pointedview (pointedview) wrote,

Political bumper stickers don't make a positive impression on this independent voter

I heard about the alleged robbery of a McCain supporter almost 24 hours ago, courtesy of Patricia. The story sounded tremendously implausible, yet I was hesitant to write about it because I did not want to be accused of anti-McCain bias.

I was reassured to learn that my hunch was correct, and that the woman did, indeed, make the whole thing up. She apparently has a history of mental health problems.

I will say, though, that I'm tired of the election. I'm past ready for it to be over.

Truth be told, I don't much care for political bumper stickers or yard signs. Let's be clear about the wording I'm using there: I dislike them. That doesn't mean I don't think they have a right to be there. I absolutely support the right to free speech. However, I find the visual clutter and all the wasted paper grating. Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the campaigns aren't terribly conscientous about recycling once the voting's done?

Partisanship, or the lack of it, begins with each of us. I don't want to know my neighbors' political views from a sign in their front yards. I don't want to be yelled at by a bumper sticker emblazoned with some trite political zinger (I don't have any stickers on my car). Maybe it makes you feel better, but chances are, you're annoying nearly 50% of the people behind you in traffic (and perhaps close to 50% go "Yeah!" when they see it, but again, no impact because they've already made up their minds). Maybe you don't care, but really, what good does it do? Are you really shifting anyone's perspective? Okay, you support Candidate X, and yay for you -- would your support somehow be an iota less for not having a sticker on your car? I fail to see how it's really productive: wouldn't working a call bank, registering voters, or helping get people to the polls have a more meaningful impact? I just find it kind of self-indulgent, especially those folks who don't remove them within 30 days after the election. Sure, you can have some time to grieve or celebrate, depending on the outcome. I'm fine with that. But you people still driving around with Kerry/Edwards and Bush/Cheney stickers need to step up. If you knew you'd be too lazy to remove them in a timely fashion, you shouldn't have put them there in the first place.

I'd really rather get to know you a bit socially before finding out your political beliefs. I find political discussion at work to be a terrible idea, unless, of course, you happen to work for a political organization. I've never seen an ounce of good come from it, only divisiveness and rancor. If someone initiates a political discussion at the water cooler, I usually make generic, non-committal, affable comments so as not to anger the person; I'll talk quietly with someone I consider a friend at work if it's not likely we'll be overheard, but typically, I don't start such conversations. I'm not one to go looking for a fight, and flawed though I am, I do try not to defecate where I eat, as the saying goes. Workplace politics can get edgy enough without throwing local and national politics into the mix.

Can't we talk about something else? Don't we have some other interests? Food? Television shows? The well-being of our families? Seen any good movies? What kind of music do you like? Do you collect something? Crochet or knit? Surely we can find a topic that's a little less heated, and that will result in an actual dialogue? People are dismissive of small talk, but I've never heard of anyone coming to blows over it. It doesn't have to be small, either. We can have wonderful philosophical discussions without ever bringing political parties into it. To quote Judith Martin, let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.

Blogs are different. People who read them actively choose to do so. Debate societies are a totally and completely appropriate place for this sort of dialogue. Public forums can be dandy if handled with respect. News sites, have at it; I read voraciously, but I seek to find out for myself. Your bumper sticker? There really isn't room for your candidate's economic plan there. These are not sports teams: choosing to support a candidate is a serious decision that impacts domestic and foreign policy for at least four years. Painting your shield red or blue, shaking your spear, and yelling at the opposing tribe isn't particularly helpful.

I feel that discussing politics in places like work, the family dinner table, or a place of worship ... anywhere you're more likely to create tension than to actually persuade is a no-no. I occasionally feel reluctant to see my in-laws because of this; I disagree with my parents sometimes, too, but we respect each another enough to believe that each has made a well-reasoned decision and don't typically discuss it. No, unless I feel like I can trust you (and if I know you in real life and you know about my LJ, I definitely trust you), I tend to be friendly but reserved about that sort of thing.

From my limited perspective, America seemed to become more partisan sometime near the end of Reagan's second term. I don't profess to know exactly what changed or why. Maybe there was a lull after the uprisings of the Sixties, and the lull ended. Maybe it was Black Monday in 1987. I have no idea.

People complain about partisan politics, but somehow don't acknowledge that they're part of the problem. The four men at the table next to us a few nights ago at dinner ... really, I couldn't decide if I disapproved more of the fortysomething male wearing a baseball cap into a restaurant or his obnoxious political t-shirt. Both were boorish. Why be disruptive of other diners' enjoyment? Why antagonize, daring someone to say something? Why go looking for a confrontation? It's selfish incivility. My husband tells me that these people just don't know any better and have no idea that they are being rude, but I suspect that they simply don't care if they are or not, and it's precisely that lack of caring, that lack of awareness and consideration, the complete hostility to perspectives that do not validate their own that exacerbates the problematic political climate that we have today.

I long for civil discourse. Civil, intelligent, well-reasoned dialogue. Not sound bites and bumper sticker slogans. I want people to have a sense of appropriateness, of there being a time and place for everything. I'm interested in talking with people who have invested some time in researching candidates. If you really want to bring up politics with me, show me that you are capable of critical thought and analysis. If you're someone who's just going to automatically tick off every check box on a ballot by party line without doing any examination, we're wasting time and breath. (Please note that if you're reading this, I'm probably not talking about you - I respect and appreciate your input because you usually have source material to back your statements up. We might differ in perspective, but I think everyone here cares enough to locate information of substance.)

Really, though, I'd like to just talk. Harmoniously. Pleasantly. Peacefully.

And even though everyone who is reading this is doing so voluntarily, I think I'm probably going to refrain from making political posts until after the election, because I'm fairly sure that all of you know for whom you're voting by this point.

Tags: elections, etiquette/protocol, rants
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