Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Electoral Two Cents: the Ideal versus the Sensible

I am a born idealist.  I want things to be the way they should be.  However, being an idealist in this world is painful.  Very painful.

I am emotionally sensitive (too sensitive).  I hate conflict.  I am passionate about the things I care about.  Being emotionally sensitive, conflict-avoidant and passionate about issues makes maneuvering through this world difficult.  Very difficult.

I have developed a few coping mechanisms.  Chiefly, I have become a "sensible" person.  Sensible is not in my nature but it is now second nature to me.  I like it.  During an election year, though, my sensibility armor fails me.  (It sounds like a superhero device, doesn't it?)  You might think that is because of the issues.  No, it is because of two things:  the facts--more accurately, the lack of facts--and the behavior of the louder voices in the arena.

I know I am not the only person who is dismayed by the tenor of the political debate.  One of my favorite bloggers (of all time) recently wrote:

"This is the first election that I've witnessed and consumed via blogs. It's been shocking to watch bloggers face off over the blue/red line of US politics, while decency and respect falls into the chasm that separates them."**

I was so, I don't know, comforted to read that someone else is disconcerted by the rhetoric.  I understand the passion behind the rhetoric, but I wonder--pardon my simplistic attitude--if some of us overheard our children talking about people that way, would we condone it?  Most people I know go through great lengths to teach their children to think, speak, and behave toward others in humane ways.  Why can't we do the same toward those who have different political beliefs?

Lately I've had a song going through my head...

In Europe and America,
Theres a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets
Mr. Krushchev said we will bury you
I don;t subscribe to this point of view
It would be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too

Sting wrote that song at a time when we were still concerned about a direct conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.   I kept wondering why I was thinking of that song right now.  It is rather obvious, though, isn't it.  We have our own Cold War going on in this country.  There is a tendency to act as if "the other side" is inhumane, unpatriotic, unfeeling, and malicious.

The good thing is I don't believe most of us act that way to one another in our "regular" lives.  My neighbor on one side of me might have an Obama sign up and on the other side one might have a McCain sign up.  I do not think it would affect their basic treatment of each other.  At least, I hope not.

The other issue that troubles me during this election season?  Facts.  There are places for you to check the facts.  One place is  Some of the news organizations will also do that after a debate.

I hate it.   

What???  How can I hate that?  Well, it's easy.  I hate it because it is necessary to have these fact checking sessions.  I can't stand that I live in a world that accepts the distortions of election campaigns.  There are no non-offenders here, too.  I noticed a website yesterday that has a McCain Lie Counter.  I cannot respect that.  Both sides have misrepresented information.  If you are going to represent your side as a side that has the ethical high ground, you better be honest yourself.  (I don't want to hear the "McCain has told more lies than Obama" argument on this one.  A liar is a liar.)  If you place a lie counter on your site, it should show the mispresentations of both sides.

Over two years ago, I wrote this:

"Sometime during the last presidential election with its usual onslaught of name-calling, fact-blurring loveliness, I had a dream. (I really did.) In this dream, I decided to start my own political party. I can't remember the actual name I was going to give it but it had something to do with being the Party of Reasonable People. We would not have any political platform other than committing to being rational and kind in our dealings. I realize this is more of a club than a political party, but it was a dream, after all. The Party of Reasonable People would be a grassroots movement that would sweep the nation. No matter what side of an issue you were on, you would have the reassurance that you could agree to disagree and there would be no hate-mongering.

I woke up that morning with an incredible sense of well-being. All warm and fuzzy inside, it took a minute or two for reality to sink in. I was crushed. It was only a dream and I knew, in my heart of hearts--as a good, old southern minister might say--that it would never come true."

Sadly, I still think that my dream will never come true.   I would rather my idealistic energy be used talking about the issues, but I have found few outlets for reasoned discussion.  My sensibility armor may fail me entirely this year for I am seriously considering not voting for President in the coming election.##  My idealism might not be able to be quenched enough this year.

**I haven't referenced the specific blogger for a reason.  She knows why.  Favorite Blogger:  if you want me to give credit where it is most deservedly due, let me know.

##I would not abandon the voting process altogether.  Local issues, propositions, positions, etc., I would still vote for.


Anonymous said...

Why, what a clever and insightful quote you have included. **wink wink nudge nudge**

Politics is hard on idealists, and I fear becoming an all-around cynic. But you have to VOTE. If you don't vote you don't get to complain. AT. ALL.

I read a blog post a few weeks back and one of the commenters said she didn't think she could respect her McCain-supporting neighbour any longer. That seems so harsh. And childish. In fact to call it 'childish' may be an insult to childish children everywhere.

John Ross said...

You've obviously been thinking and feeing about this A LOT.

That's good. And that's bad.

It's Important.

It may or may not be urgent.

I can well empathise and sympathise with your feelings about living in this, "the best of all possible worlds" generaly and about politics specificaly.

As you say - Very difficult, Very Painfull. But ultimately worth while I have to believe

That said, I've opted to take this strategy.

1. Do what Works
(or seems likely to)
A. Get a resonable amount of info, but don't let yourself fall to "the paralysis of analysis"
B. Make a decision, act on it,
C. Let God worry about it from there(this is a goal, not a real practice of mine-I worry a LOT)

2. Take your vitamins

3. Nice is definately more important than sucssesful, or even competent.
A. You know better than to expect Nice to be lucrative.
B. Be prepared to "lose" often to people who don't get the difference between freely giving, and being weak or stupid.
Note: sometimes you may still just have to kick ass(don't nobody mess with my people)

You seem to already know all this, of course, but I thought it might be good for you to know some other people do too - & appreciate you taking the time to put your feelings about it down in print(in front of God & everybody, no less!)

Snoskred said...

According to John McCain, you could have had something like what you dreamed of this election season - as in the candidates being rational and kind, if only Barack Obama had agreed to do exactly what John McCain wanted and do many town halls with him.

Doesn't that sound a little bit like emotional blackmail? I'll be nice to the other guy, but only if he does *exactly* what I say. It is surprising to me that someone can be a 72 year old adult and yet be throwing the equivalent of a tantrum any child would throw in a supermarket. And some people in your country actually want him to have access to the nuclear weapons? What happens if another country doesn't do exactly as he wants? Nuke em? Start another war? Seriously, this worries me.

But because Barack Obama did not do that, John McCain had to lose all his honor and attack Barack Obama all over the place. Including having his pit bull now call Obama a *communist*. How utterly pathetic. This is a tactic to scare people into voting McCain/Palin.

I do not live in America. I live in Australia where we pay taxes and in return we get *actual* services like health care and unemployment and pensions etc instead of bailing out big banks and fighting wars which everyone now agrees should never have been started at billions of dollars cost each month when the country the war is in has all this spare money sitting around..

Contrary to the what the Republicans will tell you, expecting services from your government in return for taxes is not socialism. It is being responsible and making sure citizens have access to things they have a *right* to. Can you imagine having cancer and no health care, and being told "Sorry, we can't treat you, you don't have insurance. We can save your life but it will cost you $90,000." Yet this happens in your country every day. Did you know that?

So much for being pro life, huh? Yes, we are pro life when it comes to the the unborn child, but once you're born we really don't care what happens to you and we don't intend to provide you with health care.

I've watched this election closely and I would be voting for Barack Obama if I were living there - he is the one who comes the closest to your dream. He has been respectful of John McCain even in the face of some vicious and nasty attacks. John McCain has not returned the favor.

Anyway, sorry I haven't commented in a while, I am still reading.. just very busy :)

Mary-LUE said...

Snoskred, I'm not sure what to say and how to respond to your comment. Living here in the United States, I would disagree with your perspective of how the campaigns have been run. Both sides have run negative ads. Both sides have run ads with misleading information. Both sides. That is one of the points of my post.

The other point is my disappointment in the conduct of others during the election. People can be mean and disrespectful of those who disagree with them--simply because they disagree with them.

I, personally, can't live like that and I choose not to.

Snoskred said...

I've seen all the debates, I've seen as many campaign speeches as possible. That is where I'm getting my impression from.

Once one candidate goes negative with the ads, both end up doing that. It is a fact of life. I don't know who went negative first but if I had to put a bet on it, I'd bet it was McCain.

Obama disagrees with McCain for actual reasons, differences between their policy ideas. He doesn't make it personal. He doesn't attack McCain's character. He doesn't even bring up the whole age thing, and the fact that McCain seems to be having some serious problems with remembering things.

He even, when given an opportunity to trash Sarah Palin, chose to compliment her instead (in the 3rd debate). He could have said so many things, but he chose to take the higher road. And he's been doing that a lot. I have respect for that.

In the end, it is your country and your vote. Is it too late to change the way the political process works in your country? I don't know. I think the media is to blame for a lot of the problem - they are the ones who choose what to report. But the best way to try and create change in politics is to get involved - whether that is writing letters to newspapers saying how you feel, or actually joining a party and trying to create change from within.

Civil discourse requires a civil space. Do your politicians have a civil space? I don't think they do. They have to do the best with what they have, and without any doubt Obama has done that.

If it were up to me? Political ads would not be on television at all. Full stop. And maybe that is a change you could try and find support for. I know a lot of people in the country would agree with no political ads. :) Politicians? Not so much, but we have the internet and the media, I think they can leave regular tv viewing to be un-interrupted.

Mel said...

Oh, I'll vote......but you're darn tootin' I've unplugged the house phone.


Lemme ask one thing--

Why oh WHY can't people just get along?



Lamont said...

Concerning your dream - you need to read "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne - he shares your vision -