FernWithy (fernwithy) wrote,

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And yet more politics

After much hemming and hawing, I've decided to keep myself to myself on hot button political issues; this isn't the place for them. I'll restrain myself to commentary on education, research, and the arts in society, things which I consider to transcend politics. That said, with all the ruckus about the Iowa caucus "thinning the race" and all kinds of hoopla about Dean, Edwards, Kerry, and... um, whoever the favorite fourth is this week... I thought it might be good to look at what I'm looking for in a candidate, hot button issues aside.

Quick, unrelated edit: Fanfic writers who frequent here, check out gnomi's journal, post-Arisia #2, for some great resource sites.

My issues
  • I want a candidate who is passionate about education, in a productive way. That's what sets this apart from any candidate I've seen in awhile. We're in trouble on grammar--Good Lord, they don't even teach grammar, as I learned to my most unpleasant surprise--in math, in general civics, and in history. This is not something that can be fixed with money. It doesn't hurt, and fixing up schools which are in physically awful shape can only be a good thing, but the problem is philosophical. I want a candidate who recognizes what the problem is and says, flat out, that it needs solving.

  • I want someone who is unabashedly pro research and exploration, who says, "We're going to Mars because that's what human beings bloody do when there's something interesting out there to see." No apologetics, no cant about collateral benefits or defense interests. As a general society (scientists and space fans aside), we've been sitting on our duffs long enough. It's time to get psyched again, just because it's interesting. That collateral benefits will accrue eventually is nice, but I really want a candidate who doesn't pretend that's the main reason for going.

I don't have a hot issue with arts in society, but I'd love a President who knows his way around a gallery and places genuine value on the arts as a priority in their own right.

The personality.
Let's face it. The President is powerful, but he's not omnipotent. Checks and balances prevent, thank Heaven, any guarantee of any issue going through, no matter how passionate the President is. What he or she is, though, is a face the nation puts out, the person who represents us to ourselves and the rest of the world. (That our view of ourselves and the rest of the world's view of us are now and then at odds makes this a difficult position to be in.)

So, here's a list of things I want to see in a candidate, followed by a list of things I don't want.

Please. Just, please. Someone, somewhere.
  • Enthusiasm and optimism. If there are two things that define America's personality, they are those. The President--and a candidate for the office--should have a Yankee can-do attitude and a belief that things can get better. I don't mean Pollyannism, I mean simply an attitude that all is not lost and that we have the power to be a force for good and kindness in the world.

  • On a related note, I want to see a candidate whose approach to a problem--any given problem--makes sense. Is that too much to ask? I don't mean that I have to agree with her solution, or even that she has to hit the right solution on the first try. But instead of taking a problem in her lap and weeping over it, I want her to frown at it for a moment in a puzzled way, then start breaking it down into its constituent elements and trying to find a way to get whatever it is working again. This means thinking outside of the ideological box.

  • Charisma is not a minor matter. The president should be able to energize people. A democratic nation working voluntarily for a common goal is a force to be reckoned with, and such a thing needs a leader. This is where Kennedy detractors miss an important point: the man knew how to make people feel like they were part of the country, part of a great project. Lincoln had charisma. Washington had it coming out of his pores, apparently--Abigail Adams, not a gushy sort of woman, gushed about him. There is nothing wrong or immoral about charisma. It's a necessary trait in a leader.

  • Grace and kindness--goodness of heart--count. No person is perfect, ever. But I'd like to see someone who is honestly fighting the good fight with himself. Rather than self-righteous prattling about what's wrong with the other guy, I'd like to see a candidate who is concerned about his own soul and behavior. I don't mean that in a daytime talk show sort of way--I don't want to hear about his particular struggles with whatever the popular vice of the week is--but in the sense of seeing him doing his best to behave courteously toward the people he meets, both those for and those against his positions. He should be trying faithfully to discharge the duties of his position rather than investing himself in trying to get another run in four years.

  • Assume the best. I don't mean this in a naive way, but I've discovered that most people really are stumbling around, trying to do what's right and occasionally failing, rather than cackling evilly and trying to hurt as many people as possible. Knowing this helps when you're dealing with people who disagree with you, and may well help a President get things accomplished. After all, if she's trying to convince teachers to change the philosophy on grammar in education, what in the world will throw up a challenge faster than saying, "You people aren't doing your jobs!"? It makes a lot more sense to say, "Look, I know where you're going, but this doesn't seem to be working out quite right. Would you be willing to try something else for a little while?"

No more! I'm begging you!
These are things I can't stand anymore.
  • I have had it with negative campaigning. I don't care what's wrong with the other guy. Do you think I don't know any given campaign will be finding as bad a spin as possible? I'll read the newspapers to find out what an incumbent is up to, and take a look at a new candidate's record to see what he's been up to, and I am quite capable of deciding for myself whether or not I believe it's a failure. So, a candidate should tell me why she's the right person for the job, not why her opponent isn't. If she can't think of any good reason why she's well-qualified without resorting to, essentially, "Well, I'm not him, at least," then I don't see much reason to vote for her. And, to go back to "grace and kindness" above, it is extremely ungracious to spend all your time insulting someone else. In direct confrontation, why not do something novel, like assuming that your opponent also has good intentions, but you disagree about his methods for achieving those intentions? Nothing would win my heart faster than a Democratic candidate who said of his Republican opponent, during the campaign, "Joe Schmo is a good man, and his idea of growing artichokes in the asteroid belt is a great leap forward for mankind, but I think it would be better achieved by _________." I mean, sure, there are people who get off on the invective, but I think there are more people out there who would appreciate two candidates who showed one another respect, no matter how severe their disagreements.

  • Bandwagon causes. If you don't have an opinion on something, no matter what the newspapers are saying, don't formulate one and pretend it's always been there and is the only obvious stance. If an issue comes up quickly, I don't want a President who pretends he's omni-prescient and has been thinking about it for his entire life. A president should be able to make up his mind quickly, but that's a different matter than mouthing platitudes that he thinks voters will like about an issue to which he really hasn't given much thought.

  • Leggo my Eggo. Really. Stop waffling. If a candidate really isn't sure what her stance is on a subject, then she should say so, and say she's considering it. And mean it--learn about it, listen to both sides, and maybe come out with a reasoned statement after said learning. And, yes, she should be willing to reconsider if circumstances change, but she should explain why. But just going with whatever the polls say her opinion should be? I can't respect that. Someone who disagrees with me in a principled and well thought out way is someone I can respect. Someone who just says "Yeah, what you said" because she thinks I'll vote for her? My assumption is that she'll say the same thing to the next person, and the next.

This concludes my political rant for the day.

Today's story is, appropriately enough, politically themed. It's a Star Wars story, taking place around the time of ANH.
The Flight to Rison's Deep
Summary: After the destruction of Alderaan, an Imperial boarding school housing the sons of Death Star officers comes under attack by murderous rioters.

And, in observance of MLK Day, I'd like to quote this from an article by Orson Scott Card in The Ornery American. It's one of the most insightful things I've read about King's impact on history.

But Not in America

It could have happened here. In the 1950s, with African-American soldiers returning from war to find that in their own country they were still kept from decent employment, harassed and persecuted, and occasionally lynched or mobbed, while Southern legislators, governors, and Congressmen fought for every shred of Jim Crow they could hang on to, it was only a matter of time before the angriest of America's blacks took up arms and began fighting for independence.

Like the Catholic Irish in Ulster. Like the Kosovars. Like the Kurds. Like angry, mistreated, oppressed, hopeless people in countries all over the world.

But we didn't have that civil war.

Instead, we had the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who embraced the nonviolent methods of Gandhi and fought his people's war in the media, appealing to the conscience of America instead of fighting it out with bullets.

Because he prevented that war, it's easy to forget that tens of thousands of Americans are alive today because of him. It's easy to ignore how black and white cultures in America have interpenetrated, how relatively safe and peaceful our lives are because of his life's work.

There are still neighborhoods where bullets fly, still barriers caused by racism on both sides of the color line, still demagogues trying to fan the flames of hate and blame. But the line itself is just a line, not a fence, not a wall, and even the line is growing blurry in the minds and hearts of our children.

That's why we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. His gifts were given to us all.

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