Sunday, September 14, 2008

I was supposed to be meditating and focusing on my breath, but when I did that, all that happened was I saw the word "breath" in various fonts

I'm grumpy.

Today during savasana I tried to list all the ways that my life has been/is/was materially affected by the Bush Administration. I can think of numerous ways that other people's lives have been drastically changed. But truly, I can't think of very many ways my life has been affected.
  • My job outlook is poor, but it's always been poor. I do well enough somehow anyway.
  • Now that it's even more difficult for students to get visas to study in the US, more students go to Canada, and so enrollment is lower at the places I teach. However, it hasn't really been lower than usual. I have fewer students from Africa, and more wealthy students from Europe, especially Milan.
  • Real estate is messed up, but I never owned real estate, and even with prices "low" now, they're still way too expensive.
  • The price of gas is still high. I don't really drive much, and have structured my entire work life around not driving whenever possible. Mark and I share a car, which he drives 15 miles to and from work three or four days a week.
  • I suppose we've taken less road trips than we might have otherwise taken.
  • The rising cost of living in DC coupled with increasingly unstable and unpleasant work possibilities would have caused Mark and I to leave DC, even if he hadn't gotten the job at CSUSM. Mark's job at CSUSM and the general growth of this area has a lot to do with suburban development based on 1) the military and 2) real estate. These two things are at least partly responsible for our move to San Diego county.
  • 9/11 and post 9/11 Bush policies really enlivened the careers of anyone working in international security, as I was when 9/11 happened. Several people I worked with wrote white papers and press releases and were promoted. A few went to work for the DOD or defense contractors, one went to work for the Millenium Challenge Corporation (which, despite its name, is in fact a government agency). I promptly left my job and got an MA at Georgetown. I didn't do an MFA because Georgetown gave me better funding and Carolyn Forche was more or less gone from George Mason. Aggravatingly, it would have been a better professional choice for me to do an MFA. But who cared about MFAs then?
  • The dollar is down. Going to Europe is harder.
  • Health Insurance is worse. However, in California, it is still possible to get free birth control, even in a county where Planned Parenthood is always surrounded by anti-abortion protesters.
I'm thinking about this list for several reasons. I feel all overwrought about the elections, as I always do. I care about U.S. politics and think it matters who wins, but this feeling isn't personal--it's very abstract and vague, which is part of why it's so aggravating.

I get annoyed with friends who talk about not voting because they can't bear to compromise their moral values, or voting Green (as I used to do when I was a DC resident, since voting in DC is nearly like not voting at all). I rehearse my argument that a Democratic president means Democratic bureaucrats and Democratic interns doing the fact-checking for all the documents and all the research that informs policies, and that this slight difference in perspective is important, regardless of whether or not the actual President is effective.

I think not voting in any election year would be idiotic, and also a sign of just how materially irrelevant a change in administrations actually is for many of us. Maybe if the cost of gas were $9 then voting would seem less about abstract values and feelings and more about basic things like eating and living.

Not that that would be especially good, either.

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