December 16, 2013

1112 words 6 mins read

The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Divergent

A_t least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that ‘news’ is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different–in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness.”_- Robert Heinlein

I’m falling in love with teenage girls. Does that make me different?

I’ll tell you more about that later. First, I want to talk about the crumbling mess that is the Republican Party.

House Speaker John Boehner chose this week to declare war on conservatives. Especially conservatives who don’t have a lot of money or personal connections to Washington. In other words, people who can’t pay lobbyists to buy Boehner expensive wine and cartons of cigarettes.

Boehner says conservatives have “lost all credibility.” We’ve sold out by using his inept, failed Speakership as a fundraising tool.

Hah! I have not tried to raise a PENNY on Boehner’s failures as a leader, as a strategist, or as Speaker. You’re wrong, John. Have another gallon of Chianti. (I’m enjoying a cheap but delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, myself.)

I’d like to remind Boehner, and all of the Capitol leaders, that his Republican Party was flat on its back after the 2008 election. After Roy Blunt and Paul Ryan cut a deal to support TARP to bailout billionaires and ensure no Wall Street banker would ever suffer the consequences of his own horrible financial gambles.

Perhaps Boehner remembers that the media, academics, and ordinary folk all declared the GOP dead on November 4, 2008. After a decade of profligate spending, botched wars, and inept messaging, Americans were ready to elect a mystical socialist over anything with an R behind its name.

Then, on February 27, 2009, about 10,000 people went out in the cold at noon to protest. We got some press coverage. We were freaks. “Conservatives don’t protest,” the press said.

But we did. We protested loud. And we liked it.

So we did it some more. We did all through the long, hot summer of 2009. We did it while union thugs beat down cancer patients in South County parking lots. We did it in the snow and the heat. We did it all across St. Louis and Missouri and the USA.

And somewhere along the line, Republicans' testes descended again. People like Roy Blunt and John Boehner found their man-voices. Buoyed by the Tea Party strength, old guard Republicans decided they still had a chance.

Then the GOP took the House in 2010. It took a bunch of state legislatures and governorships and secretaries of states.

But the Establishment looked its gift-horse in the mouth and decided that a couple of botched Senate races made the rest of the victories meaningless.

“All the big donations and graft involve the Senate,” the GOP declared. “Without the Senate, we might as well be county council members.”

So the GOP worked to put down the rabble. And it’s been putting us down ever since.

You all know the story. You know the slights, the insults, the cowardice of the Republican Party. I won’t repeat them here. Besides, it’s not appropriate for teenage girls. Which brings me back to the teenage girl thing.

I read all three “Hunger Games” books a couple weekends ago.  Then I read “Ender’s Game.” Then started on “Divergent.”

Ender’s Game is an excellent, important book, but it’s not nearly as entertaining to me as The Hunger Games and Divergent.  Maybe that’s because the latter two have teenage girl protagonist, while the former’s protagonist is prepubescent boy. Or maybe it’s because the latter two smack of reality in the US of A, circa 2013.

In The Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen, a 17-year-old girl, inspires the beaten-down people of a dystopian future America to rise up and sack the Capitol. The Capitol, one of 12 districts in a country called Panem, has enslaved the rest of North America.  Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog explains the books, and their relevance to the Fourth Turning. Suffice it to say that The Hunger Games story so affected me that I’m seriously thinking about getting a mockingjay tattoo.

In Divergent, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior leaves the faction of her birth to join a wild, dangerous faction charged with security in a dystopian Chicago. (Although, the real Chicago of 2013 is probably way more dystopian than the one described in Divergent.) Beatrice become Tris and thwarts a plot by the intellectuals to kill all the good people.

[caption id=“attachment_14115” align=“aligncenter” width=“640”]ZOE KRAVITZ and SHAILENE WOODLEY star in DIVERGENT Clipped from[/caption]

Both stories tell–or foreshadow–the story of 21st century America. The elite want to enslave or eliminate all the rabble. Whether it’s Obamacare or Big Business, you and I have no place in the elite’s America, except to pile up debt, go to work, pay taxes, buy stuff we don’t need, and die before we need too much medical treatment.

When I read Boehner’s attacks on me and my friends and the institutions I admire, I decided I’m not going to play the Captiol’s game anymore. I’m now a factionless divergent, like Tris Prior.

We are like the factionless now. I do not know what life will be like, separated from faction–it feels disengaged, like leaf separated from the tree that gives it sustenance. We are creatures of loss; we have left everything behind. I have no home, no path, and no certainty. I am no long Tris the selfless or Tris the brave.

I suppose that now I must become more than either.

– from Divergent, by Veronica Roth

What does that mean?


I’m not sure. But I’m less worried about the next election. I want to work on getting better at self-governance. I want to start a business that eventually gives people good jobs and adds value to the world. I want to live more as an example and less as an enabler of bad politics.

I wish I could I tell you that I feel strong, emancipated, free, and invincible. I don’t. I feel like Tris: a creature of loss.

I’d invite you to join me, but I’m not sure where I’m going.

If you do join me, you’ll probably lose some friends. People will look at you like you’re weird. Who cares? The factionless, the people of the districts, they’re all weird.

But they don’t bow down to clowns who think they know best how everyone else should live. And they don’t feed off the bodies of the districts' young.

That’s why I’m falling in love with teenage girls. They know how to be divergent.