Every vote counts….unless it’s not cast

I know, I know, I should have voted. I should have gone after work and cast my vote for….who?

I didn’t read up on the candidates or the propositions. I don’t really watch the news, so I didn’t get any info that way. There are more than a couple of problems with that. One, I can’t cast an informed vote without, y’know, informing myself. Two, I can’t inform myself if I don’t try. The biggest problem, though?

I don’t understand it.

I don’t understand most politics. Yeah, I’ve voted in every presidential election since I was able to vote–but I didn’t always know who I was voting for or why. It takes me extra long to read the ballots when there are propositions to vote on, because I don’t understand what they’re about. I skim over once, then read closer, then closer again–I read until I’m cross-eyed, then I finally get frustrated and pick whatever my husband told me I’m supposed to want to pick. 

That’s not “real” voting in my opinion. “Real” voting is making an informed decision about the future of your city/state/country/etc.

So why don’t I try harder to inform myself?

Partly it’s laziness, I guess. I just don’t want to take the effort to seek out articles and informative brochures or whatever. Partly it’s embarrassment. I don’t understand these things that so many other people do. Partly it’s frustration. I get so frustrated by not comprehending that I give up on it.

Everyone has something they don’t understand easily. Even geniuses, I’m sure. Me? Politics is one of those things. I write a little political stuff into my books, but I don’t truly understand the real-world politics that directly affect me. 

Shame, I guess, was a big factor in not going to vote yesterday. A part of me is ashamed that I don’t get it. 

That being said, please don’t try to explain the current political situation to me. I’ll get frustrated, you’ll get annoyed, and I’ll probably end up crying because I can’t wrap my head around it all. Trust me, you don’t want that. I ugly cry. A lot. And it takes forever to calm me down when I cry from frustration. 

So, my TL;DR? If you want to vote, then learn. Don’t just cast a vote because Sally’s pigeonholed you into it. Cast a vote because you read, because you listened to different viewpoints, because you know what the fuck is going on and you have an idea on who can make it better.

Survivor’s guilt

So it’s been 17 years. Babies that were born after their parent died will be graduating this year. Last year, most of them probably started driving. Next year they’ll be adults.

Me? I kinda forgot.

It’s not 100% my fault. I mean, I’ve had the last three and a half days off work. The date escaped me. I didn’t mean to forget. But I forgot.

I wasn’t too terribly affected by the tragedy. Yeah, the news of it woke me from a sound sleep. I stared dumbfounded at the TV as one tower went down, then the other. My jaw gaped as the Pentagon got hit. My mind was blown.

I didn’t personally know anyone affected by the attacks then. (My husband, who I met nearly 8 years ago, was stationed on a ship in the Persian Gulf on that fateful day.) I was isolated, safe and sound in my parents’ house in northern Alabama. New York, DC, and Pennsylvania were, like, forever away. They were concepts. Places I’d passed near or driven through. Not real.

So why do I feel like a total jerk for forgetting? If I didn’t know anyone affected and wasn’t there, why should I remember? Does this make me a selfish, unfeeling, insensitive, unpatriotic so-and-so? Maybe. But maybe not.

Wanna know what story from the days and months after touched me the most? It was one I read I want to say in Newsweek, but it could have been elsewhere; it was the story of a seeing eye dog who guided people out of the building when the smoke blinded and terrified them.

That dog is, more than likely, long since dead, as are all the search-and-rescue and cadaver-sniffing dogs that touched me when I saw them crying on the news.

Yeah. I was more emotional hearing about the rescue dogs whose feet were getting cut up on debris as they searched for life where there eventually was none left than I was about the families who lost that life. Dogs. Not people. What’s wrong with me?

Probably nothing. It’s probably just a thing. I didn’t know anyone affected, like I said, so the whole thing was distant to me. I shouldn’t expect myself to be saddened by the date. I’m holding myself up to standards that have been set by a media-hyped society. Everything’s IN YOUR FACE, so everything should affect everyone…right?

One of these days I’ll stop feeling guilty at not feeling guilty. I’ll stop chiding myself for forgetting. 

One of these days.

But not today. Not just yet.

On the outside looking in

I’m so very, very glad that I’m not in charge of anything important right now. 
The past several months I have watched as people get frantic, frustrated, and furious over the planning and execution of various events. My conclusion as an outside observer? None for me, thanks. Whole lotta nope.
It’s more than little hiccups. It’s more than speed bumps along the way. It’s a full-on train wreck. Sometimes it’s just that life has different plans, but sometimes it’s…”operator error.” In other words, the cluster stems from human nature. Whether it’s disorganization, miscommunication, or just plain laziness, the humanity factor can really jack even the best laid plans.
I will admit that I don’t know the whole story for all of these things. Like I said, I’m viewing as an outsider. There are behind-the-scenes happenings that I’m not privy to. Still, the little that I do know is enough to turn me off to the notion of taking part in any of this type of responsibility in the future. What kind of nut job voluntarily takes this crap on?
Not this nut job. No siree. Until I see one of these things going smoothly without drama or chaos, I’m going to stay at the sidelines and dodge the cannon fire.

My One and Only Political Post

I hate politics. Anyone who knows me knows this. I don’t understand the nuances of it, and I can’t stand political “debates” or “discussions” that just end up being shouting matches about 95% of the time. (I may be lowballing there in my estimate). No actual discussion, no rational debates, just people yelling at each other. It’s no wonder I get headaches all the time lately.

I don’t understand all of the issues, and any time the news focuses on politics I do my best to tune it out. As anyone in the US right now can attest to, damn near everything on the news that isn’t related to a mass killing is politics. And our choices this election are lousy.

We’ve got, in one corner, Hillary Clinton. Yeah, she has political experience. On the other hand, she is–as my husband puts it–shady as fuck. And a possible “crook,” as he calls her. The “evidence” on the news is pretty damning, but the news channels can twist any facts to show whatever results that they want. So conservative news outlets are going to paint her in the most negative light they can, and liberal outlets are going to try to defend her. And they’ll end up getting in a shouting match over it about 95% of the time.

Then, in the other corner, we have Donald Trump. I seriously thought his campaign was a joke in the beginning. I thought he was trolling the nation. I thought he’d drop out like Ross Perot all those years ago. I thought it’d be something we’d all have a good laugh over when he was out of the running. I was so very, very wrong. He is seriously the Republican candidate for President of the United States. He might seriously become the President of the United States.  Seriously terrifying. I mean, this guy has no political experience. He’s a businessman and a media personality. He has the most ridiculous combover I’ve ever seen. I’m honestly wondering which country will try to invade us first if he becomes president. I’m thinking Putin might find it amusing to just take us over like he did the Ukraine after hosting the Olympics. Kim Jong Un might see it as a great opportunity. Putin as our not-so-benevolent overlord might be something I could live with, but I don’t know how I’d handle a crazy-ass dictator.

Yeah, there’s an independent candidate…with the slogan “Feel the Johnson.” Okay, I get that it’s supposed to be catchy and memorable and possibly pandering to the millenials who might think it’s hilarious. But really, can you take a candidate seriously with a motto like that? I don’t know much–okay, anything–about his political standing. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of him until I saw someone on my Facebook friends list like a post of his. Or maybe it was a sponsored post that just randomly showed up on my feed. Regardless, he was a nonentity to me before that. Totally not even on my radar.

So now it comes down to one of two choices: Either I choose the lesser of two evils (pretty much literally), or I choose the candidate about whom I know nothing.

Do I want to go for the first woman president? The first orange president? The mystery president? I just don’t know, and it scares me a little that not enough people are going to opt to “Feel the Johnson”…meaning that even if I vote for that option, I’ll still end up with one of the evils in Option 1.

Who will be the next POTUS? I can’t say. I just don’t know enough about it. All I know is what I see on the skewed media, and that’s really no help in making my decision.

Maybe I’ll do like that commercial where the lady’s tossing a coin to decide how to cast her vote. Maybe I’ll close my eyes and place my finger at a random point on the screen (if they do indeed conduct the polling in my area the same way they did the primaries). I don’t think I’ll know how I’m voting until I get to the polling booth in November. I’ve never missed a presidential election since I was first able to vote, and I don’t intend to miss this one. My vote may or may not end up for the winning candidate, but at least I had a small say in the outcome.

Stepping down from the soapbox now. I’ve gone and given myself a headache now. Time for some Tylenol and mind-numbing Internet.

Mockingjay: Pure Entertainment, or Cautionary Tale?

So by now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mockingjay movies, as well as the first movie, The Hunger Games, and the sequel, Catching Fire. These movies have definitely caught fire in entertainment, marketing, and product lines, but is the message being lost?

I’ve both read the books and seen the movies. I know the differences between the two, and some of the more glaring differences are bothersome to me. The movies don’t have Katniss getting her iconic Mockingjay pin from a friend she didn’t even know she had in District 12. They don’t go into her fear of having children because she doesn’t want them to have to face competition in the Hunger Games.

These are two minor changes, but they are powerful messages that need to be conveyed. The symbol of the Mockingjay wasn’t something Katniss picked up in a marketplace; it was given to her by a friend, a precious commodity to Katniss in the harsh conditions of District 12. Her fear of having children was a powerful message, a sign of the desperation of the times. Being afraid to have a child because that child might have to compete in a battle to the death with other children? That is an enormous weight to carry, and to gloss over that is to do the books a great disservice.

Another thing that disturbs me is that the message of the story is lost in the commercialization of the films. We–I’m speaking primarily of Americans–have become complacent in our current political system. We protest, we gripe on Facebook, we post political memes and quotes…but what do we really do about it?

Now, I’m not suggesting full-on rebellion like in the books. I’m saying that we need to consider the situation we’re in. Sure, our political system has worked for a couple hundred years. Yeah, we had that Civil War in there, but y’know, we’ve been pretty much status quo for a while. Are we really operating in the right system right now, though?

You have basically two parties that are diametrically opposed. “Debates” become arguing sessions where nothing is accomplished. And don’t even get me started on TV coverage of politics. Ugh.

Our political system is a hot mess. Do I know how to fix it? Hell, no. I don’t get involved in politics because not only do I admittedly have only a basic understanding of the system, but also because I don’t fully agree with either side. I’m neither right nor left, black nor white, light nor dark. I’m in that grey area, that middle ground where I don’t feel strongly enough about any of the hot button topics to raise up my voice and speak out. And if I did, who would listen? My Twitter followers? My few Facebook friends?

Politics and social media don’t mix well, I’ve found–and yet I’m writing this blog post today. Why? Because I think we should do something. I don’t know what; I’m not smart enough for that. But maybe, just maybe, someone who is smart enough will read this and say, “Hey, she’s got a point. We don’t have to keep the system we have just because it’s what we’ve done for a couple hundred years.”

“Well, AJ,” you might say, “what exactly do you want us to do?” I honestly don’t know. I want us to not bitch about stupid things. I want us to be open to different ideas and different beliefs. I want something more.

Is there an “ideal” political system? Is it worth it to upend the current one only to wind up in a worse situation? Who knows. I don’t think the ideal political system has yet been found, because if it had someone somewhere certainly would have the common sense to say, “These people have got it right. This is what we need to do.” And then others with common sense would say, “Yeah, good point. Let’s do the thing.” And we would all do the thing, and world harmony and all that jazz.

Yeah, I know that’s not going to happen. Maybe some day in the far, far future, but certainly not my lifetime. And that sucks.