Monday, March 29, 2010

Politics *shudder*

I understand that politics are a necessary evil, like gynecologists.  But it doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.

I remember my high school U.S. History class with Mr. C.  The U.S. Constitution was definitely the most intense section.  He felt strongly that we should not enter the world without a knowledge of our rights and responsibilities.  We pulled the constitution apart in that class, not arguing positions, just learning what it said.  I learned how the three branches of government are supposed to work together, how different people are elected, and so much more.  We put together a Constitutional Journal, with a copy of the constitution and many supporting and informative documents, for our personal use (I kept this for many years).  And when it came time for testing, it was enough to make some people cry.  About 14 pages of fill-in-the-blank and essay.  We reviewed for two class periods in preparation.  We had to write word for word the oath of the President of the U.S. and the Preamble.  It was awesome!

I registered to vote as soon as I was 18.  I voted by absentee ballot my first eligible election day.  You see, I was in a political science class and was busy on election day doing exit polling for that class.  I was young and naive.  I imagined two good men (late 80s, hadn't seen lots of women in politics yet) running against each other, trying to do what they thought best.  I imagined a respectable contest of presentation and preferences.

That was a long time ago.

Today I see it differently.  I see so much deal making, palm greasing, and back stabbing.  I understand that sometimes you have to cut a deal to make something happen.  I'm okay with that.  Give a little to get a little.  Take the bill that's less than perfect to get a step closer to what you're going for.

But politics is so visceral today.  People get so angry with those of opposing opinions.  Blocking bills and appointments just to get more leverage.  And our politicians are always running for something.  They are always worried about public approval.  They spend so much time trying to keep everyone happy that they get paralyzed.  They go into politics hoping to change things only to find out that you play the game or you go home.

Everyone has a poll.  There are numbers to support anything.  Spin is a glorious thing, a way to prove whatever you want.

I will tell you a little secret about polls.  Their accuracy is dependent on many factors.  They can be read many ways.  And you can even create a poll designed to get the responses you want (push poll).

All a poll will give you is numbers.  Let's say it is a clean poll (not a push poll), with a large sampling, and an error margin of +/- 3.  That's a pretty good poll.  But all it will give you is numbers.  The numbers are facts.  What they mean is opinion.  This is why opponents use the same polls to back up different points of view.

And they will do so vociferously.  With great volume and energy.  And frequently in anger.  This is the part I really don't like.  I do not like arguing.  I do not like the anger and disdain with which politicians or their representatives so often treat each other.

And I do not like the way close friends or family members become enemies, shouting at each other, because they don't agree.

Politics can be discussed passionately AND with respect.  It just doesn't happen enough.

And so, while I have strong feelings politically, I generally don't talk about them unless I am asked.  And sometimes not even then.  I do not feel a desire to convince others to agree with me.  I do not intend to defend my political positions to anyone.  I will use my vote as I see fit.

If someone wants to have an open discussion with both of us honestly seeking to understand each other, I am in.  If someone just wants to make their points, prove their own superiority, count me out.  I know my rights; I have the right to remain silent.


Dona said...

Very well stated. The class you had back in high school sounds fabulous! I need to study the founding documents again and in more depth. Polling does seem sort of ridiculous.

K and D Roylance said...

You're right, anger doesn't usually accomplish much but hard feelings.
I struggle with politics, anyone one can make their position sound good. Trust is my issue, who can I really believe.
I try to take political discussions and polls with large grains of salt.

Margy said...

Spot on! I have long been drawn to politics (even have a degree in political science), but realize for me it's about policy. And policy is what seems to get lost in the politics. So even though I'm drawn to it, it drives me completely nuts! The perpetual campaign is going to eat us alive.

I totally appreciate the right to remain silent--especially when it comes to maintaining positive relationships with people we love. But I also wonder if reasonable people--the people who see through the polls and the spin and the politics-- who take that approach are one of the reasons our system is at the mercy of the extremes.

Kazzy said...

I like your memories of your class. Sounds really cool. I remember memorizing the preamble. It was a great way to learn about the paper work behind this great country.