Thursday, November 8, 2012
Elections 2012- Obama Wins
This was a monumental election year, in which Barack Obama won a second term as president of the United States of America after a long and very nation-dividing campaign against Mitt Romney- a former Gov of Mass, and a Mormon. Lukas and I went and voted over in the circular Unitarian Church around the corner. I could hear his feet scurrying all over that creaky wooden floor amidst the otherwise menial sounds of papers being shuffled, and few voters being directed to a cardboard box voting booth where they marked paper ballots with thick black markers. He was more interested in the "I voted" sticker and getting out of there to get lunch, than he was in the actual voting.
Now, I can't decide what has made this election so different... Is is because I'm just getting older and more informed about politics than I was in the past? Is it because people are becoming more polarized in their opinions? Is it because people are really so stuck in their own opinions that they aren't asking why people think differently anymore? I seldom witnessed 'real dialogue between citizens of differing viewpoints. Lots of name calling, stereotyping, compartmentalizing, and criticizing. As if a person is really THAT well informed. That in and of itself is a discussion. We all know different news sources are influenced heavily by different ideologies. The Washington Post is a liberal newspaper, right? Fox News is pretty conservative. So for a person to claim to "know things" because they "heard it somewhere" or watched/read from an obviously biased source, seems plain silly. Shouldn't truth seekers be more open to all information, not just the information that they've already seen? I mean, it's like parenting. If I wanted to convince you of some parenting principle, I could find many many articles to support whichever side of the argument I choose. Spanking vs. not spanking. Bottle vs. Nursing. Waking a baby vs. never waking a baby. The thing is, I DID read both sides because I wanted the best for my kiddo in my set of circumstances, and chose accordingly, based on my information and my child who would be affected.
So then there's the elections. I'm from a Republican Family. Both parents were in the Navy. So I've been raised with pretty conservative views. I'm sure that at times over the last 4 years I've been considered 'tainted by California' because there tend to me very differing viewpoints here. (It may have been the straw that broke some poor anti-hippie's back when I gave my kid a cream-cheese & strawberry covered rice cake for that first bday here! haha) I try to be informed where I can, but know that for the most part, I only get bits and pieces here and there from this or that news article, political website, and talking to other people when I can. And when they are of a completely different ideology it's intriguing for me to ask them how they came to that particular idea about ____, seems how I don't identify myself completely with one party or the other. It's been really interesting to gain insight into other viewpoints I hadn't known to consider before.
Fast forward to Facebook conversations and polarized web articles. What a bunch of malarky to be found!
I felt irritated by the mass amounts of blanket statements coming from this election, especially by those who profess Christlikeness, then rode their religious chariots from one topic to the next, condemning this person and that (who I'm sure they don't know personally)... and to their credit... while truly believing that they were "doing the right thing." So here's the hard part. Ignoring it, and thinking about what a cess-pool of ignorance that many people in our country live in. Most political articles on the main news pages (for ex, cnn.com, etc) have comments below, and I was blown away by the bitterness,the name-calling, the rudeness, the know-it-all-ness of commenters- for virtually every article I read, there was a whole field day of civil war going on in the lines below it. Real dialogue could be so eye-opening!! Fact checking -- even more eye opening!
Consider how knowledge changes our behaviors. Because of new information I've read in books (actual books with pages, and websites- some littered with conspiracy theories and others not), I've learned a lot about healthier ways to eat, and more about the politics of such food-related issues. I've considered other people's opinions about the death penalty, I've considered the sad state of budget effects in my state and the nation, and the struggle that America has with staying in a budget vs. forking out tons of money for programs aimed at keeping a sort of moral code intact, seen through the "War on Drugs" and other efforts on behalf of the US to eradicate places of Marijuana. I've read about how much money is allocated to a massively failing attempt at herding cats, while meanwhile other moral codes are perhaps overlooked-- the deaths of innocent people because of Mexican cartels (but most of those I'm currently referring to are deaths of Mexicans, and therefore don't make the news). I've read about Mexican workers duping the IRS and claiming unbelievable amounts of money. I see that the Systems created by a U.S. Government are faulty, yet the voters are all excited to attack the people... not necessarily the systems that are perpetuating certain results. I've seen Mormons at the Temple with bumper stickers saying things to the effects of "Out with the Mexicans" and then go do a session where people of all backgrounds and ethnicities are present. I've adopted a child here and worked with a struggling birth-mom, gone through Foster Care training, which have added more information to my ever-developing opinions about about abortion and a woman's right to choose whether or not she must go through with 9 months of pregnancy, or who should be allowed to take in/adopt foster kids. (Some people are abhorrently against gays/lesbians adopting foster kids, but I didn't exactly see the Mormons knocking the doors down at those centers to take claim on those poor kids either.) I've met lots and lots of people (tons in my wards too) who partake some sort of part in the welfare system, either through food stamps, or Medicaid, or section 8 housing... yet in the same breath, condemn "all those people who feel entitled to something for nothing." I don't by any means mean to misrepresent myself as someone who condones dishonesty, or disrespect for other's rights to life or happiness, but I am very aware of the plan I chose to make it to this world involving choice, and tend to think that all will be judged for the choices we make here, and that government cannot mandate each of those choices. (If that would work, I'd have some govm't mandating straight down to the way teachers are picked, parents are censored, and a few other things that I'm pretty opinionated about).
What I'm really saying is that most of these issues are quite complicated when it gets down to real people and real cases, and I do not claim to take a one-sided stance on many of them. Personally, I think most of these touchy social issues would be best handled on a case-by-case basis (much like the LDS church does when Membership status hangs in the balance), but of course the practicality of that is probably ridiculous in a nation as big as ours.
What I find helpful is for people to recognize how they think and to really consider why they think that way, and then to consider how their upbringing/their religion/their own lack of information are playing major roles in their opinions...before they go slamming the opinions of others. It's also nice to get the feeling that people are seeking truth, and not considering their own opinion as fact. And good-grief, stop judging everyone who is of a different opinion than themselves.
The statement I hear so much (from most friends on the Rep. side) during election time "Democrats are evil" is ridiculous, as James E. Faust from our own church was a democrat, just as are many good people I know. The whole LDS church used to be by and large democrat, and people had to be wooed to the republican side just to get stateship in Utah, with church leaders assuring folks that they need not worry- a person could be republican and still be a member in good standing. Laughable, right?
In a Christian church that believes in relieving the sick and helping the poor, we should agree that helping the poor is a good thing. Of course, the system is a wreck, so it's easy to call people lazy and non-deserving... until you of course meet the older people on the government's penny, or the parent who lost their job to a layoff who is trying to get back on their feet. It's supposed to be temporary, right? But we all know the system doesn't exactly perpetuate self-reliance, but rather dependence. So let's not judge.
One case in point with all the disheartening means of becoming "informed" was apparent to me as I was urged by person after person to see the movie: 2016 which is a documentary made to show Americans the sad state of affairs in which the country could find itself by 2016 should Obama stay in office. When considering that everything said is fact, it is quite the scary movie. When considering that it is made by someone with a very obvious agenda who makes Obama often "guilty by association," and is full of fear-mongering and sensationalism types of lines and inuendos, it's just a very powerful campaign tool. First hand accounts are basically absent from all those interviewed except the brother/stepbrother who said when asked why he wasn't helped by his powerful brother, answered that Barack has his own worries and family. (I considered right then how cool it would be to have Uncle David help me buy a house in CA with cash so I could get it really cheap, since the investors buy here so quickly! Or why doesn't my successful uncle just buy me a house?) And if a person is guilty by association, then let's please not mention the fact that I have a cousin who was on death row in TX and another who has just had a baby with a felon who is still legally married to his wife, and a brother who once said that Hiroshima was a good idea to teach those Japanese a lesson, or a grandpa-in-law who was in the German Army during WW2. I am married to a man who grew up in a country with (gasp!) national healthcare and socialized ways of governing. These events makes me a pretty bad person, I think not. I don't dismiss the ideas presented here as being irrelevant. They're good warnings to be on the lookout for, but to take them as gospel truth would be a misstep.
All this being said, I'm always up for a great article or book you've read that you think I 'need' to read/watch to 'help me' form a 'more informed' opinion. I'll read/watch it.
It's not like either candidate was the epitome of goodness and honesty. Both misconstrued the truth to their own advantage. Both have political agendas. Both had good ideas for change. It'd be cool to see any of them actually tried out. But our system is pretty grid locked. To assume that one's own party was more benevolent than the other seems ludicrous. Now that it's over though, with many friends surprised at the result, I don't buy the "The sky is falling" line that is rampant among many many Republican voters I know, even though we believe in an all-knowing and powerful God who could have helped Romney win had it really been God's will. He could have kept a hurricane at bay. Maybe between the hurricane and the imminent danger of our country's future, some Mormons will finally get their rears in gear with food storage, stop buying junk they don't need and will save money, and will focus on the most important things in this life: Family. Our relationships with them. Our faith in God. Our belief in a Plan of Happiness and moral agency.
But, finger pointing is pretty fun sometimes, and the quaint little one liners ("It's hard for folks not to vote for Santa Claus") seem like such brilliant opinion-changing zingers for a moment (even though when we got checks in the mail from Bush, I certainly wasn't complaining...and I do imagine that the amount of flat screen tvs in American households went way up).
So the moral of the election? What can we learn from all the horrible mud slinging over the past months? Gee whiz. Just be nice to people and seek to understand before seeking to be understood... and live what you believe. I believe in an all-powerful God who rules the universe and has things under control. Now I just do my part to be informed, and live my religion. If you think the world will end? That's fine. At least it's motivation enough to get better educated, learn skills of self-reliance, and pulling that big fat mote out of our own eyes before judgement day. And as for the moral state of the country being in peril? Still is, and it's disheartening to think that more liberal judges may be appointed to the Supreme Court during this term. I hope they'll serve in their office with dignity and justice. I hope good parents everywhere will be bold enough to stand up for what's true and good in this world, and that people will be conscious of their sphere of influence: in their own homes, in their own work places, in their congregations, in their play/sports/activity groups. It's time for us to stand tall and stand together with good people, and hope we don't write off good people because we think they might be _____, or vote for _____.
We can still be happy. We can work hard. We can show love to others. We can serve in our communities. The nation's leader doesn't dictate my happiness. I'm so glad to be alive at such a great time as this!