Friday, October 29, 2010

There Is NO White Sheet Covering My Face!!


"KKK".  "Xenophobia".  "Racist".  "Segregationist". "Anti-Immigration".  "Hostile".

All words being used these days to describe those who are not in favor of non-citizen voting.  These ill-founded and nonsensical, yet highly emotional, accusations are showing up in news articles, blogs and on twitter pages everywhere these days in the Portland, Maine area.  Question #4 on the ballot really seems to be bringing out the worst in everyone.  This Portland Press Herald article in particular really grated on my nerves when I saw it.

As I've said before in my other blog posts (Part 1, Part 2), I generally don't like to verbalize political thoughts too much.  I prefer to express my opinions in the privacy of the voting booth.  And I'm thankful that it is private.  Sometimes I don't even talk about my views with my husband.  (Besides, I hate it when his vote sometimes cancels out mine!)  However all the conversation around this topic, most of it irrational, inaccurate and emotional, is really getting to me.

Before even making any politically related comments, I would like to focus on a quick, but important, science lesson.  Anyone ever hear of "fight or flight"?  Yep, way back in junior high science class.  How about evolution?  Anyone know what that is?  Yep, way back in elementary school science class and every science class from then on.  So what's the point?  The point is that it is the nature of all animals to initially react negatively to an unfamiliar situation.  It has nothing to do with hate or prejudice.  It is simply the nature of the beast, so to speak.  Whenever we hear an accent different from ours, see a skin color that doesn't match ours, hear about a faith that is not our own, etc, we raise the hair on the back of our neck.  It's not a choice.  Sometimes we do it even in familiar situations.  Sometimes we instinctively raise the hair on the back of necks no matter what.  Humans have not come as far as they have in the evolutionary process by rolling over and exposing our stomachs whenever we encountered a new situation.  If we had, we wouldn't exist.

Our brains work the same way.  Whenever a new idea, situation, person, accent or piece of information is introduced, it is initially rejected.  That is Psychology 101.  It has nothing to do with racism, hostility, xenophobia or whatever other term people want to attach to it.

Now for a lesson in social dynamics:  Humans disagree.

Simple isn't it?  Well you wouldn't think so the way the heated accusations are flying around these days.

But the reality is that for as many people as there is out there, there are equally as many opinions.  Some of them line up perfectly with one another; some of them are diametrically opposed.  But most fall somewhere in between.  There are places where my thoughts and ideas overlap with others, and then they diverge once again and end up in very different places.  This is why, I think, Question #4 is a difficult one.  As far as I can see, it really is not a "yes" or "no" answer.  However, it has to get on the ballot that way.  So there it is.

Now let me address just a couple of the glaring errors that I saw in this particular Portland Press Herald article:

First of all, attempting to win an argument by manipulating people's emotions is WRONG.  Period.  Refer back to line 1 of this blog post.  Those are emotionally provocative words.  They are not words which are being used to induce intelligent conversation.  Instead they are attempting to get a rise out of people who disagree with non-citizen voting.  Those words are being used to attempt to get those who do not agree with the article to respond from emotions in such a way that they will look like ignorant morons.  And sadly, sometimes it works.

Those words are also being used to frighten people into agreeing with non-citizen voting.  After all, who wants to be a hostile, xenophobic, KKK member?  Likely not too many people.  Therefore, this article is terrifying people into voting in favor of non-citizen voting so that they don't look like the picture the article is painting of opponents.  While it may possibly get you the vote, the tactic is a bad one.  And the long term results have the potential to be disastrous.

Secondly, the writer of this article needs a short history lesson (as do a number of people on twitter).  A quick read of this article would make you think that prior to the 1920's anyone and everyone had the right to march into the voting booth in America and vote.

Hmmmm...  Ever hear of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution which was ratified on August 18, 1920?  Ever hear of the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution which was ratified on July 1, 1971?

No.  Not anyone and everyone could vote before the 1920's in America.  Not even American citizens!

Along a similar vein, much could be said about the disgraces in American history in regards to voting and people of color.

Finally, let's get one thing straight here.  Regarding non-citizen voting or any other issue, there will always be disagreement.

In regards to personal prejudices, yes it is true; I simply may not like you.  The reasons are myriad why people decide they do not like each other.  Unfortunately it is the reality of being human.

Nevertheless, when expressed, I will admit my thoughts and views are mine.  You will know who I am when I talk to you.  Let's be certain of one thing here: There is NO white sheet covering my face!!

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I Know How That Works

I can't hold back.  All the things that I have been refraining from saying in recent weeks are bursting out today.  I have been reading and listening to so much about this issue of non-citizen voting.  Most of it has been highly emotional.  An advocate of non-citizen voting will present an argument that hits on people's emotions rather than their logic.  The arguments are being presented in such a way that those who do not agree get all fired up and then they respond from an emotional level.  Prejudices come out, accusations fly, irrational feelings and fears surface.  This is not what we need.

And then there are the arguments that sound good until you have time to sit back and ruminate on what was said.  The following is an example of one of my own experiences:

"I know more about American politics than most Americans".  "I know more about [a certain city] politics than people who have lived there all their lives".  Or so I was told in a conversation with a non-citizen.  It was true.  I have no doubt that the person I was talking to, despite not being a citizen, knew a great deal about local, state and federal politics in America.  It was likely true that this person knew more than many Americans.  Likely he knows more than I do.  Therefore, based on this fact, he was making the argument that he should have the right to vote in America.  He felt that he could make better and more well-informed decisions as a non-citizen than most citizens.  There was a great deal of truth in what he said.

So the question is, should knowing how American politics works give you the right to vote in America?

Here is a similar argument:

I know how an erection works.  I can give you a detailed explanation, draw a diagram and probably even use correct medical terminology.  It is quite possible that I know more about how erections work than most men do.  Therefore I have earned the right to be a man.

Why are you laughing?  The logic is sound.

Or is it?

Again, as I said in my last post, give me something to work with here.  If rational, well-informed decisions are important to you, give me some logic to chew on.

But if you simply want to talk about who knows more about HOW things work, then we can discuss erections as easily as we can discuss politics.  And each of us will go home at the end of the day shaking our head in disbelief at the other.

Part 1 here
Part 3 here

Taxation Without Representation

Generally I don't like to express political views too loudly.  But some recent issues have been getting a lot of attention in editorials, blogs and on twitter.  So I am making a few brief comments of my own.

This year on the ballot in Portland, Maine there is a question about non-citizen voting.  I've heard and read lots of comments about this question in particular.  While I am not addressing whether non-citizen voting should be approved or not, I am going to express my thoughts about one of the arguments.  "Taxation Without Representation" is a popular cry among advocates of non-citizen voting.  These people argue that non-citizens pay taxes just like everyone else, therefore they should have the right to vote.

In response I have a couple of questions:

The last time you had to call 9-1-1, did the dispatcher ask you if you were a citizen before dispatching help to you?

When you received an education in an American public school system, did the teacher ask you if you were a citizen before he/she agreed to teach you?

The last time you borrowed a book from a public library did the librarian ask you if you were a citizen before he/she checked out your books?

The last time you applied for a federal grant to fund your business or research was being an American citizen a requirement before the funding was granted?

Last time your income level allowed you to qualify for the WIC program, did anyone ask you if you were a citizen before they granted you funds?

I could go on and on.  But I think the point is made.  In case you didn't notice, all of the above mentioned things are funded with tax money.  If you have ever been a recipient of any of those services, citizen or not, you have more than used any amount of tax money that you have ever put in to the system.

More observations:

The voting age in many places used to be 21.  In past generations people also used to hold steady jobs at a fairly young age.  People under the age of 21 often owned property.  People under the age of 21 were drafted into the armed services.

It's a simple math problem.  An American citizen could have potentially been working for many years and paying taxes without the right to vote.  An American citizen could have been drafted into the armed services and served their country for a number of years, perhaps even died doing so, without ever having had the right to vote.  An American citizen could have owned a home and been paying property taxes for a number of years without having the right to vote.

The voting age is now 18.  Here's another simple math problem:  If you start working at 15 and paying income taxes, how many years will you pay taxes without having the right to vote?

Now for a history lesson:

When did female American citizens gain the right to vote?  Ok, I'll say no more on that one.  That is an entire blog entry (thesis paper?) unto itself.

The point is that EVERYONE in America, citizen or otherwise, experiences "Taxation Without Representation".

I do not care to comment on whether or not non-citizen voting should be approved.  However, what I am saying is that "Taxation Without Representation" is a poor argument.  Give me something better to work with.

Part 2 here
Part 3 here

I Have A Lot To Say...

which is why I find that it is very difficult for me to blog.  You would think that it would be exactly the opposite.  You would think that this would be a great place for me to get my thoughts out.  But I find that exactly the opposite is the case.

Often times when I read other blogs, it seems that people are writing one or two quick paragraphs about a thought that is on their mind.  Or the writer may be giving a quick update about an experience and making a short comment about how he/she feels about it.  As a result their blogs are always being updated and I am always clicking on their site and seeing what they have to say.

I can't do that.  I never could.  And the older I get, the more I find that it is increasingly difficult.  It is like those nonsense "get to know you" exercises where you are asked to "define yourself in one sentence".  What kind of absurdity is that?  What a ridiculous idea that anyone can be defined in one sentence.  Even the most seemingly boring of people have far more to them than that!

But in a world of instant information and text message relationships, things have to be short.  It appears that those of us who do not function that way will not survive the current wave of social evolution.  So perhaps I am a dying breed.

If so, I will die with my head full of thoughts and well reasoned conversation.  I refuse to be sucked into "one sentence" definitions of anything.

Furthermore I need to be able to think and analyze.  And I expect that to be respected.  I do not want to be emotionally manipulated by 30 second, campaign ad type conversation and writing.  I need to hear not just both sides of the issue, but every possible side of the issue.  For every story has many more than just two sides.

I do not want to deal with "slippery eel" techniques that people use when you are conversing with them.  I do not want the subject constantly changed and have someone attempt to emotionally manipulate me off on some unrelated tangent.

I don't mind short writings at all.  In fact, I often enjoy them.  However, I do not want a one paragraph summary which attempts to present itself as the entire picture.

Ok, I'm going to stop talking now because in a text message world, I can see that this blog entry is already way too long.

Does anyone else out there relate?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quiet Places

Lately I seem to often be on the lookout for quiet places.  I've always enjoyed quiet places that are away from noise and traffic.  But lately I have come to believe that they are downright essential to my survival.

I did not always realize how necessary quiet places are. During the years that I was in my twenties I lived in a suburb of Philadelphia and then in a suburb of Boston. I don't seem to remember ever even hearing the noise that was constantly around me. In fact I loved taking the train into Philadelphia on weekends and walking around the city. Then when I moved to Boston, I loved it. I was always on the subway going here and there. Public transportation and crowds were a way of life going to and from work. I went downtown a lot just to be in the middle of the noise and chaos. When I drove places I didn't think a thing of the crazy, crowded, nerve-wracking, white-knuckle traffic conditions that were an every day part of my life everywhere I went. In my thirties I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a few years. While not a big city, it still had its share of noise and traffic. Then I moved to Portland, Maine. Again, certainly not a place that is a Boston caliber city, but a city none the less.

Now, although I grew up a country girl, I personally happen to like cities. Despite the fact that growing up in the country was beautiful, once I reached adulthood and moved to a city, it spoiled me. I like the convenience and easy accessibility to everything I need. I like the fact that the school, the library, and the grocery store are all within a mile or two. I like being within a few miles of two great hospitals and all doctors offices. I like being less than a block away from the dentist and the orthodontist. I like the fact that within a one mile radius of my home there are two fire stations. I like the fact that my husband works close to home. I like the fact that I don't have to go far at all to find part time or temp jobs. I like being able to hook up to city water and city sewer. I like city garbage pick up. I like the fact that no matter how bad a winter storm may be, I know that I will get plowed out quickly and be able to be on my way without too much trouble. I like the fact that I almost never lose power when there is a storm, and if I do, it is back on within a short amount of time.

But cities are also noisy and crowded places. I spend my days listening to traffic, sirens, motorcycles, airplanes, people's voices, horns honking, trucks shifting gears, buses stopping and starting... Stores are crowded, traffic is constant... And so, along with the convenience of the city comes the price you pay to live there.

Fortunately I also live in a beautiful area - the coast of Maine. Any time I want I can take a walk or a bike ride or a short car ride to absolutely beautiful places. And some of those places, though only minutes away from the city, seem like worlds away. One of my favorite places to go for some peace, quiet and beauty is Two Lights State Park. It is just a short drive from where I live, and yet on some days it feels like another planet.

On one of our recent visits to Two Lights State Park, my daughter took some fantastic pictures . I have included a few of them in this post to give you a little idea of the beauty that we enjoy there.

Sometimes I go to Two Lights when I feel like I need to restore.  I sit on the rocks and listen to the waves as they crash against the rocky shore.  I explore the little tide pool areas that are exposed at low tide.  I look out over the vast expanse of open ocean.  I get lost in the sounds of the waves crashing and the sea gulls calling.  The city and its noise are gone.  I sit there for a couple of hours and enjoy the fact that I have such a beautiful place where I can escape noise and chaos.  I breathe deeply and take in the view.  The sounds of nature fill my ears and natural beauty meets my eyes everywhere I look.  Any time of year is beautiful there.  I enjoy sitting there alone for a while and thinking about absolutely nothing but my surroundings.

When I leave I feel refreshed.