From John Lennon to #Bernie2016


I was looking through some old binders in my sons’ room the other day, and I came across a collection of drawings that one of my boys had started in the first grade. At the time, he wanted to keep his artwork in a binder and keep adding to it. His drawings are not the stuff of a budding Picasso, but they represent his way of seeing things, his visions of the world around him.

Over time, he stopped drawing and took up sports, as many boys will do. Baseball. Basketball. Soccer. Football. Now, his vision is a future as a general manager in the NBA or the NFL. What’s important is that he still has a vision, a dream ahead of him.

Keeping a vision and a dream in front of you is what keeps you young. It is what keeps you energetic. It is what makes you compelling. The vision and the dream can change, but losing those is the only thing that can push you “over the hill,” not turning 40 (or 50, these days).

When I talk to people my age (I’m 44) about the rise of Bernie Sanders, my friends talk about how there’s no way that his ideas can come to pass. No way the health insurance industry will go gently into that good night, even if some of its workers could stay in order to run a compromise in which elective procedures and cosmetic surgeries could be covered through private insurance policies on top of what people are now calling SandersCare, a general care system overseen by the government.

They’re saying that there’s no way that Bernie Sanders has any idea how to handle foreign policy. The villains in the Middle East will run roughshod over the aging VW Bus that they imagine would be Bernie’s motorcade.

They’re saying that there’s no way we can afford free college for everyone. After all, they’re saying, not everyone needs to go to college. There are plenty of trades that people can pursue — and earn even more than degreed professionals make.

For me, the most important part of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is the fresh perspective he has brought to the idea of government. We had almost accepted that the government was an entity we couldn’t trust — after all, Ronald Reagan told us that, and he ended the Cold War, right? And so after 9/11, we began to accept the possibility that government was there to oversee us — not to work for us. We accepted the growing tendrils of government surveillance of us; we accepted the metastasis of war from something we do to fight evil to something we do to bolster our economy. And so what had once been a frightful tale came closer and closer to reality:


We even came to love the dystopian novel. We adored Katniss’ salute; that little Mockingjay pin became so popular that several other authors decided to pen their own awful visions of the future and use a symbol that looked just about the same. But the implicit message was this — that this was what the future would be like, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it.

But to accept this missed the real message of 1984 and all of those other books that came after it, warning of an awful future if we didn’t change:


Orwell, and those like him, didn’t want us to settle for the future that was coming for us. Instead, the hope was that there would always be truth-tellers, and that they would represent our conscience, keep us moving toward what is right, what is good, away from what we know to be just good enough.

Because “good enough” soon becomes awful. It becomes toxic. How do I know this? Because of the water in Flint, Michigan — which was “good enough” for the people in Flint because it made life easier for the government functionaries. Because of the water that comes out of the ground near “fracking” locations throughout the United States, rendered dangerous by the natural gas emissions that are necessary for that cheap gasoline that we all love. All of these things are “good enough” for now, and they end up costing us dearly.

The difference between what is “good enough” and what is “right” is compelling for those who are tired of settling, tired of compromising. It’s one thing to compromise for the greater good of everyone. It’s another thing to compromise for the interests of those who don’t have anyone else’s good in mind except their own.

How do I know that this difference is compelling? Because of the raw energy at work in some of the art that young people are posting about the Sanders movement. Some of it is silly, some of it is stupid, but it is all a sign that people are thinking, people are hoping, people are believing that this year, this year, things can be different. Take a look:

Yes, some of it is silly (these are from a Facebook group called Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash)::


A lot of it is inane:

But a lot of it is sincere and heartfelt:



A lot of those ideas scare people who have locked their visions and dreams away, or who have simply forgotten about them. After all, it’s a scary world out there. There are immigrants coming to take our jobs; there are terrorists coming to blow us up; there are poor, lazy people who want to spend our hard-earned money.

But those aren’t the things that should really scare us. It’s not like ISIS or al Qaeda poisoned the city of Flint. It’s not like Saddam Hussein destroyed the I-35 bridge through Minneapolis. We poisoned our own water because we were too busy watching TMZ to advocate in our communities. We let our bridges, roads and schools crumble because we’re too busy moving into gated communities and shopping on Amazon and worrying about what’s happening down at the southern border of the United States.

Guess what? The corporate interests will let us. Because none of those causes bring them profits.

So what’s the difference between #Bernie2016 and Hillary? It’s the difference between dreaming and settling. It’s the difference between changing the nation and believing that the items on that list up there are just pie in the sky. Who needs privacy rights when the terrorists are coming? (And how many companies are willing to donate huge money to make sure that our representatives don’t believe in privacy rights) Who needs veteran care? That’s just money down the toilet, because those servicemen and servicewomen knew what they were signing up for. Who needs equality? All of my friends look like me anyway.

So if you support Hillary, that’s fine. If she wins the Democratic nomination, I’ll most likely agree that she’s a better choice than whichever lunatic emerges from the Borg cube that is the modern GOP. But you’re not supporting America’s possibility if you support Hillary. Instead, you’re supporting what we can get to work. And what will sneak through Congress. And what will likely evaporate once Hillary no longer has Bernie Sanders reminding us that a progressive believes in just that — in PROGRESS. In moving toward a better society, not finding ways to entrench the shoddy ways of living, of thinking, of voting, of dreaming, that we’ve accepted…because they’re “good enough.”


One Response to “From John Lennon to #Bernie2016”

  1. I giggle a bit every time you share a “Dank Meme” on FB.

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