Karen is a freelance writer and artist, with a special interest in social issues and the political landscape
The beginning was sweet and your intentions pure. You wanted to help your country, make a difference in the world. You registered, excited to join the political party you believed would best represent you and the values you believe strongly in. You wanted to be involved. You made a commitment. And, most importantly, every election, you voted.
Maybe you joined the party your parents belong to; a lot of us do. It’s a relationship, after all, and relationships are affected by our upbringing our entire lives, even the one with our political party. You bonded.
That’s how they got you, and this is how they’ve kept you: You cared.
You campaigned earnestly for your Party’s candidates, cheering through election night speeches. “Did you vote the straight party ticket, like we talk about?” You’re asked. You beamed showing your "I voted” sticker. “Yes I did! Wasn't sure about Darth Vader for Dog Catcher, but….” “You did the right thing”, they reassured you, all white teeth and thumbs up. “If He’s one of us he’s the right guy. Good job!”
So when their first promises, or two, or three, shattered like ornaments knocked rudely off the family Christmas tree by your careless drunken uncle, you dutifully swept those messes under your little rug, straightened the fringe, and moved on. “We’ll do better next time.” they swore, pointing to That Other Party. "It was their fault; they don’t care about you like we do.”
You wanted to show loyalty, so like family, you forgave.
And you kept forgiving. Again, and again. And kept believing.
When their lies were transparent as glass and their excuses weaker than an afternoon cocktail at the airport lounge, you let it go, looked the other way.
When election time rolled in again, they begged for another chance, said they were sorry, they really didn’t mean to hurt anyone and it wouldn’t happen again. Every time, each tainted bill, every false promise, even when it felt like punishment, you forgave. Even when Your Party, the Party you loved and supported, made twisted deals and self-motivated decisions, and you watched it happen, you forgave. You grumbled at them occasionally, but you stayed, and so did your vote.
And you kept speaking up for all of them, making excuses, defending: your party, your representatives, your senator, your President......Your people. After all, when you have invested this much time, this much of your life, in a relationship, you must work hard to keep it. We can’t break up now, we just can't.
But they were never sorry, were they? and nothing changed, did it? and year after year the corruption goes on.
Except now you’re waking up.
Beginning to see that every political party loyalist ends up a battered pawn.
Minions for Millionaires.
The next betrayal, you were wounded. Broken. This was the issue you cared the most deeply about and they promised to back. Your pet cause, your Baby. The cause you and your friends wrote to your Senator about, marched in a cold rain to support. But then they traded your cause for a favor and a few votes, and now it's just another dead crusade, and you are left bruised and angered. Another punch in the gut.
Your Beloved Political Party knocked you to the ground with their hypocrisy and dishonesty, leaving you feeling used as a half glass of cheap Chablis left over from an afternoon fundraiser you and your fellow pawns aren’t worthy of being invited to, and you stayed with them because you didn’t know where else to go or what else to do, and you didn’t want to be alone.
And now it’s another election year. Your political party needs you. You don’t need them, and they know it. You can declare independence. Then, when the speeches come and the candidates start throwing promises around like creepy political poltergeists pitching cheap wedding china, they won’t come crashing down on your head anymore, because you’ll see it coming. And without that one-sided allegiance clouding your thinking, you’ll be amazed. You’ll feel clearer minded and more peaceful than you’ve been in years, and once most of the indoctrination wears off, you’ll be free to weigh issues and base your votes on worth and merit, and not the prejudices of the current team captains.
Independence can be scary. But it doesn’t hurt.
If enough of us choose this path, we won’t be the minions anymore.