I have been trying to avoid the early election shenanigans. The mutant right is constantly making headlines with total insanity. I don’t mean to infer that to condemn anyone that is a Republican. I am simply referring to the freak pack that seems in control of the national party at this point. (Scott Walker being one of the many in this realm.) I am someone that believes in voting. I don’t think voting is enough if you really care about what is going on. However, I don’t think disengaging from the political realm due to dissatisfaction is an option. I am not a big fan of the Clintons and would rather see someone like Bernie Sanders capture the nomination. Bill, in his term, was actually a rather right leaning corporatist Democrat that did many things that I believe harmed this country. (NAFTA, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and so on.) However, if you can’t see that there is a difference between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton and Scott Walker, than I don’t know what to tell you. (Those that believe that all politicians are the same only need to look at recent headlines having to do with Iran and then imagine what those headlines would look like if “Bomb,bomb,bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” John McCain had won in 2008.) But what I think is important is that it is okay to disengage until it matters. I don’t need to be paying attention to the right wing horse race, as I will certainly not be voting for anyone that wins that. I can’t help, in trying to keep up with the news, catching a headline or two. I mean I try to pay attention enough that if I am having a conversation with someone, I can refute whatever insane argument someone might be making on whatever policy issue, but having a deep emotional investment in who is ahead is only going to destroy my health, make me angry, and burn me out on this whole circus before there is really anything I can do about it. The news is really good at destroying one’s soul, only to have you speaking gibberish by the time it comes down to canvas for an issue or candidate you believe in. Also, please keep in mind that I am talking about ignoring the election and not what is going on in general. It is important, extremely important, that a citizen of a democracy stays informed. But at this point in the election cycle it is much more important to pay attention to what is going on, rather than who is saying what, if you get my drift. So try to keep abreast of current issues, but whenever a circus animal like Donald Trump gets paraded out on TV, instead of turning your mind into rat soup, exercise one of the very few freedoms you have and turn the damned thing off.
I have remarked many times that I do not have cable. Especially with regards to cable news, it is very freeing. No one needs 24 hours of surface news. I have noticed that several republican candidates have declared. I don’t need to watch endless public relations stories about people I don’t intend to vote for, or even people I do. That doesn’t mean that I am championing staying uneducated about what is going on, nor am I claiming that all politicians are the same. I think in a democracy that it is every citizens duty to pay attention to what is going on. But cable news is the kind of thing you turn on for five minutes, hours later you have seen the same five stories a hundred times, and your blood pressure is way higher than when you started. You can spend way less time reading a couple of in depth articles and you will find yourself way more informed. You can spend all of that extra time reading books and actually learning about the world. Or you can do things that you enjoy that actually bring meaning to your life. At the very least you can space out for a couple hours and be far healthier. You won’t be any dumber. So be good to yourself and turn off the TV news.
A family member just sent me the above article from Salon. It is about how many people in the world are increasingly viewing America as something to be watched closely, if not outright feared. Although I have traveled less extensively than the author, I have been in several foreign countries over the last few years and can vouch for the overall sentiment of the article.
I remember specifically being in England during the Bush years. Many people would be slightly cold and then sheepishly ask me what I thought of Bush. Once I explained that I voted against him and hated his policies, it was like a party had started. Shots and embraces came out, and suddenly I was everyone’s best friend.
So many Americans have no idea not only how the rest of the world views us, but also how much they know about us. When you go to foreign countries you are often asked deep political questions by average people concerning the U.S. Often these are questions that you are not sure if many of your own countrymen and women could answer.
My Dad has related to me many times a story from a trip to Kenya. He was walking down the street, in an area that was slightly impoverished, and a man walked up to him. After finding out he was an American, the man asked him, “So tell me about Jesse Helms?” Meanwhile I have gone out to drinks with girls here, during a U.S. presidential election, and been stupefied to find out they didn’t know who the vice-presidential candidates were. Now I know that I am drawing conclusions from limited experiences, but there are many more stories that I have personally witnessed on both sides that make me believe that the author of the above article knows what they are talking about. It’s strange out there…
In case you didn’t know there is an election going on this week. Time to stand up and be counted. I’m not naive enough to think that voting alone can change the system. However, I think that it is an important part of living in a democracy. The options in front of us at times might not be great, but if you can’t see the difference between certain candidates, than you are blind. Voting is only one step to making the world better, but it is a step that needs to be taken. Don’t let the cynics keep you from voting this week. First we take Manhattan and then we take Berlin!