September 26, 2008

Here's Your Change

Last weekend I went to the grocery store. Let me just say, before I get into the actual point of this whole story, that I really enjoy going to the grocery store. It is a joyous occasion. And I don't know why. There's nothing that spectacular about it - I just really like buying groceries.

Anyway, I found everything I wanted (oh, and needed, I guess) and headed to the check out. As I was handing the check out guy my basket and bags, he noticed the sticker on my bag and read it.

"I will vote?" he said.
I was caught a little off guard. No one had noticed, or at least said anything about it before. I said something along the lines of "oh yeah, a friend gave it to me," before trailing off completely.

"So you're not going to vote?"
"No, I am. Definitely am."
"Oh, ok."

Then came what now seems the inevitable....

"You're not voting for McCain, are you?"

I didn't know exactly what to say. No, I was not, and am not voting for John McCain, but for some reason it felt like a very personal question. Me of little confrontation didn't particularly want to get into a "What's Wrong With America" argument with a person that could easily charge me triple the price for the plums I dearly wanted without me noticing, thank you very much. But I had to answer his question. He was waiting.

"Um, no. I'm not." (cautious chuckle)
"Good. You didn't seem completely crazy, but I thought I'd check."

Hm. As affirming as it is to be told by a complete stranger that you're not quite as crazy as you should be, given family precedent, I didn't particularly like where he was going with this.

I have this crazy idea that people who vote differently than I aren't completely psychotic. I know, he's redacting his crazy statement as I type, but honestly, I don't have a problem with diversity. Stupidity is another matter, and I think we can all agree all political parties have a great deal of that to contend with.

I guess what bothered me most about this whole situation was the fact that he seemed to go from 0 to 60 on the defensive scale and I wasn't even disagreeing with him.

I like discourse. I like intelligent, pluralistic conversations where people can throw out new ideas and thoughts and not get yelled at because they're expressing something different from the "acceptable" course of action. I question my leaders, what they believe and how they act, and there's nothing wrong with saying you like a few things about the guy you're not voting for. We should be able to express our feelings, our doubts, what we know and what we want to learn more about and in turn, be open to the same sentiments from others.

These conversations, unfortunately, are few and far between. Today, for some reason, a difference in opinion is equivalent to being someone's enemy and that, more than a "third term" and more than a $700 billion IOU absolutely scares the hell out of me.

Why? Well, the words "We're" and "Screwed" come to mind...

September 14, 2008

Fun Fact

The word vomit as we know it is derived from the latin vomitoria referring to passageways that led to a tier of seats in an amphitheater or coliseum. It was a very efficient system for getting patrons to their seats, but more importantly, in the event of an emergency, people could exit from them quickly - in essence spewing out of the arena in a matter of minutes.

Who knew?

September 13, 2008

Welcome to America

A few days ago I decided I wouldn't write about Sarah Palin on this blog. I think it's old news, and since the world is still suspended somewhere in the universe, whizzing frantically around the sun, certainly there are other, more interesting things to talk about.

So I'm not going to jump on the band wagon and rehash everything that's been said about her career or her family, or even the fact that she does look a little bit like Tina Fey.

I am, however, going to come very close to the subject to say that as much as most of America (myself included) keeps talking about how ludicrous it is that women will vote for her only because she herself is a woman, and that she has no experience for the job etc. that might not really matter.

Why? Because we live in America.

I remember hearing this story four years ago from a friend of my parents, in the midst of the Kerry/Bush race.

My parents friend knew a woman that had been on an airplane - I don't remember where they were flying - but she was sitting across the aisle from John and Teresa Heinz Kerry. This woman, we'll call her Jan, said that during the entire flight John Kerry was talking to his wife, and while she wasn't really listening in on their conversation, it was obvious he was trying to explain himself or apologize for something. Mrs. Kerry didn't even acknowledge him. The entire flight she gave him the cold shoulder, not responding, not arguing just pulling the very successful Ican'thearyouIcan'thearyou maneuver.

The most interesting part of this story, though, is Jan's response.

She said, "I'd rather have Laura."

Even at the time, when I couldn't vote yet and for that matter wasn't even sure of what I believed, I found this disconcerting. To me, since Laura Bush and Teresa Kerry weren't actually running for anything, I didn't really care who they were. Sure, they matter to their husbands and families, but certainly there had to be something more important to Jan (and, I guess, to America) than the attitude of a spouse on one day of her entire life.

Then again, we live in America. We're interested, whether we want to admit it or not, in the story of it all. This election isn't merely a match-up between the Democrats and Republicans, it's a contest. A team sport.

I think, for a lot of Americans, it's a contest of who is the "better person." I know who I'm voting for, but still, I like thinking about the descriptions of the candidates without any names or affiliations. It seems a pretty accurate slice of America.

A Harvard alum who came from nothing but a diverse background; A survivor, truly, of both war and cancer; A widower, family man and frequent patron of public transit; And a working mother with a large family from a small town.

I think you have to admit, as far as stories go, that one is pretty good.