Blister in the Sun

by James Classen

Tomorrow is “The Election”. The media is rife with speculation. I suspect (and hope) that Americans are just as fed up with the campaigning as I am. I’m not saying things were pretty 212 years ago, I just wish that our country could have grown up a little since then. Instead of monarchy and King George, the comparisons are made to socialism and Adolf Hitler. Baseless or not, I really, really don’t want to see Republicans or Democrats in charge of this country. For that matter, the Libertarians, Greens, and Reforms have their share of loose screws. I know that no matter who I cast my vote for tomorrow, Kansas’ six electoral votes will be cast for Mitt Romney. I agree with Obama on some issues, I admit. I listen to NPR. But I am not a Democrat, and I am not a socialist. I have trouble saying I agree with Mitt Romney on anything, because he changed his mind half a dozen times since he spoke, on, well, just about everything, just about anytime. But I agree with certain positions that Republicans have traditionally held, yet I am not a Republican. Going off the beaten (and boring two-party) path, I agree with Gary Johnson on some issues. I don’t see him as quite the loon Ron Paul occasionally seems to be, but on certain issues he would be laughed out of town by a majority, if anyone paid attention to third parties. To be perfectly honest, I know almost nothing about Chuck Baldwin, the other candidate on the ballot. I know more after writing that sentence than I knew about him when he ran in 2008, but as he’s not even a national candidate, and has even endorsed another, the probability of his winning is far, far more remote than even Johnson’s. Nevertheless, I will vote tomorrow, for one of the four candidates.

Plucking one tidbit of the above paragraph: “I listen to NPR.” If I mention that to many people, they automatically draw certain conclusions that have no basis in reason. I listen to four shows from National Public Radio on a regular basis: Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, and Snap Judgement. And frankly, politics rarely enters into it. Car Talk is hilarious, and answers people’s honest questions about cars. Some calls could be fielded by untrained monkeys, but a fairly convincing argument could be made that that’s just what goes on for that “waste of another perfectly good hour”. While Garrison Keillor’s political position is well-known, A Prairie Home Companion has been running for 38 years on good music, radio drama, and small-town charm. A pot-shot at a Republican may be taken now and again, but it’s never nasty. Ira Glass is also known at least as a strong critic of Republicans, but his show, when it touches political issues, feature a refreshing balance, a view that things can be ugly no matter where your ideology takes you—but with the hopeful air that things don’t have to be that way. Glynn Washington is a dynamic host of the storytelling forum, Snap Judgement. While I have no idea what his politics are, it doesn’t matter. Politics never enters into it. The stories are amazing, told by amazing individuals, who can transport you to amazing places. This is not the news, but this is NPR.

I get my news from BBC. While they are legally required to be objective in their reporting, an entirely infeasible, but laudable goal, they do at least provide a perspective rarely seen in the US: that America is not the only place on Earth that matters. They see how preposterous campaign season is here, but only report on it once in a while, devoting more bytes to cricket and football matches than to matters of US Politics.

The point that I sat down to write about, yes! Whatever my politics are, whatever fuzzy category they fall under, if it even has a label, I have been reluctant to share my point of view with anyone, afraid that, not only I would be alone in my viewpoint, but that others would spend the remainder of their resources in an attempt to convince me of the error of my ways. Thanks to a piece presented by one of those NPR shows, I learned about people who have been disowned by their family because of who they voted for, but also, about the fact that such conversations have strengthened some relationships (more here). It included a plug for what seems to be a very reasonable book, You’re Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You’re Still Wrong), how to have civil discourse about politics without the conversation devolving into a shouting match or the silent treatment. Anyway, while I may still shy away from heated discussions, and am unlikely to bring up issues of political import, so long as the atmosphere remains civil, I am willing to share my opinions. I’ll try not to dodge “the” question next time it’s put to me as I have in the past, whatever that question may be. If you catch me, you’re welcome to call me on it.

Hmm…I need to read Calvin & Hobbes more often…