On Tulsi Gabbard’s Unfortunate Withdrawal

Tulsi Gabbard's Unfortunate Retreat

A battle is not the same thing as a war.  Retreats are as much a part of armed conflicts (we no longer have formal wars apparently) as are charges.  Still, defeats, if only partial, feel devastating.  But defeats are the real instruments through which we learn just who we are and in them, frequently, we find our better selves.

Diamonds and Rust”, a tribute of sorts by Joan Baez to Bob Dylan wistfully noted that perhaps we’d expected too much from him as the sixties turned into the seventies.  Perhaps some of us still do.  Tulsi Gabbard reminded me a bit of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and apparently we too expected too much from her, but then, today, we desperately need visible heroes.  Visible heroes seem in short supply in this world where hyperbolic narrative battles alongside of murder by silence in the mainstream media to keep us in line and to prove to us that Dylan was wrong half a century ago when he led us in singing that “the times [were] a’ changing”.  Not that we lack for heroes, they are omnipresent, just that the mainstream media keeps them safely hidden away from us where their messianic missions won’t harm the Deep State that rules us from dark shadows.

Tulsi fought a brave fight, a fight she had to fight from the dark; bludgeoned by the Democratic Party’s leadership and its media allies, maligned and calumnied when she was acknowledged at all.  But she was not just defeated, that we can accept, … she turned.  She is now part of that Deep State, at least for now.  They have won the battle she so bravely fought, at least until the end.  But perhaps the war for the votes, if not the hearts, of real progressives and real liberals and the real left has not been lost.  Perhaps the poisonous gas of lesser evils will not overcome our better selves, perhaps we will not, once again, vote against someone in what is sold to us as another in a continuous stream of existential elections, and this time, perhaps we will find someone in whom to believe, and this time perhaps we will vote for her, or vote for him.

Perhaps we will recoil at being manipulated through Identity Politics into a polarization so profound that we are unable to credit someone with whom we do not agree when they do the right thing, even if it means that by refusing to acknowledge that our opponents are sometimes right, at least for the moment, we help to destroy our economy or to obstruct efforts to react to real challenges that assail us, such as the plague now upon us.  But that seems unlikely.  As Tulsi evidently discovered, swimming against the current, when the current seems so overwhelming, is a task best left to salmon.  They at least, may survive.

Simon and Garfunkel’s soft refrain, “where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio” whispers in my soul, but it’s Tulsi’s image I see, and Joan’s, and Bob’s.  I’ll forgive her for dropping out.  That the task was too much for her, that the challenge too big does not take away from her effort.  Her enemies were legion and funded by the planet’s wealthiest.  But that she endorsed a probable criminal, a war monger, a plagiarist, a total fraud who has helped keep the most disadvantaged among us in perpetual chains, is not something I will forget, or something I can forgive.  Mixed metaphors are frowned upon, I’m not sure why, but this morning, they are coming at me from all sides.  Darth Vader comes to mind, and the force, shifting from light to dark.  Casey, at the bottom of the ninth, striking out.

So, …  where do we go from here?  In the midst of a real existential crisis, one where survival may prove a catalyst for essential changes, changes in which Tulsi believed but which her turn to the dark side now make less probable.  Why is it that Leo Durocher and George Orwell are so often proven prescient?

Tulsi Gabbard has surrendered and turned, but we need not follow her into defeat.  Her choices are her own, they need not be ours.  As always, looking for others to be our heroes has proven inefficient.  It’s up to us to clear the cobwebs woven over our eyes by a malign alliance of politicians, bureaucrats, militarists and purported journalists, and to act, rejecting their siren-like symphonies demanding that we once more accept the purported lesser evil they’ve chosen for us, lesser evils that all too frequently prove worse than the diseases they promise to cure.  It’s up to us to become our own heroes by finding a representative in whom we believe and, despite the odds, voting for him or for her.  It’s time for us to reject the choices foisted upon us by the double header hydra we revere as our two party system, albeit both owned, for the most part, by the same neoliberal-neoconservative cabal against which Tulsi, for a time, railed, even if it means losing an election all too similar to those that have gone before.  How much good has voting for purported lesser evils done for us up to now?

If you do not find a third party whose candidates you can support, start one, or become a candidate.  Reject party-line votes but vote, not just for the head of a ticket but for candidates up and down the line, candidates who will act in the manner you believe is correct.  All of them are essential, all of them are necessary if the change for which we hope is ever to start.

To thine own self be true as Bill Shakespeare once at least implied, and as Bob Dylan once exhorted, and as Joan Baez once dreamt, and as Tulsi Gabbard once believed.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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