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Because I am Rodney King

January 30th, 2008 · No Comments

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

When Los Angeles was burning and people were being beaten to death in the streets, Rodney King, the alleged crack-head who set the whole thing off by repeatedly turning the other cheek while cops wailed on him with nightsticks had the outrageous temerity to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

It’s a joke to us now, part of cultural literacy, a metaphor for naivety, simplicity, and irony. The man who was pinataed with batons asks: Why can’t we all just get along?

As Pooh said when confronted with the question: “Tigger Please!”

Yet, as the country rolls into February 5th, Super Tuesday in the primaries, I find myself asking the same question: “Why can’t we all just get along?” Why does every news story have to have a liberal and conservative take? Why does every politician have to react from a pre-set template of ideology that denies that anyone not of his party might be effective at anything. Why is the political process one of demonization, character assassination, and vilification, rather than one of debate, reasoning, and modulated advice and consent? Why, in fact, can’t we even agree on the problems, let alone the solutions? And why does one political party have to choose the realm of their expertise and advocacy, and not only refuse to play in the other’s milieu, but deny it even exists.

I can wax long and vicious about who I think the bad guys and good guys are in this process, and it’s certainly no secret that I believe that if you continually profess that government is not effective, and can not function for the benefit of the people, that you will, when governing, do so in a way that proves your belief.

But I don’t want to talk about that here. What I want to talk about is Rodney King’s question. “Why can’t we all just get along?” Are we not all Americans? Do we not all want our nation to be safe, and prosperous, and clean, and beautiful, and just, and smart, and healthy? If, essentially, we can agree that we all want those things, is there any way that we might pursue those goals, keep them in sight, and debate our different strategies toward achieving them without insisting that anyone who disagrees with us is sub-human?

I recognize, as I write that, that I have almost never used George Bush’s name without following it with the phrase, “that evil fucktard”, so my Rodneyness is somewhat in question, but I’m not talking about yesterday, or even the beginning of this sentence, I’m talking about tomorrow, next year, forever and ever. Is there any chance that we can stop declaring war on each other, war on concepts, and perhaps even drop war as a metaphor? Is there a chance, that we can all just get along? Yes. Yes, I think we can.

I am hopeful. I am Rodney King. I am naive, and self-deluded, and irrelevant and irony stalks me like a snickering wolf, but next Tuesday I will vote for Barak Obama.

I just wanted you guys to know why.


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