Thursday, October 4, 2012

An open letter to the undecided......

To Whom It May Concern:

Well,  here I go, breaking my promise to not pull politics into my blog. If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times, in this ever more and more polarized world, I truly believe it is just as difficult to change someone's political beliefs as it is to change someone's religious beliefs, so I never even try. That being said, I feel like I need to do something...

Politics today is an entirely new animal. You are able to feed your personal beliefs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if you want. You can find blogs, websites, tv stations and articles to back-up every belief you have. Whether or not it is accurate, you can find an article to back up your "beliefs." I think much of politics is honestly opinion sold as "facts." There are some things, clearly, that we have some historical perspective on (what works and what does not), some that IS scientific, but much of politics is kind of about your own philosophy and beliefs about how people should function and ultimately what role religion and the government should play in shaping how people are able to function. Let's face it, that is really what everything comes down to, the official role of religion and the role of government.

I believe that everyone should have the freedom to practice their religion and not be discriminated against for their religion. I also believe in the importance of separation of church and state. As soon as religion and laws mix, it causes real problems. As far as the government, I believe the role of the government is to protect us. In my mind this includes: military, social safety nets (including unemployment, medicare, medicaid and social security), regulation (food, environment and financial), access to health care and the ability to grant us liberty and freedom.

I have many people in my life, friends, family, co-workers, who are more conservative than I. They are voting for Romney, they watch Fox news and listen to Rush.  Then there are those independents who don't watch Fox or listen to Rush and they are totally frustrated where the economy is and they too are voting for Romney. I love them dearly, we just have different views about the roles of government or the role that religion should or should not play. I know it is really easy to come from a mean and angry place when discussing politics, I just don't think it ever helps anyone.  I know for me personally, it always helps me to hear other perspectives, even if I do not agree with them.

I think what worries me most is the two different realities present in America today, well, perhaps three with those that are Independent. I used to always consider myself Independent, heck, I voted for Bloomberg. I used to always say I would never vote for a party, I wanted to vote based on ideas.  I considered myself Independent until Fox News really got up and running. I was always extremely liberal, socially, always. I was also pretty liberal, financially, however, my social views are my real passion and sticking point and I do not believe in trickle down economics. I know that whoever is in office, I will never agree with 100%. There is no politician out there that would ever make every decision I would want them to make. Let's face it, they ultimately have their careers to worry about. For many of these politicians it is a marathon, not a race. Many of these folks assume they will have more than one term and with many roles having no term limits, they take their time to find their places, their passions and their allies.

After watching the debates last night and seeing Romney pull a complete 180 in regards to policies he has been pimping, I have eaten more Swedish fish and M&M's than I want to admit to. Last night, watching him twist and contort himself, (kind of ) back into a more moderate candidate I started to get a little concerned. Now, please don't get me wrong, I honestly believe he is a good person, who has done a lot for his family, and his faith.  I have no doubt he is a loving husband, father, grandfather. I have no doubt he worked really hard to get where he is today and also know there is only so much a President can change. I just happen to disagree with him, politically.

All that being said, this is my open letter to any undecided voters out there. I am unsure how many there actually are that haven't made up their minds by now, but we keep hearing how they will decide this election, so here goes.

The economy has gone through the crapper these past 4 years, I have no doubt about that. It was also building up to this for many years of lack of oversight, regulation and out of control spending on two wars, etc.  It has taken a lot longer than anyone wanted to recover, but I honestly don't think everything could have been fixed in 4 years. There are still WAY too many people out of work, way too many people working 2-3 and even 4 jobs to try and make ends meet and put food on the table. Way too many people underwater with their mortgages, unable to pay off their student loans and credit card debt.  All this being said, I do not honestly believe that now is time to cut people's safety nets.

Romney may be a good businessman, who is really good at making money, but that only helps him. Running a country is very different than running a business, I think. I want someone who can look out for the greater good and someone who I feel I can trust. I know people keep saying the economy is all that matters, and while I believe it is obviously vital, I cannot let all of the issues fall silent, I just cannot.

As a women there is a lot at stake in this election. There is very little the President can actually do by himself without Congress (taxes, gas prices, budget, etc). I need someone in the White House I trust and knowing that whoever is elected will appoint at least one supreme court justice, I am sorry, I refuse to give that power and responsibility to Romney, Ryan and the right wing religious extremists. Between women's issues, Obamacare, Gay Rights, Regulation, Climate Change and the need to overturn Citizen's United, it is Obama for me. I know there are many on the right that say there is no way Roe vs. Wade will ever be overturned, I am not sure I believe them and not willing to take that chance.

It makes me nervous to elect someone who hasn't released their tax returns, continues to change his positioning based on who he is speaking to. I know politicians flip-flop often. I honestly have a hard time with the phrase flip-flop, because I believe if you learn something that legitimately changes your ideas and philosophy than you should change your mind without being criticized. However, I don't think that is what Romney is doing. During the entire Primary season they were touting, basically, Ryan's plan (budget), then they decided to pick Ryan for their running mate, which in my mind also reinforced their philosophy on budget cuts (including Medicare, Medicaid, "entitlement programs," etc).

Then suddenly last night, Romney starts talking about something totally different. Does he think we don't remember the entire primary season? Now, I understand that politicians always have to move toward the center for the general election, however, I feel like he started making the move way too late, what is it like 35 days out and for the first time he is talking about everything differently? I am sorry, I just do not believe a word he says. I just don't.

I do not want someone in the White House that laughs at climate change and the seas rising. How is this funny? I understand there is a "right wing" conspiracy theory about climate change and that it is all a science rue to raise taxes and make money, etc. I just don't understand when science suddenly became something people don't trust? I want someone in the White House that believes in science and its importance. If we really want to compete in today's world and compete with China, we need to have educated "elites" who know their stuff, including math and science. I think it is hysterical that we talk about our desire to improve education and have more competition in the world, yet, we suddenly have one side of the political spectrum that considers scientific fact to be a conspiracy and a lie and look down on people who are educated?  I just don't understand how we got to this point. Evolution, anyone? Compared to the rest of the world it is laughable, at best.

It all reminds me of Chris Hayes' book I am reading "Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy." It is a fascinating book and it focuses a lot on our distrust of long standing institutions and how this distrust has lead to so many problems in this country. He talks about distrust of educational institutions, the government, religion (with the Catholic Church's abuse Scandal), the media and information that is available, wall street and the financial markets in general, sports (baseball steroid scandal, Olympic Athletes, Lance Armstrong) and also science, all perhaps rightfully so. He walks us through a multitude of examples of how each of these long standing institutions have experienced things that have caused many people not to trust them for one reason or the other and the challenges the come with setting up an award system for success in any of these institutions.

There is an overwhelming amount of information available today, and yet it is harder than ever to find the truth. It is sometimes even hard to know if what you find is really the truth.

All I know today is that I trust President Obama more than I trust Mitt Romney. I know both candidates have surely gotten some support from millionaires, I just feel like Romney's campaign has been bankrolled by such a small portion of Americans, I am way too nervous he has been bought by more people I don't trust. I have no idea what will happen either way and I have to admit to myself that there is only so much the President can do. It is very possible that if Obama is in fact re-elected and the Republicans maintain majority in the house and senate that it will be 4 more years of nothing getting done, of polarized attacks, of birther claims, Muslim claims and everything else. Part of me wants Romney to win just so I don't have to hear about it any more. It really sickens me to hear everything that is said by Fox, Limbaugh, etc. It makes my skin crawl. What the heck will Fox bitch about if Romney wins? What will they be saying in 4 years if austerity does nothing to save our economic woes?

These past 4 years, for me personally, have been filled with so much political anxiety. I feel like we are more polarized and politicized than ever before. Where we shop, what cars we buy, what musicians we support, what what think of team ownership and what t.v. shows we watch. There is no escaping it and it makes me sad. One side is often demonizing the other and the only explanation I can think of is that some people really don't like President Obama, and they are willing to spend all of their time, energy and effort making everyone else's lives miserable by having to hear about it. I really just don't understand where this hatred comes from. I mean I watch Fox from time to time, just to know the current talking points and arguments. It just seems so angry and so fearful. I understand those folks who are struggling and not doing well, out of work and unable to find a job being angry, but I really don't understand those that are doing well. I also just don't understand the fear, I have some assumptions, but they are just that, assumptions. Until Fox news admits their true purpose in life, I have no proof. With all this talk about taking their country back, I just want to ask, take your country back from who? I just don't understand what President Obama has done that is so awful, I guess I just don't get it.

For NYC, I guess I would be considered middle-class. We have just enough to pay our bills, with a little bit left over. I am happy for all of those folks who are doing well, I have no hatred for success (the most recent claim on Fox). I just have more concern for those folks who aren't doing so well. I know I could just as easily lose my job and need to go on unemployment until I find a job. When I first moved to the city, it took me over 6 months to find a job. I had taken out student loans for living expenses, but otherwise, I have no idea what I would have done. If I lost my job now, I would have to claim unemployment while I searched. I don't have parents that can help me out to that extent and I also wouldn't feel right asking them. I don't understand how my needing this assistance, or a relative of mine needing this assistance is where we need to "fix things" and what is "wrong with" America.

I have never met anyone that was happy to be poor or proud of getting a hand-out. I would say that most people, if anything, are embarrassed of their lack of job status and their need to ask for assistance. Like in any system, I am sure there are those that abuse it. However, I firmly believe if we aren't willing to punish Wall Street for what happened in 2008 and the huge amounts of money that was lost, retirement accounts, life savings, college savings, mortgage rates, etc. then we shouldn't be going after those struggling the most on Food Stamps and unemployment. You pay into these programs, they are there as a safety net. They are there for a reason. Any one of us could need them one day, and I am sure your tune would change about their importance and your opinion of your level of "laziness" once you needed them.

It is very easy to not understand someone else's circumstances. It is very easy to not be able to understand someone that may be on disability, or may need to take some time for mental health issues. It is very easy to lump people who work 3-4 jobs trying to feed their family and make ends meet, with those seniors who works for 40-50 years and now live on social security and Medicare, with those vets who are just coming back from Afghanistan, unable to find a job. It is very easy to lump them together in this anonymous 47% number. Those 47% of folks who apparently are dependent and lazy. I am sorry, after that statement, it all changed for me. The light bulb went off and I realized how Mitt Romney really sees a large majority of Americans.

He really either doesn't understand the tax code (how it came to be that way), or just doesn't get who makes up this 47% number. Either way, hearing him talk about people that way, really hurt my heart and made me super scared for what could possibly happen with him in office. Now, again, I honestly believe there is only so much any President can do, it all depends on the House and Congress. I am not trying to be a fear monger here, just trying to express my concern.

 There is a really important level of judgement and trust that I find to to be almost more important than anything else. The President is expected to lead by example, set the tone for our internal and external relationships (with each other and with the world), conversations, agendas, appoints cabinet members, nominates supreme court judges and is truly our face to the world.

So, during this contested and heated time, I just hope that whatever happens, we find a way to come together and have the important and honest conversations that are necessary to actually get stuff done. I hope that the house and the congress are willing to work with whomever is elected President. While there is no secret who I am voting for, I can only hope that if nothing else you all vote. I know sometimes it may feel like it doesn't matter, please just know that it does. People fought, died and clawed to be able to vote. People are dying and killing each other world wide to just have the possibility of maybe voting some day. I would agree our system may be a bit broken and I can only hope this voter id crap goes away and doesn't bring us decades back in the wrong direction, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise your right.

Regardless, please educate yourself on the issues, look at multiple sources, have some honest conversations and vote, regardless of who you are voting for, vote. It is the least we can do for all those that came before us and for those that fight for our freedom to do so each and every day.

and that's all she wrote...

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