the now-infamous tape, that were we to get a peek inside those inner recesses, what you would say couldn’t possibly live up to the cliche presented above. It’s too outlandish, too obvious.
          Maybe not. What appears to be on display in this tape is an affirmation, where the cynical joking about tokenism and xenophobia seem well entrenched in the rhetoric of this group; where a naive isolationism stands in for a foreign policy strategy; where the explicit dismissal of anyone struggling for a leg up in this country is an applause line. The takeaway is shocking and disheartening, that you, this man who would be president, believe in government only insofar as it’s role to support your healthy bottom line.
          “I was born with a silver spoon,” you said, “which is the greatest gift you could have, which is to get born in America… Ninety-five percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country.” Maybe it is for you, Mitt, but you might want to poll that 47 percent of people you’re so ready to disregard. They might have a slight difference in their experience of being born American. You see, for you, your ability to get the best healthcare, to eat a proper meal, to have a good job that pays good money was never in question. That silver spoon you speak of was placed in your mouth by parents who received welfare and other government assistance after they re-immigrated to this country from Mexico. That silver spoon was polished by the government who thought it proper to tilt the rules of the economy to favor someone in your family’s financial position, reinforcing that position over and over with tax cuts and loopholes that served only you and a very few others. So, you’re right Mitt. You should be grateful to the United States government for your silver spoon, for helping you get this close to the presidency with this much money in your off-shore, untaxed accounts. If that’s not entitlement, I don’t know what is. 

-- Adam Boles 

Adam Boles lives and works in Tallahassee, FL. He is finishing his MFA in Creative Writing at Florida State University. His writing has appeared in The St. Petersburg Times and Versal magazine.