I remember when I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Ah, bittersweet passages. After the elections yesterday, I guess I'll have to give up another of my fantasies: the belief that America, deep down in its heart of hearts, supports a progressive political agenda.
I have an old Merle Haggard song in my iTunes library called "Big City Turn Me Loose and Set Me Free." Merle sings the role of a man who "quit his steady job" and "left the "dirty old city" and wants to be dropped off "somewhere in the middle of Montana." He's "been working every day since he was twenty" and "doesn't have a thing to show for anything he's done." He says, "you can keep your retirement and your so-called social security," as long as you set him free. If he's penniless, I guess that would be free to live off the land like the old pioneers. And to fend for himself when he gets old and sick.
I can understand the romantic notion behind such a choice. And if the man Merle Haggard sings about wants to make that choice for himself, fine. This is a country that jealously guards our freedom as individuals to decide how we want to live.
The Republicans want to lower my taxes, reduce limits on my ability to promote exploitive financial schemes and kick as many people as possible off the dole and out of subsidized health care plans. As long as I don't look around at the suffering they will create, I'll be better off.
So why am I so sad? That's the right word for it. Not angry. Maybe wistful. There are some things I just cant do anything about, and America's shift back to its conservative/libertarian roots is one of them. I don't like it any better than I did abandoning the Tooth Fairy. I was practical then. I'll be practical now. But I am diminished by the loss of something I so joyfully believed in: the notion that most of us want a political system that strives to level the playing field of opportunity and that looks after those that don't succeed there. A system that, when times are tough, offers the same kind of almost magical hope as a holiday toy or a few coins under a pillow.