January 23, 2008
I Vote for Waffles
True confession: I'm waffling. Floundering, if you will. And not because I've been eating a lot of breakfast food and fish. Why am I feeling even more strangely dim than usual, you ask? Because we're in the thick of the primaries for the presidential campaign, and because we're actually in the year of the election now, and because I don't know what I think.
Politics and I are like--well, maybe like third cousins: I've heard some good stories about him, I've heard some bad stories about him, we only meet about once every two or four years. Mostly we live as indifferent relatives, with occasional, hard-to-ignore reminders that we are, in fact, related by blood.
Some days it seems to me like politicians are the ones who can really make a difference; they can make the systemic changes needed to really help people. But other days it's hard for me to tell if there's anyone in it for anything other than themselves.
During election time, I generally get cynical: frustrated by the blame on all sides and the obscure mistakes dragged out of candidates' pasts, tired of hearing people talk without saying anything, and sick at the thought of all the money that gets spent on campaigns that could go to, say, paying off the national debt, providing health insurance or improving education (Oh man/woman--to be politically correct--I'm starting to sound like a politician).
But I also think voting is a great privilege, one that I want to take seriously. I appreciate the freedom we have in America. I'm grateful that there are people pursuing careers in public service, fighting for a better life for others through good government. I'm glad--though I cannot for the life of me understand it--people want to run for president.
Now, I realize that some of you Strangely Dim friends may be way ahead of me. Election years might be your favorite years. You might be watching and rewatching every debate, hanging posters of your favorite candidate from your windows, planning your next vacation to said favorite candidate's hometown to take pictures of the house they grew up in and interview their dentist and elementary teachers, and taping said favorite candidate's photo to your travel coffee mug.
Or you might be feeling like I am: a little overwhelmed by it all, interested but confused, conflicted over issues and candidates.
If that's you, here's a story for you, and maybe some help. A coworker of mine and Dave's sent around a link to a charmingly helpful and seemingly objective quiz (probably one of many out there) that helps you see how you match up with candidates on particular issues. Dave took the quiz. I took the quiz. Here were my results: my last-choice candidate and my first-choice candidate (preresearch preferences) tied for first as far as a match for me. For Dave, the two candidates he's most inclined to support wound up in sixth and tenth place, while the candidate he's most turned off by came in first, and someone he's never even heard of took fourth place. How is this helpful, you might ask? It's helpful because it reminds us of the importance of really knowing the issues more than getting caught up in the hype of campaigns and candidates. I had to leave some questions blank, to be honest, because I didn't know enough about the issue to say what I think. The website, however, is a helpful starting point for me in becoming more familiar with candidates and their stance on particular issues.
So that's where I'm at in my election processing: a bit muddled, but relieved I have till November to figure out what I think. Take heart. Persevere; you won't see donkeys and elephants and red, white and blue forever every time you turn on the television or close your eyes. This election year, like all those before it, will end. But, while we're in the speech-making season, allow me to offer a few more parting words (hey, if everyone else gets to make a speech, I want a little air time too.) Ahem. In this election year, 2008, whether you choose to vote or not, and whomever you choose to vote for: choose thoughtfully. What happens in America affects millions of people, here and around the world. Know the issues. Know the candidates. Know what you're choosing and why. Waffling or not, go grab a real waffle and spend some time researching, listening, praying. I promise (and I can back it up), it won't be time wasted. (If you get syrup on your keyboard, though, don't blame me.)