I am an American by birth, but still feel like an outsider to the general happenings of the country. While I always pay attention to Elections this elections I decided to actually vote for the first time and it has been an interesting experience, and I thought I would share my observations with you about the election. In doing so it is my hope more importantly to shed light on the mindset of my fellow American. I have always felt from my interactions with people that when Americans go to the polls to vote the whole world waits in anticipation and I would like in this post and in other posts to explore why that is so.
The Machine Winds Down
Finally this week Tuesday the election will be over and the infernal machine will go fade from sight to reside just beyond the periphery of sight wielding its influence in the most clandestine of ways. It has been apparent to me that elections bring out the worst in Americans. As we move closer and closer to the dramatic conclusion I wonder how will we as a nation interact with each other after the election is over. I have observed over the course of the election a few interesting behaviors both virtually through social media and in person.
I myself do not consider myself part of any party, I rather vote on which party’s agenda matches my own philosophy on a variety of issue so I feel no animosity if someone votes for a party different than the one I will vote for. But if you look at Facebook activity that as I learned is not the case with everyone. As the election campaigns progressed I decided to post interesting articles I found on the election on my personal Facebook page. In doing that I witness a few things:
People spend a considerable energy to insult other people (friends) who don’t agree with them.
It is hard to discern that the people who have access to your thoughts and postings are actually your friends from the comments. The comments left on my page were very I found disrespectful because they call into question not only my ability to gather process and comprehend information but also my self-identity. Here are three type of comments I have either received or saw on my friends Facebook timeline.
Informing Condescending Comments – You obviously don’t have access to or cannot use your intelligence enough to acquire the correct information. Everyone else but me and the people who believe what I believe in is an idiot. It these “idiots” that eventually will cripple America due to their lack of information. I have taken it upon myself to find articles that advocate the opposite viewpoint.
Deconstructing Self-Identity Comments – You vote this way because you are ( black, white, Hispanic, women, gay, old, had this former occupation, follow this religion, are an immigrant). Like a savage you use only your basal emotions to guide you. You are not enlightened enough to gather succinct information, then form a hypothesis , and subsequently and objectively corroborate that hypothesis with more facts.
Accusatory Comment – Clearly if you don’t believe what I believe to be true you are anti-American and don’t care about this nation. You just care about yourself, and if you don’t get your way you will complain and just do anything you can to block progress.
Not a Culture of Discourse
It became clear to me that we are not a culture of discourse or debate. What I mean is that whenever to people of opposing opinions come together to discuss things they do not do so to learn anything from each other. The purpose of debate and discourse is the selling of an ideology. The fact that fact-checking played such a visible role in this election is testament to this fact. The public sphere is not a place for the sharing of ideas or learning, and I wonder if in America it was every the case from colonial times to present day. The essence of American politics has always been to divide, disenfranchise and exploit.
The vision that the Founding Fathers had for America didn’t include Black, Hispanics, Asian, Native Americans or women who shared equal footing with their male counterparts. The signer of the Declaration of Independence were part of the landed aristocracy of the Southern Colonies or the mercantilistic based Aristocracy of the Northern colonies. They set the precedence that the dictates of the legal institutions were not the dictates of the social sphere: all men on paper are created equally but socially that’s not the case. Legally one has the right to free speech and protest but in actuality doing so can put one in a world of hurt or in the worst case scenario cost one their life.
For me without education the democratic process cannot work and I would like to share with you two quotes that for me sum up why:
“Anyone who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” — Voltaire
“Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance”
Scholars, who pride themselves on speaking their minds, often engage in a form of self-censorship which is called “realism.” To be “realistic” in dealing with a problem is to work only among the alternatives which the most powerful in society put forth. It is as if we are all confined to a, b, c, or d in the multiple choice test, when we know there is another possible answer. American society, although it has more freedom of expression than most societies in the world, thus sets limits beyond which respectable people are not supposed to think or speak.
I have a great distrust of government and I feel that so much of political rhetoric is divorced from History. Each political statement is crafted for it to be a self-autonomous sound byte. It not connect to the past and to history. Even in school in America when we are taught american history it tends to be divided up in presidencies; we hear about Lincoln’s presidency and it’s problems, we read about Andrew Jackson’s presidency and its problems. We are never taught a American history that depicts america as one country , one jig-saw puzzle piece in a vast living tapestry. American history stands alone and everything else is tangential and there is a sort of hubris there that is evident in our foreign policy which has been described as having nothing to do with democracy.
I truly believe that if American History was taught in a way inclusive of the history of the many immigrant groups that emigrated to her teaming shores things would be a bit different. We would be less reluctant to go to war I feel. We would care more about the people and less about the ideology. An educated populace is a catalyst for great change and is a buffer to the megalomanic desires of the select few with power. Without education how effectively can we notice the deliberate removal of nuance? How effectively can we be made to believe in absurdities?
This was meant only to be a brief intro into a series of observations. Basically this election is an experiment for me. I really don’t feel voting is an effective means for change really because voting is seen and depicted as being separate from action. The changes brought by the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, Gay Right’s, Immigrant Right’s Movement were not brought by voting alone, some people had to die first. Voting I feel is a legal and political statement but not an indication of the social reality. I think that disconnect allows us to be exploited and cajoled as a nation.
Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens. – Howard Zinn
It is clear from the election that the race, Women’s Rights, Immigrant Rights, and gay Rights are still an issue; that while we operate a mindset that is stuck in the past and that is always scary to me. More thoughts later