Intersections – Vote for Hal 9000
By Nicki Salcedo
I have a love-hate relationship with politics. My birthday falls on election week, and the weeks before my birthday are tortuous.
“Hi, I’m John Doe. I’m running for . . . ”
I can’t answer the phone, because the robots are calling. You aren’t John Doe. You are Hal 9000 the computer from “2001 Space Odyssey.” I wanted to vote for you, but your robot voice has traumatized me.
Despite the robocalls, I always vote. I keep my votes a secret. I make it a priority to learn about and vote for people regardless of their political party. But sometimes the issues cloud the issues. Sometimes a good person doesn’t necessarily make a good leader. In true “Star Trek” fashion, I wonder if “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
What happens if the many are wrong?
I never ever trust any politician ever. That’s a life rule to prevent future heartache.
I early vote if I have to, but regular voting is fine with me. And I take my kids with me. The people at the polling place know me and my kids. We are really proud of our voting stickers. I used to look at my mom and dad’s “I’m a Georgia voter” stickers with envy. My elementary school was a polling place. I always saw my parents on Election Day. They must have planned it so that they’d be at school around the time we filed through the cafeteria to pick up our sack lunches. I was happy to see them. My parents were my civics lesson.
There are other lessons we have yet to learn.
I respect anyone willing to take public office. I wouldn’t dare hope for the politics of kindness, but indifference might be nice. We look at kids and wonder how they learned to bully and be mean. We forget that they are mimicking adults.
If you think that the President is a disgrace and your governor is a disgrace and your mayor is a disgrace, you are teaching your kids that nothing is worthy of respect. If you don’t think this trickles down to other professions, you are wrong. So goes our respect for the police and nurse and teachers and parents.
Respect doesn’t require unconditional agreement. Respect doesn’t mean you don’t challenge. But it does mean you have to do so thoughtfully.
I don’t stick political magnets to my car or plant lawn signs in my yard. My neighbor had a lawn sign during the last election for a presidential candidate who did not win. The morning after the votes were counted, I found his lawn sign in the street. I stopped my car and returned it to his lawn. What does that unkindness prove?
I don’t think all politicians are liars, but as constituents we often lie to ourselves about the people we elect and about the process.
I could never be a politician. I have resting b!tch face that I can sometimes hide with resting Pollyana face, but not for long. I have no poker face.
I would steal all the money and hire only my friends. I would have a “Star Trek” educational curriculum. There are many reason why I could not and should not rule the world. Too many people and not enough cyborgs. The problem in politics is that people are so human.
When we vote, we are asking people to do the job of a deity. Be perfect and be righteous. These things aren’t possible for mere mortals. We need to elect those who are good enough for the many but who won’t forget to do good enough for the few. We need people with the ability to acknowledge they could be wrong and who work with humility. I’d rather have humility and respect than transparency. Transparency often means that you will do crappy stuff, then tell me about it.
I’m a liberal conservative with libertarian leanings. Worse than that, I’m a pragmatist.
Remember that time in a college when I got a C in a philosophy class? The only class I did worse in was Organic Chemistry. Physics, Calculus, and Shakespeare were a slam dunk compared to Organic Chemistry and Philosophy.
“You are too pragmatic,” the professor said. I was supposed to pick a philosophy and defend it, but instead I defended aspects of multiple philosophies.
“You’re saying being pragmatic is a bad thing,” I said.
“Yes. The point of philosophy is to stick with one.”
That professor opened my eyes. My philosophy is not to stick with one philosophy or political stance. If you ask me if we are a blank slate, I’ll say yes. If you ask me if I believe in God, I’ll say yes. Some days I’m a little Anne Lamott with a dash of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a side of Spock. I don’t know if this helps me on Election Day.
Being pragmatic is like a voter sticker that I wear with pride. Local elections are done, but there is a year ahead of Presidential pageantry. I can’t say that I look forward to the calls and the lawn signs and transparency. Transparency also means empty inside. For my birthday, all I ask is this: less jargon, more respect, more humility.
I’ll be watching all year. I’ll be listening. I’ll be learning. I’ll be voting.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.