I was bringing Anna back from the horse barn last night and as we turned down our street, Anna said to me “Dad, I can’t wait for all this politics stuff to be over with!” I have to say that I hear her loud and clear. Even though I don’t write about politics much on the blog, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess my political leanings. Naturally, since my child’s primary source of political information is Heidi and me, she shares our political views. Maybe she’s not savvy enough to get all the intricacies of the economy – for that matter, neither am I – but she does understand that one side wants to keep our gay friends from getting married or worse – nullify the marriages they already enjoy. She’s heard us talk about Steve King who, for the first time, is competing in our semi-urban area thanks to redistricting. Even as a pretty staunch Democrat, I can forgive someone wanting to vote for Mitt Romney. I have a much harder time when it comes to King who really says the damndest things and, despite that, keeps getting elected. The good news is that he is running neck-in-neck with his Democratic challenger, Christie Vilsack, who is down only 2-3 points depending on the poll and always within the margin of error. King has coasted to easy election every other time, so hopefully we can send him packing this time around.
Still, Anna hit on something really important. Our neighbor put up a King sign and some neighbors down the street whom Anna is quite fond of put up two Romney/Ryan signs, as well as a King sign. This caused her great consternation because she had a really hard time reconciling the fact that these very nice people who welcome her into their home and who she likes spending time with would support Romney and King. Welcome to reality, kiddo. I’m trying to think of the first time that I really followed an election, and I think it was probably the 1984 election so I wasn’t all that much older than Anna is now. Now, when I say “followed” I use that term rather loosely because it basically was the first election that I truly remember. Thanks to Time magazine, which my parent subscribed to at the time, I have very vivid recollections of Mondale clinching the nomination and picking Ferraro as a running mate. I also remember the election being over before it even started, with Reagan winning 49 of 50 states. So I guess her awareness of the election is not all that unusual. But I’m a bit disheartened by the fact that she’s judging neighbors based on their yard signs, which I don’t think I was even close to doing at her age.
Such is life in our hyper-partisan world which this graphic I saw on Facebook sums up quite nicely.
I would like to submit this for discussion – or possibly, like Madonna’s attempts at acting, public evisceration. I would argue that we are not our political yard signs. Or rather, that we are more than that. Heidi linked to a GoodReads blog post last night that compared the reading habits of Obama and Romney supporters based upon a “who would you vote for?” poll. The results are summed up in this photo, which is too big for me to embed in a blog post so you’ll have to click on the link to see it. As Heidi pointed out, aside from a few politically charged books that fall along party lines about like you’d expect, we’re really not all that different from each other. Both sides read about the same number of books a year and rate them roughly the same. I imagine that this would translate to a whole host of other things as well, if we could just stop attacking each other for our political views for two minutes and realize that we’re all human beings trying to make a living.
I hate that I judge people with King signs in their yard. I know that the neighbors down the street whose yard signs caused such a disconnect in Anna’s brain are wonderful people. Although I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure that they are a Mormon family, so expecting them to vote Democratic in this election is akin to spitting into the wind. I also know that while I don’t necessarily agree with the political views of the vast majority of Mormons, they create close knit family-type units that support each other when things are hard. Almost every Mormon I’ve ever met has been amazingly kind and, despite what you’ll hear from mainstream Christianity, not out to bring down the world. Does that mean I agree with their religion? No, but at this point in my life, I’m having a really hard time with any religion based on a bunch of stories that seem more like fairy tales to me. When I look at my own life, it was a Mormon that really put me down the path of examining modern masculinity. I met him during the Bush Administration and we never agreed politically. But what we found was that after we pushed aside all the political garbage, we were two guys with young daughters that struggled with the current concept of masculinity and I like to think that we learned from each other, if only in little ways. Each of us had to forge our own path and sadly, we really aren’t in contact any longer, but such is life. People come in and out of our lives all the time and, while it’d be nice to keep them around forever, only rarely does that happen. I will never forget the openness and kindness he showed me and his willingness to delve into the big issues, even though our lives have spun off in different directions.
We don’t have any political signs in our yard this year, except for one supporting Christie Vilsack. We live in the heart of the most Democratic precinct in our county, so I have to give props to the people that have the cojones to put up yard signs for Republican candidates. Four years ago, I was very political. This time around, I’m just not feeling it. I have already voted and you can probably guess how I voted, but I don’t feel the urge to proselytize this election season. As one of my co-workers pointed out, they just need to have the election now because seriously, how can there be any undecided voters out there at this point? Although with the way the polls have moved after the first debate, perhaps there are more out there than either she or I thought there were.
We’re better than this – I really believe that. Perhaps it’s a naive view, but I think that we really can find a common purpose again rather than engaging in petty partisan bickering. Maybe we can all get back to being neighbors rather than political opponents. I know that I’d be willing to give it a shot. If you think about it, you do it every day. Thanks to Facebook, I know without a doubt that some of my co-workers are Romney/Ryan people. I don’t think that makes them any less valuable in the workplace. I continue to struggle with how to reconcile what I figure are diametrically opposed viewpoints on several key issues with the people that I have come to know over the course of a decade. Maybe that’s where the answer lies. It seems silly to say it, but in the end, we are all people struggling day-to-day and even though we may believe that different things are the cause of the struggle, we share the actual struggle. That, to me, is more important than the reasons why (or even the perceived reasons why.) We can always learn so much from each other. We can’t underestimate the power of that.
This is my street. In 22 days, we’ll be trick-or-treating up and down this bit of neighborhood and even though the signs will be up, it won’t matter. That’s what I tell myself when I get down about politics. Whether we’re Republican, Democrat or somewhere in between, we’re all just people. I, for one, am thankful for the chance to have my viewpoints challenged from time to time. And the fact that they’ll give my daughter a whole bunch of free candy that I can pilfer even though I know I probably shouldn’t is just a nice bonus.