Right after 9-11, sales of American flags jumped. People began wearing flag pins on their lapels. Patriotic songs were written and sung by a host of country singers. America was mobilized behind a new wave of patriotism, and hawkers of products feeding on that new energy were everywhere.
When Barack Obama was elected a new kind of energy sprung forth. People of color were proud that a man with African roots became president, and a bunch of people who feel threatened by people of color began to sense a bubbling resentment. Over the last four years that divide has widened.
Now, as the 2012 elections approach a much more obscure kind of energy is building, and along with it the hawkers of Tea party rhetoric, regalia and symbols stand ready to cash in.
I know that most Americans feel a sense of pride when our athletes win gold in the Olympics. So do the citizens of other countries feel national pride when their athletes win gold. For those who enjoy motorsports, there is a feeling of pride when the National Anthem ends with Navy Jets flying low and fast over the front stretch and the finish line.
But what many people do not realize is that out there slinking around festivals, fairs, sporting events and political gatherings are people looking to make a buck off of those feelings and in the process whipping up the frenzy in an effort to drive up demand.
I say all of this because I’ve about had my fill of politics. I know that might sound a bit bitter, but let me explain. I’ve been around politics all my life. From the time I was seven I have been involved in one way or another.
I’ve been a volunteer, I’ve been a donor, I’ve been an organizer, I’ve been a commentator, I’ve run campaigns, I’ve been a candidate and I’ve been a keen observer of politics from more angles than most people you will ever meet. But one thing I’ve always been until now is a “true believer”.
While many of the people I’ve worked with and for had other agendas, I was never the cynic. I rarely saw that element of a candidate’s personality which made them run for office because of the paycheck, or the power or the need to feed their ego. I always naively believed that they were truly devoted to making the world a better place, bringing good government to the people, standing up for what was right. But I don’t feel like that anymore.
As I look around all I see are hawkers, barkers, brokers and crooks. I see people who sense the mood of a crowd and find a way to work them into a frenzy behind slogans, ideas and the emotional momentum of wide eyed, gullible true believers. I’ve had my fill of politics because now I think I see that the only “true believers” are the sheep, the crowds, those being manipulated.
How have I come to this conclusion so late in life? By watching people who proclaimed themselves to be philosophically at odds with other politicians, joining arms, smiling for the camera and trying to sell the public on the notion that they are united for a greater good. Somehow or another it seems phony, like the Eagles final tour, followed by a series of reunion tours.
I never had an interest in trying to manipulate people or their emotions for the sake of advancing my own interests. For all the things I’ve volunteered to do in politics, I never got a dime out of it. But other people have gotten very wealthy by motivating people to believe in one thing, while their interests were quite personal and not nearly as selfless as they proclaimed.
I think I’ll be content to tend to my orchard, work my farm, enjoy my chickens and sunsets with my wife while others don flag shirts, sing songs, march in parades and cheer the next greatest phenom to come down the pike.
As the drums fade and the crowds disperse I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy the serenade of the crickets. At least I can be pretty sure that they are playing for love, and not money.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.