Thursday, January 16, 2020

How to talk politics in the library

With Politics comes the passion. Everyone these days has so many feelings about it all. In our perilous time even the people who don't care have become strident and unbearable. "I don't care!" They cry, exasperated and near tears. "Let me exhaustively explain why everyone should just leave me alone!" The ignorant are passionately clueless and filled with conviction. The informed are inflamed with a futile, desperate urgency bordering on hysteria. The half-informed leap to wild conclusions that look 100 years old. And everyone is pretending they are kidding half the time. "I'm not really calling them fascist." "I'm not really a racist." "It's all brainwashing." Except no one is kidding! Not even the comedians know how to kid anymore. Every joke is now a message to be extracted. And every message is food for some rage somewhere.

I'm as bad as the rest of them. I'm as bad as you. But I work at a library.

And here alone I am committed to a wild neutrality. I don't even believe in the neutrality of the newspapers. I think those people need to come to some conclusions for god's sake. But the library? You are welcome here. You want Mein Kampf? Let me help you find it. You need help printing out your racist tracts from the computers? In my role as a physical expression of the library, I am here to help. A bit of the American experiment dares to live on here, all open information and whatever freedom we can manage out to the very limits of the law. It is so delicate now. I do not dare to raise my voice. I could scare it all away. The last precious American thing we have left.

And so I have learned the trick of talking politics with everyone.

The secret is:

Stick to our common ground.

And what is our common ground?

Is it our hope for the future, our common culture, our community, and our shared dreams?

Ha! Maybe it was once. I can't even remember.

No, it is our overwhelming disgust and dissatisfaction.

"It's terrible what's happening. Things are going to hell and a handbasket in this country. It's a toxic environment out there. People will say anything these days. People don't listen anymore. Some of the media is spewing pure evil poison out there. Facebook is horrible. Politicians are corrupt! It's a crucial election and the desperate fate of the country depends on it. We are on the brink of disaster and there are so many lies! So many lies!!!"

Just keep it non denominational. Keep it general. Let us rage together all we like.

And then, satisfied, I can return to my Kropotkin and you to your, well, whoever. 

I'd rather not know.

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