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, 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 , or about pulling the troops out of the ? How do their policies effect commerce with or trade with ? 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.