Optimates vs. Populares*

*Hey, I get to use that Roman history degree! Yeehaw!!

You talk to folks who are politically active – or even folks like me who just can’t stop ourselves from slowing down to stare at the car wreck – and most of what you hear are comments about the huge divides in modern politics. Lamentations, really, for the deep splits between left and right, progressive and conservative, Chevy and Ford…

The thing of it? That’s not the real problem. Oh, I know that’s what everyone wants to talk about, especially the self proclaimed “experts”. That left-right split, so old and traditional and dating back to the French Revolution, is just an easier sell for talking heads and TV ‘splainers than is reality. Anyone over the age of sixteen has had that dynamic engraved too deeply into their brain cells to ever really let go of it.

But it’s a load of facile crap. The problem does not lie in the tension between left and right; both of those, err, “systems” need each other far too much in order to survive. No bogeyman means no opponent, and no opponent means nothing to focus their energy upon. That’s the easy bit.

The hard bit, and the real divide and the real danger, lies not between left and right but between the entrenched – those with the power and the connections and the influence – and, well, the rest of us. You know, us regular schmucks who get zero voice in any of it.

I don’t care if you want to create a socialist utopia or shrink government to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub, if you ain’t one of the privileged few, you’re simply part of “the rest of us”. There’s only pitchers and catchers in this world, and 99% of us sure as hell ain’t throwin’…

To quote the immortal Jayne Cobb: “You people’ve been given the shortest end of the stick ever offered a human soul in this crap-heel ‘verse. But you took that end and…well…you took it!”

The easy metaphor is to refer to “the DC crowd”. And, for the most part, that is accurate: anyone making their living in and around Washington DC is very much part of the problem. But let’s not leave off the hook the donors and consultants and “thought leaders”. The folks who get the input, and who get to make their own rules…the elites, as they love to think of themselves.

You ever wonder why, no matter who is in power, we continue to get the same shit over and over? Yeah, that’s because there is no right and wrong, no conservative or liberal, no nothing beyond the self-interest and benefit of the few in power.

And, yes, I’ll trot out the old 60’s term – hey, I have a history degree, and sometimes the oldies really are the goodies – it’s the folks who are the establishment. That shallow, slime-filled pool of Ivy League-educated, Manhattan/DC/Boston/SanFran dwelling psychopaths who will do anything to ensure their own power and control.

If you’re on the left, you have ’em on your side: Chuck Schumer, the Clintons, George Soros, Tom Steyer, etc… And if you’re on the right, you’ve got ’em, too: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the Kochs, the Bushes, Grover Norquist…*

*Nope – still not touchin’ the Trump or Obama administrations. No sir, my personal thoughts/politics are still kinda-sorta off-limits.

I should probably point out at this point that this is why my current protagonist pretty much…well…hates everyone (not to put too fine a point on it). I’ve mentioned before, and I firmly believe, that in most of life there are no good guys and bad guys, there are just shades of gray. But let me amend that a bit: from a personal perspective, both mine and Connor’s, the actual bad guys are pretty much anyone who puts the value of power and influence above getting shit done.

I’ll close with a quote from Connor in one of Silence’s later scenes: “When you fuck people over because you hate ’em, that’s wrong. When you do it because you just don’t give a shit, that’s fucking evil.”

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