Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Opening My Eyes to the World of Politics

The following is a guest post submitted by Gary Walker, a CCV Burlington student in his third semester. He wrote this piece for his Fall 2008 English Composition class with Deborah Straw.

Growing up, I really never paid any attention to politics. In fact I often ignored it as something for older people to enjoy. In my neighborhood, the topic of the conversation was never why Scooter Libby lost his job, or how Elliot Spitzer disgraced himself by entertaining prostitutes. Most things I would see on the cover of a magazine and immediately dismiss because this is so far fetched from the reality I live in.

A reason why politics is not so attractive in my neighborhood is because there are always things that are more important than spending time worrying about politics. For instance some people are single mothers in college that have to work very hard on school work, so they have little time to get into politics. This is just one example of many, which echo throughout a lot of urban environments.

By no means am I saying that all people where I grew up are not into politics, I’m saying that I was not. I’m sure there’s a fair share of older people in my neighborhood that are glued to NBC, ABC and CNN. In fact, my grandmother is one of those people. By far I think for the most part politicians look at urbanites in America as people who don’t vote and are out of touch with things that are going on in the government and congress today. I think for a while that was a pretty fair argument.

It’s no secret that urban environments consist of mostly working class to impoverished minorities. Despite working hard from 9 to 5, they find it hard to make financial progress, living paycheck to paycheck. It is also no secret that the working class people are the backbone of our Democratic society and often work hard to do their part for America. When they need a little help with their daily lives to get by, they often find themselves on their own.

One reason for these feelings could be because in urban or impoverished neighborhoods, there are never any politicians coming to their aid. A few examples of this are Hurricane Katrina, the murder of Sean Bell, the Jena 6, and the list goes on. So many things hinder or hamstring the opportunity for a person in an urban environment that it is easier to stay focused on day-to-day operations than to dwell on things that are out of their control.

When things like Katrina and the Sean Bell murder happen, I think it builds on the distrust that some people in America harbor for politicians and their government. In return a lot of people tend to believe politics is rigged and that if you vote, it would not count anyway, so they can’t see the point in voting. Time after time, they go to the poll to vote, hoping they will get someone in office that will help average citizens. Time after time, they realize it is all political rhetoric and politicians are just telling them what they want to hear.

Recently all this has changed for me. It all started with the candidacy of Barrack Obama. In the last race for the white house I voted for John Kerry not because of his stance on issues or his values but because I was under the impression that he would bring help to average working class Americans. In a way this was a bad decision, not because he would not deliver on promises, but I really did not investigate whether Kerry comes close to the morals and values I believe in.

Believe it or not before Barrack Obama decided to run, I never heard of a primary race. In addition to that, there were many more things that I had never heard of like caucuses, electoral votes or a convention. Realizing this, I found myself wondering what other things I had missed over time by not being involved in politics. Often now I try to go back in time to find other presidential races, searching for things that I might have missed or discounted as irrelevant.

This presidential race I decided to get the facts on my own. So what I did was go buy John McCain’s book, Faith of our Fathers. In addition to that I also purchased three books based on Barrack Obama: Dreams of our Fathers, Audacity of Hope, and The Improbable Quest by John K Wilson. The reason I did this is because I wanted the facts in their own words without the idealism or spin you get from Fox or other new networks.

After reading all four books and not before reading all the books, I decided that Obama was the lesser of the two evils. Reading the books, I realized he stands for some of the same things I believe in like pro choice for women, universal health care and the thought of revamping the free trade system. Personally I like McCain. I think he has done outstanding service for the country and is a very funny and likable man, but when it comes to his policies and political agenda, this is where we don’t see eye to eye.

In my opinion, if you are a part of the middle class, a woman, or live in an urban environment, particularly if you’re African American, it just does not make sense for you to vote for John McCain. My reasoning behind this is that I have a sister; John McCain does not support equal work for equal pay, which means my sister will not get paid the same for doing the same job as me. Also John McCain does not support abortion, which could contribute to why some families in urban environments have to work harder, often enduring a lot of stress. Another issue where we don’t see eye to eye would be for me, as I am an African American, is he voted against the Martin Luther King holiday three times and conveniently had a change of heart when running for president.

The candidacy of Barrack Obama has opened my eyes to the world of politics, but I still find myself not enthusiastic about politicians. In light of Barrack Obama running for president, I have now been open to the thoughts of politics, and I am more aware of the political process. With that said, I often find myself watching this presidential race with a microscope for words, phrases and terms that are uncommon to me. Even if Americans don’t elect Barrack Obama, the candidate for change, he has brought change to me by opening my eyes to politics.

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