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The Last One to the Party 
14th-Nov-2007 01:02 pm
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I've been thinking more about politics more recently than I do on a usual basis.
I avoid it, not because I don't find it interesting, but because of the devisiveness that I see whenever politics is brought up. The ad hominem attacks by either side, in US politics, or from the various sides, in UK politics, are ridiculous and are fit more for 3 year old temper tantrums than for people trying to persuade.

This was probably due to the talk of politics over dinner on Friday night at which we were joined by a 20-year-old gay candidate for the Scottish National Parliament. He is running as a Tory. Which strikes me as almost as odd as a gay man running as a Republican. Good luck to him, I'm not eligible to vote for him even if I was already a British citizen since he's running for Aberdeen North, apparently.
Wish I could remember his name. He was charming.

I looked at the profile for the US presidential candidates last night as I was going to bed.
Honestly, as grass roots as people say that the various candidates are, they really don't know what's going on every where. Or they do, but they don't understand it.
(For example, I'm a Southerner, I'm Christian, and I'm more conservative than liberal on many things, but I'm vehemently pro gay civil rights. Didn't expect that, did you, Southern profilers?)

I came across a poem today by G.K. Chesterton. It's probably familiar to Brits, especially the line 'For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet', but as I said, I'm the last one to the party.
I liked these lines:
We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.


I firmly believe that America has become too diverse in its goals, backgrounds, religious beliefs, and political views for any one person to make the majority happy.
(Though, I wish that religous beliefs didn't have to be included in that list, I'm such a separationist.)

The candidates this time around will have a tough time of it. I'm glad I'm not one of them.

If I had one word of advice to give to any of them, it would be this: don't use scare tactics to win the election. Don't try to make one portion of the population despise another.
comments 
(Deleted comment)
14th-Nov-2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
Definitely!

I know we have different reasons for wanting the focus off religion, but regardless, we still want it off.

I think that religious views don't really matter much in the UK because there isn't much apart from Anglicanism at the moment. I do see a lot of consternation over Islam, though.
(Deleted comment)
14th-Nov-2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
I always wonder if someone should be checking Bush for schizophrenia... *facepalm*
14th-Nov-2007 09:48 pm (UTC)
You should be able to make decisions and form opinions without paying any attention to whether it goes well with your belief or disbelief.

But I think that to many people who deeply hold a religious perspective (whichever religion it is), their belief *defines* who they are and what opinions they form and decisions they take. It may not shape *how* they do those things, but I think it shapes the conclusions they come to. Jimmy Carter, a president I admire tremendously, came to the policies he pursued in large part because of the personal beliefs he held, informed by his religion, about the need for peace and justice in the world and the role of government in helping to provide for its citizens.

So I guess I'd be very surprised if a deeply religious person *didn't* pay attention to whether a decision or opinion went well with their disbelief, whether they are political officeholder or a voter decidding on who to vote for.
(Deleted comment)
14th-Nov-2007 11:00 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm not expressing this well. Religious belief is, for many people, not just a suit they put on. It's who they are. If you believe a moral truth, really believe it as a result of study, prayer, contemplation, you've *done* the stepping back (and forward). You're not just going to a manual, looking up "homeless, government assistance to" and seeing what the prescribed policy is. Yes, there are some people who do that, but there are also many people who are a lot more deeply engaged with their faith.

People get a belief in the rightness of peace and justice *from* somewhere. It doesn't just naturally occur in every human mind. We may get it from religious upbringing or tradition or from a secular ethical upbringing or tradition. We may get it from personal study of philosophy or law or history, or from prayer, or from life experience. I guess I'm just not sure why one method or another of arriving at a conclusion is thought to be better than another. I'm not going to vote for a candidate because he or she is a Southern Baptist (or a Muslim), but if that person says that they believe in certain values *because* of their faith, that doesn't make me think "Gee, couldn't they figure that out for themselves?"
(Deleted comment)
15th-Nov-2007 01:06 pm (UTC)
Actually it does.

See, I disagree. The practical argument that you make is all very well, but it doesn't explain why societies have been and continue to be unjust and cruel in places where people don't share the values you are expressing. It simply doesn't work for someone who is powerful--if they have power, they have *no* incentive to be just or peaceful, other than (a) the fear of losing that power or (b) a moral structure that comes from *somewhere*.

I don't make decisions based on my atheism

That may be true, but it doesn't sound like it to me from this discussion. It sounds as if you *are* making decisions based on your atheism and what sounds (from a very brief discussion and not knowing you personally) like an inability to understand the religious viewpoint.

If you don't have that personal greatness to be more than just what you happen to believe or disbelieve in, than I just find that sad.

Whereas to me, if someone is prepared to sacrifice everything they believe in for ego, the last thing I want is for them to be in a position of power.
14th-Nov-2007 11:06 pm (UTC)
in the UK because there isn't much apart from Anglicanism at the moment

Och, say that at St. Machar's, I dare ye! :-)
14th-Nov-2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
I have done. ;)

Coincidentally, I'm singing there on the 12th of December.
14th-Nov-2007 01:17 pm (UTC)
Totally off the political topic but have you ever read any of the Father Brown books by GKC? They're rather outdated now but I still like them :)
14th-Nov-2007 01:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't. :)
14th-Nov-2007 02:35 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing Ross Thomson? If so, he's actually standing for the UK parliament, not the Scottish one and will be running against my best man.
14th-Nov-2007 05:14 pm (UTC)
Could be. I'm a little confused when people talk about parliament. :)

Who's your best man? And by best man, you mean the one who stood with you at your wedding, yes?
14th-Nov-2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
Didn't expect that, did you, Southern profilers?

To be fair, that's quite an anomaly in the larger scheme of things. :) Obviously there are going to be some people who don't fit the general mold with any typology, but by and large, Southern conservatives who are Christian tend to be against gay marriage (if not outwardly prejudiced against gays full stop).
14th-Nov-2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
I feel as though, not matter where I grew up or what my other ideas may be, I can't support hatred towards my friends. I can't accept some homosexuals and not others.

And, off topic, your icon is fabulous. Every time I see it, I giggle. :)
14th-Nov-2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
Modern politics is bullshit. Plain and simple, and sad but true.

UK or US, doesn't matter. No-one works for the good of the country anymore, or chooses the best thing for a nation/world... it's all personal agendas.

That said - I'm going to an Obama meeting tonight. I may not be able to vote in this country, but that doesn't mean I can't take an interest in it...
14th-Nov-2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
what do you think of Mitt Romney?
s
14th-Nov-2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Not keen.

I think he can't decide on issues.
14th-Nov-2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
Politicians who put too much emphasis on how grass roots and down-to-earth they are, are irritating. So he's happily married for twenty-five years, he has two charming children and goes to church every Sunday, congratulations, but I don't care. I prefer politicians who have a concrete idea about how to make things better - if I agree is a different story - to those who just pat me on the back.
14th-Nov-2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
I wish that there were some easy way to separate the US into half a dozen or a dozen different countries. It's really gotten to the point where I think we're hardly a nation any more. The problem with that idea, I think, is that the boundaries between different populations are less geographic than socio-cultural. That said, it might still work better than what we have now.

Hearing about Neta's experience working in Congress as a staffer has been pretty educational. It suggests (at least what I've been able to gather--she might tell me I'd got it quite wrong) that congresspeople and their staffs work really hard to understand all the factors involved in issues that come to their attention or that they decide are important priorities, but that at the end of the day they hear most from those who come to talk to (or at) them--the same story since Roman times, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I think the way the presidential election system has evolved, where the party nomination process has become just another part of the election (I run into people all the time who don't actually grasp that primaries are *private* party functions, rather than public elections) is bad for the system. It creates a situation in which candidates have to assume one guise for the party voters to get the nomination and then turn around and become someone entirely different in order to win votes in the general election. And, of course, in the meantime they also have to be a third person in order to please the people with huge amounts of money. Either a candidate is two-faced, or he/she is so bland and vague that no one has any idea what they really stand for.

One of the things I like about Obama is the emphasis he places in his speeches on being a president for everyone, and how much he believes in finding solutions to problems by working together with others, instead of simply attacking everyone who doesn't support him. Of course, we've heard a lot of that before ("uniter, not a divider") but I really beleive he means it and would try to do it.

But the last half century of American politics have really been about the success of hate politics, so it must be very hard for politicians to throw what seems to be a winning strategy out the window in favour of principle.

I love that poem. I had not read it either; thanks for linking to it.
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