One of the most divisive things to talk about is politics. I’m not going to add “especially now,” because I don’t think we’re more divisive than we’ve ever been (in the U.S.) I mean, the Civil War was a thing, and we were probably the most divided then. Regardless of what year or time of history, politics are a divisive topic.
There have been times in history when the U.S. was more divided than normal, and you might say that 2018 is one of those times. In my humble opinion, the reason it seems so divided now is because social media has aggregated it in ways it did not in years past, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. (I mean, imagine if we had social media during Watergate. Just imagine. It’s easy to make people into straw men on the Internet and rip them apart.)
Okay, moving along. Every 2-4 years or so, we get the chance to re-elect the people who represent us out there in Washington and in our own communities. That can give us a little bit of hope. Usually it’s the presidential elections that get the most hype. The parties align behind their candidate, and then the big day comes and we’re glued to the news station until the election results are in. There’s always one party that’s not happy. Sometimes very not happy.
So let’s take a look at that, shall we?
Day Ten: Futures – Jimmy Eat World
In an ideal world, we’d elect a candidate that everyone would be happy with. But unfortunately (and against the wishes of George Washington,) we’ve divided into parties. Two, specifically. Which means someone is going to get their panties in a bunch when the election is said and done.
Jimmy Eat World vocalist and lead guitarist Jim Adkins gives us an optimistic look at elections.
I’ve always believed in futures
Hoped for better Novembers
My stupid self had no idea this song was about elections and politics until I researched it. (One of the many reasons I’m glad I’m doing this series.) I just thought “oh, this guy is just really optimistic. Say hello to good times, right?”
But of course Jim’s got another thing up his sleeve. Jimmy Eat World’s music is rarely straightforward. This song comes from their 2004 album of the same name (which was an election year, I might add.) It includes songs about drug addiction, hopelessness, and heartbreak. And it’s kind of dark.
However, like I said before, “Futures” is optimistic. But it’s also challenging.
Say hello to good times, trade up for the fast ride
We close our eyes while the nickel and dime take the streets
Adkins is essentially accusing us of ignoring the issues on the table or just ignoring the election altogether, dismissing it as “politics as usual.” But, he argues, the politics as usual (“nickel and dime”) will continue if we continue to close our eyes to it. Money is often what wins elections.
What’s interesting is the second verse.
I’ve always could count on futures,
that things would look up, and they look up
Why is it so hard to find the balance
between living decent and the cold and real?
Our optimistic protagonist finds that when he thinks positive, he sees positive. But at the same time he struggles to balance between believing the best in people but also knowing that politicians can be crappy people. It may be hard to find a candidate who’s a perfect balance (it often is.) It almost describes the dichotomy when the country seems divided. When do we shut up at the Thanksgiving table – but when do we say something?
The song’s bridge climaxes with a challenge. What are we going to do to create a better future?
Hey now, the past is taught by those who win
My darling, what matters is what hasn’t been
Hey now, we’re wide awake and we’re thinking
My darling, believe your voice can mean something
I’m not trying to be too preachy with my politics here. There’s a lot going on in the world that I simply don’t understand politically. It’s hard not to get information that’s not biased, so in my opinion, there’s always conflicts of interest involved. It might be cynical, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. I voted third party in 2016 because I’m sick of politics as usual and wanted to see if we could change things. (Update: we didn’t. Really.)
But Adkins’ challenge – believe your voice can mean something – is powerful. Believe, no matter what other people say, that your vote is going to count. A few people poo-pooed me for voting third party – saying it was people like me who put that guy in office – but you know what? I don’t care. I didn’t vote based on my party, I voted based on my beliefs and what I believed would be best for all of us. I don’t even care what party you’re a part of. You have a voice and it matters, and if you’re voting based on what you think is best for all of us, then I’m all for it.
I wasn’t planning on writing about politics when I picked this song at the start. My rationale during this journey has been to research each song as I go, so this was a bit of a surprise. But not an unwelcome one. It gives me a chance to speak into the division. And here’s what I’ll say. If someone disagrees with you, let it go. You don’t control them, they don’t control you. If you see a “stupid” comment on Facebook, ignore it. That’s not the place for tactful debate. It’s no use insulting someone because of something they typed into a bubble and hit “enter’ on. It’s no use feeling personally attacked. That’s not how we’re going to find common ground, and that’s not how we’re going to fix what’s wrong.
I’d also encourage you to show up at your local elections. Do your research, find the candidates you can get behind, and vote for them. Real change happens at the grassroots. Truth is, they’ll be making a lot more changes than a guy in a White House. They affect your day-to-day life more than he ever will. You’ll just see his face and hear his voice on the news. But your local officials live in your town, shop at your stores, and support your community. So support them too before you shout doom and gloom because of one person in the White House. He might be an important guy, but we’ve got others out there too who need us.
That may have been preachier than I meant it to be, but I want to make it clear that if you want something to change, you can do that without being angry and bitter. You can do that without lashing out at people who believe differently than you do.
You can do that by believing in futures.