I’ve kept (mostly) quiet about my political preferences this year. Not because I’m ashamed, and not because I don’t want to discuss them or the issues at hand.
The reason I haven’t put them out there is that most of the people who do want to (I shall put this politely) “engage me in discussion” on political matters are actually only interested in two things: 1. beating other people over the head with their beliefs, and 2. hearing the sound of their own voices.
I have a handful of friends who I’m sure would have loved to actually discuss these matters rationally and calmly, with respect and appreciation for each other’s views, and with an openness of heart that would allow the possibility that not only could I be wrong, but they just might be wrong themselves. These are unfortunately not generally the people who respond to my Facebook posts on religion, politics, or any other subject that might possibly engender disagreement. The people who generally respond to such posts do so with personal insults against me or the person I support, ignorant statements that demonstrate a complete unwillingness to find the truth, thinly veiled talking points regurgitated straight from the source without any personal analysis, and lousy jokes on the level of, “That’s what SHE said!”
In short, I keep quiet ’cause I don’t want to feed the trolls.
That said, I do have something to say to those who supported Governor Romney this election season, and I figured I’d go ahead and say it. In fact, this specifically goes out to the angry and frightened people, some few of whom are now expecting Armageddon to descend upon all of our heads in the form of hordes of undocumented illegal immigrants and flaming, tutu-wearing, glittery ‘mos who will steal their guns in the middle of the night and force their daughters to have abortions. (Most of you are not that extreme, but some of you – please admit it to yourself if not to me – are actually afraid of the next four years.)
Okay, I’ll allow that you’re worried. In fact, if you feel that your candidate was the best choice for the country, and the guy who won does not have the right answers, and therefore you are concerned with where the country is headed, then I actually applaud you. People who think that way are concerned with the state of our nation because they want to see America succeed. They want to not only be proud of our past, and proud of many things we have done and are doing, but to also be proud of our present. They want to stand up and say, “We’re doing things right. We have our shit together. We take care of ourselves and each other, and we make this world a better place.”
Guess what? I am 100% with you on that. I want America to be a great and powerful and strong and well-run country too! I want our citizens to be healthy and have the opportunity to succeed too! I want a nation that is both safe and respected around the world too!
We won’t always agree on how that can happen or what we need to do to improve things. We may not even agree on what “improved” means! But I want you to know that, just like you, I want a strong and safe and healthy and successful America. I also think that we have a great foundation and we do a lot of things right. And I also think that we face a lot of challenges because we do a lot of other things wrong. So we should be able to sit together over a drink or some coffee or a meal and talk about it like civilized humans.
Now let’s deal with this fear issue. In 2004 I was afraid that Bush would be re-elected. I didn’t like what he’d done with his first four years (I voted for him the first time!) and I was really worried about what a second term would do to the country. Well, we found out. It screwed us up, big time. It left us with a huge national debt and no way to get out of it, bad blood with other nations, regulations that are friendly to corporate entities and the richest of the rich, and policies that drain the average worker of their life’s blood.
I don’t like these parts of our nation. I don’t like the callous way our poorest and neediest people are treated. I don’t like the way money can buy you damned near anything while the have-nots suffer indignity and privation. I don’t like the way our elections go to the people who spend the most or the way our ballots themselves aren’t protected at the most basic levels. (I’m looking at you, states with unverified electronic machines, and at you, Wisconsin that doesn’t let the military have their absentee ballots in time.) I don’t like the attacks on women’s rights or the way a certain religious tradition has (since the ’50s) been legitimized.
Several of my friends and family members have talked about leaving the country if Obama lost. Several different friends are now talking about moving because he won.
Don’t run away, people! Stay here and work to make the country a better place!
Don’t like the way your Congresscritter voted? By god, pick up the phone! Take two minutes of your life and tell them why you thought they should have voted differently. Or better yet, call them before they vote and tell them the following: ”As your constituent, I expect you to represent me. I expect myself and my fellow constituents to be your highest priority and your most important so-called interest group. I expect you to do what is right for the people of this district. And I expect you to vote for/against this issue. I and my neighbors are watching you, and we’re watching who contributes to your campaign, and we’re going to know if you throw us under the bus in favor of deep pockets. We’re watching.”
Yes, people, I am telling you to get involved. Once a month, sit down and look up a pet project or cause or idea. Are you from a military background? Do you ride a motorcycle? Do you have kids? Are you worried about the number of homeless you see on the streets? Did you hear about a methadone clinic going in down the street from your favorite store? What is on your mind? What is bothering you today?
Look it up. The entire internet lays before you – LOOK IT UP!! Find two articles that support your position and two that oppose it. Read all four of them. Think about them. If they spark any questions, look those up too. Get yourself some answers. And then – you guessed it – make that call! Call your Congresscritter, call the President, call the Mayor, call your City Councilperson, call your County Commissioner, call the Governor. Call whomever is in a position to do something about the problem – and tell them you want them to do something about the problem!
Or you can write a letter.
Or you can send an email.
Or you can show up on their doorstep (perhaps on Lobby Day with a bunch of your like-minded friends?) and tell them to their face.
Or you can wait till they do a town hall meeting in your area and tell them to their face then.
Are you catching on to my theme? Find some issue that pushes your buttons, learn about it, and do something! Voting is an important part of our civic duty, but if all we ever do is vote and then bitch about the results, we are not doing enough.
We. Can. Do. More.
Please, don’t be afraid of what the next four years may bring. Don’t focus on getting away from America, don’t focus on what might go wrong or what might happen later. Focus on what’s happening now. Focus on what you can fight for, or fight against, or change.
Six years ago, when the REAL ID Act was being discussed, I was able to go to Olympia for a Lobby Day. I was able to meet with Rep. Eickmeyer and sit in his office discussing the bill with him. We talked in particular about the technology used and the security problems it poses. I will always remember the satisfaction I felt when I was able to teach him more than he already knew about it, and I will always be proud that I influenced his vote by talking to him that day. That’s right, my visit changed the way my representative voted. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s powerful, and it’s humbling at the same time. Because you feel like you’re part of the process, part of something bigger. You start to own your government. You don’t feel so much that the government owns you.
That’s a feeling every American should have. In my personal opinion, the apathy and low voter turnout and acceptance of crappy results or poorly written legislation and its unintended consequences and all of that garbage would disappear if we got involved in the process.
So write a frikkin letter already! Make a bloody phone call! If you’re upset by the result, now is not the time to grab a beer and bitch with your friends about how bad it’s going to get. Now is not the time to go to church and pray for the country to miraculously be saved. Now is not the time to put all your life savings into gold bars and hide them in your custom bomb shelter with forty years’ worth of canned foods and bottled water.
Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and go talk to the people in power. Now is the time for you, my Joe the Plumber Republican friends who work for everything you have and worry about the future your children will inherit, to step up and get involved. Now is the time for you to tell your elected officials that you are paying attention to them. Now is the time to learn more about the people on the other side of the aisle, to figure out what they want, and to push forward in those areas where your interests coincide.
Now is the time to make a better America.
Because people, we are all being played against each other. And those who sit on the sidelines are exacerbating the problem, letting the people who pull the strings keep doing what they do. So get on the field and start playing the game.