“Just making fun of the political system” (and other waiting room observations)

While waiting forever in a doctor’s office waiting room this morning (we’re talking four hours of waiting!), I got to hear some very interesting conversations while I was finishing Becoming Mexican American and preparing this study guide for my students.

One of the first comments I heard was from a person in their 50s who at different times described past “drinking day,” blocked arteries, cancer, needing to go outside (to smoke), owning business, and moving around regularly. Some kind of news segment came up on the television about today’s election rituals, and this person described all of the candidates, especially Trump, of “just making fun of the political system.”

I think this is an exceptionally power, important point and perspective. And it’s unique – depending on the exact search, there are 2-7 matches for this idea on Google.

I wonder how many people feel this way?

Especially with Trump’s extremism. And Bush’s and Clinton’s roots in the executive branch. And Cruz’s flip-flops. And the oddness of Sarah Palin. And Super PACs funding and buying elections. And the two political parties not being that different in practice. There are no “typical” candidates this time running for President of the United States. 

Lets pause here a second and reflect on that – out of 350,000,000 some people, we have this group alone running for President of the United States – the nation widely believed to be the “best” ever??

Our political system was theoretically designed to allow anyone to run for public offices, but that has never actually been possible or legitimately intended. But as far as making fun of the political process, many, many of those if not the majority of those running for offices right now (or those appointed to offices) do so through outright violations of the law or violations of the spirit of the law or gain footing in pretty dishonest ways. Politicians (and their corporate and media backers) make fun of the political process by simply changing positions as needed, voting as party blocks, ignoring those they represent, doing what they want to do, spying on people without warrants, acting like they don’t know history, and manipulating coverage, for example.

Politicians make fun of the ideal political process by not recognizing the roots of our ideals and of the hopes of the United States and its long tradition of grassroots protests. They make fun of the political process by focusing too much on formal politics and underestimating the knowledge and power of the people. They make fun of the political process by assuming they are ultimately going to win and are the only choices available. 

People were also talking about where they lived before coming to Lake Jackson. One person described coming in the early 1960s from either Missouri or Arkansas (forget exactly). Another person came in the early 1970s and would never go back to Alabama because so much has changed. The historian in me wonders if these relocations were parallel manifestations of “White Flight,” especially given than non-Whites were not allowed to live in Lake Jackson until the 1970s and 1980s. Lake Jackson is for sure much more diverse today but, alas, my place of birth has a long way to go. Regardless, they are part of a constant, on-going pattern of migration around the world, across time and place. 

Another person asked me what kind of phone I had, showed me what they had, and expressed interest in trying the new Samsung Galaxy (I think). This person’s previous phone was stolen at Walmart while loaded the car but the police caught the “boys.” 

I also got to observe numerous acts of kindness. One person help another walk to the bathroom. Another watched two purses while their owners went to the bathroom. Another person waited and listened for the nurse to call out “Sue” because “Sue” can’t hear. In these four hours, there were no signs of all the problems that plaque our world (except health problems!). In a way, nothing was connected to politics or History at all, yet it all was in so many so intricate ways, as to be almost unknowable, at least to us. 

Those four hours spent being what Amanda Marshall calls a “double agent,” were odd, as always. I see everything on so many levels (and, for sure, don’t see). Everyone there has so many different “selves.” We only see the “self” that is there during those specific moments, in that specific place. And yet, my “field observations” almost always remind me that there are a lot of friendly, articulate people out there – more than we recognize. And wondering about the rest of their life