Lost in the Movies: Election Day Status Update

Election Day Status Update

After a slow summer, this site has been quite busy in the fall, finally wrapping up the last (more than) half of my Favorites series by adopting a daily schedule after grinding away, off and on, for four years. Several projects are wrapping up simultaneously, while others are waiting to get started, and those projects plus work plus actually needing to get out to vote...all keep me from doing what I had planned for last night or this morning: finally talking about current events on this blog for the first time all year. My reflections on 2016 will have to wait to go up till tomorrow, if I feel like it - aside from brief thoughts right now, and some links to previous political/cultural essays that represent where I was at the time of writing, not necessarily where I am now.

First, though, how am I voting? My most enthusiastic vote will be cast for Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire's first district, a candidate who avoids corporate PAC money (as a result she was not the DNC's desired nominee, email leaks have revealed). But that's probably not the vote you're curious about. I will be voting for Hillary Clinton for president because I currently reside in a swing state and consider this strategy the best one to ensure Donald Trump doesn't become president, despite my many objections with Clinton specifically and, much more importantly, to the entire system she represents and participates in. While I have, to put it mildly, major disagreements with anyone who thinks Trump is a preferable choice, I also don't have much tolerance with those who condemn third-party voters or abstentions. Yes, not voting for Hillary Clinton could be seen as privilege. You know what? Voting for her could be seen as a privilege too. Both actions have dangerous consequences, and can be deeply repellent to the people most directly affected by those consequences. I've made my calculation, and now you must make yours. (A few minutes ago, I published this piece without this paragraph, but I don't want to seem coy - so there it is.)

Eight years ago, I started this blog in the summer lull between primary season and the general election. I had enthusiastically supported Barack Obama in the spring and was looking forward to a double whammy: finally ending the Bush era by voting for a presidential candidate I was really excited about, running a campaign I felt invested in. My political evolution - both before and after that watershed - can be delved into more deeply in that future piece, but back then I was keen to join together my love of movies, my devotion to this new site, and my desire to engage with the election season on a meaningful level. So I created an "election series": reviewed a couple dozen films - fiction and documentary, historical and up-to-the-minute - climaxing with a discussion of the election, using a Frontline documentary on Obama and McCain as my topical axis.

A couple months afterwards, I was "inspired" by a Newsweek article to pen something of a polemic, "The Way We Weren't: Art in the Bush Era" which captured one half of my mindset at the time, my frustration with where we'd been. A month later, I wrote another long piece, "Obama: Premonitions of a New Epoch" in the immediate aftermath of attending Obama's inauguration (via an overnight bus trip to DC on a snowy night): this was the flipside, the other half of my mindset at the time, my hope for where we could go.

Over the next year, I would occasionally write about politics for another blog I started up to keep a busier pace (I also covered a Q&A with former Weather Underground member Mark Rudd, which includes some interesting observations). When I migrated most of my content back here, I left out my non-movie related political posts; they didn't seem to fit my mission statement and for the next six years I tended to avoid any discussion of news or contemporary politics in my work. The only exceptions I can think of, aside from tangents here or there in movie-focused pieces, were when I felt compelled to respond to the Trayvon Martin verdict, when I reprinted some tweets after watching The Battle of Chile (drawing some general conclusions and observations not limited to the film or its time period), and perhaps (much more indirectly) "Notes on the Death of Adulthood". Scroll to the bottom of that last link - "Growing Up is Hard to Do," a hodgepodge post from the fall of 2014 - to see my reaction to articles by A.O. Scott and Andrew O'Hehir about the socio-cultural zeitgeist.

This avoidance was partly because I didn't want to "date" my content in the hope of maintaining an evergreen/timeless archive, partly because I thought I should focus and develop one area of interest instead of scattering my efforts too widely, and partly because I soon had a new, more appropriate venue to air political and other musings: Twitter (though this too was mostly used for movies). Mostly, though, this was part of a more general withdrawal from political interest, as the Obama era calcified in my eyes into something I hadn't expected in my 2008 enthusiasm, though I probably should have: elite business as usual, with some good things, some bad things, and seemingly no opportunity for individual involvement in the political process, aside from the biannual vote for one of the rubber-stamped candidates.

And yet, oddly enough, when I look back over the five years, a counternarrative emerges to my apparent apathy - a story of a growing, and much deeper, interest in the political landscape, albeit most of it not expressed publicly, and largely contingent upon what was happening outside of the electoral realm, sometimes through direct experience. In that sense, what has happened this year is as much an outgrowth of long incubation as a sudden, unexpected emergence.

This seems true for the wider public too. 2016 did not come out of nowhere.

Today I am voting. That's the easy part. Tonight, and tomorrow, I will attempt to get into the thornier topic of what it all means and perhaps even what can be done about it. Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know how much attention I have been devoting to politics since primary season. Those who don't can tune in tomorrow morning, when some of the madness of today has hopefully begun to subside and clarity can begin to emerge. Then perhaps I can articulate a sense of where I stand - and why I stand there.

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