While school was still in session, a few colleagues and I would talk about our favorite candidates and how they were doing in the primaries. I’m glad I had them to talk with about these current events; most other folks at work, I was disappointed to find, don’t follow the news, or have the attitude of “they’re all crooks anyway” and use this as an excuse to not pay attention.
I recognize that many people do not wish to discuss politics as these conversations have the potential to evolve in to disagreements. I understand that some folks do not fully understand the process by which we elect our leaders and therefore choose not to participate in these discussions. I struggle to process why some folks are not interested in global events, but I’m also aware there are individuals that are so entrenched in their own beliefs that a conversation with them is just not possible.
For me, it was a relief to find that some people were open to these kinds of conversations, especially about the upcoming elections. Through my conversations with a few people at school, I shared in both the disappointments and excitement of Obama’s quest for the nomination, and looked at McCain with more of an open mind. Some expressed what Obama’s candidacy means to them, as older Americans, as African-Americans, as Hispanic Americans. Another colleague brought up points such as experience and patriotism, and while we tended to disagree, I appreciated him for the respectful way in which he expressed his opinions.
Why don’t we have more of these conversations? As a teacher, it’s my obligation to know what is happening around me. Especially now, during this important election, my students will ask questions, and I ought to be able to give them an answer, or admit that I don’t know, and show them how an educated person seeks more information. As a lifelong learner, I want to understand how things work, and why people think and feel as they do. I want to know how it used to be, and I want to explore how it might be some day.
As an American, it is my duty and to my advantage that I participate. I’ve been energized, disappointed, enlightened, and encouraged by what other folks have to say. More than anything, I’ve become more informed, and will hopefully make the right decision when asked to vote in November.
Until then, I’m reading, watching, and paying attention. And if I see you, I may want to talk about “things” – you know, Obama, McCain, the war in Iraq, gas prices, No Child Left Behind, immigration. If you don’t want to talk, I understand. If you’re willing, however, to “go there”, I assure you – this is what being American is.