Monday, January 9, 2012

The Dread Pirate Politics

I should start this post on politics by stating unequivocally that I dislike discussing politics.  However, as I prepare myself for the first U.S. Federal election in which I can vote, I find myself taking in more and more information and learning how to process it.  

The thing I notice most about politics in general, regardless of region or country, is that there seems to be a lot of talking and not a lot of listening.  Whether that be between party members, between elected officials and constituents, or various factions on opposing sides of whatever corridor of whatever building they happen to be in.  Maybe it's my Technical Writer bias, but clarity in communications is a passion for me.  (Despite the fact that sometimes I'm speaking my own made-up language.)

Having been raised in a multi-party system in a Commonwealth country, it's an understatement to say that politics here in the U.S. seem very different.   (Just call me Alice and hand me the blue bill...wheeee!)

Since I'm paying more attention, I'm increasingly amazed at the level of chaff and rhetoric there is to wade through.  Not that it's any different in Canada, but having grown up around it, and having the history behind the parties and candidates, it was less a monumental task to figure out who was saying what and what they really meant by it.  After a handful of years living here, I'm only just starting to get a handle on the parties, the people, how the infrastructure works to make things happen (or not, as the case may be).

Which brings me to the most shocking thing I've discovered about U.S. politics.  The low percentage of voter turnout.

It does make the monumental emphasis placed on the right to vote in all my Naturalization application documents and interviews a whole lot more understandable, though.  Seriously, everywhere I turned, there was another reminder of my right and privilege to vote.  Considering how very odd it felt to not be allowed to vote for my elected officials, not voting now that I have the legal right to do so is unthinkable.  Not to mention unconscionable.

*small segue here:  Can you tell I've been reading 19th Century English literature again?  Who uses the word unconscionable these days anyway?  Well besides me, just now...  :D*

I would have thought from the level of self-described "patriotism" I see, combined with the jingoism, and the general tendency of an "us versus them" mentality around politics, that it meant everyone afforded themselves their civic/national duty and took part in the process.  It doesn't.  Even more terrifying are the people that repeat the soundbites from the talking heads (amusingly, I only learned last year what talking heads were too...).

Which is not to say that everyone is as the stereotypical political blockhead depicted in the mainstream media - far from it (again, here it took me awhile to figure out the stereotype in the mix).  Truly, the more I get over my anathema of discussing this subject, the more people I realize have a balanced approach to their candidate selection.  Even if I don't agree with their choices (since we know it's all about me!), at least I see how they came to that decision and can understand that there was a thought process involved in getting there.  

I think that's what I've learned the most being here.  That it's not that the politics is so different (although there is a sad lack of either a French Separatist or Legalize Marijuana party here versus my "home and native land"), but that with 10x the population and only two real parties, the volume or "noise" of politics is much louder.

It's going to be an interesting year, methinks. 

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