Friday, September 24, 2010

Black Holes, Wyclef Jean and American Politics by Diane Farineau

 Martha note: It's Civic Soapbox Friday on the blog . . .

Cygnus X-1 is a black hole, discovered the year before I was born in 1964. Anything that goes into a black hole stays there, never to be seen again. Kind of like my daughter's closet, or our garage, or my paycheck, which totally seems to evaporate the minute it hits my checking account.

I love astronomy and began college with the intention of obtaining a physics major. Until I took a physics course and realized that I was way out of my league. I resorted to a degree in politics instead, which is a black hole of a completely different nature.

Last night my son was talking about Wyclef Jean's run for the Haitian presidency. "The thing in his favor" parroted my son "is that he isn't a politician!" "Really?” I asked, “what's so bad about being a politician?" When he couldn’t tell me, it got me thinking about what, exactly, politics really is (are?) One of Webster’s many definitions calls it "the total complex of relations between people living in a society."

So, really, on one level, we are all politicians in our own lives. Everyone has an agenda, and the ability to make decisions and affect the outcome of any situation. The ability to say “yes” or “no” gives each of us some power. My son has a political stake, for example, in family decisions. He is a one man special interest group and lobbies hard to get what he wants.

I worked in organized politics in DC, which was both exciting and exhausting. After ten years I retreated to a small corner of my home town to regroup and start a family. I have recently rediscovered the joys of political involvement at a very small, local level. In technically applying Webster’s definition, everything I do, from joining my PTA to writing a letter to my editor about a new bypass, is political.

I explained my perspective to my son. He doesn’t have to march on Washington, though I encouraged him to do so, and he doesn’t ever have to run for president of a Caribbean nation. What’s important is that he gets and stays engaged in the issues that affect his life. I want him to learn how to successfully navigate his own social solar system.

I wish more people would recognize their inner politicians and get involved in creating solutions to the problems that surround us all. Let's escape the gravitational pull of our own apathy and use our power to discuss challenges and create change. You don't have to be a rock start or an astrophysicist. You just have to have a little passion about something.

                      --Diane Farineau is a writer living in Charlottesville.

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