A confession: I have not been following U.S. politics in detail since...oh, I dunno...2006.
Well, that statement is misleading. Okay, so not "misleading" so much as...entirely false. Let me restate:
I keep informed enough to know what's going on, and on occasion I'll read in depth analyses of events/individuals but I keep it in the most emotionally-detatched way possible. If there's one thing my expat status has done for my political sensibilities, it's to provide me the emotional distance to keep the ugliest details of the frankly pathological rhetoric of American politics. I've always strugged with the tone that we conduct our discourse with, and good god but it's actually gotten *worse*. At least, the worst bits of it are floating ever-closer to the mainstream. I look at the events, I look at the names, I look at the more academic-flavoured assessment of those names and events...I skip the emotion (unless it's an analysis of the emotion!). I skip the (purely) politics blogs. I skip the pundits. Hell, I almost always skip the "comments" section on any given U.S. politics story.
I always struggle for the words to describe what a relief that is. And you know what? I know what those comments will say, anyway. There's a few major flavors of "Americans respond to American politics" commentary pages, each which their own structure and major recurring characters and pattern of discussion. I could draw you charts. And every time I get whimsical decide to read them anyway, it's all right there again. There are no surprises, there are no additional insights.
This is entirely true of UK politics pages, however this is different.
As it turns out, I am American. America is my homeland. This is a part of my identity that, after 4 years abroad I am starting to embrace. I can even say it without the "I know we've got problems, but..." qualification now, and everything. I don't care anymore if simply stating that leaves someone unaware of how excellent my brain is at balancing concepts national identity with the actions of governments with the interrogations of the very notion of the state, and how thoroughly I have interrogated concepts of patriotism and the constant really rather sexy internal conflicts I juggle across these subjects. I can live with this.
I'm a liberal atheist. My formative years were spent nestled round the buckle of the Bible Belt, in a very conservative, very Christian town. My mother was/is a left-center Democrat, and until recently my Dad was a hardline Independent with frequently diametically opposed views. I was living at home during the 2004 presidential campaign, and it was *fucking horrible*. I have also struggled with articulation and self-expression for my entire life, and the constant tension between the thoughts in my head in all of their nuance and the ideas as they emerge from my mouth/fingers were and are a perpetual source of stress. If I finish this entry, it will have taken no fewer than 2 hours. (just because I hardly post does not mean I don't constantly draft entries). I think the *emotion* of U.S. politics affects me because my own (frequently strong) emotions coupled with the aforementioned communication problems leaves me feeling trapped and helpless.
Now, after a morning mis-spent reading the comments on the BBC site re: the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman I watched the public statement
by the Sheriff of Pima County on the shooting.
And where the defensive callus has already been rubbed thin, it feels now like an old wound has been opened. I was in tears by the end.
The only thing I could come away with, after watching this man publicly struggling to come to grips with what has happened in his state, in the county under his protection, in his *home* and what *has been* happening since the 2008 elections, is what can only be described as *pain*. I've been thrust back into the *feeling* of U.S. politics, and watching one person appear to genuinely struggle with such a horrific expression the ugliness of it has cut right through me.
My country is hurting, and like a trapped, wounded animal it will continue to thrash and tear at its own flesh in desperation until...until what? We've been here before, but what is it going to take this time?
Comments disabled, because I've seen enough comments today.