Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Can't We Agree to Disagree?


I've noticed a trend lately where bloggers who normally stick to one particular topic (like books or writing) are talking about the election and they're always apologetic about getting off topic and jumping into the political discussion.

Me too. I can't help it.

The funny thing is that no other election before this one has made me feel quite the sense of urgency that I do right now and I think most of us feel that way. I think I've only voted in one other Presidential election, which just goes to show how indifferent I've been in the past. I was always one of those people who kept my political thoughts to myself and didn't care to tip my hand about how I felt around other people.

But now it's what we all want to talk about and it can make for some awkward moments when we (or others) make assumptions. I got a call the other day from someone at my (Texas based) company and he asked if I'd watched the RNC speeches. Actually, it was my boss.

"I did", I said.
"Man, wasn't Sarah Palin great?"
"Um, I have to warn you, I'm pretty liberal and an Obama supporter, so no, I really didn't care for her."

Awkward silence, followed by immediate change of subject.

Now here's the thing that really bugs me. I would have really liked to find out exactly why he thought she was so terrific since I had such a negative reaction to her that I felt compelled to make a contribution to the Obama campaign as soon as she was done. But we let it go. It seems we have become so polarized and the important issues are so divisive that it doesn't seem like intelligent conversation and respect for opposing views is possible. I like to think I could remain completely calm and have a reasonable discussion with someone who has opposing views to mine, but I'm not sure I could do it in a face to face conversation. I'm sure I could do it on line.

I have a colleague I've worked with on a daily basis for eight years. We're an extremely effective sales team. We collaborate well, our talents are complementary and we generally share the same sense of humor. We've learned that to preserve our relationship, we don't talk about politics because we completely disagree on just about every issue. We don't always avoid it, but when it comes to things like the war in Iraq, health care and social programs, things have gotten pretty prickly between us on occasion.

It always starts out civilly enough, but eventually he can't stop himself from using the term "bleeding heart liberal" and then words like "selfish" and "arrogant" are coming out of my mouth.

Conversation over.

And don't get me started on the silliness I see in online forums and political blogs. Those aren't even rational, intelligent discussions. Typically, all dialogue comes down to "you're an idiot and I'm not", which certainly doesn't foster understanding.

My political discussions only seem to happen with people with whom I'm in violent agreement, and while I like validation of my views as much as the next person, it doesn't help me to understand opposing views very well and I really would like to understand them.

Am I alone in this? Are any of you able to discuss politics with people supporting views that oppose your own and do it in a meaningful, productive way? Have any of you had that moment of truth when you either discover that someone you assumed shared your views doesn't -- or when you've shocked someone by revealing opposing views to theirs?

Perhaps when it comes down to it, some of the issues are so firmly tied to our own values and ideals that it would be impossible to see the other guy's point of view. Maybe our inability to do that is our fundamental problem.

37 comments:

G√ľnter said...

It was better during the primaries, because then the only people talking about politics, really, were Democrats, and if we disagreed it was at least possible to see where the other person was coming from. Now that election day is coming, whenever I hear that a friend of mine is supporting McCain, or is "still not quite sure," I feel ready to pull my hair out.

Clive Crook wrote an opinion piece recently about how Democrats need to learn some respect. We need to wake up to the fact that half of the country wants to see John McCain elected, and we need to learn not to conclude that those people are not automatically morons. As a liberal in Lincoln, Nebraska, absolutely I see his point.

But look: A couple weeks back, during the DNC, I was talking to a friend, an Obama supporter. We were at work. Pretty soon a guy from the IT department, whose cubicles are next to ours, came over and said, "Don't tell me you guys are liberals." We told him, "Yeah, man, I guess. Sorry." He walked away shaking his head.

Here's the thing: some people can argue gracefully. I cannot. I turn into a complete ass. I wish I could help it. My heart beats too fast, the tone of my voice changes. When I think now about some of the stuff I've said in arguments my face gets hot. I probably lose 30 IQ points when I get worked up about something. I've learned that it's best just to keep my mouth shut. Now when I hear people at work talking about politics I just put my headphones on and hope to drown them out. It's not a conversation I should participate in. I just make a note to donate again to the Obama campaign and tell myself to calm down.

I will stop apologizing, though, for posting political stuff on my blog once in a while. If someone happens to disagree with me and posts a comment about it, I could probably have a meaningful conversation about it online, as long as that person comes from a place of good faith, too, and doesn't assume that I'm an elitist with no system of values.

kristenspina said...

Great post, Lisa. And good questions. I, too, tend to be a terrible debater. I get flustered very easily and say things that clearly make no sense or are irrelevant. That said, I can't think about anything but the election these days. And I'm even posting about it--which is SO off topic for me, someone who avoids confrontation like the plague.

I had to stop myself yesterday from giving a snarky reply to something. I had to literally walk away from the computer and try to imagine the spirit in which the statements were made--I tried to put myself in the other person's shoes.

These are strange times we are living in. And our politics have become an emotional hotbead. Like you, I'd love to see more rational discussion of the issues, but there are few people willing to stay rational and stay on topic. Instead, I've been reading up on the candidates, hoping to educate myself and validate where my liberal heart lies.

Anonymous said...

Exactly on target here. I'm still trying to avoid political rhetoric because that's all it really is, but it's often difficult not to keep quiet when you feel the other side is blind--and this goes both ways. When I went to respond to someone's statement by saying that they were being name-calling crybabies I had to stop and laugh; I was name-calling too! It's typical, and the one thing both sides have to realize is that it's very true that each candidate and political stance has flaws and each has value. As individuals we can decide what 'side' more closely matches our own.
susan@spinning

Travis Erwin said...

Great post. It is funny because I a middle of the roader -- conservative on some issues and liberal on others I live in a steadfast conservative area where the word Democrat is almost a curse word. Then most of my online communities are staunch Democrats who shudder at the thought of voting Republican.

I enjoy hearing the contrasting opinions of my local friends and coworkers with those I keep up with cyberly.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm afraid things are only going to get worse. The political spectrum keeps stretching toward the right; liberals aren't any more liberal nowadays than when I was a kid, but conservatives keep entrenching themselves further and further to the right.

Remember when evangelicals were freaks who preached with outrageous accents on Sunday morning TV? Nowadays you can't get elected unless you're a born again Christian.

Remember when it was okay to dispute American foreign policy or disagree with the president? Nowadays if you do you're not patriotic and you're abandoning the troops.

Remember "I'm okay, you're okay?" Nowadays half the country wants to dictate its moral principles to the other half.

I don't like being called a liberal because I don't think my political philosophy can be summed up in one word. However, I'll gladly adopt the label, and join others who are like-minded, if only to shore up the front and tell the conservatives to keep their stupid-ass god to themselves.

Yogamum said...

I completely agree with you. I really wish we could have rational political discussions without resorting to knee-jerk reactions or name-calling.

steve said...

Politics in the United States have been pretty contentious as far as I can remember. I remember my father talking to his father on the phone in 1964. "So you like Goldwater?" said my dad. He didn't even bother to say he was supporting Johnson. Better to say nothing.

Remember the Swift Boat campaign of 2004? Or Willie Horton in 1988? So far, this election has been far more civil than those. But it's still one where rational discussions between people who disagree are rare.

Right now, I'm not in contact with any McCain supporters. When I worked in Bloomington, there was a co-worker who spouted Rush Limbaugh lines. Limbaugh, and other right-wing loudmouths, and a few of his counterparts on the left, have certainly cheapened political discourse. This kind of confrontational style seems to date from 1968, when Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley went after each other on national TV. They both should have known better.

Still, Americans have always been warned not to discuss religion or politics in polite company. Maybe it's because American politics have rarely been polite. Take 1880:

"Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to the White House, Haw, Haw,Haw."

referring to Grover Cleveland's illegitimate child.

To which Cleveland supporters replied, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine. Continental liar from the State of Maine."

CindyLV said...

In general, I don't think I'm all that politically minded. I have difficulty with the idea of a fixed "line" to measure liberalism vs conservatism. If there is such a line (assume a -10 to +10 scale), I'm about a +1. About 14-15 years ago, Parade Magazine had a story on it's cover about this issue that included a test. For each "yes" answer, you gave yourself a point, then you looked up where your total fell on their scale. I think I scored slightly to the "right" at about eleven of a possible 36, with 18 being middle of the road. My co-worker at the time scored a "1". No question, he's the most conservative (stodgy) old fart I've known.

I've know people who consider me to be excruciatingly conservative and at the same time, others who consider me to be "one of those wacko-liberal types." Like everything else in life, I guess what you see depends on where you stand.

I find labels like "liberal" or "conservative" to be ridiculous. Are these labels self-generated? Do they apply on all issues? Or just "your" key issues? What are they based on?

If a representative votes "No" on, say some gun-control bill, can you assume he's for or against the issue of gun control? Unless you've read the bill and all those sneaky little issues/riders that get glommed onto each bill, how can you judge their position? Yet people will scream and launch insults at that "anti-gun-control idiot" without understanding their position. Maybe there was language buried in the bill that said veterans who are left-handed are exempt from all restrictions included in this bill. Maybe the bill didn't mention modified shotguns, or fully-automatic rifles, or whatever.

So, in summary (and you can have your blog back in a second here), labels don't cut it for me. And the issues are too important to reduce to sound bites. The debates should be free and open discussion, not tightly-scripted theatrical performances. And they should be judged on that basis, not who's better looking or comes across as being more suave.

I shall pack up my soapbox and return to my own blog now. Sorry for the hijack, Lisa!

Shauna Roberts said...

I've mostly been staying out of it online. I did get a couple of Obama tee-shirts and put an Obama button at my blog so that I can promote my views without having to get into an argument.

I do have to get this off my chest: It irks me no end when Republicans condemn a behavior in Democrats that they laud in themselves. For example, the Palin daughter's unwed pregnancy is being held up as an example of good family values! Huh? If Obama's girls were older and pregnant, you can bet the Republicans would be all over Obama for being a bad father.

OK, back into quiet-about-politics mode.

Charles Gramlich said...

It's absolutely amazing how diametrically oppossed reactions people can show to the same speech like that. I just don't get it.

Lana Gramlich said...

Personally I think that part of the problem is that the mainstream media has people believing that the only viewpoints that exist have to be in opposition. They only acknowledge the 2 extremes on what's actually a wide spectrum of beliefs & feelings. It doesn't help when people then get overly defensive about their own opinions, but it's inevitable, once you believe that there are only 2 opposing viewpoints.
Personally I have no use for the US style of Gov't (among other things.) Dems & Reps aren't even 2 opposing parties anymore--not when everyone's lying through their teeth while pandering to special interest groups. I'll get excited about "change" when & if I see it. In the meantime I refuse to be used as a social mouthpiece for either of the major parties (aka; "liars.")
I'm more of an anarchic libertarian, myself.

Lisa said...

Gunter, I think you're right. This whole election was a relative sleeper if you weren't supporting the Democrats until the Sarah Palin nomination was announced and now it's exploded. Clive Crook has a good point, although ever since the religious far right became the dominant voice for the Republicans, it's been hard to contain feelings of disrespect and contempt. But clearly, the Christian right feels the same way about Democrats and left leaning Independents.

I think there's a very good reason that those who rise up in the ranks of politics are usually educated as lawyers and probably participated in high school debating before that. That training provides them with the ability to remain rational when debating the issues (or being attacked/interviewed by the media - see O'Reilly/Obama video for recent example).

Kristen, It's funny because even with the best intent to present a valid case for a particular position, the argument almost always denigrates to an attack on the opposite position. That is the nice thing about discussing things on line -- there is that breathing room to think before publishing.

Try as I have, I find it impossible to put myself in the shoes of conservatives who would put Roe vs. Wade at the top of our list of national issues. The most compelling argument that camp makes is based on the Bible and it's there that you lose me. Something like 37% of our population is Christian and of that group, not all are in the anti-abortion camp. Revoking a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body, based on the religious beliefs a minority of our pluralistic democracy would be as rational as making women wear burkas, if that same group happened to be Islamic fundamentalists. As divisive as this issue is, it seems entirely baffling that the same people who are pushing for this, are usually pro-death penalty and against sex education that includes contraception and social programs that would improve life for children. Abstinence education alone for horny teenagers is a laughable solution given the high rate of infidelity among married, mature adults, including many who are self-professed evangelical Christians. Okay -- I didn't plan to go there, but...

Susan, I agree that each position does have merits and flaws. Unfortunately, since we can't discuss them civilly, each side ends up touting his positions strengths and attacking the weaknesses of the opposing side's flaws. In the end, it is up to each of us to separate "the rice from the rat turds", as an old boss of mine used to say.

Travis, What makes things difficult (because I have tended to be much more moderate in the past than I am now and I'm an Independent, not a registered Democrat) is that the rhetoric almost forces us to swallow one party's entire line or the other.

Stephen, I'm afraid you're right and I'm right there with you on the religious right. Few things offend me more than the assertion that we are a "Christian society" and that simply pointing to the Bible should be enough to justify any position. Should we start stoning children who don't respect their parents too? Re-enact slavery?

The nonsense that comes out about those who oppose the war don't support the troops chaps me too. I reject the notion that because I'm a veteran, I (or any other veteran) somehow have a more valid opinion of the war, but I do have to concede that I may feel more (not less) compassion for those who are being maimed and killed because having been one of them, I know that they're all as different as the rest of us are and although some may be where they are because they understood and believed in the invasion, you'll never convince me that the majority feel that way or that they've made their decisions as completely informed young people. Every one of them deserve much better treatment and much better benefits than they're getting now.

Yogamum, Well, I'm coming to the realization that it probably won't happen. It's really too bad. I'd be willing to listen to anyone who could refrain from the name calling.

Steve, You're right. Ugh. And I shudder when you mention Limbaugh. I used to work with someone who turned that blowhard on the radio every day and I'd have to bite my tongue and try to think happy thoughts until it was over.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like it used to be much easier to avoid talking about religion than it is now. I don't think it used to be so intertwined with the politics and maybe with the exception of Billy Graham, you didn't see the mega-church leaders playing such an integral role with party politics.

Cindy, 14-15 years ago I probably still considered myself to be a Republican. I don't remember when that all changed, but I don't recognize the Republican party now as anything at all like the one I used to identify with.

Like you, I used to have a much more mixed bag of views on the issues.

Your gun control comment has me laughing -- I saw a comedian recently who was parodying political ads and using the example that it's easy make an out of context statement and make a politician look ridiculous when there's no further explanation. It wouldn't be much of a leap to make a statement that is fundamentally true, although impossible. Cue dramatic music. "Joe Blow stood by and did nothing to help negotiate a truce between the Spartans and the Athenians during the Peloponnesian War! He did nothing, while millions died of the black plague in early modern Europe!"

Hijack anytime!

Shauna, I feel that the whole Palin's daughter thing is terribly hypocritical for exactly the reason. Further, people like James Dobson have been lambasting working mothers for years, but apparently they're ok with it when it's a Republican running for office. Hmm. They'd have crucified her if she was the Democratic nominee. Having said that, I do wish the focus would come off of her family. I really feel sorry for the teenage daughter. I think we'll finally get a closer look at the Governor as politician during the VP debate.

Charles, It is pretty amazing. The exact same speech motivated millions to contribute to the Obama campaign and gained McCain a whole bunch of new supporters. We obviously are seeing something very different.

Lana, I really felt much the same way you did for a long time, which is why I didn't bother to vote. But with the current state of the world and the deplorable state of the economy, our debt, the lack of health care coverage for millions -- I feel an obligation to participate in the process.

BTW -- at first I thought you said you were an anarchic librarian :)))

Larramie said...

Your admission, "I think I've only voted in one other Presidential election, which just goes to show how indifferent I've been in the past.," truly stunned me since your vote counts no matter who is running in what year. Which is why looking objectively at both candidates -- in every election -- is so important as past mistakes snowball into the present. And how I wish you would have asked your boss why Sarah Palin impressed him and he, in turn, had asked why you were an Obama supporter...right there could have been a step towards change.

This comment is not meant to single you out, Lisa, for it's what we all need to do.

steve said...

Error Alert! I said 1880--that was Garfield. Should have been 1884. Four years later, Benjamin Harrison beat Cleaveland (in the Electoral College), by calling him a draft dodger--Grover had hired a substitiute to fight in his place during the Civil War.

Lisa said...

Larramie, I should probably qualify my political non-participation a little better. I was in the Air Force from the time I was 19 until I was 33 (between late 1980 and mid 1994), and I lived overseas for six of those years. I (we) were pretty disconnected from American culture and politics -- not everyone, but most of us who were young and enlisted really didn't know much about what was going on and didn't make the effort to absentee vote. We also had our housing either provided for us or we were given a housing allowance. We got a food allowance and a cost of living allowance. All of our medical and dental needs were taken care of. It was very insulated and secure and I really didn't have much of a clue about what "real" life was like until I got out and lived in the community. It's not an excuse, but the reality is that I didn't really know anyone who was especially political back then.

As for the odd moment with my boss -- you know, he's a very nice guy and one of the best bosses I've had. I'm not sure I believe that he is so much a Palin supporter as a Republican out of habit, based on where he's from (which if true, is an even better reason to ask the question). The entire executive staff of my company is very conservative politically, at least half of them have concealed weapons permits, they were overjoyed when Bush got into office in 2000 and were only slightly less so in 2004, so I avoid talking politics around any of them. I suppose I'm afraid I will learn things that make me truly dislike them. But I'll have to consider asking the question, at the risk of hearing things that I don't want to hear. Good point Larramie.

CindyLV said...

This discussion raises an issue for me personally. How can one listen to someone's opinions about politics (right, wrong, ignorant, flaming, ugly, whatever) without reacting to it? Is there a way to do this?

For example, I can listen to you say, "It's hot outside." without jumping down your throat, contradicting you. I don't feel the need to jump up, flail around and scream at you: "You think THIS is hot? What an idiot? It's not HOT until it's 115 degrees!" I can just allow your comment to drift away and dissipate.

If you say something like, "God is dead." I can totally disagree with you. I don't feel threatened by you. I see your comment as a statement of where you are as a person, or a reflection of how different we are.

But if you attack me and say something I find to be abhorrent, I'm unable to listen politely/quietly/respectfully. My fuse is lit and all reason burns up in the flames. I'm not proud of this loss of control on my part.

Lisa said...

Cindy, AHA! Great points! Now I personally would never make a finite statement like "God is dead". If you tell me you're a Christian, I won't challenge your belief system. I respect your right to believe what you do, even though I don't share your beliefs. I will challenge anybody who tells me that we all have to comply with beliefs that come from Christianity, Judaism, Islamic or any other faith's tenets. This wonderful country was founded on the idea of freedom of religious choice (and those choices include atheism and agnosticism).

To choose something a little less inflammatory, let's pick taxes. Most very wealthy people derive the bulk of their wealth from capital gains, which have been taxed at 15% since 2003. 15% is a much lower rate than taxes for other forms of income. And the "estate tax" is another tax that has been eliminated, so that wealthy people can pass on large sums to their children. Many wealthy people believe that this is their money, they've earned it and they should not be paying more.

A few believe that it's their obligation to pay more, since our form of government, our free market system, our education systems and infrastructure have made it possible for them to accumulate wealth.

I can understand both points of view, but I only agree with one of them.

It's amazing how prefacing a statement with "in my opinion" can diffuse most confrontations. The problem (in my opinion) is that when it comes to politics, people are much more inclined to make definitive statements on issues, and we're dealing with a whole lot of grey area with most of them.

Leigh Russell said...

Here in the UK we're talking about Clinton-Obama and now Obama-McCain-Palin too. Of course, what happens in America affects us hugely. But we talk about the race and age aspects more than the political issues. Who wins is of interest around the globe.

Lisa said...

Leigh, Thank you so much for stopping in! You're a good reminder to us that the outcome of this election is of interest to people around the world. I'm surprised to hear that the political issues don't generate as much discussion as the race and age of the candidates do. It just goes to show that we generally don't have a very good idea of how we're viewed in other countries.

Patti said...

i love politics, but rarely get into it online because i like true debate and it's easy to throw crap out into cyberspace and then everything deteriorates from there.

i love a give and take. a thoughtful give and take. i have friends all over the map and that's how i like it. it's the american way, baby.

by the way, i'm a gun-toting conservative who would love to go hunting with palin. just saying...

Steve Malley said...

I'm pretty excited because it's also an election year in NZ, and this time, for the first time, I get to vote!

Julie Layne said...

Thanks for a thoughtful post on what seems to be on all our minds, Lisa.

I am:
~ a Texan (ducking!)
~ a Christian (ducking often in embarrassment because some who call themselves Christians make the rest of us look like great fools.)
~ a working mom (so? LOL)

I am also:
~ a middle-of-the-road citizen with leanings toward the Obama camp, who
~ would, in most cases, but not all, ask my daughter if pregnant not to have an abortion, but would hold her hand if she decided to because, after all, I'm her mom
~ does not carry a gun permit or a gun (can't stand 'em), and am
~ the sister of a man who was in the army for 15 years before he became a Mennonite (a conservative Christian denomination that happens to be pacifist), and was thus was released as a conscientious objector.
~ as confused by the war as I am sick of it.

These are just a few random facets of who I am. I'm guessing there are a lot of people out there like me, we just don't speak up much, because we're afraid we'll be accused of wishy-washiness by both the Republicans and the Democrats. And yet, we are who we are.

I think many people might be surprised how many Texans and how many Christians are out here who are completely dismayed with the state of things in our current government and terrified about the future of our country. Please don't judge all Texans by our president, and ... please don't judge all Christians by our president (or Sarah Palin, for that matter). And I say that with both great seriousness and great humor. :)

I was speaking with my 19-year-old son the other night and asked who he thought he might vote for. He said, "I'm not sure. I'm not even sure I should vote."

And here's what I told him:

I believe those who are middle-of-the road and may be undecided until the last minute will decide this election, and thus, it matters more than anything.

It literally makes my stomach hurt to think about the decision I must make before November, because I truly do believe it's up to me and others like me. And what if we make the wrong decision? We are also to blame.

My mind and heart are really heavy with the magnitute of this responsibility. If I seem confused, it's most certainly because I am.

Lisa said...

Patti, You are absolutely right it's the American way. And don't worry -- I'm not trying to take anyone's guns away! Now you, I could probably discuss this stuff with in a rational manner even though we're undoubtedly on opposite ends of most of the issues. Maybe in December -- I have to come back down to San Antonio again then ;)

Steve, You go and rock that New Zealand vote! That's pretty cool.

Julie, Don't get me wrong about Texans! I wouldn't generalize about the inhabitants of any state and I have a lot of friends who live there. I imagine there are liberals I can relate to down there somewhere -- probably in Austin? Probably in my own company.

As for Christians,I've met very few that fall into the category that tend to get very public and aggressive about their religious and political views. As a matter of fact, I've often felt kind of bad to know that more than one person I know has seriously worried about me because of my lack of faith. So I don't have any animosity toward "regular" Christians -- just the bullies who don't much act like the Christians they claim to be.

Based on what you've said, I think we have very similar feelings on many things.

I don't have a daughter, but if I did, I hope I'd be able to have an open enough relationship with her that she

I'm not politically anti-gun per se. I've owned them, I qualified as an expert marksman a number of times, but I never liked them. I don't understand why people like to hunt, but I don't understand why people like to watch football either, so to each his own. The idea of a gun for home defense never made sense to me, since a gun is only useful if it's loaded and accessible at all times and I don't want a loaded, accessible gun lying around. It would be nice if criminals didn't have so much access to them, but of all the issues out there, I'm not ready to fall on my sword over anything.

The war really sickens me. I hate that so many have died and that those who survive will never be the same. I hate that we don't see or acknowledge the dead Americans and I truly hate that hardly anyone talks about all the dead Iraquis. It bothers me that the war is no longer the primary focus of this election. Now it seems to be the price of gas. I have no answers, and it's pointless to continue chanting that we never should have gone there. That's completely water under the bridge.

I'm glad you spoke up. I think the fear of wishy-washiness is borne of intimidation from both parties, but what some see as wishy washy, I see as the product of thoughtful people. If any of these were simple issues, there would be no debate and I think the inclination of each party to pressure its members to all think alike negates the value we have as thinking individuals.

I'd never judge Christians or Texans based on a handful of people, although if I were either I'd be cringing every time some of these people act like they're speaking for everyone :)

The undecideds really are going to determine all of this. I don't even think I believe that you can trust the polls. I think there will be plenty of people who don't do what they say they're going to.

Right now, I feel like the Obama/Biden decision is the best choice. Am I confident of how they'll perform if they're elected? Of course not. None of the four people under consideration have ever been in a position even remotely similar to these offices. Whoever gets elected is going to inherit a great big mess on a lot of fronts, there's no way to predict how well the Congress will work with them, and there's no way to predict what world events or natural disasters may come up that will impact everyone.

For democracy to work, we all have to be informed voters. We have to find out everything we can about the choices and make the best decision we can with what we know. I respect the choices of every single person who takes the time and trouble to do that, no matter who they go with. What I don't respect are the people who don't recognize the gravity of this situation and who place their votes based on silly reasons.

I feel the same weight you do.

Ello said...

Honestly, I dislike talking politics for this very reason! It gets terribly heated and ugly at times. And I did exactly what you are talking about! Apologizing for bringing up a political issue on my blog. But I did so because I know these issues rile people up. My house is already in divided mode. Da Man is leaning towards McCain. Can you even imagine how appalling this is for me? I'm beside myself and don't quite know what to do except maybe make sure he forgets to vote? I'm kidding. His hangup is still on Obamas's inexperience. My recent issue posting was in large part aimed at him and hoping he might see my point.

Lisa said...

Ello, I think a lot of us feel like we have to post because this election is so important. We're in a war, we're in a near-recession, we have to do something about the environment, health care costs are out of control and out of reach for millions, etc. etc.

I can understand to a certain extent that Da Man has issues with Obama's inexperience, but if that's the only hang up he has, I'd think he'd want to really examine the issues more closely because Obama and McCain are miles apart on just about all of them. It just seems like in the grand scheme of things, the issues themselves hold a great deal of weight, education and experience rate a score, but almost more than anything else, I feel like looking at each of these two men and making a judgment about who they really are and how likely they are to be able to follow through on what they say they plan to do is something that's a totally personal gut check. I'm also considering how the rest of the world will perceive the outcome of the election and if that means anything, I'm pretty sure that someone from outside the current administration's party is going to be more widely accepted than someone from inside it. But what do I know? I do know that both candidates have websites that talk about all of the issues and they're very different. Come on Ello! You're a lawyer! I'm sure you drive Da Man toward a decision that's based on more than simply the experience question. I mean seriously, if he's worried about experience, he's got to be equally concerned about the possibility of Sarah Palin taking over for McCain if something happens to him. Conversely, Joe Biden has as much, if not more experience than McCain and he'll be right there with Obama.

Hey, I think we've managed to be pretty rational with our comments and everyone isn't 100% in agreement here.

Therese said...

Lisa, I'm SO with you on all of this...

I have many, many things to say about so many of the issues (and may yet post on my own blog) but for now, I'll say it all comes down to one thing for me: Respect.

The Republican campaign (and by extension, many of its supporters) does not respect its opposition, it does not respect the truth, and it does not respect the voters. I am personally offended by their campaign tactics--which is not to say that I believe any politician/campaign is 100% pure of heart or pure of practice, but the Democrats (and most, though not all, of its supporters) have largely resisted the kinds of low-brow, low-road, deliberately misleading behaviors we're getting daily from the Republican campaign.

I'm a registered Independent, and willing to vote for any candidate who is worthy of the job, regardless of party affiliation. I'm willing to debate the issues--and enjoy doing so, in fact, IF the person I'm talking with can be as objective as I try to be.

Unfortunately, this race has so devolved into a personality contest that reactionary opinion has replaced sensible evaluation for many people.

My hope? That, as with last season's American Idol, the most well-rounded, professional, ready-for-the-job candidates will prevail, come voting day.

Lisa said...

Therese, I could not agree with you more. I have resisted stating the obvious about the McCain campaign's tactics to misrepresent and distort any tiny piece of information they think they can exploit. The whole "lipstick on a pig" debacle yesterday is a prime example. Give me a break.

I hope that the Obama campaign's choice to take the high road is effective. Even though it's one I can respect, it's hard to say how effective it will be when clearly there is a huge number of people who thrive on the nonsense. I can only hope that most of them aren't really even voters, but who knows?

In a way, I've been mentally comparing the process of weighing all factors and keeping everything straight about each party's nominees to the crazy juggling I'm doing in trying to draft a novel. Issues, personalities, past performance, personal values, up to the minute updates, education, etc. etc. are all ingredients that go into the total package, but keeping them all straight and assessing the pros and cons at any given time is tough if one really tries.

My hope is that a large contingent of responsible voters will make an attempt to peel back the layers of the onion and make informed decisions.

Glad to see you Therese! You've been missed :)

Melissa Marsh said...

I don't get into politics on my blog and probably never will. I'm all for a good debate, but as a registered Independent, I am looking at both sides of the issues and I see a lot of faults in BOTH camps. I don't think one is better than the other. Let's face it - they're politicians and they're going to say what they WANT US TO HEAR.

Does that make me jaded and cynical? Perhaps. And I'm only 33! LOL.

But seriously. George Washington warned us about dividing ourselves into political parties. This country is not working together - we have polarized ourselves by spliting into two main groups - Republicans and Democrats, and it's an "us" vs. "them" mentality. And, IMO, that has hurt us deeply as a nation. Where is the unity that we experienced after 9-11? It's gone. We are divided so badly now that no matter WHO gets into the White House, this country is going to suffer deep wounds.

I love my country. I love how in America, so many, many things are possible. But, IMO, we have moved away from the vision of our Founding Fathers. Now, this could be because we are The Great Experiment - and you never know how those experiments are going to turn out. We've gone through lots of aches and pains in our struggle to be an independent country with such a remarkable constitution, and I don't think those growing pains are over yet.

Shauna Roberts said...

I'm not sure Americans are as fractured as Melissa fears. From what I've read in the paper, poll after poll shows that most Americans support the platform and ideas of the Democratic party (when they are presented as ideas and not linked to Democrats). So most of us are in general agreement about what we want for the country. The divisiveness comes IMHO from several sources.

•The media are always looking for something new and sensational to report on rather than giving us in-depth information about what each party advocates.

•I've read that the reason so many blue-collar and middle-class people vote for Republicans and thus against their own economic interests is that Americans aspire to better things, and so these people are voting the interests of the class they hope to join rather than their current class. Interesting idea, if true.

•The wacky right fringe makes a disproportionately loud noise compared to their size of the electorate, making it seem Americans are more divergent on issues than people really are.

•The political parties (particularly the Republican party for some reason) don't just throw legitimate mud, they take things out of context, throw insults, and even make things up about the other candidates. How can Americans not be confused by all the contradictions?

Melissa Marsh said...

I think perhaps it is not average American citizens so much as our representatives who have polarized themselves, made it an "us" vs "them" contest.

Though I must say, just listening to the political discussions at work (which I wish didn't occur because things tend to get heated), people have very, very strong feelings about this upcoming election and their candidates. Differing opinions are not always met with respect. This is VERY true online on message boards, blogs, and comments for news stories where people can call candidates names, call other posters names, and basically drop to the level of preschoolers. It makes me absolutely cringe.

Carleen Brice said...

Great post and discussion! I think you're right that this inability to discuss is a huge part of the problem. But I'm one of the guiltiest there is. I take political issues very personally and feel very strongly about them. So it's best for me to shut up rather than yell at others.

Sustenance Scout said...

A lot to take in here, Lisa! I'm so encouraged by Julie's comment and hope many, many undecided voters like her are finding themselves leaning Obama's way. As a Catholic Democrat, I've learned to take it all in, make my own decisions, and keep a low profile! But I'm finding it harder to keep my opinions to myself when friends and family who are near and dear but also happen to be McCain supporters bring up politics, probably because I am SO hopeful this election will be the start of a much more promising future for our country. K.

Merelyme said...

Hey there...I am new to your blog. I have tried to avoid political discussions lately. Either you are preaching to the choir or you are getting to hear things that you wanna rear up and slap someone. But...I am definitely voting for Obama. I can't believe anybody would want more years of the same old crap. If McCain gets elected...well...we deserve it.

Lisa said...

Melissa, I love to discuss the issues and weigh the pros and cons of different approaches. I like to actually learn about them. Unfortunately, actual discourse about the issues has become so detached from what we see during the election process that what should be an exciting thing for all of us has turned into an ugly process that's unpleasant, at best.

I think even the most honorable candidates are changed by this process and the pettiness of it and sadly, the American public seems to continue to accept it.

I truly believe Barack Obama gave many of us some of the sense of being one country that we felt right after 9/11 and beyond that, a sense that we can be a better country, but now that the battle had heated up and gotten ugly, we've already lost a great deal of that.

Shauna, Wow. I think you've done an incredible analysis of what's going on. These are some excellent observations and they make much of what I'm seeing start to make sense.

Melissa, I think most people are sort of intimidated about really researching the issues and the candidates and they consequently develop a natural defensiveness about their opinions -- which doesn't make sense, but it's the only thing that seems to explain the way so many people behave. I think the nastiness often comes when people have preconceived and incorrect ideas about things. I can always have a great discussion with someone who is informed, but not with someone who insists on spouting inaccurate information.

Carleen, I'm just as guilty. Maybe we all need to make a greater effort to be patient and attempt to listen to what other people have to say and try to understand them and there's a chance that maybe they'll return the courtesy. It could happen...couldn't it?

Karen, There is so much gray area and so many factors to consider that it sometimes feels overwhelming and I get the impression that an awful lot of people fixate on one factor, instead of looking at everything. One of the things I really got from reading "The Audacity of Hope" was a sense that many of the issues are much more interconnected than I considered them to be.

Merelyme, Welcome! Even though we are all sort of reluctant to get into discussions, it really feels like we're all hungering for meaningful discussion about it. I'm so glad that we can do it -- at least a little bit here, but I think we're in for a rough few weeks.

Denis said...

o.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Wow. Look at the responses you got to this.

I am dying. I would LOVE to blog political stuff, but don't want to alienate anyone. I used to blog politics, but have stopped. I'm thinking of going on wordpress and doing something political there under another name. I know that makes me sound like a coward, but I'm trying to sell my writing to the society at large.

Lisa said...

Hi Uncle Denis!

Stewart, Blogging political stuff without alienating people is a tricky proposition since the typical political blogger has a definite slant and in order to make the blogging entertaining, is probably pretty sarcastic. Fun for those who agree with him, perhaps. A big turn-off for those who disagree, right? I guess it depends on what tone you'd want the blogging to take. If you DO start a new blog on this, you'll have to email me and tell me how to find it. Regardless of your political views, I wouldn't hold it against you -- you know, unless your views were stupid :))) Kidding!

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It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.


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