Monday, September 29, 2008

The Myth of the Apathetic American

I love the street where I live.

First, I live next door to some of the nation’s best children, really. Everyone on the block (except for us) has reproduced and done a damn good job of it. To my left, there’s Shelby and Will. Shelby is a little blonde toddler who really and truly could not be any cuter. Her older brother Will is like Dennis the Menace (without the menace). Often when I walk by he’ll make sure I’ve met his dog or tell me he likes my red car.

To my right live the world’s nicest teenagers. They’re polite, quiet, pleasant. One of them saved my cat’s life one time. Seriously, I was NOT that nice when I was in high school. I was the snotty brat who trampled your rose bushes when I stumbled home drunk in the middle of the night.

The kid’s parents are pretty great too, I can always count on my neighbors to keep a watch on my house, throw a good block party and I’m sure if I needed a cup of sugar that would be available too.

Our lawns are mowed, our cars are sparkling in our driveways. You might come to my street and call us banal and suburban. But one thing you could NOT call us, is apathetic.

A week or so ago I came home and counted ten presidential yard signs. That is just the eight or so houses that make up my block, and I had not yet cast my yard vote.

I may not agree with everyone (ahem McCain folks). But I’d rather live on a street where everyone says how they feel than one where no one dares an opinion any day. I might feel differently if I was the only Obama on the block, but as it is that’s not the case.

Election years are always a little touchy. I’m sure everyone has family members and people they love whose opinions vary wildly from their own. If you’re anything like me, you mostly try to steer the conversation to easier topics like Americas’s Next Top Model (I’m going for Marjorie) or movies (Ghost Town was great!).

But it's also very exciting, sometimes stressful, and exhilirating when everyone is wearing their opinions right out front.

One of the things that shocked me when I spent a summer in France was just how politically out there they all are. You’ll be hard pressed to find any cab driver in France who will not engage you in some political discussion or another. Often the cab drivers and grocery store clerks of France knew more about the history and politics of America than I did.

The first time I took a taxi in Avignon it was three o’clock in the morning and the driver said, “Let me ask you something. How come your country won’t buy our mustard?”

Padon Moi?

He proceeded to talk about a Senate bill and something or other about a ban on French mustard. I knew nothing about it.

“No, really,” he said, “No hard feelings. Is it that you don’t like our mustard?”

I didn’t know. It did occur to me that we had our own mustard, and that it was called French’s. But I couldn’t figure out how to say that well in French and it was beside the point. The point was that this man wanted to talk politics with a stranger at 3 o'clock in the morning, in a non-election year.

We’re not quite yet on France’s level when it comes to openly discussing our views year-round(possibly because we don't drink as much as they do), but the myth of the politically apathetic American is a sham. My street (and perhaps yours too) proves it.

And, simply because I feel like it. I'm going to tie back to Thomas Jefferson.

"We in America do not have Government by the Majority. We have government by the majority who participate."

This brings me to a very important point. (Author steps up on soap box) PLEASE register to vote if you’re not already. The deadline is October 6 in Florida. It pisses me off that we have to register at all when in most countries your citizenship is enough and it’s a public holiday.

I learned something disturbing at the Obama rally, (at least in Florida) if you haven’t voted in the last four years YOU ARE NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE! So please, please please, ask your friends and family and neighbors and dentists and circus clowns to make sure they’re registered.
And if they have a second, ask them if they like French mustard, I should probably get back to that cabbie…


james ford said...

I can't wait to live in a neighborhood again. I've been to your house (well, the driveway) and it seems like a nice place.

As for politics; I am reminded of the words of the genius Alan Moore: People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Shonta said...

I love our little slice of heaven and the people we share it with. Now if only we could build that damn pool!

Phil R said...

The flip side of French politics is that it often tends to extremes, with both the far right and far left capable of gaining political success. I am surprised of your voting requirements though. Downstairs I have a letter from the local council informing me that it's against the law not to register; of course they're mainly concerned with their ability to tax me, but at least I get a vote in return!

Lori said...

So I foudn you through our Friend status on Facebook. You invited me to be your friend base on our common membership in a thyorid cancer survivor group. I caught a blurb of your blog on facebook today and was compelled to read the entire entry. LOVE your posts!! I am home with my puking 5 year old daughter today and have been catching up on your blog between loads of laundry and snuggling my girl. I'd like to add your blog to my Favorites list, if that's okay.

Your neighborhood sounds divine! Ours is similar in Fresno but not as vocal as my 'home' in Ohio. Sorry I can't 'bring my comment back to Jefferson'.

madwoman said...

Your street is more politically active than mine. We have only seven signs on the block, two for Obama, and five FOR SALE...

Jocelyne said...

The mustard issue, is probably the same thing that prevents me from buying items at work made from less than 50% American material. Something called the "Buy American Act". Try finding anything electronic that meets that criteria! I don't know about any rose trampling, but I sort of remember you and someone anonymous that really weren't all that bad ;) said...

[Insert Favorite Obama Biden Poster Here]

Enough Said....

P.S. Can we say Grey Poupon? Love it!