So here’s the thing about politics

I’ve never talked about it.  Really, ever.  With anyone.  Not my parents, not my friends, not even Kris.  When it comes to politics, I keep my mouth shut tight!  For most of high school, honestly I didn’t really care one way or the other about politics.  Then, my senior year came around and I realized, I’m about to step out into this world, and well, I’m gonna have a say in it!  It was a really exciting discovery for me!  I was co-founder and president of the Debate Team (I know, I’m a nerd.  I was also top the class in my public speaking class – interesting, huh?)  My senior year, we held the first ever high school debate on school board elections.  Our team organized for 4 different candidates to come in and participate in the debate, I was a moderator.  I was eating that stuff up. I was good at it, and I enjoyed it.  But lord you still didn’t talk about it at the dinner table. sure, everyone was proud to see my face in the newspaper, but no one ever discussed the actual election unless you wanted a heated discussion, which no one really did.  I guess in my hometown, you chose not to talk about, because, what if you didn’t vote for your cousin’s best friend, who also happened to be running for state representative.  (no kidding – my cousin’s best friend is our state rep right now)  So it was personal, and rather than hurting someone’s feelings, you just didn’t talk about it.  

Then I get to college and I’m surrounded by really smart and passionate people – poly sci majors and poly sci major wanna-bes. And I was changing as a person, my values, my outlook on life – as well as my political views.  But, I didn’t feel anywhere near as knowledgeable as my friends, so again, I kept my mouth shut, this time, because I didn’t want to look stupid.  I didn’t talk about a lot of things in college outside of religion.  Religion I knew, everything else, well, there was someone else who knew the subject better than I did and at the time I was fairly content to let them talk.  I’m really a listener at heart.

 Then I get to seminary and Roma’s – and there, even  though no one actually knew any of the politicians, people took it super seriously and personally.  If you voted for the wrong guy, you voted against religion, or for religion, and I’m not sure which is worse.  If you talked about it and someone disagreed, things were sure to get heated.  Talking about the presidential election over the bartop at work is never a good idea.  Neither is talking about it in the seminary cafeteria.  Beer and bibles make people really self-righteous when it comes to politics.  If you didn’t vote like them, well, obviously you were wrong.  And they’d tell you why too.  So, again, I kept my mouth shut about politics.  Which was again, ok, because I was learning to open up in talking about other things – fair trade, social justice, music, history, literature, art – and people liked my opinions and thought that I was interesting to talk to.  So they seemed to let it slide that I never talked about politics.  

This summer, at training in NYC – I was surrounded for a very short but intense time with people who were a lot like me, and nothing like me.  We laughed, prayed, sang, discussed, cried, and prayed some more.  There were A LOT of discussions about the upcoming year of elections.  Many of our placement sites would be 100% effected by the results of the elections, the Democrats vs. the Republicans.  Who was in office really mattered to the heart of what we were doing.  Or so they argued.  Because it seemed like every candidate had something wrong with them, or something good to offer.  Someway to combine social justice with running a country well.  Or not.  Again, I kept my mouth shut, because I hadn’t done my research yet, and knew it was really too early to form an opinion about a candidate.  And, by now, it was habit to not say anything.  Even when directly asked, I was an expert on round-about answers that didn’t answer the question but didn’t frustrate the asker.  I had already been given the title Wise – I was one of the older team members, the only seminary graduate, and I guess all that time keeping my mouth shut allowed me to form some decent thoughts that people seemed to appreciate.  So, even though I didn’t talk about politics, I was wise.  

Now I’m here in Hong Kong, and I don’t have a choice when it comes to talking about politics.  People here are so well-versed on what is going on in America, its embarrassing.  I have done more research these last few months about candidates, debates, voting history – than I have in my entire life.  Combined.  I have to be on my game, because when Father Dwight asks me what I think about the war in Iraq, or Bush’s presence in the Philippines, or Obamas most recent debate with Clinton, or who the heck is Huckabee and wasn’t there a movie about him?…they all expect me to answer, because well, I’m the token American.  There is no default person to go to, no one else to let shoulder the responsibility of political opinions.  Just me.  And I’ll tell you what, I really enjoy talking about it.  I can speak, passionately and intelligently, about candidates, ideas, laws…and if people don’t agree, they just chalk it up to cultural differences, and we move on.  An interesting discussion on the table, now who wants more fish?  And again, my views are changing – I’m gaining a more global perspective, which I guess is to be expected.  But I’m more concerned, not just about what the next president will do about the war in Iraq, but what can they do for peace talks in Israel, or about pulling the troops out of the Philippines?  How do their policies effect commerce with China or trade with Indonesia?  There’s a whole other world outside of America – where has it been all this time, other than on the green night-vision screen of the nightly news?  

I told someone a few weeks ago who I voted for in the last election.  The first and only person I’ve ever told.  I’ve just always let people assume about my politics by the way I live.  You think I voted Democrat?  Cool.  You think I voted Republican?  Cool.  Am I going to tell you if you are right or wrong.  Nope.  That’s the stance I’ve always taken.  And while I am gaining a new confidence in my political opinion here in Hong Kong, I’m not ready to share it with the folks back home. Kris and I talk about it a little more.  I know better than to broach the subject with my father because we both love playing devil’s advocate.  My brother, bless his heart – if I’m the bleeding heart liberal my mom thinks I am, Michael is the left wing hate the right wing liberal.  But then again, he’s 17, and figuring out how to buck the system – he’ll mellow out one day. 🙂  When I posted the quote from Obama it was with much trepidation.  Because I feared that in posting a quote, even if its a GREAT quote from an excellent speech, it would make people  assume that I’m voting for Obama.  Everyone wanna know my dirty little secret? Lean in a little closer. Shhhh… I’m registered Republican.  Ha! Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.  So I can’t vote for Obama OR Clinton in the primaries.  I get to wait and see who comes out on top, and then make my decision about the presidential election.  Chances are I will be an emotional voter.  Or maybe not, I have been doing my research after all!

Anyway, that’s what I think about politics. I’ll be honest, its taking a lot of courage to be looking down at that publish button.  Because I try to live my life avoiding confrontation.  I’m a people pleaser, and if there’s ever the possibility that I could offend or hurt someone with my words, it tears me apart.  So please, family, friends, YAMs, I hope that you find no offense in the words above.  It was never that you suppressed me from speaking, I am the one who never opened her mouth before now. 

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13 thoughts on “So here’s the thing about politics

  1. Well, I didn’t see the registered Republican thing coming, no siree. But, I still like you 🙂

    Seriously, talking politics is overrated. It should be done in doses, but too much of it is just about people feeling too clever by half.

  2. Believe it or not, Elizabeth, I secretly kind of hate talking about politics (if we’re doing confessions), because as you know I really don’t like to argue unless I know (think I know) in my heart that I’m right. If I don’t know the answer for sure, I like to keep my mouth shut. But in politics, there’s almost never a “right” answer, because politics is all done by people, and there’s never a person who is totally right or totally wrong about anything. So I don’t usually pick a side either. I talk about it, because it’s important, but I don’t usually pick a side until after the primaries.

    I picked a side this year, even though I TRULY think that either Clinton or Obama would be great for our country. Obviously, (just look at my blog) not everyone feels that way, and that’s okay.

    But, I think it’s totally okay for you to not pick a side, and I’m glad you’re representing us in Hong Kong, because we need someone thoughtful to speak for us. 🙂

  3. I have a friend spending the semester in Singapore. He just posted on his blog last week about how surprising it is that all of the people he meets from so many other countries are all super interested in and knowledgeable about what is going on with our elections and all have strong opinions about it. So he’s kind of in the same situation of talking about it a lot. His post was really interesting. He doesn’t usually talk much about politics either.

    I thought being a registered republican was a requirement on the application to Asbury? (Just Kidding!)

    It’s good that you can still stay politically active while you are overseas.

  4. Here’s MY thing about politics…
    I’m really glad I don’t have to make my primary vote until May.

    Colorado votes (super!) Tuesday, and I know I’m not ready to make that decision.

  5. This was REALLY well written.

    Especially the part about me. You’re blogs should have more me in them. 🙂

    Even your brother, though, has to raise his hand, because I had no clue you were republican. Hope that doesn’t make me a bad sibling?

    Love you, sis! Great blog.

  6. Well, look who is responding to your blog!
    Your mother said “it’s about time” (regarding the republican thing). believe it or not, I just want you to have an opinion and be able to defend it (are you surprised by that??). I must say thought, it does my heart good to hear (read) you discussing such areas that I think are fairly important. Choose wisely in any election you have the opportunity to be able to participate (vote) in. I do love (and have always loved) hearing your opinions (and discussing them with you as well).

    Love you Sweetie!

    Oh, and keep your brother in your prayers because he may find out one day he is a republican too!

  7. I do think that its important to know that I clearly stated that I am a “registered” Republican – but that does not necessarily reflect the way I vote everytime. Just a thought to keep in mind – so you and mom don’t get your hopes up 🙂

  8. What a delight it is to read your blogs. I, like Michael, must admit that i had to raise my hand. But I, unlike Michael, know that does not mean you are conservative. Mother always said i was a Republican, and she was wrong. I vote the way of my heart and mind, as I know you do also. I just happen to live in a state where i do not have to register with either party except in the vote on Super Tuesday. I am so proud of the woman you have become. You have chosen to follow God and your heart. There can be no higher calling. lol, lhb

  9. Here is my favorite thing about this post:

    “or who the heck is Huckabee and wasn’t there a movie about him?”

    Hahaha please tell me this is an I Heart Huckabee’s reference?

  10. I also really like this:

    “There’s a whole other world outside of America – where has it been all this time, other than on the green night-vision screen of the nightly news?”

    I think a lot of times party loyalty or political spectrum identity gets in the way of an actual understanding of what is going on. We substitute “the right party” or “the right vote” for the actual struggle, which is to try to be human, in spite of it all….

  11. Thanks David, and yes, that was an I Heart Huckabees reference – glad you caught it. 🙂 And I too hate it when people place “being right” over the struggle for justice, and unity. Things our nation so DESPERATELY needs right now!

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