Two days later and still no president. Ha! This is great. I love watching the media be stumped. I love watching history happen. I love watching two not-so-great presidential candidates squabble over a few hundred votes to see who gets to claim the honor of being the unsure president.
Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make any comments yesterday on the election. Too close to call, ha! I wonder how the people who went tearing across campus at 1:30 a.m. feel.
All the issues, candidates, opinions, and beliefs aside, I hope Al Gore wins. Not because I voted for him and I want him to win, but because it would be very anti-climactic if George W. Bush is declared the winner after all. And then we couldn’t laugh at the media for calling the wrong man president. What would really be fun is if the final count in Florida tomorrow is so close they have to wait for the absentee ballots. That would mean 5-10 more days. I’d love to watch Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, and Jim Lehrer try to function for ten days without knowing the results of the election. It would throw our modern media–who are so intent on reporting what’s happening as it happens–into such a frenzy they wouldn’t know what to do. They’d all have nervous breakdowns and instead of watching the latest analysis on the evening news we could all watch reruns of “The Cosby Show.”
Did you exercise your right of democracy today? I did. Actually, I did it last week. I voted by absentee ballot. And you know what? Absentee voters get the shaft. Everyone else gets to run around with a cool “I voted” sticker that proudly displays what hip and responsible citizens they are. Meanwhile the absentee voters get nothing and everyone thinks we’re lazy slouches who didn’t vote–when in reality we voted long before anyone else. I think all absentee ballots should come with an “I voted before you did” sticker.
I suppose as a consolation my ballot came with a voting pencil. It’s 2 1/2 inches long and 1/8 inch thick. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s 1:50 a.m. and the networks have declared a winner. I’m tempted to make a comment. Instead I’ll just make an observation. When I came home tonight I heard yelling and screaming echoing through the courtyard between the buildings of my townhouse. People were screaming out windows unintelligibly. There was an excitement in the air that you just don’t hear on a college campus. As I approached my door a mob of students came flooding from one townhouse carrying a billboard size George W. Bush sign. They took off across campus with it, screaming as they went (as a comical aside, one half of the sign advertised Rod Grams–the Minnesota Senator who lost). I’m not sure whether I should be excited at the display of youthful vigor for politics, or if I should be scared.
It boggles my mind the way the United States works. Our country is literally trying to be the biggest kid on the block. Our government is not interested in world peace or securing the power and position of the United Nations. Our government is simply interested in coming out on top. I was just reading a press release from the White House that focused on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s comments about the situation in Israel and Iraq. A reporter confronted Albright with Amnesty International findings that Israel may be guilty of war crimes and is currently refusing to comply with UN Security Counsel resolutions. The reporter asked why the U.S. doesn’t condemn Israel’s action or cut off U.S. arms flow to Israel. Albright replied by talking about reducing violence and completely brushed the question off. She didn’t address the plain and simple question of U.S. policy. Apparently Israel can commit war crimes and defy the UN Security Counsel and we don’t care. Apparently you have to be on our good side. Now if you were a country like Iraq or Cuba or someone we don’t like, all hell would come loose. Is consistency too much to ask?
And it’s not just that one isolated instance. The situation with Iraq is even worse. Albright prattles on about how it’s Saddam Hussein’s fault and not the United States. She made the statement that “we didn’t invent Saddam Hussein.” But I wonder if we did. Who supplied Hussein with arms during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s? Who supplied Hussein with chemical and biological weapons that he used against his own people in 1988? Who was Hussein’s ally until the day before he invaded Kuwait? Um, that’d be us. Perhaps we did invent him. If the tables were turned, Washington would laugh. We expect Hussein to essentially drop his pants and let the world examine his arsenal. Only after that humiliating spectacle will we even think of lifting the sanctions. What would Washington say if we were given that ultimatum? They’d stubbornly refuse, just like Hussein is doing. Is it too much to ask for a little compassion and kind-heartedness from our government officials? Have they ever thought of trying on someone else’s shoes?
And we wonder why the rest of the world hates us. We wonder why someone ripped a forty by sixty foot hole in the USS Cole. Maybe it’s because we deserve it. Maybe it’s because we’re the big jerks on the planet and somebody has to hit us where it hurts.
My Absent Voter’s Ballot came today. It’s an intriguing mix of mystery, power, and wonder. As I look over the ballot I see a number of names and parties I don’t recognize. I’m filled with a feeling of independent freedom, a feeling that my vote is powerful. At the same time, does it really matter? Would a vote for John Hagelin of the Natural Law party mean anything? Part of me says yes, while I know Hagelin won’t come close to having 1% of the vote, it would send a message to the big time parties that they aren’t meeting the needs of some people. At the same time, that’s a tiny percentage of people. It feels like a game of numbers. Is a vote for Ralph Nader really a vote for George W. Bush? Does it have to come down to two major parties and a few rinkydink minor parties that squabble for a chance to prove that 2% of the American population isn’t satisfied with the democrats and the republicans. And why does it always come down to squabbling? It’s pretty obvious from watching the debates that both candidates have different views on different issues because they approach problems from different angles. Why can’t they sit down and spell out how they solve problems and why, and then debate the attributes of those approaches? They can make all kinds of accusations, but it’s all because they do things differently. Can we clear away the rhetoric and look at the issues? When that becomes clear then there is no more room for debate. There is only room for the action of the American voter. We have this wonderful democracy, but we make it so difficult.
I’ve always assumed that if you are a Christian, you vote Republican. No one ever told me this directly, but it’s something I’ve picked up from sermons, articles, and Christian rhetoric. Recently I’ve been refining my faith and asking difficult questions about what I believe
And so they babble on and on. They make great speeches (or not so great) and tell me what great things they’re going to do. Some of them sound like ideas they thought up yesterday. They take pointed little jabs at the opposition and cover any holes in their own armor, even if it means losing face. Perhaps there are some issues they just don’t care about. Of course you can’t tell the country that, so you act like you care, and you come off waffling.
Cynicism. It’s overwhelming me as I read reports of the Republican National Convention and all the election year news. But I am trying to sift through it all and make some sort of sense of it.
One interesting thing I found today was the comments of the wife of Dick Cheney, Bush’s choice for vice president. There’s a lot of tension in her voice and she seems to be offended at the idea her daughter could be gay. She claims her daughter’s not gay, but the evidence says otherwise. Either way you can sense the fear in her voice. Homophobia rising up, at least in the families of our presidential nominees. I find this somewhat troubling.
I’ll try not to end on such a cynical note. I found another interesting thing. Collin Powell made a speech at the convention that seemed rather intriguing. He spoke as a Republican to Republicans, but he wasn’t afraid to be a voice of dissention. He called for racial reconciliation
The presidential election is near at hand and I can’t help but feel a sense of patriotic duty. I also can’t help but feel a sense of patriotic uselessness. Politics seems to be such a far cry from the common person that I question how we have any influence at all. Look at the people running. George W. Bush and Al Gore. Where did these guys come from? Al Gore is a little more well known. He’s been the vice president for eight years doing a whole lot of who knows what. Before that he was a senator doing who knows what. George W. Bush is the governor of Texas, and that’s about all I can tell you. Just how he launched himself into the national scene, I don’t quite know.
Yes, yes, those of you who are smarter than me will roll your eyes and lecture me on the campaign process, the primaries and all that fun stuff. But I can’t help but wonder who really cares. I’ve yet to see a candidate that I felt would actually listen to my opinion. I’ve yet to see a candidate that comes close to lining up with my values. It’s like a lose-lose situation. Perhaps I’m just not in the majority. Perhaps I’m just not well educated. Perhaps I’m just a little cynical. I can’t help but feel there’s a closed door meeting held somewhere that determines who gets to be president. The election process is a sham, two puppets from which to choose, but really there’s only one puppet master.
Is this just me, or is this years of conspiracy talk and apathy? No wonder voter turn out is so low. However, I plan to vote. I’m not entirely sure what it will accomplish, and I’m not entirely sure which puppet I’ll choose, but at least I’ll exercise my rights. Maybe somehow this year will be different. Then again, maybe not.
What’s the idea of “American”? We grow up with these notions of certain things being firmly American: apple pie, baseball, rock ‘n roll, the protestant work ethic, cars, the American Dream. Sometimes I wonder where it all comes from and why these pressures continue to mount on us today. When the first colonies were settled and people were trying to carve out their existence in the face of harsh weather, few supplies, and a native people who wanted to remain native, did those colonists ever look forward and wonder what life would be like on this continent in several hundred years? Did they realize how much of the land would be swallowed up and consumed with concrete? Did they realize that the people inhabiting the land would continue to carry on many of the ethics they started with?
Tonight I watched most of the State of the Union Address. Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see much hope in politics. Somehow I see fault in a system where a president stands up and talks about the State of the Union, and everything is positive and happy-go-lucky. Never mind the fact that the president is currently undergoing an impeachment trial, the first such trial in over 100 years. I’m sorry, but when Bill talks about restoring Family Values, I just can’t seem to trust him. You’ve lost all my respect Bill, you should just give up now. And the rest of politics isn’t much better. The Republican Reaction? What was that all about? No, we don’t have an excessively partisan political system. And what’s up with the applause during tonight’s address? They write his speech with pauses and voice inflections for applause. This isn’t Letterman, it’s the State of the Union speech. And what’s with all the special guests? Let’s just write a speech, and comment on some good stuff, and we’ll just happen to have the people connected to the good stuff here. We’ll show them off like some kind of trophy prize. Politics really makes me sick.