Justin Erik Halldór Smith: Me and Politics

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

6a00d8341c562c53ef017617728b72970c-300wiSometime in the summer of 1987 I walked out to our rural-route mailbox and found my membership card for the Young Socialist Alliance, accompanied by a typewritten letter filled with both practical information as well as elevated rhetoric about the youth being the future. I had heard that talk before at Catholic Youth Organization meetings, and was annoyed that I was made to join the mere youth auxiliary of the Socialist Workers' Party. But I was 15 and those were the rules, and I was happy enough to now be officially linked to the largest association of Trotskyists in the United States, whose publishing wing, Pathfinder Press, had already taught me so much about the larger world beyond the Sacramento Valley.

By the following year I had obtained another official document with my name on it, from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which enabled me to drive to the national convention of the SWP at Oberlin College in Cleveland. It enabled me, while my mother, for some mysterious reason, permitted me. In what would have been my junior year I had stopped attending high school for some months, out of sheer stubbornness, and didn't seem to have any other concrete plans, so driving off to do something at a university might have been hoped to hold open the possibility of what was known, even then, as a 'positive influence'. A 'positive influence on the youth'.

So I made it through the high desert of Nevada, through the salt flats of Utah, through the locust plagues of Nebraska, through Illinois, Indiana, and, finally, the state in which I would much later reside for two years and where I am still registered to vote: bleak pseudopalindromic Ohio, microcosm of all that is worst of 'these United States', the state Whitman had the most trouble rhapsodising about. But it was all new and fresh to me in 1988 and I was happy to go to some artsy café in the little town next to the campus and meet some dude named Harold who wore the best thrift-shop sweaters and knew more trivia about The Residents and Negativland than I did. This was the larger world too.

More here.