Living in captivity with one constitutional lawyer and one aspiring politician means political talk in our house is inescapable. About the best I can do is remind the people I live with “not in my studio, please!” This was true even when we lived in a real democracy. Now that we’ve been living in a full blown oligarchy for almost four years (I call it a corporatocracy, but the constitutional lawyer tends to correct me on this one point), a speculated mix of fear and hope and the breaking down into smaller bits of a lot of legalese worm their way into everything, even my sacred space.
You might not expect that three people whose politics are so closely aligned and who agree on all the big issues could debate so much, but we do. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details: Who wins the election if someone on the ballot dies before the election? How can a Supreme Court Justice possibly argue against the right to marry who one wishes when his own marriage henges on Loving v.Virginia, that held state laws banning interracial marriage are prohibited by the same Constitutional underpinning that justifies Obergfell, the case that upheld the equal rights of LGBTQ persons to marry whom they choose…Those what if and what are the precedents sorts of debates.
Usually the lawyer wins. Sometimes our son wins. Sometimes I live up to my diplomatic nickname of Madeleine Albright, breaking down what was said for the other party to better understand before becoming irate, and sometimes I just call time out before I’m ready to run out into oncoming traffic. Occasionally I win, which makes me insufferably smug. There’s little else so gratifying as having a “professional arguer” husband and a son literally born fighting the good fight both concede defeat over my words.
That legally contentious phrase from the American Declaration of Independence, “the Pursuit of Happiness” is one on which I never back down and probably argue the hardest even without a law degree or being halfway through a university policy studies program (our son’s major). Perhaps it’s from having chased happiness for 50+ years. Perhaps it’s from spending my life outside the box and following a road rarely traveled even in a family full of musicians, fix-it people, geeks, and educators. Perhaps it’s from teaching and talking with literally thousands of people from all over the world and all walks of life, who come to me in pursuit of a common passion.
The pursuit of happiness doesn’t guarantee we all get to be happy, or even that we are all handed the same ingredients that might make us happy. What it promises is that we are all guaranteed access to the same pantry where those ingredients are stored in the great cosmic kitchen of hope.*
Now if you’ve read this country’s early documents, or if you’ve seen the fabulous musical Hamilton, it’s pretty easy to see that what our founding fathers were writing about was a revolutionary idea that, within their passion project, a fledgling democracy experiment, were embedded the rights to keep pursuing all the things that interested them like understanding lightening, writing copious treatises, or forging economic policies, any ingredient they thought might make their grand experiment of a nation taste better.
Unfortunately, these 18th century white men were so all consumed with their individual and collective pursuits and passions that they failed to address that 3/4 of their own population had no ability to define or pursue their own happiness and no access to that pantry of ingredients. Their own mothers, wives, and daughters, the people who were already here, and the people who were kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery were absolutely excluded. That’s why we have Constitutional Amendments like the 13th Amendment, prohibiting slavery and the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, and yet we still have a long way to go to ensure equal access to all.
Here in the USA we’ve really lost the plot. Much like our fellow humans in North Korea, we have no idea when or if our dear leader is sick and we certainly have no access to the level of healthcare he might get. That pantry of hopeful ingredients for the rest of us unwashed masses of Americans might as well be housed on the moon.
Most days I want rather desperately to skip the politics and our household debates (flies not included, but we have lots of mosquitos). I just want to go make stuff. I want to live in my creative bubble away from the drama and pursue my own happiness. I’m forever reminded though that my ability to do so was secured by a handful of women even tougher than I, and I owe them a debt that can only ever be paid one way.
It’s difficult to believe my vote counts for much in a state so barely purple that it’s more of a burgundy than grape, but I know in my bones that when enough people show up and get counted, it makes a dent even against Russian election interference.
Wherever you are, when it is possible to do so, please get counted!!! Vote!
*This food for thought was brought to you today by science. It’s what lets me type it on an iPad, transmutes my ideas into ones and zeros and lands them in your inbox, on a screen, powered by electricity.
“The great thing about science is it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson.