Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I care so much about who is in the oval office

My cousin Tonya, who is American, asked me a question after my post about Obama's inauguration that I found striking enough to devote a post to. She asked me, "Why does this matter so much to you? I guess I'm ignorant, being an American, I don't see how much US politics affect other countries, is that it? :-)"
I don't think ignorance has anything to do with it. I think it's just that you don't have an experience like mine, where you live in a small country next door to a large country whose actions influence so much of the world. Your neighbouring countries are Canada, whose politics are rarely interesting to non Canadians, and Mexico, a culturally rich but politically small player on the international field.
You are an aware, intelligent, articulate person. No ignorance. But your experience is different, which makes you wonder why I, as a Canadian, would watch U.S. politics so closely as to comment regarding the presidency on my blog. For instance, you would not generally find Canadian politics so interesting that you would seek out news regarding it online and follow a prime ministereal race to its conclusion and post about it on your blog. But my perspective is different, and for several reasons.
Firstly, I think I blog regarding just about anything that crosses my mind. Subjects don't need to be of utmost relevance to my daily life for me to mull them over on my virtual paper, so perhaps I care less than you percieve. But probably not. I care an aweful lot about who is the President of the United States. And this is why:
I feel a great connectedness and moral obligation towards this earth and the people on it. This takes precedence for me over national domestic issues, particularly when looking at politics in other countries. For example, I would care more about a politicians' stance on the environment and international relations than I would about his or her stance on abortion. I believe abortion is unethical and incredibly sad, but I also believe strongly in women's reproductive rights, and I react VERY strongly towards men who have 'opinions' regarding women's reproductive lives. I know this is a dichotamous view to hold, at least at first glance. But suffice it to say that I think abortion is unethical but should not, at this point in time, be illegal. I also think this argument a moot point in politics. No one is going to overturn the legality of abortion. It is a waste of political energy to try and choose politicians based on this one issue. In fact, it is a waste of political energy to choose any politician based on a single issue.
Because I feel a sense of connectedness and moral obligation towards all the people on this earth, I strongly oppose American military involvement in Iraq. Particularly as a response to terrorism, since military aggression creates more terrorism than it prevents. However, I would not be at all opposed to having a yellow ribbon magnet on my vehicle that says, "Support our Troops," because I believe that we should support our troops no matter what they are deployed to do: Afganistan, Iraq, Vietnam, or Europe. The idea is to endorse people doing their necessary and heroic jobs in the military, and to protest at a political level if I feel the military is being mis utilized. For example, since I am Canadian and my troops are in Afganistan, I would drive with a "Support our Troops" ribbon on my car and simultaneously write letters to my MP and Prime Minister and Minister of Defense protesting the war in Afganistan.
This is because I feel that aggression in Afganistan is breeding more aggression.
This is even more true in Iraq, since the idealism behind entering Iraq doesn't even exist (WMD), and the sub-idealism (anti terrorism) is not best addressed with more aggression.
Also, Guatanamo Bay is a human rights atrocity. No one should ever be detained at length without trial, anywhere in the world, for any reason.

We live in a global world, and are starting to recognize our interconnectedness. We are starting to realize how it matters where our clothing comes from, or what fuel we burn, or how much garbage we create. This means that I care about living conditions for people in India, and Thailand, and Cambodia, and Taiwan, and Toronto, and the streets of Surrey (the next town over from mine: and notorious for its pockets of poverty and attendant crime rate). George W. had a very poor international relations record. He placed priority upon domestic over international concerns, always, always. This is the opposite view to mine, which is international concerns over domestic concerns (for developed nations), always, always. So you can see why I disliked his politics.

The initial seed of discontent within me regarding George W. was planted years before he was in office, and had to do with a single issue (which I acknowledge, as per my previous argument, should not be enough to sway one either way policially, and to which I will say: this was only the first thing that swayed me against George as a politician). That issue is a contentious one, particularly between Canadians and Americans. When George W. was governor of Texas, part of his responsibility as governor was to review each death row case before a death sentence was carried out. More people on death row were executed in the time he was in office than was humanly possible for individual review.
This is problematic for me simply because I think the death penalty unethical.
You may rightly argue that I cannot oppose a politician for propogating the death penalty and ALSO NOT oppose the same politician for propogating abortion. You are right, ethically. I simply think this is not the right TIME in history to illegalize abortion. A good look at the root CAUSES of the NEED for abortion and some damn good listening BY conservatives TO women pro-choicers is needed first. Otherwise it's like trying to hold back a river with a snowball.
Anyways, this was the FIRST thing that made me think that perhaps I didn't like this particular politician, way back in the day before he was President. I didn't write him off though. He inarticulated his way out of my good books all by his poor international relations self.

Though, I must confess, I am more partial to Democratic party rhetoric than Republican party rhetoric, and I think this is because I react so strongly against the conservative religious undertones of Republicanism. I am a Christian myself, and most liberal people would probably look at my life and my beliefs and say I was ultra conservative. But for a conservative, I'm pretty liberal. I believe God created evolution. I believe he cares little what we DO in life and much more who we ARE: rules, laws, structure, and directives in the Bible being an example of the healthiest way to live as opposed to the only way to live that will place one in God's People/Church/Chosen ones/Saved/People who are going to heaven. Thus, you can 'be a Christian' and still 'do something against Biblical teaching,' in my opinion. I have trouble believing homosexuality is wrong. I'm a feminist. etc. etc. But I think the strongest thing that drives me away fom Republicanism and towards Democratics is my foundational belief in the separation of church and state. There is just too much Church in the republican version of State.

But I think that, in answer to your question, the reason why I care so much is simply because American international policy and political priorities have a great impact on the world. Can you not see how we are all interconnected? Can you not see how America's actions affect the philosophical tides all over the earth? It affects my world. The world I care about, which includes Canada, but also envelopes every nation, all resources, poverty, human rights, the cleanliness of the ocean we share and the air that whips around on jetstream winds, sustainable living, future suicide bombers growing up in Afghanistan and Iraq and SEEING that America and Canada are deserving of hatred because our bombs kill their loved ones, nuclear disarmament in Russia, which increased in the 90s but decreased since George W.'s inauguration, individual right to fair trial within a reasonable amount of time, debt relief, and social responsibility to work towards education for all, health care for all, and a minimizing of poverty and a sharing of resources.
Some of these things George W cared about, and some of them he did not. He professed to believe in education for all but his "No Child Left Behind" policy only heightened the gap between rich and poor municipalities and "left behind" more children than before its inception. So even when we agree, we don't agree.
It is disempowering to sit by and watch without being able to have a voice in something that affects my world. So, I blog.

I haven't spoken much about Obama. This is because (a) I am holding a 'wait and see' policy on him. Idealism and rhetoric are inspiring, but they are not the change I want to see in the world. So I am holding off just yet, and (b) because this is turning into a very long post!

I wanted to open this discussion up to other readers. Why do Canadians care so much about American politics? Why do we care whether Obama or McCain is in leadership? Why would anyone but Americans care about American leadership?

[as an aside on McCain: inarticulate, stiff, ultra conservative, Political with a capital P, awkward, irritating man....I realize that this political race was not a contrast between Bush and Obama, but mostly the strength of my embrace of Obama was driven by my dislike of Bush]

So that is why I care.
Any thoughts?


Tonya said...

I rarely state my opinion about politics for fear of upsetting anyone. I hate feeling like I've upset you, so I hope I didn't. I do disagree on so many levels with Obama. But mainly because I don't like government control in my life at all. :-) I fear his stance on education (he wants education to be free ie paid for by tax money for birth through 5 also - which will eventually lead to mandatory education for birth through 5). I abhor abortion, but agree with you that making it illegal won't change anything. We have to change people's hearts, not laws! I do find his stance on abortion to be awful - he thinks that if a child was intended to be aborted, yet lives, that child should be allowed to die after birth. I call that murder, so am opposed.

As for the whole international thing - honestly, politics is not my thing. I don't like them, don't pay much attention to them. I have a very hard time grasping the whole picture - mainly because there are so many differing views on what is good vs what is bad. I usually just come away feeling more confused!

Melissa, I do so hope I didn't offend. It was certainly NOT my intention. I just wanted to offer a differing view. Maybe I should have e-mailed you instead? SORRY SORRY SORRY (and I'm saying that with a Canadian accent - SORE-EE). I know you pay WAY more attention to this stuff and can articulate your position and I cannot.

But, hey, thanks for the reply! I do love reading other people's opinions. Always good to make me think! :-)

Oh, and McCain? GAG. Trust me, this election was difficult!

M.Wyville said...

Why do Canadians care about US politics... because we have to. Our markets, values, and success as a country is so closely tied to that of the USA. Personally it bothers me at times that we have to care about our neighbors to the south so much. I think if our origins and cultures were more diverse we'd have more separation. As per the Canadian political scene... yes its not at all like our fast-paced neighbors... but we do have our own dramas. I think the difference lies in the cover and/or interest in politics. CNN is one among many media networks to spend all their time reporting on political and social issues and events. In comparison, Canada has CBC (which I love...) which does not have the same 'spin' quality to it.

Thank you Melissa for that food for thought. I think that Obama has breathed in life into Washington. I have read/hear many of his speeches and ideas, and I must admit I'm a fan of the man's energy and vision. I'm hoping that Obama's passion for his country inspires someone in our own land to be our next Prime Minister. I'm sorry but Harper just doesn't get me all excited and hopeful for our future.

Asheya said...

I agree with what you said, Melissa, about why Canadians care about US politics. The US is a major force in the world right now - I think the truth is that many people in most countries around the world care about US politics. Who is in power affects a lot of people worldwide.

I also agree with you about not making abortion illegal but still thinking it's wrong. What I think actually needs to happen is that laws in Canada need to be passed regarding the process of obtaining an abortion, to ensure that women are receiving accurate information about potential consequences to themselves, both emotionally and physically. I also think laws need to be passed that make a certain amount of pre- and post-abortion counselling mandatory and free. The majority of women who obtain abortions do so because they feel they have no other options - in other words, they themselves feel aborted by society. While I definitely disagree with abortion on the level of the child has a right to life, I think our society really needs to look at the issue in terms of women's health and what ends up doing the most harm to women. Many women make the choice to have an abortion without proper informed consent regarding their own health. For instance, women who have an abortion have a 25% chance of future infertility. Also, many women experience severe emotional problems which are similar to post traumatic stress disorder. These are things women need to know. Well, this is kind of off the topic of US politics!

I think it will be really interesting to see what happens with Obama as president. He made a good first step yesterday in halting the Guantanamo Bay trials.

lori lls said...

Well, I've got a "wait and see" mentality on Obama as well. I actually was a Ron Paul hopeful. Though I like Obama and appreciate what seems to be good character in him, I'm not a fan of a lot of his proposed policies. I am much more for small government and letting communities make their decisions. Not a huge fan of compulsory public education either, welfare, or a myriad of other things we are taxed to pay for at a national level. Anywho...

What I actually wanted to say here is that I am glad you took time to post this blog. You are right in my case - I don't know much a'tall about Canadian politics. But every time we drive through Canada on the Alcan (admittedly a small slice of the Canadian bacon pie - bad pun; I know Canadian bacon isn't Canadian), we love Canada more and more.

So there. You can care about our politics, and we'll care about your massive swaths of beautiful trees and jagged mountain ranges and your sweet people and endearing radio programs.

lori lls said...

I have to leave another quick comment. I went to bed thinking about my previous response to your post, and I wondered if I'd come across as a careless, cold-hearted person since I said I wasn't a fan of welfare or compulsory public education.

I am all in favor of helping each other out, especially those unable to care for themselves, and of true learning from birth to death. I just don't think those things are governments' responsibility, and when government does get its fingers into five thousand things, it costs way too much money and all face-to-face accountability and interaction is lost. People are no longer accountable to their families, their communities, because they are receiving a check from the nameless, faceless government or their children are being held to the education standards of the nameless, faceless government with little regard to local customs, time tables, preferences, and locally practical subject matter.

In a nutshell.

The end.