“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. ”
--Attributed to Pericles
Why take advice from Pericles, if in fact it was his advice? Well, apart from his accomplishments as a political and military leader during the golden age of Athens, the quote above is one well worth heeding in any case.
And, sadly, the events of the past week illustrate why.
The assassination of British Labour MP Jo Cox, an outspoken advocate for the Remain camp in the current debate over next week's referendum in Great Britain on whether to remain in the European Union, is surprising only because it happened in Great Britain, a country formerly renowned for the civility of its political life.
That, however, may be changing. The debate between the Leave and Remain camps, largely driven by concerns over EU policies on immigration that have brought large numbers of Muslims across the Channel, has provided fodder for some of the most intolerant--and, quite frankly, racist--voices in British society, most notably the UKIP Party. As that wise old philosopher from "The Empire Strikes Back," Yoda said, "Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to anger. Anger leads to suffering."
And, in the case of Jo Cox, all of this lead to death, depriving her husband of a wife, her two young children of a mother, and her country of what even Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron described as "a rising star." A loss of a well-reasoned voice not only in the EU debate, but the debate over many issues dividing a trouble nation. And one less reason for Britain's former colonial possessions here in the States to envy life in the country that gave birth to us.
No surprise, however, at the mass murder in Orlando at the Pulse nightclub. Why should there be? Haven't their been enough slaughters of the innocents? Haven't we seen the warped, self-serving views of gun-lovers lead to the utter lack of outrage over the sense ending of lives that often had barely begun, and in any case that didn't deserve to end violently and early? Haven't we already turned the words "thoughts and prayers" into a national code for "Too bad, but we love guns more than we love life"?
But this is still America. We have the right to do and be want we want, and to be left alone as long as we leave others alone. Right? Isn't that the assumption, at least in part, that gay bars like Pulse were built upon? The idea that they were sanctuaries for people who, because of an orientation they did not choose, needed a place where they could be themselves and not be ashamed of that?
Well , forget all about that assumption. The reactionary forces around the world, on either side of the pond and all around the globe, have renounced "live and let live." Even victory isn't enough for them. They don't want victory over you. They don't want you to exist. The fact that you exist is somehow a rebuke to them, an affirmation of their own smallness, pettiness, greed and intolerance. And, rather than learn from you, they'd rather destroy you. And forget that you ever existed.
And that is why this election year may possibly be the worst time in the world to stay at home. Forget about making some sort of noble "protest" about only being able to choose "the lesser of two evils." This is not a time for smug complacency. It is a time to fight for survival at the ballot box. Because, by the time the next election comes around, and your dream candidate is ready for you, who is to say that you'll be alive to cast a vote?
Do I sound like an alarmist? Maybe I am. Maybe I'm just so angry about the indifference on both sides of the political divide that does nothing but raise the body count that I can't stop thinking, writing and screaming about it. Thank God for a handful of leaders like Chris Murphy and Susan Collins, and pray for many more like them. And work, contribute, and vote this fall to elect many more like them.
But never forget that politics can come looking for you, whether you are in public life. It found Jo Cox. It found the Pulse night club. And it may yet find you. So prepare to meet it.
And beat it.