Monday, October 25, 2010

Between a rerun and another war

I attended a DFL rally this weekend with my mom and youngest brother. In addition to hearing from MN Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Democratic candidate for governor Mark Dayton, we saw President Obama speak.

The speeches were all eloquent and the tone was highly charged – though it switched from offense to defense more than I’d like. In all, though, what affected me the most didn’t happen when I was listening to the politicians I voted for two or four years ago. It was in the five hour line that preceded the rally itself that I saw both the best and worst of politics taking place.

The worst
Early on, we ran into a woman handing out antagonistic flyers. My mom, annoyed by this first woman, refused another further down the way. She assumed this lady was also a Tea Party-esque protester when in fact, she was passing out flyers regarding peace policies and shutting down Guantanamo Bay. She nearly sneered at my mom and began lecturing her until we were able to move past. My mom, slightly bewildered, said to me, “It’s just so hard to know what they stand for, and if you’re really on their side or not, when they’re so angry.” She was right. Politicos often become so enveloped by their cause that they are embittered; anyone who isn’t standing on the front lines is an enemy instead of a potential supporter. From the outside, it’s easy to diagnose their policies’ inevitable failures as self-fulfilling prophecies- their bubbling rage the nail in the coffin. It was so frustrating to see my mom’s confusion. Why is this woman, who I ultimately agree with, yelling at me?

The best
A group of women dressed like psychotic roosters (The Radical Roosters, their jackets said) paraded down the line squawking and holding up signs that said ‘No More Wars!’. A 10-year-old boy standing in front of us pointed them out to his dad, who was wearing a US Armed Forces jacket. His dad agreed that they were funny, then gave a short age-appropriate lesson on the importance of looking at all sides of an issue. I texted myself some of the better parts of his mini-speech and it went something like this:

“You’re right, they do look pretty funny huh? I don’t agree with what they’re doing though. They are saying that we should stop all wars but it’s not so easy as that. You can’t just dress up in a funny costume and make demands. I was over in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember? And I know that those countries needed us, they needed my unit to help them at least for awhile. War isn’t something that you can just say, let’s never do that again. You have to think about what’s at risk if you do go to war or if you don’t. For every big decision that politicians or militaries have to make, you can’t just rely on a cool sign and a costume. You have to really think about everyone who will be affected. Do you understand?”

The dad and son continued to talk, as I continued to creep on them and listen to the best parenting lesson I’ve ever witnessed firsthand. I reminded myself that my interest in politics shouldn’t be rooted in anger towards people like Michele Bachmann, or in loving support of every syllable that comes out of Al Franken’s mouth. It should be in the policies and the consequences of the policies that these elected officials enact. Not exactly a new thought, I know- but it’s hard to keep this in perspective between the mud-slinging and theatrics of election season.

In fact, only 24 hours after I made my ‘look at the gray area’ vow, I made a really snotty remark about the Republican candidate for Governor. Tom Emmer has a history of drinking and driving, as do several people who have worked on his campaign. When I casually referenced this as a reason not to vote for him, my friend called me on it. He asked me what that had to do with his candidacy or ability to run a state. He was right. (Sort of.) I had pulled a “Radical Rooster” without meaning to, and I apologized before stating my real opinion. I think Tom Emmer would make a terrible governor for a thousand reasons that have nothing to do with his inability to call a taxi after hitting the bar.


Jamie said...

Ha! I love the story about the little guy and his dad.

I think the closer we get to elections, the harder it is to be objective. As someone who lives in DC, I've kind of had to shut it all out to study law. I can't remember all the stuff I'm supposed to be learning (objectively and without prejudice!) if I'm constantly listening to speeches and debates.

Then when I do go to political events with Michael, kind of coming out of that bubble, I'm always shocked at how much people turn to talk-radio-style-analysis and totally forget the substantive issue. It makes me nuts because I kind of want to say "HELLO, THE CONSTITUTION ISN'T GOING TO LET YOU DO THAT, NO MATTER WHAT YOU GET ELECTED TO!" But then I just sound like a crazy tea partyer or something, even though that's not my position AT ALL (it's just that law school inherently makes you stick a little closer to the letter).

Thus I try not to talk. But if I did, that would be my perspective, for now.

Joel said...

Your posts keep getting more and more eloquent. Last night I was reading a bunch of HuffPo articles about DADT and how the LGBT community is threatening not to go to the polls come Nov. 2nd. There are so many competing thoughts in my head I don't know what I feel. It's frustrating for sure.

That story about the father and son definitely diffused some of the anger I was holding. I just wish that men (or women) like him were more visible than the Tea Party Jesus'.

Gina Marie said...

Jamie- I can't even imagine being a 1L, in DC, during midterm elections. I don't blame you for tuning out!

Joel- you know we're about to have the longest and most fabulous convo about this ever. If we can ever get one another on the phone, that is. XO

Teresa said...

I've been trying to follow election stuff from here, and I definitely get the message that everyone is just ANGRY (and there are some crazies, too). It doesn't sound like anything productive is happening at all.

Here's to the hope that that'll change after November 2, no matter who takes control of Congress.

Anonymous said...

"Politicos often become so enveloped by their cause that they are embittered; anyone who isn’t standing on the front lines is an enemy instead of a potential supporter."
...interesting thought, makes me think of the blog I have a-brewing about the Rally to Restore Sanity...will write soon.

"Tom Emmer has a history of drinking and driving, as do several people who have worked on his campaign. When I casually referenced this as a reason not to vote for him"

...and call me old-fashioned, but I still think that people's actions in any arena of their life, can be indicators of future actions in other arenas. Yes, you should evaluate people on the pertinent issues/criteria, yes, you should forgive people...but, it's like that dating advice: "Don't observe how a potential boyfriend/girlfriend treats you in order to evaluate their character...but rather how they treat the waiter [or some other person of seemingly "insignificance" to them] to see what kind of person they truly are.