A word about politics from a fool

October 31, 2010 at 10:49 PM 1 comment


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I am the first to admit that when it comes to elections and politics, I am utterly lacking in sophistication.

People on the left and right talk about the soul of the nation and I don’t understand what they mean. The left insists that we shouldn’t roll back the gains of the Obama administration and the right tell us to take back the country. For almost as long as I can remember, I have heard that the nation is going to hell in a hand basket thanks to increased taxes or tax cuts, illegal immigrants or Americans too lazy to work, banks or deadbeat home owners, the current healthcare system or healthcare reform, offshore drilling or environmental legislation, too many troops in Afghanistan or not enough, Barack Obama or the Tea Party.

Sometimes an issue strikes me as simple and straightforward. Here’s an obvious one: Only American citizens have a right to vote (although Wikipedia notes that “this has not always been the case.”)

But all too often, an issue is completely beyond my grasp. Banking, for example. In 2007 George W. Bush pushed through a $700 million bailout for the banks and Barack Obama continued the policy. As far as I can tell, Republican and Democratic administrations took the same course of action.  Is bailing out the financial system inherently right-wing or left-wing? I don’t know the answer to that.

Now, I realize that the Tea Party candidates are all het up about the government pouring taxpayer money into the banking industry, and they equally detest Democrats and Republicans who have taken this course of action. But how does any layperson — which is what many of the grass roots Tea Party candidates really are — figure out a financial mess that involves default credit swaps, toxic assets and quantitative easing — this last relying on a bank to credit its own account with money it creates ex nihilo, or out of nothing?

I predict that voting on Tuesday probably will not have a big effect on my daily life. And it won’t matter if the election results in the so-called tsunami of Republican victors or ends up with an unlikely rout by the Democrats.

It’s heresy to admit to such an unpolitical feeling two days before yet another polarizing election, but, all things being equal, my life this coming Tuesday will not be different from what it is tonight on Sunday. Come Wednesday morning, I will still have to get up and go to work so that I can pay for my home, my car, my health insurance and my son’s college education. I will still think twice before throwing out food because I might need it after some terrorist attack will paralyze, say, the trucking industry or the railways, and nobody will be able to buy groceries for days or weeks. And all week, as I look forward to spending time with my family and friends on Shabbat, I’ll be wondering if it is safe to go into a synagogue.

That’s not to say I don’t have a political point of view. It’s just that it’s pretty namby- pamby compared to the sky-is-falling mentality I see all over the left and right. I mean, I feel lucky to be an American citizen. I say that even though I worry about finding work after my current contract ends, even though American life is lonely and even though China is eating our lunch. As bad as the economy is, and as worrisome as airport security is, we are not living in a Congo, where a woman runs the risk of getting raped on her way to fetch water; or in a Somalia, which has plenty of warlords but no central government; or in a Sudan, a country that brought mass murder back into vogue. Just for fun, you might want to look at the 8 worst countries on Transparency International’s list. The U.S. isn’t on it.

That’s something to think about.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Helen Zegerman Schwimmer  |  November 1, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    You nailed it Barbara. You captured the essence of what most of us feel when we watch or listen to the incessant barrage of political ads. Instead of “I hope he or she wins” our reaction is “thank G-d it will all be over by Tuesday.” The last presidential election was a wake-up call for the millions who bought into the brilliantly crafted savior scenario. We’ve all become too cynical and finally understand that the government is made up of small people with big ambitions. Ultimately, it’s up to us to watch our own backs.

    Reply

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