In case you have gone through the entire day without noticing, it is Tuesday, November 2:: Election Day. (Or it would have been if my internet had not failed and I had been able to post this, as intended, on Tuesday.) Yes, at long last the midterm elections are upon us. Unfortunately, I will not be fulfilling my civic duty and participating in this election as I have failed to receive my absentee ballot despite repeated attempts to have one sent to me. Perhaps somewhere out there are six absentee ballots addressed to me, doomed to be left forever blank. Maybe someone is collecting them for when I achieve some measure of fame. Or possibly they are lost in the black abyss of the international postal system. For those of you have not yet had the opportunity to get to the polls: GO! This election is very important, a fact that can be clearly seen even here in Europe
Currently, Al-Jazeera English has a huge banner displayed across the top of its website emblazoned with the message 'Battle Lines: US Votes' as if this were a day of war. I wish I could say that they are being a bit dramatic but, unfortunately, they are relatively spot on. The Democrats and Republicans (and those crazy Tea Party-ers) are in conflict over, well, everything. Personally, I've grown rather tired of both mainstream parties acting like petulant children. They refuse to negotiate for fear of compromising their 'values' (whatever those are these days) or making concessions to the other side, whom they regard as 'the enemy'. Thousands of dollars are spent by both sides in their efforts to denounce the other. Mass media adds to the problem by playing up the hype. Newspapers, news channels, popular TV shows - whatever their particular slant, they all have a hand in criticizing the other side. In the meantime, the US is tearing itself apart. The American public has taken to displaying its anger and frustrations in a very overt way. Neighbors of opposing political views rip down each other’s campaign signs. Thousands of private citizens turn out for demonstrations bearing signs that are often derogatory, offensive, or racist in nature. And this is a phenomenon not only limited to the Tea Party or Republicans – Democrats do it too.
What is particularly disturbing to me is how far we will go in our desire to seek out scapegoats, to take a group or idea that we do not understand and blame it for our misery. We blame the Republicans, the Democrats, the Tea Party…but we do not stop there. No, we go further: we blame the Mexicans, the illegal immigrants, homosexuals, Muslims, foreigners in general. These groups are the Irish and Jews of the 21st century. They are groups that have recently assumed a sizable minority in the US or have otherwise been ‘thrust into the limelight’ due to current events (eg 9/11 and the increased resentment towards the Muslim community). Hitherto this time, Americans had generally been able to ignore them and had therefore made little attempt to understand them. But now that times are hard, lack of understanding has changed from suspicion into outright resentment/hatred. Outcries against the building of mosques and heightened anti-immigrant measures are the most prominent examples to come to mind. These groups are not to blame for the current state of the US. We like to think that issues such as immigration, health care, and gay marriage are separate from the economy, but I don’t think that they are. They are issues that are important, yes, but have become more important, radicalized even, when taken in context with the state of our economy. We worry about our economic futures, but because current restoration attempts have been relatively unsuccessful and there is no glaringly obvious ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ to inspire hope, we do not like to admit this. So instead we focus our frustrations on other issues – ones that shouldn’t inspire such violent and hostile reactions, but currently are – and search for the associated scapegoats on whom to place our blame.
(Beware, America. The rest of the world is watching. They have noticed the racist undertones that have crept into mainstream political rhetoric. I have had acquaintances tell me that they are afraid to go to the US because they have seen how Muslims are treated on TV or have read articles about the incredibly irrational behavior of supposedly ‘everyday’ Americans at the large political rallies. (That said, I’ve encountered few individuals who actually disapproved of the idea of the ‘Rally to Restore Sanity/Inspire Fear’. On the other hand, an unexpectedly large number of people have expressed extreme disease at the Tea Party phenomenon.) Just as we can make fun of the failure of the Greek economy or laugh at the French strikes, so too can other countries find severe faults in the US. And believe me, they do.)
Yes, America is in trouble. After several years, our economy is still repressed, the health care debate has confused everyone, and the job market, to be quite frank, sucks. Are the Republicans solely responsible for this? No. Have the Democrats failed entirely because they have not been able to fix it during the 2 years they’ve held power? No. Americans, as a collective body, are responsible. There is no ‘magic cure’ for any of these problems. There is no manual given to the President and Congress that provides step-by-step instructions on how to fix an economy. There were many factors that went into the destruction of our economy and there will be no easy solution to restoring it. And there is simply no sense to be had in crying, ‘Well, it would be fixed if the Republicans had won the Presidency’ or ‘Had the Democrats won in 2004…’ because reality is not counterfactual. The ‘what ifs’ in life are interesting to ponder, but are merely that: ‘what ifs’ – possibilities that never occurred and never will. We cannot go back in time (yet). We have to concentrate on what actually happened and use the facts as a starting point from which to start digging ourselves out of this hole.
Not everyone will be satisfied all of the time. I’m upset that all of this nonsense is even occurring but, regardless of this, it will still continue. Just because I have taken the time to write out my thoughts regarding the extremity of the current political situation does not mean that the entire nation is going to stop their debates and say, ‘Right, enough is enough. Rebecca has grown tired of this and so we must stop and make her happy.’ (I wish this were the case though. Wouldn’t it be neat if I could say ‘Look, world. I’m unhappy with the current situation in Israel & Palestine. Do sort yourself out so that I don’t have to think about it anymore.’ World peace would be achieved so easily! But I digress…) I accept this fact easily enough, especially since it is not that difficult of a concept to grasp, but others seem to have a hard time believing this. ‘Why isn’t the economy fixed? Where are our jobs? Why isn’t there health care? Why do we have to have national health care?’ The list of complaints is absolutely endless. Americans have the right to freedom of speech, and they are definitely not shy in exercising it. But the effort that our politicians use in debating each other is time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Just think: if politicians were actually able to stop accusing each other, set aside their political agendas, and sit down to think about what is good for America…we might actually have a few more solutions than we currently do. But as it stands, our political leaders seem to be more concerned about winning favor within their parties and wooing voters so as to secure their chances at re-election. ‘Think about what is good for the US and cooperate with the other side? Preposterous!’
In other news, my parents apparently sent me a package. Unfortunately, this package, much like my absentee ballot, is floating around the abyss of the international postal system. Perhaps there is an entity similar to that which lives in my university’s washer and, without fail, eats one of my socks at every wash. Except this one eats mail. Hmmm…an interesting thought. The package has been MIA now for several weeks and I’ve all but given up hope of ever actually seeing it. This is a bit sad since I do love receiving mail. Oh well. At least my Jiffy peanut butter was not contained in said package.
The past few days have been interesting, to say the least. I went to Oxford for work-related purposes on Monday, but was able to fill my afternoon off with a mixture of good cider, good company, and good conversation. The overall result was an extremely pleasant experience. Maybe if I am lucky, it will happen again in another year and a half. We shall see. Decidedly less pleasant was the journey home. The bus got stuck in the London rush-hour traffic. I had heard that it was horrible but, living in the city centre and utilizing self-ambulatory forms of transportation, had never actually witnessed it. ‘It couldn’t possibly be worse than DC traffic,’ I naively thought to myself. Oh no. It was much, much worse. The trip from Ox usually takes 1 ½ hours. Today it took 4. Unpleasant!
London has been emulating the French lately. In the past month, both the Tube (London Underground) and Fire Department have gone on strike on several occasions. Since I walk everywhere save for when I have to get to Regent's Park for XC practice, the Tube strike does not particularly bother me. The only foreseeable downside is that there will be more people walking to work and, inevitably, more slow-walkers for me to have to navigate around. Somewhat more worrisome is the Fire Department going on strike. It may be just me and my history with devastating fire, but I find it a bit troubling to think of what might happen in the event of a fire in my building on strike day. Will the Fire Dept. simply refuse to come? I am all for making the public aware of the fact that the services they take for granted are not, in fact, given. (After all, one can't truly appreciate what one has until one has lost it - a lesson that I have learned several times over.) But I feel that there has to be alternative ways for the Fire Dept. to express its frustrations other than simply not turning up during a fire. Sure, this would be rather effective in forcing people to realize the value of the firefighters. The downside is that this realization would potentially result in the considerable loss of lives and property. Luckily for me, the latest Fire Dept. strike was scheduled for yesterday whilst I was in Oxford. (And no, my building did not burn down in my absence.) The Tube strike is scheduled from 7pm tonight to 6am Thursday morning. It will be interesting to see how this effects people since the other strikes have been relatively minor (less than a full day in length).
1. I've been seriously loving the beats of Magnetic Man (especially their mix with John Legend "Getting Nowhere"), Tinie Tempah, and Katy B. Sometimes I listen to their music to get me pumped for note-taking or in the mornings when I don't particularly feel like doing anything.
2. My insomnia persists, although I've found that if I push myself to the absolute limits of exhaustion then I sleep like a baby. Unfortunately, this isn't enough incentive for me to wake each morning at 6:30am and begin to try to go to sleep at 2:30am.
3. My second XC race of the season is tomorrow at Richmond Park. \
4. The Harry Potter movie is coming out soon! I just wish that I had someone to go see it with me. :(
Sidenote: November 7th is the War Studies Halloween Party (yes, we are a bit slow in observing holidays). Do I go as a Bond Girl (to satisfy my new-found desire to be a spy) or a member of the Tea Party? Bond Girl would be a fun costume to pull together (especially since I can wear my fake-leather tights), but the Tea Party one would fulfill the party theme of 'scary'. Decisions, decisions. ((Also known as: How many people do I care to offend that night?))