No, Wonderful No

October 2, 2007

Recently, I have been thoroughly enjoying saying, “No.”

As the weather turns warm and we head downhill towards another election season, worker bees are hitting the streets to gather signatures and spread propaganda for their various causes.

They inevitably ask a simple question as they accost you on the street and usually we citizens react out of habit — if at all — with a simple, “No.”

“Do you have a minute for the environment?” No.
“Do you have a second for gay rights?” No.
“Care to help out the world’s children today?” No.
“Excuse me. Are you Jewish?” No.

You may actually be in a hurry. You may not care about the specific issue. You may find the petitioner themselves intolerably young and idealistic. Whatever the reason (or excuse), we generally give the question no more than a millisecond of thought. Afterall, this is New York City and we are New Yorkers! We must have something more important to do, somewhere more important to be.

Recently though, a certain question has broken through the sheen of exasperation that accompanies such a question.

And not for the content of the question itself per se, but because of the big smile it never fails to bring to my face. A smile brought on — not by the content of the question — but by the realization that my answer was sincere and honest. My answer was not an excuse, not a convenient way to blow off the asker, not the product of a lack of thought at all.

Of course it’s not just the honesty of my “No” answer that could bring such a smile, but also the perverse joy in the reasons behind the answer. And this is where the story, my mea culpa, really begins.

You see, a while back in a fit of frustration and exasperation with the Democratic party, I left and became an independent voter. A voter without a party. Now, in all honesty, I had only joined the Democratic party to participate in the primary elections back in California. This was before they went to an open primary system. I really have no allegiance to, or belief in, the Democrats, but for a lark, I signed up. Like many people, I think I got caught up in Bush-monkey hating frenzy right before the 2002 presidential election.

And after the election, I felt betrayed by the Democrats. Why should I continue to belong to a party that didn’t seem to want to win the election? In a fight to the death to determine the future of the world, the Democrats just didn’t want to fight. They were, in comedic stereotypical fashion, content to whine about things being unfair. At best they claimed to take the high road and refused to debase themselves and stoop to the level of the Republicans.

And that’s what threw me over the edge so that I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t be part of a political party — even in name only — that in all reality didn’t want to do what was necessary to win. The nature of the opponent determines the nature of the fight and when dealing with current state of the Republican party it would seem prudent to fight dirty. (Naysayers may claim that two wrongs don’t make a right, but they can go screw. Both parties left good governance and legal and/or moral upstanding behavior behind long ago.)

So what I’m really doing when I say, “No” is to reaffirm my individuality, my honesty and my beliefs. It’s quite liberating to be lifted from the mire of crap that lies between the two major political parties. I hadn’t been aware of how deeply my peripheral relationship with the Democratic party had affected me until I left. In leaving, I am no longer being misrepresented, categorized, chronicled, polled and abused. I’m simply left to stand on my own two feet. Which is where I’ve felt most comfortable (and effective) all along.

Having been abandoned by the Democratic party, what other option did I have? Join another political party? Hmmm, not quite ready for the disappointment just yet. Not to mention the sheer enjoyment and perverse joy of somehow in a tiny way, sticking it to the Democrats. That liberal whiny bullshit is just too much for me. If there’s no crying in baseball, there sure as hell isn’t any in politics.

“Are you a Democrat?”
“No. No, I’m not.”

And that is something that can keep anyone smiling as they go down the street.