Every year, usually in mid-October, I take an afternoon to sit down and study what's going to appear on the upcoming ballot. I don't align myself with any particular political party and, if I choose to participate in the elections, I want to go in with real knowledge of what's at hand, not the screaming rhetoric that comes from ad campaigns. For as much media attention as folks Harry Reid or Christine O'Donnell get, the bottom line is that I'm ineligible to vote for them anyway, so I focus on studying the candidates and issues I can vote for.
A number of media outlets create "voter guides." The ones I've seen generally have every candidate provide short written responses to some basic questions about the issues of the day. Although that obviously only provides the candidates' viewpoints and are not necessarily statements of fact, it does allow voters to line up the candidates' credentials side-by-side and provide some measure of comparison. I do find going through these to be helpful, especially since I'm usually able to do it without looking at the candidates' political affiliations or, sometimes, even their names. I'm able to judge them and their ideas with as little external bias as possible. I've been doing this every year for the past six or eight years, I think.
After spending my time going through everything, including actually reading the language of any new bills or tax levies or whatever else may be on the docket, I write down all of my preferences. That sheet goes with me to the local polling station on election day, and I basically copy down onto my ballot what I had already decided upon.
Yesterday was the day I opted to go through an read up on all the candidates. As with every year, there are some candidates that I agree with and others I don't. There are some candidates that I might be a little closer to ideologically, but I just don't think have the skills to do the job. There are some candidates that I wholly disagree with, but they're running unopposed so it doesn't really matter. But what was different this year was that, not only was I unimpressed by anybody running for any office, I was downright disappointed with pretty much everybody. I mean, there's usually at least one or two folks where I could say, "Yeah, this is definitely the guy I want in office," but this year? It was closer to, "Well, this guy seems the least unqualified." Seriously, if I were a hiring manager and this was a private sector thing, I would throw out all their resumes and wait to get some more.
Here's how bad it is. After I got done making my selections yesterday, I started reading V for Vendetta thinking that might lift my spirits. Seriously. I'd never read it before (or seen the movie) but I know it's by Alan Moore and I know it's set in this messed up political hellhole, and I seriously thought it would be more refreshing than thinking about this next election. At least in the comics, there's somebody out there doing something positive.
But what Vendetta also does, albeit almost tangentally to the main themes, is to show the short-sightedness and small-mindedness of most people. As long as they've got their booze and their television and some half-naked dancer waving her butt cheeks in front of you, that's as much as the vast majority of people want out of life. It doesn't matter if all the "other" folks get rounded up and killed, just so long as I can drink and zone out on some old re-runs.
It's not what you do with your life. Not exactly. Not every person can be a great leader or scientist or whatever. It's how you approach your life. It's how you absorb what's going on around you, and how you think and react to it. More to the point, though, it's that you DO think and THEN react. If all you're doing is reacting, if you're just following along because that's what the guy next to you is doing or what they're claiming is popular on television, you're really not doing anything differently than animals. You're sheep.
Obviously, no one -- myself included -- wants to think of themselves as sheep. We like to think we're individuals with our own minds thinking our own thoughts. We like to think that advertisements and propaganda don't hold any sway over us. We like to think we reach our own conclusions. Although if that were indeed true for even most of us, do you think advertisers would spend so many billions of dollars every year on TV commercials and banner ads and email campaigns and all of that? So somebody is clearly playing the sheep here, buying into whatever the latest whiz-bang whatzits the international hype-machine factory tells us.
Look. Ultimately, I don't know care who you vote for. You're most likely not even voting for anyone or thing that will impact me in any way. Similarly, I don't care what comics you buy. It doesn't impact my pocketbook if you drop all your discretionary cash on the latest epic crossover event book of the moment. All I'm suggesting here is that maybe -- just maybe -- you're more swayed by the ads than you realize you are. That maybe if you sat down for a second and thought about why you are really buying the comics you're buying, why you are really voting for who you're voting for, you might come to the conclusion that what YOU want doesn't exactly line up with what you've been told you want.
You want to know how to fix the electoral system AND the comic distribution system at the same time? They're both horribly broken. That is, they do what they're designed to do very well, but they don't do what you're told they do. The electoral system SHOULD allow the people to vote for the best, most qualified leaders to run their government. The comic distribution system SHOULD allow publishers (all of them) to connect with an audience via a local retailer. And if you have to ask, "Don't they do that now?" then you're one of those people who isn't thinking for themselves, because that's exactly what you've been told they do. No, those systems are both horribly broken and only pay lip service to the ideals of what they should be. Both systems are primarily about catering to a couple of deep-pocketed groups who make decisions based on whatever's best for them, almost irrespective of how it impacts anyone else. But I'm not about to suggest that, like V, you start blowing up important buildings and killing those in control. What I'm suggesting is much more subversive...
I don't have all the answers. I don't know have implement-these-ideas-now-to-fix-things solutions. But if you all started thinking for yourselves, and stopped taking all that lip service at face value, I guarantee you that things would start to happen. If people actually thought about how broken these systems are, they'd start to come up with ways of fixing them. It wouldn't happen overnight. It wouldn't be flashy and dramatic. But it would happen.
It's not about being a Democrat or Republican. It's not about being an independent publisher or comic retailer. It's about exercising that big muscle in your head that you've left rotting for the past few decades. There are too few people in the world doing that any more.
Just think about it, okay?