Lost in 1999

I remember a few people in high school talking about the movie Election (1999) the year it came out, but I never quite got around to seeing it. It wasn't so much that I was intentionally avoiding it, it was more that 1999 was a year packed with films that got everyone out to see them and a few cult hits that became favorites on VHS (and the first big DVD hit). 1999 gave us: The Matrix, American Beauty (the best picture winner, for some reason), Fight Club, Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick's final film), The Phantom Menace, The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, Being John Malcovich, The Blair Which Project, Boys Don't Cry, Magnolia (one of my all-time favorites), Girl Interrupted, The Hurricane, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Cider House Rules, Iron Giant, American Pie, Office Space, Man on the Moon, and Dogma. I still haven't seen them all, but for the ones I did see I must have been going to the movies every week.

Finally seeing this after hearing an episode of the podcast The Canon on it and my wife coincidentally bringing it up, I could see where a few other movies got their DNA from this film and from Rushmore. I'm not sure I was blown away by this movie but I did appreciate it greatly and it reminded me of my own experiences with student government.

In high school, by senior year my homeroom class had gone through four class reps in the previous three years because no one had an interest in it. I agreed to do it as a "ah, what the hell," volitional act. In fact, I'm pretty sure my friend Todd said "Pete will do it," after he was the rep the year before, and somehow I didn't say "hell no!" In middle school I was a rep for my homeroom class at least one year out of my excitement for politics. I can remember watching the nightly news with my parents after dinner going back to when I was four or five every night of the week. That was mostly so that I could get a free extra half hour of TV time, but I also came to really like it and remember a whole lot of what I was watching through that routine. I found middle school and high school student government to be confusing and boring and I don't remember anything ever resulting from the time wasted.

My two memories of high school student government are of being visited by the vice principal who thought I had skipped class when I was at a meeting and of a joke I pulled on my homeroom class. Like every other week, there wasn't much to report to the class from the meeting. I could see the my classmates falling asleep at their desks as I read down the list of minutes so at the very end I added in a monotone "...and we are going to change the mascot from a Panther to an endangered wild flower." Amazingly, this soaked into the unconscious brains of my classmates and they perked up in outrage as I laughed and sat down.

In college, I came to be especially annoyed at the worthlessness of our student government. At one point they wasted a whole meeting discussing whether the dog mascot should have a lady dog friend. They voted no. I had a few political science classes with the President of the SGA and he fashioned himself as someone who thought there shouldn't be political parties because who cares if you know who you're voting for? He was pretty much just an overall jackass that was the embodiment of the popularity contest of those college elections. No one ever knew what they were voting for in their college representatives and it really didn't seem to make a difference. The main issue they ever saw was debating whether clubs should get funds then giving every club exactly what they asked for.

This lead me to want to start a school sponsored club called the "Overthrow the SGA Club." We would then go to the SGA and demonstrate their uselessness by asking them for funding, wasting a meeting and eventually getting funding. The idea wouldn't quite be to actually overthrow the SGA but to pressure them into being more serious and work on issues that mattered for students like fees for the gym, and streamlining food plans (we didn't have points that could be used for off campus vendors at the time and most other schools did) and setting up a party system for candidates during elections so students could know how groups of candidates would vote on different issues like if they were pro fees for better perks or against fees for things they didn't want to use.

I told a few people about this in a few of my poli sci classes who were very interested in this club idea. It seemed like people might be interested in the joke of it so I had a two week break before the next semester started, forgot about it for twelve years, and moved on with my life. This is common mistake in a revolution, having something more interesting come along and forgetting all about it for over a decade then realizing I was glad I didn't waste my time putting any effort into it.

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