Like many liberals, the last presidential election really forced me to think about my own role as an American citizen. In the month or two afterwards, I ended up writing a list of over 50 things that I could do to make this a better country. Of that, I ended up actually doing somewhere around 10 or 15 of them. I’m more engaged with my community in various groups and have met and engaged with people more different from myself. Julie and I have regular donations to community organizations that we think are providing valuable services. Of those changes, I am proud of most of them. However, one that really backfired was trying to become more informed. Continue reading “My Life on a News Diet”
Last night, we saw one of the most shocking results in American democracy with the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. We’re shocked about how wrong the polling was. We’re shocked that the people of this country would elect Trump. But really, we’re shocked to learn that this country is not what we thought it was, and more specifically, that we as a people aren’t who we thought we were.
As the progressive movement has made tremendous advances over the past few years on gay marriage, universal health care, and more, we have distanced ourselves from the opinions of many people across this country. We have allowed righteousness and confidence in our worldview to scorn or ignore many people who feel left out of this movement. These changes have eroded trust in our government’s ability and willingness to reflect our beliefs and have a beneficial impact in the lives of regular Americans.
In defeat, our pride is hurt. We could dispute the mandate or election process. We could call others racists or sexists. We could reject Trump as being “our president” and spend the next 4 years trying to undo this election. We could retreat into our own separate spheres and ignore the wide differences in our political views.
Or we can use this moment to unite us. We can re-affirm our belief that this country is stronger together. We can harness the our shared identity and turn our empathy towards the half of the country that very clearly stated their problems and desire for change.
I am optimistic and believe this election can be a positive force in the progressive movement. Faced with the reality of how this country really feels across a swath of issues, this election can be a call for us to re-engage in civic life and create the change we want to see. I believe that our government and our institutions can and should create good, but they are only as strong as the trust and energy we put into them.
As I saw the election results develop over the course of the night, I simultaneously experienced 5 stages of grief. In the end, however, I realized that this country will endure. Through our faith in democracy, we have gone through 56 peaceful transitions and 1 very notable unpeaceful exception, and although it might be a statistical error, I’ll take those odds.
Maybe this country isn’t what I thought it was, and honestly, what democracy has revealed about who we are has me worried. However, that feeling and perception doesn’t have to define any individual or us collectively. Across every facet, this election has been about change. Let’s all be part of that change and remember that our identity isn’t defined by any individual, community, or state. No single person is American: together, we are Americans.
I didn’t watch much of the DNC live, but I have been catching up on YouTube. I won’t go so deep as to talk about the issues, but I had enough thoughts about the rhetoric that I figured I would offer up my rankings on the best speeches at the convention. Overall, I thought that they were generally pretty good. I was particularly impressed by the variety of topics and approaches across the speeches: I underestimated the number of appeals that they could make and how they could use different speakers.
Anyways, here were my rankings.
10. Corey Booker
Not a lot of emotional range in his speech: pretty much all of it was pretty equally intensely positive. I thought the structure of the speech was pretty clever in starting with an appeal to moral values and community. However, I don’t think he talked about it in a very accessible way (though maybe I was just getting bored because I had watched his speech after 3 others). At least he got the “we will rise” in there to get the crowd going.
As of this past summer, I am an American citizen. So far, I have learned that my life really isn’t so different. Permanent residents pay taxes, don’t have to stand in the immigration line at airports, need to sign up for selective service, and can whine as much as anyone. As a citizen, I can apply for federal government jobs that I wasn’t looking for, run for elected office that I’m not actively working towards, and vote for officials and policies that I don’t fully understand yet still have strong opinions about.
And vote I will, unless I forget to check my PO Box in time. For years now, I have expressed strong opinion on complicated matters and complained about policy all under the justification of not being allowed to vote. Although I technically could have followed the friendly banter to return to my country of birth, I considered it excuse enough. That allowed me to ignore all content in political ads and blow off any true demand for me to defend my beliefs. Even with election hubbub abound, only when Julie pointed out that I can now vote did it hit me: I can vote.
My trained reflex was to blow it off glibly with some detail intended to deflect the point, but digested for a few hours, it suddenly seemed like a good thing to do. Here existed one less thing to be a hypocrite about, and I determined that I would register to vote. Come time to execute, I could always not if I felt uninformed on the issues, but that was far away. Uncertain of how to vote, I remembered getting a facebook email notification from a friend inviting me to a voter registration drive in the middle of campus. It took less than 5 minutes that fit nicely into my bike path, and I have officially exercised my civic duty.
Which is not why I did it. At least, not out of any patriotic sense. I prefer to think of it as something more pragmatic, like a desire not to live in a dump. As I mentioned, I have strong opinions on issues I don’t understand, and I would like to see those issues put into policy. Prop 19? Well, why not? Prop 23? I think we can work towards dealing with climate change while creating more jobs. Meg Whitman? Don’t know that much, but she’s a Republican, so that’s a little unfortunate.
In 6th grade, everyone is my social studies class participated in a survey where we all “voted” in the presidential election. I voted Nader just to be strange since I didn’t actually understand the issues, and it wasn’t like my vote actually mattered for anything anyways. It’s a shame that 10 years later through the core of my education, I frankly don’t feel much different from then. What’s worse is no overwhelming desire to change that situation. I would like to keep up on current events, but since I no longer have extremely convenient access to paper copies of The New York Times, I don’t. And California politics are perhaps even a step below that on priorities. I kind of wish someone else with my ideologies could just tell me what I should write down on my ballot. But I guess that’s not much of a democracy, eh?