Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blind loyalty

John and I were talking last night about loyalty -- the kind of loyalty Americans love to have to our sports teams, our favorite store, our favorite car, our favorite brand of soda. It's funny, because all of these loyalties are basically meaningless. We might love Pepsi and hate Coke, but the fact is that they're almost identical. So why the strong feelings?

Perhaps we just want to have labels that will tell us who we are. I'm a Pepsi person, or a Sprite person, or a Fresca person ("It's not for everyone. It's for you"). That way I don't feel like just one of a crowd.

When I was a kid, I absorbed my family's loyalties: I preferred Fords to Chevys, Pepsi to Coke, baseball to football, the Huskies to the Cougars, the Republicans to the Democrats. I had no more reason for my political views than I had for my sports views. I simply absorbed them. My elders discoursed about politics, so I did too: "Bush has a nicer name than Clinton. How could anyone be a Democrat when their animal is a donkey?" Yeah. Deep opinions there.

Nowadays I can't really bring myself to announce a party affiliation. Even the old way I used to do, saying, "I am not a Republican, but I find that Republican candidates more often agree with my views," doesn't really seem to work. Republicans never give my views more than lip service, and I find them just as bad as the Democrats in most things, and worse in some things.

These days I have a grab bag of political opinions. I am pro-life, anti-death-penalty, pro-environment, and anti-war (for the most part). I care very much about poverty but am not quite sure what the best strategy is for ending it. I care very much about education, but my solutions are not supported by anyone within the government. I would like to see more of our decisions being made at a more local level (this is called subsidiarity). I would like to see less government, overall. I think we need to be more concerned about our national debt, and maybe do the unthinkable and actually start paying some of it down.

As you can imagine, neither of the two parties have been able to convince me they will serve my interests.

I would say my most important political opinion is my opposition of abortion. I feel very strongly about it, to the point of sometimes becoming a single-issue voter. This seems to me the only logical conclusion to my belief that an embryo is a human person. If it is, nothing is more important than making sure kids are not being killed. No-brainer.

And yet, my number two is the reduction of war. I think we are at war with way too many countries, way too much of the time. I didn't want to vote for McCain last time around, because I felt he would surely increase our military involvement around the world. I think it's ironic that Obama did just that.

In 2004, the first time I ever voted, I picked Bush because I thought he would do something for the pro-life cause. But he didn't do much. I was pretty disappointed. I shouldn't have been surprised -- the pro-life "plank" is not an important one to the Republican party. They mostly included it because they knew they could get people like me to vote for them with no additional effort, since, after all, the Democrats weren't even going to give me lip service.

In 2008, I was even more conflicted. I was pretty sure McCain wouldn't do any more about abortion than Bush did. But I knew he would increase our military involvement abroad. But Obama was so pro-abortion there was no way I was voting for him. I seriously considered voting third-party, but knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that whoever I chose wouldn't win. I would just be making a statement and gratifying myself. But why should I bother voting for someone that I didn't actually want running the country?

In the end, I think my subconscious decided everything for me. The very idea of voting got me so distressed that I would put it from my mind whenever it cropped up. And the next thing I knew, the deadline for registering had passed. Oops. So I didn't vote.

But that's kind of where I am right now: stuck with a rather unpopular amalgamation of opinions, each of which I actually researched and considered thoroughly, only to find that there isn't any room for my points of view in a world ruled by blind loyalty to a dichotomy of political parties. In this country, we are forced to choose one of two options, neither of which actually represents us, and both of which have a vested interest in remaining in power and increasing the power they wield.

As the years go by, their positions seem more and more similar. They vote more and more spending, but quibble on what, exactly, to spend it on. They are aware we need to cut, but no one is willing to cut their own pet programs. More and more I'm hearing the powers that be make veiled references to the stupidity of the American people, how they shouldn't have to explain things to us because we wouldn't understand, how they know better than us how things should be done.

This is just not what I was led to believe our government was like, back in ninth grade civics. Our form of government sounded much more democratic on paper.

I really don't know what I'll do in the next election. All the candidates I see being fielded so far seem every bit as execrable, or more, as the people currently in power. I refuse to vote for someone simply to vote against someone else. I want to at least be okay with my chosen candidate actually taking office. But so far I haven't seen someone put forward who I would like to see as president.

I don't really have a conclusion or closing point here (do I ever?), but surely I'm not the only one frustrated with the way our government works, am I?

1 comment:

Andrew Stine said...

I feel much the same way Sheila. Politics is a fundamentally corrupt enterprise, conducted through a combination of amazing PR and back-room deals, I just can't abide the system, but if you focus on individual issues and write your politicians to let them know where you stand (much more useful than simply voting,) you can sometimes make a difference.

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