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.