Wednesday 3 August 2016

Ballots and Beer

Here's the thing about Trump: I find him repugnant, but I also don't think he can get the job done. And those are really two very separate things. 

I'm not one of those "I'd like to have a beer with them" kind of voters; if someone is both a competent legislator and endearing, that's a darling combo, but I'm also open to the idea that I could find someone personally repellant and they could still be good in office. In general, our government works on coalitions, consensus and compromise, so it's beneficial to have a personality amenable to that, but that's not necessarily the same thing as me being enamoured with their public persona.

The reverse is also true. Someone can seem really nice and not get my vote because I don't get the whiff of potential accomplishment off of them. And by "whiff," I mean some combination of actual record of service combined with the kind of intelligence it takes to get things done. I want my legislators to have a talent for building cooperation, and, when that fails, a keen eye for Constitutional law and surgical precision for doing the greatest good possible within our often-cumbersome system of checks and balances. That's why Hillary and Barack got my vote, and not Bernie. Likeability and big ideas aren't enough in my books, for all that they can be inspiring. I need to be convinced that someone can actually do things beyond pithy promises.

Finally, I think there's something of an arranged marriage in all of this. Generally, I find I grow more fond of someone who gains my confidence through their actions; I'm more generous about their imperfections if I get the impression that they are trying to serve well and are open to input from their constituents. I don't have to love them to get into the bargain. Over time, the bond deepens if I feel that they are hardworking, dedicated, and trying to make steady progress.

But, I don't give them the job if I don't think they can do it. And that decision bears no relation to whether I'd buy them a drink. 

Monday 1 August 2016

Poking and Politics

I've seen a number of posts floating around, talking about not losing friends over differences in political beliefs, and I think that's a healthy attitude to have. It's certainly not necessary to agree on everything to be friends--in fact, I think we often learn our most profound lessons from engaging with each other across divides in experience and perspective, and those divides can run deep sometimes. 

Social media is a different matter, though. There's a lovely sort of magic in being able to be in contact with people who've shared passing IRL encounters with us and allow space for a genuine affinity to grow. I've had many beautiful friendships grow thanks to years of communication over this worldwide web. There are people I primarily stay in contact with online who are truly friends and enhance my experience of life every day. 

But, a Facebook friend request does not a friendship make. It takes more than that. The deeper understanding and love that smoothes over disagreements is not necessarily there just because a network shows a connection. The blessing and curse of social media linkages is that they are potentially vast and superficial. 

That said--I find myself editing out people that comport themselves in certain ways online. People that use their digital presence to spread hatred. People who fixate on poison and spew it back out. People actively seeking out rage porn, amplifying the unthinking rage that's cynically stirred up by the nastiest types of demagogues. People resolutely buying timeshares in the post-factual economy. 

I actually think you can believe almost anything politically and present it in a reasonable way. That's how dialogue happens. Most people are not, in fact, crazy--they feel things for a reason. We all get excited about ideas and moments, and I think there's tremendous power in sharing the positives about what moves us. And, I admit, my patience has grown extraordinarily thin with the alternative. 

We're not all going to be sitting around a virtual campfire singing "Kumbaya" hand-in-hand anytime soon. We all have our bubbles, echo chambers and moments of preaching to the choir. But, we can all do our little part to tamp down on the hysteria that compulsive negativity breeds. It's more powerful to run toward something than to live in fear and constantly be fleeing bogeymen.