Bargell: Politics, Shmolitics
Everything I ever wanted to know about politics I learned from my 9-year-old. Really.
My guess is most of us are not enthused about the upcoming political season – even the seasoned politicians. Typically, I work hard to avoid political discussion as I was raised a proper independent, one zygote from the blue side and one from the red persuasion. Every election my parents would go to the polls, enter the booths separately and leave together. They would smile with the certainty that their votes “cancelled each other out.” The beauty was that they respected each other and continued to live together civilly under the same roof all of their voting days.
Moreover, I really don’t have the acerbic wit of the county’s arguably most right citizen (nor the vocabulary, truth be told). Nor do I have the passion that permeates some of our local left-leaning voices. Those of us who cut both ways through each political platform, choosing stances we think logical instead of political, sometimes wonder why there is a vague sense of shame in not taking a hostile stand on an issue, or perhaps even agreeing with points made by both sides.
Accordingly, I can say that it was a small wonder to me that I found myself out last weekend canvassing voters. Never before have I ventured to a stranger’s door to discuss a political cause – and I’m pretty sure it showed. My guess is most folks are not overly fond of people knocking on their door. The entire experience conjured up memories of times when I was too short or too impatient to listen to a passing pollster. Thinking karma might not be in my favor I persuaded my daughter to accompany me. I admit my motive was less than pure – really, who’s going to yell at somebody with a kid along?
I figured, however, the day might provide a good lesson in the democratic process. It also gave us an excuse to have a long leisurely walk together on a beautiful fall day, something we often miss in the hubbub of activities. I did notice that when people voiced an opinion in opposition she wondered if they were mad at us, or did not like us. Not that anyone was hostile (although I would not have blamed the gentleman I woke from a nap – my apologies). Those moments were great as I was able to explain that one of the privileges we have in our country is the freedom to disagree – in fact, an important part of ensuring decisions are reasonable is to air both sides of the debate. We talked about why people might take opposing views, and that we have to respect each other in order for our system to work.
What I learned from this new experience went far beyond the preferences of the individual voters. Everyone who expressed an opinion did so relying on their experiences, preferences or individual knowledge. People were polite and seemed genuinely interested in the topic regardless of what side they came down on.
At the end of the day – tired and hot – I then asked my daughter what she had learned from the experience (besides the fact mom sometimes is right – you can get dehydrated really fast in Summit County). Feeling proudly parental I expected her to regale me with some of the lessons in democracy I had enthusiastically imposed upon her throughout the day. Instead, she looked at me and stated simply that she learned “if you are nice and polite to people they will be nice and polite to you.” A concept so easy, available to all, that would take much of the edge off of the coming month. Lesson learned – thanks to all of our citizen tutors.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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