Thursday, November 24, 2005

Kitchen Table Caucuses Are Still the Places Where Politics Matter

AVA, NY (ZP) -- I sat in the kitchen of a great uncle's farmhouse with about a dozen other relatives, all of us packed around the table digesting one hell of a meal.

On my mom's side of the family, there is no rule prohibiting the discussing politics or religion at the table. In fact, this is expected - one of my great-aunts describes this as the way public opinion is really formed.

My mom's uncles and aunts should know. Their father, my great-grandfather, was a Republican Party boss in this part of the country during the Great Depression. He was apparently a master of old-fashioned politicking; according to legend, limosines from Albany, Utica, Rochester, Rome, and Buffalo poured into this tiny hamlet of 700 for his funeral in the 1960s, bringing a bipartisan slate of elected officials to pay their respects.

Its amazing to me, the more I shake my family tree, the more politicos fall out from the branches. On my dad's side, I have at least one great-great uncle who was a old Democratic Party boss in Louisiana during the same time period, as well as a slew of sheriffs, supervisors, legislators, and the like in Virginia and West Virginia. According to the family history, I also have at least two very distant relatives serving on Capitol Hill.

Thus, during this pre-Thanksgiving meal with the ZenFo Pro's maternal kinfolk, there were disagreements and arguments over the usual stuff - crime, foreign policy, the War on Terror, abortion, etc. But, in the end, there was a strange concensus reached on several key concepts, reached just in time for the coffee and dessert:

  • The quality of our elected officials seems to be diminishing exponentially, and the vacuum left by that lack of real leadership poses a bigger threat to the American Experiment than any terrorist group.
  • Rampant cosumerism has created a social pandemic; the cardinal American value of personal independence is being systematically destroyed by the whoring out of a nation to irresponsible media, advertising firms, and slick marketing. The susequent dumbing down of our culture is undercutting our reputation abroad.
  • There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution ensuring an individual's right to not be offended - in fact, it encourages American citizens to pursue a path quite the opposite. Censors come in all shapes and sizes, political affiliations and ideologies, but in the end all censorship is anti-American, be it backed by the Left or the Right, be it in the form of political correctness or the labeling of antiwar protestors as subversive.
  • Politicians are voted for by people, but they're all owned by corporations and special interest groups. Until there's real campaign finance reform, banning all corporate and PAC donations, our forests, water supplies, economic stability, agricultural infrastructure, and education.

Sitting in a farmhouse kitchen, warming next to a woodstove after a hearty meal, discussing politics. There's something very universal and ancient about kitchen caucuses.

* This will be the first in a series of posts. I just got back and had extremely limited Internet connectivity, so I'm editing the posts from last week. Given the amount of Genesee I had going through my system, figured I'd better do some serious editing.


zydeco fish said...

"Its amazing to me, the more I shake my family tree, the more politicos fall out from the branches."

Maybe it's sign that you need a career change? You know, follow in the footsteps.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Thought about it, but I've already tried the "total bastard" thing as a career - lousy pay, no benefits, and long hours ;)

Plus, I'm aweful in terms of putting out on the first date anymore - a must for your average politician ;)

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

Looking forward to your posts. I am still on friggin aol dial up until I get back into the city tomorrow so I know how limited access is.
I think that if everyone has that attitude we will get stuck with more of the same I say go for it.

My family is good about politics they allow it and usually it is intersting. No politician in my family yet.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Ahhh...AO-Hell. Gotta love dial-up.

Considering I was able to survive the holiday weekend, I'd call it good. Considering I was able to reach a concensus on anything with a table full of hardened conservatives and to actually get to the root of some of their concerns about the fate of America was really an eye-opener. I think I was able to make a case for the gay marriage issue being just as much a conservative issue (you want the government telling your children who they can love?) as it is a liberal issue.

So when are ya running for office? ;)