Regime Change, USA?

By Maralyn Lois Polak

I was literally running to the dollar store last Saturday morning, trying to catch up on several really urgent errands, when this hopeful guy on a street-corner in downtown Philly holds out a clipboard and asks if I’m registered to vote.

“Sure,” I say, still running.

“Would you sign this petition to place Ralph Nader on the ballot?” he inquires. “NO!” I retort loudly, surprising even myself. Taken aback as well, the fellow shakes his head and mutters something justifiably unpleasant under his breath.

I keep running.

Nothing will deter me from my goal: Paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper – and Regime Change USA.

But despite my momentum, my inner voice rages: While Nader really is brilliant – I heard him speak several years ago, and once interviewed him for a magazine profile – he’s essentially become a drive-by candidate. Has he shown the slightest inclination to build a movement? Any effort whatsoever? I don’t think so.

Nevertheless, within a block, I begin to hate myself.

You – Ms. So-Called Politically Progressive – refused to sign a petition? You denied a chance to support an independent candidate? You blatantly pitiful, pathetic, co-opted faux-leftist phony wreck of an ideological fraud!

I guess this is what Marxists mean by “self-criticism.”

Help! I’m on a political see-saw, and it’s making me dizzy and nauseous.

Just because you sign the petition doesn’t mean you have to vote for him, my inner voice railed at me. Help him get access to the political process. It’s unfair to exclude him. How did this happen to you?

For the next 10 minutes, I proceed to mentally beat myself up.

I realize how far I’ve come – and not in a good way – from the naive idealist whose heart would go into nearly lethal tachycardia over outsiders, misfits, alluring borderlines, bogus messiahs and lone wolves.

Uh, not you, (Your Name Here)!

Eventually, errands done, I decide to walk home on 15th St., seeking that hapless petitioner again, so I could add my signature and make an honest woman of myself.

Fortunately, however, the fellow’s gone. Because at this point, Nader’s a major distraction from Kerry vs. Bush. Why prolong the agony?

Unlike my neighbor “Louie” – not his real name – who’s still seething at me for having a “Vote for Ralph Nader” election poster in my front window a few years ago, I am not one of those who blame Nader for “taking votes away from Gore” in that disastrous previous presidential election.

Here’s the thing: If the millions and millions of unmotivated non-voters had gotten up off their duffs and done their duty as American citizens, maybe we wouldn’t be in this political predicament. No need to blame Nader.

Nevertheless, boy, was I disgusted with myself for not signing that petition. Such sickening behavior. What a hypocrite I’ve become.

Later that same day, through the miracle of long distance cellular communication (his), I confess my apostasy to my former husband and forever friend, “ZZ,” recently moved to New Mexico with his missus. As they say, he knew me when. We go waaaaay back. He knew me while I did sit-ins instead of sitting behind a computer. “Look, man, don’t be so hard on yourself,” he commiserates. “He’s totally out of control.”

Who? Kerry? Bush? I reply.

“Nader,” he responds. “No matter how much you don’t want to vote for Kerry, you must. Bush has to be stopped.”

To me there’s little difference between Kerry and Bush – they’re both members of the corporatocracy. But “ZZ” demurs. “Definitely not so. Just look at social programs,” “ZZ” says. “Listen, you need a strong dose of Paul Krugman to get your brain into balance again. Works for me.”

Maybe so, I nod, maybe so.

Because here’s the thing: When it comes to playing hardball with this insidious Neocon junta that’s hijacked our country, practicalities must prevail.

“We have to get Bush out of the White House,” ZZ declares. “Have to.”