November 9, 2012

You Aren’t What You Vote: The Last Political Article You Need to Read.

Like so many, I am glad Election 2012 has passed.

Bullying, while once believed the prerogative of unruly children in the schoolyard, has paralyzed American politics like a really nasty game of Cops and Robbers where everybody believes himself to be the cop and the other fellow to be the robber. Does the passage into adulthood mean compassion, respect and a realization that major decisions involve shades of grey? After Tuesday, I’m beginning to wonder. I’m all for free speech, but this is getting a little ridiculous.

Congrats, Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, we’ve made it. How many of us have been verbally abused along the way? Perhaps you were the lone Obama supporter in your family? The lone Romney supporter in your yoga class? The only one of your 807 Facebook devotees to vote Green and accused of throwing your vote away? Have you, like me, simply grown so weary of it all that you collapsed into your popcorn long before Karl Rove declared the FOX News Deciders hold on Ohio?

Technology has something to do with it. In the past, one would have discussed politics in person, campaigned in a group or sent an opinion letter to the local newspaper. Now we have 24/7 access to an endless stream of vitriol-spewing pundits. Online chat forums extend the cloak of anonymity; we can make the kinds of asinine statements that would never fly IRL. Facebook and Twitter serve as quick and easy soapboxes. We get people to gang up on each other. Maybe you have Facebook friends who threaten to defriend those followers who have a different opinion on universal health care/ gun control/ the economy? Brave women like Susan B. Anthony were beaten and harassed to earn the right to vote. Threatening casual acquaintances with Facebook expulsion while drinking a morning latte at Starbucks seems kind of lame.

Lacking provision for coalition government, the majority of Americans enter election day with two viable choices: the Democrats or the Republicans.

Increasingly, one is made to feel as if voting is a choice between Manichean dualisms—good and evil, Us and Them, light and dark. Vote a certain way, the pundits and politicos scream, or doom the world to Mad Max-style destruction. It is on your hands, after all. Or is it?

The truth is, the election of one man, albeit a powerful one, does not a country make. We still have Congress. And millions of the rest of us. As a political culture, we have truly run amok. Our political discourse no longer centers on policy but on personality backed up by a few quick sound bites. The media encourages us to define ourselves by a sort of rage-based identity politics.

We don’t need political junk food. This is not a sprint. It is a marathon. We need policy and we need it now. Who could have clearly stated Romney’s or Obama’s views on immigration, healthcare reform or political transition in the Middle East? We need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.

We heal the rancor and  fragmentation that has divided our country.

Political parties spend small fortunes in their attempts to distill “American-ness” into a one size-fits-all equation. The particular formula has proved elusive. Just who are we? Do we inhabit leafy suburbs, tiny urban apartments or farms, amid spacious waves of grain? Do we work in an office, a coal mine or a hospital? Are we social entrepreneurs, inventors or artists? What color is our skin? Do we have children? Who do we love?

Now, the tricky question: Which is more “American”: Democrats or Republicans? How about the Libertarian Party? The Green Party? Atticus Finch? Daffy Duck? Lady Gaga? And what about that 47 percent?

The answer? We all are.




Editor: Brianna Bemel


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