It's an election year.
If you don't know that, we've already got a problem.
There's a phrase, "intellectual curiosity," that is something I aspire to. I like knowing things. I hunger to learn more. Every day I read, trying to find out more, to be more informed, more aware. This is what drew me to journalism and why even today, as journalism struggles to reinvent itself, it is appealing.
I'm very troubled by the loss of journalism, and the loss of truth in our world. This is especially true of politics.
Like them or not, you're going to be affected by politics. It's easy to believe that politics on a national or global scale are too big to be relevant to your daily life. The irony is that you would not have the life you have right now if it wasn't for politics, because politics = government, and government provides your roads, power grid, communications, schools, law enforcement, public health and safety regulations... the list is literally endless.
Unless you live in a tent somewhere on an island that you own or no one knows about, you're touched by politics.
In my introductory piece, I talked about how important it is to me to be honest. This is also something that lured me into journalism. I believed that it was a place where honesty and truth were paramount; the kind of journalist I wanted to be didn't take sides. Instead, a journalist gathered as many facts as possible on a topic, and left the interpretation to the quotes from experts and the readers. A good journalist doesn't have to take a side; a good journalist just reports the facts, and the truth should be obvious.
Simplistic? Somewhat. Naive? I don't think so.
In 2012, we live in an age of propaganda. When I was in J school, "advocacy journalism" was a little frowned upon. Again, let the facts speak for themselves. Today, almost everything is advocacy journalism. It's gotten that way because of Fox News.
Fox News is NOT JOURNALISM. It's a political operation funded by right-wing operatives and meant to push a right-wing point of view. Check this piece on Fox mastermind Roger Ailes in a May 2011 Rolling Stone article.
And yet, a large percentage of people consider this outlet their main source of information.
My problem with Fox is that they are great at inflaming public opinion among the right-wing base, and not great about actual facts. And what are proclamations that are not grounded in facts? OPINION.
Newspapers used to clearly mark their opinion pages. You knew that someone was bringing a particular slant to a topic.
I just want a world based on facts.
So this is why I have a problem with some people at this time of year. A lot of people think of me as a "liberal." On many topics I have liberal views. I also have very conservative views on some things. I am amused at the things I think about... socially, I'm extremely "out there." Fiscally, I'm pretty conservative. I find wisdom across the board... I don't know many people who think that both the Occupy movement and Alex Jones have ideas worth pondering.
I've voted for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Green Party candidates. I've voted for candidates with no publicly disclosed political affiliation. I vote for people who I think are honest, and who I think will do the best job.
I don't think America is best-served by the current almost exclusively two-party system. That is not freedom of choice. Gore Vidal said they are just different wings of the Money Party, and more and more he seems to have perfectly captured that reality.
I was in Dallas when Ross Perot made noise in the 1992 election. He wound up with almost a fifth of the popular vote. That's as close, by a huge amount, to a legitimate third party as I've seen in my lifetime. What undid Perot was some inconsistency in his attack -- he didn't have a machine like the Democratic or Republican Party behind him -- an out-of-left-field VP choice, and some personal idiosyncracies that were picked apart by the establishment. Had he been more strategic, history could have been very different. What would the world have been like without Clinton, or with a third party rising up?
The two-party system should be abolished. There should be no party machinery. It's too limiting. The Electoral College should be done away with as well. It's an antiquated idea that works against the "one-person, one-vote" concept. We're (theoretically) a much more sophisticated country than we were 200 years ago. Time to let some old ideas fade into history.
I vote the way I do because I value facts over opinions. Although I lost a friend last night over politics, he could have kept me in the dialogue if he hadn't merely spouted political postures and slogans, but instead came at me with facts.
You say Obama will cut $700 billion from Medicare? That's true, according to the International Business Times. It will do so by making the program more efficient, and turn those savings into funding for the Affordable Care Act. In other words, he's going to save $700 billion in the next 10 years.
The GOP plan is to gut ACA, and give seniors "vouchers" to pay for health care. In other words, privatize health care. Because that works so well, doesn't it? If health care costs go up so that the vouchers don't cover everything? Seniors will have to find a way to cover the difference.
Those are the facts. My opinion? That's not right. I've been around enough older people to know how tight most of their finances are. To me, the idea of a political action that puts their health at risk is unconscionable.
So I can't vote with the GOP on this one.
What about gay rights? Can't go with the GOP on that. Gay rights = human rights. You don't have to approve of anyone's sexual orientation, but you can't legislate against it. At one time, legislation existed against minorities, against women, against interracial marriage, against a lot of things that are matter-of-fact now.
What about abortion? C'mon now... is anyone FOR abortion? Not even pro-choice advocates want you to have an abortion. What they want is the FREEDOM to choose what you do with your body.
If you don't support gay marriage, don't marry someone of your gender. If you don't want an abortion, no one is forcing you to have one. Also, if you are a man and you think you have the right to legislate what a woman does with her body, then does that mean you would give women the same rights to determine what you do with yours?
Government should look out for us. Because government should BE us. Too often now it's portrayed as "us against them." TV and millions of Web idiots paint government as waging a "war" on women, Christmas, Christianity, etc.
Government is us. We put these people there. If you don't like what they're doing, get off your ass and change it. Join Occupy. Run for office. Write a letter. DO SOMETHING other than just bitch about it for a few minutes before you sit down to watch "Jersey Shore" reruns.
Just be real about your politics, and your expectations. If you're too lazy to find out the facts, you probably shouldn't be voting anyway. It's not unimportant. Be a citizen. Respect your rights to vote, respect the freedom you have. Freedom does not come without a cost, but if you blow off your responsibility to know the facts, you're not respecting freedom. And if you can't do that, you can't be my friend.