Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kumbayah

**I asked for some writing prompts from others tonight, and this is the first of them, suggested by my friend, Bob. Why? Because my professor tonight said that doctoral students should spend an hour a day writing on various topics to hone their ability to discourse. This one was good.***


I consider myself fortunate in that I grew up with parents who were politically aware, without spouting an extreme opinion either way. We had many conversations in the car and around the dinner table about current events and they gave perspectives to situations that went beyond what the news reported. Probably the most important thing is that they encouraged curiosity. If we asked questions, we got thoughtful responses.

The funniest part of it was that they both were registered members of the Republican party, but their ideology was mostly fell with the Democrats. One thing both of my parents agreed on is issues voting, that is, they explored the candidates and selected one who aligned with their views more than any other candidate. Sometimes, that meant choosing the Right to Life Candidate, even though they both were pro-choice.

So, when I turned 18 and promptly registered to vote, my dad and I had a serious conversation about the registering Republican thing. The Republican party was king in our county and if you wanted something done, or a job with the county, you registered GOP. Yeah, I know it shouldn't matter-but sometimes it does. Two years later, I was disgusted with the two party system and went independent.

A few years on and a move to another part of the country, I found myself surrounded by many who did not share the point of view that politics and elections should be decided on issues, not just the affiliation you had on your voter registration card (mine now had Democrat). Instead, if asked for an opinion, I'd get derided for having one that didn't match the rhetoric of a radio host that the person listened to every afternoon.

Meanwhile, it was important to me to listen to the candidates speak, to read their platform and weigh which one aligned with my point of view. Maturity slowly colored that a bit to help me decide that the speeches were from the 'I'll say whatever they want me to in order to win the election.' It meant that sometimes, that lever went down on a Republican candidate.

I moved just outside the beltway (we're talking 3 miles) and at nearly 30, I found my political brethren. People from all political ideologies, all willing to gather the differing opinions for the sake of understanding. My assistant manager was the most conservative fellow you would ever meet and he and I had some of the most fascinating discussions on topics like gun control, immigration and taxes. It was good to get a differing perspective.

A few years later, Ed and I moved to a planned community that I likened to Stepford. I was definitely outnumbered politically, but it didn't matter all that much. When topics came up, even hot button ones, conversations seemed to stay level headed. I don't know how much of that was colored by the fact that our television and radio dials were well stocked with programming that ran the gamut on current interest. My commutes to work had me listening to a lot of talk radio, DC politics shows and news. It was enriching.

Now, we live in Florida. I feel disconnected from politics here, there's not as much discourse as I was used to before. The media coverage tends to go to extremes. Thankfully, the internet provides what the airwaves do not. I don't talk about what's going on in Washington the way I once did.

Part of that is because I feel that our elected leaders and candidates have become one giant mass of finger pointers, thinking that if they don't own up to the fact that we ALL are responsible for our nation's ills, they'll be returned to their offices next November (or the November after that, if that's the case). As a nation, we shouldn't be looking in the rear view mirror and the wreck we've caused, we should be looking at the road in front of us and trying to figure out what needs to be done to FIX this damn mess we're in.

Yes, I know politics are not a topic I write about very often. Those who know me in real life know I'm passionate about some hot button topics. It is something we all need to get a fire in our britches about right now.

In a first, I'm going to put up some of my opinions on the political issues that are important to me. I do this to spur you to think about the issues that are important to YOU, not what the leaders of your party tell you should be important. Why? Because you may see that your views run the gamut (like mine). I am not completely aligned with the party on my Voter ID card.

What is important to me?

1. Taxes-we can't have big government and all the services it provides us without paying for it. This means that we have to pay taxes. No tax cuts to make people happy in the short term.

And no tax breaks for businesses. Sorry, you're turning a profit, you pay a share to the government. The only tax breaks should be for hiring the unemployed, underemployed or someone getting themselves off the welfare roles.

2. Welfare-it is one huge mess. Personally, I think there should be a limit on on. Five years, maximum. I don't care how many kids you have, you get the same amount, because employers don't give raises to their staff for having more kids. I'm all for helping someone get back on their feet when they're down, but the way welfare is in our nation nowadays, it is a HUGE crutch for people. (And I agree with the drug testing to keep benefits-both of these opinions definitely don't agree with my named party)

3.Government-is too big. We need to cut it, first by figuring out duplication of services. We need to cut the perks our elected officials receive. It is nuts that someone who spends 2 or 6 years in office gets a pension and health insurance for life. Do you get the same from your jobs? What would your boss say if you walked in and said "I'm getting a raise, and you're giving me a pension and insurance, even after I'm gone."? Seriously, you'd be kicked out and someone would be sent to collect your belongings out of your desk for you.

4. Charity begins at home-When our country is such bad shape economically, why are we bailing out other countries? Cut the aid to other countries, many of whom don't pay us back. It's time for another country to pick up the slack.

5. China-human rights abuses, trade benefits and they're one of the world's worst offenders on pollution. Why are we even trading with them?

6. Gay Marriage- I'm sorry, if a couple can have a big media event wedding for a union that lasts for 72 days, does that really protect the sanctity of marriage? No, it doesn't. Married or not, gay and lesbian couples are not a threat to others. I've spoken on the topic before, but I really doubt all the gay couples I know (and I know many) are a threat to your ability to marry-why should we deny them the ability to legally commit to each other?

So, you see, my ideology isn't simple. I'll bet yours isn't either. Or your husband, sister, dad, daughter, boss, coworker, clergyperson, dentist, hairdresser or anyone else you know.

The point of laying this all out is to ask all of us to THINK about the issues that are near and dear to us. Don't listen to one political pundit and adopt that person's rhetoric as your personal beliefs. Don't watch ONE news program and decide that it is why you have to vote for Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse or Spongebob Squarepants.

Explore as much as you can from many sources to make your decisions. Put at least as much effort into your ability to select your representatives as you do buying a car or a house, heck, where you're going for vacation this year. Ask others their opinions, especially when you know their views are different from yours. Ask them WHY they believe what they do.

If you have the opportunity to speak with your elected official, ask them tough questions. If they respond with finger pointing, stop them and let them know that you're tired of that, that you want to hear solutions, not accusations.

Ultimately, it boils down to a quote by Voltaire "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." We owe it to ourselves and our fellow Americans to consider these words when it comes to our political system.

Don't you think?



1 People talked back:

songbird's crazy world said...

Great essay! I remember when every household in that county had to have one registered Republican regardless of actual political belief. Glad times changed.

Politics today seems nastier, dirtier and less civilized. We need to respect each other's virwpiint and try to find common ground.