By Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer
As much as I’d like to write about art and culture in some way both forward looking and obstructionistically minded, I simply cannot shake that word—obstructionism—from today’s party politics to which it clings with spiked hellfists clenched in a soul-crushing death grip. Art will have to take a back seat while a bit of hot-blooded ranting ensues. But the backseat provides a good vantage for critical observation and it is from the urgencies of the day that culture must take its notes and deduce its possible relevance, its necessity. Obstructionism today, in our 2011 present, is the opposite of Constructivism, the enemy of reform and progressive change and every serious notion of the public good in general. Traditionally, in its classic congressional manifestation, obstructionism takes the form of a constipating passion for filibustering. Today’s total blockage of the political process with so much nothing amounts to sabotage. Like running in place or burying your head in the sand, it requires expending significant effort with (ideally) zero return, burns calories, and raises the heart rate to infuriated levels. On second thought, the exercise analogy is excessively generous given that obstructionism’s power increases in direct proportion to inertia, stasis, and decay.
Today’s rabidly moronic strains of obstructionism are easily recognized by their flagrant opportunism and self-aggrandizement, complete disregard or incapacity for big-picture thinking, total lack of internal logic or integrity, blatant intellectual dishonesty (and downright stupidity), and a vindictive and vengeful streak usually reserved for getting back at unfaithful lovers. Courting disaster, obstructions proliferate at the same time that crises crescendo to new heights. The country is, once again, too big and baggy to cohere effectively. It is defined more and more by gaping inequities of all kinds and by money more specifically. Should the tables be turned further and Crazy given the remaining keys to the castle, I’d argue for urgent obstructions of every sort and master the dark art’s finer points, but, at the moment, obstructionism reigns as the favorite passive aggressive tactic of tantrum-throwing children playing at Tea Parties throughout the sub-halls of power. Considered closely, the situation is beyond depressing, but then again there’s always the option of changing the subject and, anyway, I do not believe in god and I do not believe in the apocalypse.
I would like to try to find the plus side of obstructionism, the silver lining, a way in which it can be an active force for good and not just, at best, a passive resistance to devolution. Beyond acknowledging the crucial power to say no (to bad ideas) and protest (regression and corporations), I cannot perform a truly satisfying reframe. I resolve to give it another fourteen months. In the future, obstructionism will force America to either settle for stalemate (which is similar to stagnancy and which capitalism, by its nature, cannot abide) or play out the clock as it winds down. Both options suck.
Obstructionism should surrender the future to Constructivism. Before any such thing happens, you can bet there’ll be blood.
Goodbye and good luck, to us all,