A friend asked me today, "Is there a revolution approaching?"
It was not a stupid question. Given the turmoil in Washington over tax cuts, immigration reform, unemployment benefits, gay rights versus military policy, the constitutional challenges to healthcare reform, a quasi-filibuster in the Senate against affluence, and the continued existence of the government itself (via a controversial omnibus funding bill), revolution seems possible if not inevitable.
After the midterm election, most assumed the politicking and trash talking of the campaigns would subside; that the lame-duck Congress would pass the last two months of the year making headlines only when reporters with a quota wrote fluffy filler features about golf games and vacation plans for the slew of Democrats retiring in January.
Obviously, that hasn't been the case. But political turmoil, brutal policy battles, inter-party fighting and even the near severing of the liberal base from the alleged liberal of the decade, the prophet of progressivism, the headman of hope, Barack Obama, are not signs of revolution.
They're signs of life in the most deplorable sense of the term, proof that, in a bittersweet, backward and still disappointing way, Washington is functioning. The fact that a socialist Senator from Vermont carried the day as the No. 1 Twitter trend with his 81/2-hour filibuster means only that politics continues to provide ample entertainment for Americans, and, to the shame of too few Americans, for the rest of the developed world as well.
The truth is, revolution in American is a dream, a distant, out-of-touch fantasy with worse odds than a three-legged mule competing in the Daytona 500. A few will talk of it, a few less will listen, but fewer still will actually do anything to achieve it, mainly because nobody knows where to start, much less where to end.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' filibuster speech proved this.
In talking about tax cuts for the wealthy, he went on for hours about rich people's control of the banks, the markets, the market places -" Wal-Mart, of course, not excluded. He railed classism, inequality, education, poverty, corruption and more -" issues that millions of Americans fight for and against daily, whether volunteer social workers or over-paid corporate lobbyists.
And that is the dilemma.
It is the reason the majority of Americans generally tune out news from Capitol Hill. It is the reason politics is such a dirty word that patriarchs prohibit it as a dinner conversation topic. It is the reason so many feel helpless to the point of foregoing their most basic rights as United States citizens: voting.
There are too many issues to tackle, too many injustices to protest, too many wrongs to right --and not nearly enough time to adequately address them, even as a salaried member of Congress, who proved this by talking instead of marching, lecturing instead of fighting, and filibustering an issue all but decided after sitting on the sidelines as the policies that created these social ills were pushed through Congress, in many cases, decades ago.
Four thousand people began following Sanders on Twitter throughout and after his speech, and the blogosphere twitterpated with admiration, confusion, false hope and a renewed longing for the long-abandoned utopian dream. The bleeding hearts fluttered anew with the romantic idealism of progressive revolution even as our elected members of Congress yawned and exited the building, knowing full well the difference between symbolic gestures and realistic political solutions.
It's difficult to gauge what is sadder, the fact that Sanders was correct and still ineffective in riling even his fellow lawmakers, or the fact that as his speech turned heads continent to continent, the most staunch supporters of his ideals did nothing but forward e-mails, "Like" Facebook pages and "retweet" pragmatically impossible progressive talking points.
When unemployment begins to fall, steadily or slightly, the focus of American media consumers will adjust accordingly. The hostility of D.C. politics will be buried in the papers and ignored by the masses once again.
The truth was written by a Marine nearly four years ago on a wall nearly in Ramadi, Iraq, and it speaks beyond foreign policy: "American is not at war. America is at the mall."