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September 13, 2008

They're ALL Pigs in Lipstick, and That's Just Swine By Me

J0262811 I'm an open book. Oversharing's my specialty, and I'll tell you anything you want to know (as well as things you wish you didn't know) about my anti-anxiety medication, the gory details of my prenatal emergency hemmorhoidectomy surgery, my profound thoughts on which Olsen twin is the more alluring fashionista (Mary-Kate, all the way).  I'll tell you so much that you'll wish you could poke your eardrums out with a sharp stick.  But turn the subject to politics, and I clam up.  I just... don't get it.

My brief dalliance with politics began and ended in the fifth grade, after an unsuccessful bid for co-Class Representative to the student council.  I ran with Colleen Martin, and it was a union I didn't so much decide on as was forced into (Colleen was kind of a bully, which also explains how the friendship worked.).  We were "Diana and Colleen, The Winning Team!" which didn't do much to set us apart from eventual victors, "Shannon and Charlene, The Winning Team!"  Trying to carve out a niche for ourselves as the thinking eleven-year-old's candidates, I proposed a new slogan, "Colleen and Diana: Neither One's a Banana," a tactic which did not prove popular and was later deemed the reason for our defeat.  And also?  Shannon and Charlene pulled the old "if you vote for us, we'll vote for you" shtick, and I, a naive Girl Scout, fell for it. 

After that, politics was like calculus to me: about as compelling, and about as easy to understand.  I shunned any further political entanglements for the relative safety of cheerleading (at least there were no false pretenses about the popularity factor there) and drama club (I didn’t want to think all politicians were actors, but…). A friend branded me a cynic early on.  A cynic!  YES!  That’s what I was!  It sounded so adult to my young, already-jaded ears, like alcoholism and failed marriages. 
 
I learned everything I needed to know from my failed political run: politicians were most likely to say anything they needed to get elected, and then after that?  Well, good luck finding them when you needed them.  (Shannon and Charlene campaigned on the platform that they would allow students to bring their Walkmans to school – a promise we learned, after the election, that they were completely unauthorized to make!  They shrugged, claimed ignorance, and resumed their reign of terror.)

I’ve tried to get over it.  I watched the speeches from both conventions this year.  I listened carefully, I took note.  Both convention centers’ crowds were appropriately emotional and rabidly loyal.  Obama’s columns?  Garishly awesome!  McCain’s wacky greenscreen/flag/mansion montage?  Nice touch!  (Though I like this approach better.)  But it didn’t matter who was prattling on about economic turnaround and healthcare reform and educationenergyforeignpolicy change, because all I could think was, “Why not add daily rainbows to the list of the unattainable?  How about frolicking unicorns?  Basketsful of adorable puppies on every doorstep?”  Has any politican actually made a difference in your day-to-day life?  Has any politician changed your life in meaningful, measurable ways?  I wish I could say yes, but the truth is, I can’t.

And it’s for this reason that I’m keeping this election at arm’s length.  Am I apathetic?  Absolutely not.  Am I disillusioned?  Hell yes.  I care about the process, and I care about the outcome – maybe even more this time around because I’m a parent now.  I’m a registered voter, and I fully intend to exercise that privilege come November.  But I’m no more likely to plaster a candidate’s bumper sticker to my car than I am to sell my child to medical research.  (Ummm… how much does that pay, exactly?)  I may be cynical, but I’m not completely hopeless – though I’m grateful that there are folks far more hopeful and optimistic than me.  I don’t want to be a non-believer.  But I want desperately for someone to change my mind, to prove me wrong. 

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