So. I had been pondering what exactly to write about today in terms of a certain bunch of simultaneous state primaries, but honestly I’d little to offer offhand. I have my hunches, they might all be wrong. I’ve already talked a bit about the California propositions, and there aren’t any local measures or races for me (there are in the neighboring cities of Newport Beach and Santa Ana but Costa Mesa is straight up nothin’). I won’t be voting until after work and the location is just two spots down from my apartment complex so it’s not going to be a big affair for me.
But then I read this Idolator piece about what musicians are supporting what candidates, which pointed to a bit of news noted in a Guardian piece today:
Libertarian long-shot Ron Paul is backed by Krist Novoselic, formerly of Nirvana.
I don’t know if my jaw dropped, but it felt like it. Turns out this has been public knowledge for a few months, but it was news to me. Wanting to make sure this was the case and not yet another example of ‘a friend of a friend told me,’ I did a quick scrounge and found that he has indeed contributed to Paul’s campaign — go to this site and search by his full name under ‘contributors’ — and he speaks more about Internet-driven candidacies with a brief reference to Paul in this recent column. Likely enough there are other posts and comments out there too, perhaps, and Novoselic’s general observations on the Net and politics in the piece I’ve linked strike me as worthy of deeper discussion.
There’s a specific reason why I’m shocked by his implicit endorsement of Paul, though, and it’s nothing to do with the fact that Paul’s rather unlikely to get the GOP nomination, to put it mildly. The various controversies swirling around Paul are noteworthy as well, but that’s not the reason either.
No, it’s this — to quote Paul’s own policy position:
The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.
Paul’s position, while I disagree with it, is not the reason I’m moved to post on this subject — he has every right to hold to his views as I do with mine, after all. And Novoselic can believe what he wishes to as well. But let me tell you a story:
Back in 1991, there I was, living in LA, going to school, and being a big fan of L7 — great band, great performances, and bandleader Donita Sparks has just released a pretty cool solo album, though I digress slightly. Anyway, I’d heard that they were planning a benefit show for a new organization they’d founded called Rock for Choice, the position of which regarding legal access to abortion you can readily guess. Meantime, a band I’d heard a few times around KLA had just released a single called “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which suddenly got airplay everywhere. Said band, it turned out, was going to headline the show. And so, for the one and only time in my life, I saw Nirvana perform, after seeing sets from Hole (first time I saw them as well), L7 and Sister Double Happiness — and lord did that group stick out like a sore thumb, but anyway.
I’ve often thought back to that show, almost by default — Cobain’s place as cultural figure being what it is, and also because it was a smallish show, but just after the initial deluge had begun. And frankly, it could be readily seen that Cobain wasn’t thrilled already with the newfound attention — the performance was great but he didn’t talk to the audience much or at all.
Novoselic, though, that was a different matter — he commandeered the mike at many points between songs to passionately note what the concert was a benefit for, the importance of the issue, much more besides. For me, this had all been coming after years of thinking about the matter as a slowly-more-aware teen news freak, observing the actions of Operation Rescue, probably hearing about the murder of abortion providers, and grappling with what is, after all, an incredibly complex and heartwrenching issue.
I make no apologies for my pro-choice beliefs but neither do I think it is anything less than one of the most intense, sensitive matters someone can grapple with. Honestly, I feel uncomfortable even talking about it now, and feel that this might be all I have to say on the subject. So to simply sum up, while I didn’t need to be urged on any further by Novoselic — indeed, I think I probably can look back to that moment as one of the many moments that confirmed that I’m simply not comfortable participating in political rallies of any sort — it was still an encouragement for me to draw certain lines in the sand.
So now here we are in 2008. Paul’s views haven’t changed. Mine haven’t. Have Novoselic’s?
First off, it would be hypocritical of me to say his can’t or shouldn’t. VERY hypocritical. After all, just yesterday I was posting a note about the link from Balloon Juice, and as noted John Cole’s own political beliefs and conclusions have shifted over time, completely in public. If Novoselic’s beliefs have shifted in turn, he has every right to do so, and he doesn’t have to spell them out. If they have shifted, by default that means pleasing some former opponents and disappointing some former allies — that is simply the nature of internal debate and external decision-making.
Second, while some more searching might well turn up more information, there’s no immediate indication his views have in fact altered, and perhaps they haven’t — I’d be happy to be corrected. Third, I find it hard to believe that Novoselic isn’t aware of Paul’s position — this is something Paul clearly states on his webpage, as noted, and which is an issue that is obviously of prime importance to him.
Turning back to the Novoselic column I linked, he says this — emphasis mine:
The caucus system, though imperfect, holds significance as a grassroots mechanism for people to associate and amplify collective values. The Internet is already doing this with campaign phenomenon like Howard Dean in 2004, and this year with Ron Paul. If candidates rise by the power of the Internet, the leap to an actual nomination via computers is not out of the question.
The key words are there — ‘collective values.’ Well then, what are those values in this case? In looking at the article as a whole, you’ll note it’s a fairly involved discussion of the voting process and how there might be ways to fix problems with same — which frankly leads me to think that Novoselic might only be invoking Paul as a symbol, maybe only contributing to him as a symbol, some sort of attack against the system — ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ writ large, or as large as possible. Given how the Paul campaign has been pitched, the attention given to him, the whole ‘Ron Paul Revolution’ hoohah…of course it’s seductive, aimed at a certain demographic and mindset.
But again, though, ‘collective values.’ Does Novoselic in fact stop at the words Ron Paul and go no further? Do most of Paul’s supporters and contributors, or even just voters in general? (Just now in the discussion to the Idolator piece someone wondered if in fact Paul was pro-choice, because he was a libertarian.)
This is not a piece to demand an answer from Novoselic or else — it is merely to ask the question, and to wonder out loud. But we can apply it to today in general as well — why are the decisions made as they do in the nominations for both parties, what calculations, what compromises. The phrase ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’ has been posted on so many blogs, in so many columns, this past week that I’m now heartily sick of it. But it touches on something we all face — where do we draw the line in the end? Who do we choose and why? Do we fully appreciate why we choose it?
How do we square our ultimate choices with our beliefs? Can we?
Obvious questions? Doubtless. Sophistry? Perhaps nothing more. Yet these are not issues and points of debate to only be thought about in poli sci class discussion sections or writing courses and then never again. I am not the person I was in 1991. Neither is Paul, neither is Novoselic, neither is any of us.
And with that, if you are in a state holding a primary today and you are eligible to vote and there is something to vote on — vote. As simple as that. The marks made on paper, on the screen, are distillations of arguments and debates and conclusions that make my thoughts here look clear-cut. But they nonetheless must be made, and should be.
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