Monday, August 23, 2010

Black Hole

Cygnus X-1 is a black hole. Anything that goes into a black hole stays there, never to be seen again. Kind of like my daughter's closet, or our garage, or like my paycheck, which totally seems to evaporate the minute it hits my checking account.

Turns out Cygnus X-1 was discovered the year before I was born (if you care enough you can go look that up and do your own math) and remains the "most studied" black hole out there. It has a mass of about 8 times that of the Sun.

Truth be known, I began college as an enthusiastic physics major. Until I took a physics course and realized that I was wuuuuhaaaaaaay out of my league. I resorted to a degree in politics ultimately, which, ironically, is also a black hole of a completely different nature.

Last night my son was talking about Wyclef Jean's run for the Haitian presidency. "The thing in his favor" parroted my son "is that he isn't a politician!" Not being a fan of letting my children get away with reiterating someone else's (potentially flawed) logic without having thought it through for themselves first, I said "Really? What's wrong with being a politician?" "Well," he said "they're all just so, so......" Mmmmhmmmm. We discussed what politics really are, and I pointed out to him that we are all politicians in our daily lives. Politics is the exercise of power. Webster calls it "the total complex of relations between people living in a society."

I explained to him that he is his own politician, advocating for what he wants in life. He has a political stake in decisions we make as a family, decisions made in his school, with his friends, etc. Depending on any given situation he has a certain amount of power, as do we all, to make or sway a decision. I bite my tongue but roll my eyes when people say things like "I hate politicians!" Because, really, everyone has an agenda, and inherent in that, by definition, is the struggle for power that is politics. I assure you Wyclef Jean has an agenda, and I'm not so sure it's one that would benefit Haiti in the long run, but that's for Haitians to decide. I have an agenda, and so do you.

Of course by "politics" people usually mean "government" and all that connotes. But, truly, politics does not have to be a black hole, into which our opinions and desires are sucked, never to be see again.

The 10 years I spent actively working in politics burned me out, opened my eyes and left me with a faint metalic taste in my mouth, mostly because of the distortion of truth I witnessed and the exhaustion from the effort level required to keep up, but I have rediscovered political involvement at a very small, local level. For example, the PTA is a political organization, hell, even our marching band boosters club is a political subset of our PTA. Writing a letter to the editor about the insanity of building a new bypass is a political act.

It's okay, people, to get involved with politics! You don't have to march on Washington, though I encourage you to do so, or stroke a big check for your congressman, ditto, if you think he's doing a great job and want to see him/her keep doing it, but if something matters to you, then do something about it. The minute you give money to a charity, say the Red Cross, or the United Way or your homeless shelter, you've become an active participant in their political process, and there is nothing wrong with that because that's how we navigate our own social solar system.

Why, even the simple act of complaining is political. If you don't like the way something is being done, and you exercise your right to say so, you've taken a political stand. I wish more people would, respectfully, take the next step, which is to get involved in creating solutions. Let's escape the gravitational pull of our own apathy and exercise our own inherent power to discuss the challenges and create change. You don't have to be a rock start or an astrophysicist. You just have to have a little passion about something.

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