Question from reading facebook last night: Are we, that great high school essay “we” meaning “society”, getting smarter or just louder about politics?
I know many of us grew up with the phrase “You don’t discuss money, religion or politics” thrown about in reference to topics of polite conversation. I tend to follow this rule as best as I can since it has some validity—especially in the workplace or a dinner party. I find it’s usually good not to engage in a conversation on these topics with that dirty man wearing the tinfoil hat on my street corner. Doesn’t he know it’s rude to shout at strangers about government? Where are your societal standards of dignity man!
On the internet though…man have we ever abandoned this axiom of polite conversation. As we should—after all these things DO need to be discussed…somewhere. You don’t get political action if everyone is too polite to talk about it. The internet, outlets like facebook especially, provides us with a chance to discuss these things but also turn it off and walk away. You can close a forum with a particularly nasty character in it. You can’t move offices everytime you get into it with a coworker. Yet the internet, facebook especially, is littered with misinformation. I get frustrated when memes proliferate on newsfeeds that are invalid—misattributed quotes, ignorant assumptions or loud proclamations based upon faulty information.
Sometimes I really wonder if this magical interwebs is making us better voters or just louder whiners. No one on either side of the aisle denies that our political system currently is a mess. We’ve got a gaggle of elected officials who don’t seem to be worth a damn and they are running us into the ground. You might disagree about which side they are on but republicans and democrats all in general seem to be pretty dissatisfied with something. United we stand…in our disgust. But why? I mean we elect these officials—the power is theoretically in our hands. Why is this happening?
On my more cynical nights, of which there are many, I come circling back to one thought: People don’t actually know a damn thing about their government anymore. Healthcare, Guns, Taxes, Marriage…we all have our emotional responses to these issues and most of the posts I see on facebook are precisely that: emotion based declarations. No one actually examines the issue through the scope of how our government works. Take the very powerfully, emotionally charged issue of gun control—most reactions and demands for legislation are based entirely off the result of tragedies or regional upbringing.
There’s another phrase that I think of on the topic of politics. Lesser known and often misattributed (thanks facebook) to President Lincoln: “Every country has the government it deserves.” Lincoln didn’t say that—in fact it came from a French lawyer by the name of Joseph de Maistre—who supported monarchy over democracy by the way. Still the quote often times seems valid. Ultimately we seem to be getting what we ask for. How many of our politicians have actually read the constitution? Great question. Here’s another one: how many voters have actually read the constitution?
I am not trying to belittle anyone when I ask that. I just think it’s a valid question. We want our politicians to be smarter, to be more responsible and to actually act in line with how our government is supposed to work. I ask you how do we get better politicians? By becoming better voters. We won’t get the government we want if we don’t inform ourselves. I know some highly opinionated people who engage in political discourse quite frequently who never seem to know their 4th amendment from their 5th; who don’t know that the issue of a federal bank was largely debated from the founding of the government; who don’t know the origins of the income tax. Understanding the basis of our government, why it operates the way it does, dramatically alters the scope of how we should legislate. If we want our politicians to know what they are talking about, we need to know what they are talking about not take them on their word.
It seems that most Americans born in this country would fail the civics test that foreigners have to pass to be naturalized, voting citizens. I don’t think that being born in this country makes you inherently wiser about its political system. Let me ask you these five questions–can you honestly answer them? Answers can be found if highlight the hidden text except for the 1st question as that’s state specific….
- Name your State US Representative
- How many amendments are there currently to the US Constitution? Answer: 27
- How many justices are on the US Supreme Court? Answer: 9
- When was the US Constitution written? Answer: 1787 –
- How long do we elect a US Senator for? Answer: 6 years
Why do these kinds of questions matter? Well take number 4 as an example. The revolution was fought and won between 1774-1776. Knowing when the constitution was written and/or ratified (hint: not immediately after) would raise other questions that make you an informed voter. How did we govern ourselves between those years? What prompted the content of our constitution–what was the intent of the framers? Knowing this helps to guide us in drafting new legislation and understanding how it should be written in order to work within the specific architecture of our political system.
The only way to make our politicians begin to legislate with more wisdom and less rhetoric is if we as voters become more demanding and more educated. So sometimes on my more cynical days I wonder what would happen if the first 10 boxes you had to check on a ballot were actually a mini-civics test. Fail the test and your vote doesn’t count. Interestingly enough there isn’t anything in the constitution that says we can’t do this…I’m not saying we should and I’m aware how problematic this would be. We would wind up creating a class structure since lower classes are more likely to be less educated yadda yadda yadda. I’m only positing this as a thought born out of frustration. And now I can never run for office because the media will take this musing thought experiment and turn it into a headline reading “Congressional candidate thinks only the rich should vote.” I should probably make political discussion entirely taboo on this blog and not drive you all away with these kinds of radical thoughts.
How about something radical in the kitchen instead? I wanted to reinvent the blueberry muffin recently and man oh man did this recipe turn out amazing. The muffins are a deep, mahogany color thanks to my inspiration to use date syrup as a sweetener. I also wanted to find a new, unusual but complimentary flavor for the blueberries. I was running a mental run-through of all the spices I know and one screamed out at me: anise. The vaguely licorice flavor is really nice with blueberries and can stand up to the stronger flavor of the date syrup. I was quite pleased. Finally the use of sour cream in the batter makes these really moist, springy and tender to eat. I might not be able to get a better brand of politician but I definitely got a better blueberry muffin.
Anise Blueberry Muffins
An Olivia Original – makes 18 muffins Read more