Category Archives: Politics

Be the Change

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last… err, Monday, I decided to go ahead and make some progress on my goals for this year. I’ve set three in motion, but one in particular that I want to talk about tonight. In the following excerpt from President Obama’s speech about putting change in motion he asks us to give a little time for our country and fellow Americans:

“But I also know this: that however well government does its job; however hard we work to make good plans and policies and restore a sense of responsibility to Washington, our problems cannot be solved by government alone – or even mostly by government. It’s going to take all of us, putting our shoulder to the wheel, doing our part to remake this nation.

That’s why we’ve called on the American people to come together and devote their time and effort to work in their communities today. And that’s why we chose this particular day, when we honor a man who lived his life as a servant to his fellow citizens – and whose greatness can be measured not just in his own extraordinary contributions, but in how he inspired others to contribute.

So today, I am asking you to roll up your sleeves and join in the work of remaking this nation. I pledge to you that government will do its part to open up more opportunities for citizens to participate. And in return, I ask you to play your part – to not just pitch in today, but to make an ongoing commitment that lasts far beyond one day, or even one presidency.”

I signed the Declaration of Service to volunteer 50 hours of my time annually to my community. I attended two orientations at 2 hours each for a total of 4 completed hours so far this year. I will be teaching English to immigrants on Tuesday evenings through a local non-profit organization. I’m looking forward to meeting all my students on Tuesday and the opportunity to make some Spanish-speaking friends. It’s also a huge bonus that it allows me to get experience teaching English as a foreign language since I’m getting the TEFL certificate as part of my university studies.

Just to get you started there are several databases online you can search through to find a volunteer opportunity in your community:

USA Service
Idealist.org
Do Something
Network for Good

I hope that you all will help me to help our president bring change to the White House. Also, care to share some of your goals you plan on accomplishing this year?

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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Seeking Change

One of the things that continually surprises me about Argentines is how educated they are regarding American politics. I’m not talking about merely knowing who our president is (because they are very familiar with who George W. Bush is and they, unanimously, have a very strong dislike for the man and the train wreck–should that be plural?–that has occurred throughout his presidency), I’m talking about knowing who is running in our presidential election. And not only do they know the primary candidate, but they also know who is running in the vice-presidential spot as well… the day the news comes out. When asked where you are from (and you will be asked this), if the answer is, “Los Estados Unidos,” the question immediately following–without fail–is, Who are you voting for? Obama, right? It’s like they’re saying, hey, look, we forgave you the first time… and then we tried to be understanding the second time, because everyone makes mistakes, but if you do it a third time… Well, you’re not going to make that mistake a third time, are you?

I came down here without a care in the world for the elections after Hilary dropped her campaign. Whenever people asked me who I was voting for I’d answer, “Obama,” because, look, I’m not here to make enemies. I didn’t dwell on it, and the fact that I wasn’t voting in the first presidential election I was qualified for didn’t bother me. Until it did. After listening to discussions in my International Organizations class and doing the readings for it, reading the newspapers here and articles online to keep up with what’s going on in the States and the rest of the world every day, I realized that I can’t just not vote. My major is International Relations and my intention is to eventually work for the United Nations or some other type of non-governmental, international organization. Basically, I want to make a difference in the world, and I finally realized that by not voting I was giving up the one weapon I truly have right now and that is my say in who governs the most powerful country on the international stage. Here I am wanting to work for an organization that thwarts all the bad effect that American foreign policy has on the rest of the world and then not taking advantage of the fact that I can make a difference in that effect by utilizing my vote.

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

It’s not that we don’t care
We just know that the fight ain’t fair
So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change — John Mayer

Then I also realized that by not voting I was, in a sense, giving up. And I was. It made no sense to me to vote for someone who didn’t truly resonate with me and my beliefs. But is it even about me? Or even about what the next president does for the American public? To me, it became about what this next president is going to do (or not do) in the grand scheme of world affairs. American hegemony is falling fast and this was made obvious by Russia’s recent invasion into Georgia purely to show their military might and that the members of the United Nations didn’t feel Georgia was “valuable” enough to utilize collective security, or that it was a moot point to attempt to censure a returning superpower. If there is one thing I have experienced time and again while studying abroad in Argentina and meeting numerous people from around the world during my hostel stays it is that the rest of the world doesn’t like America so much.

“I get the feeling that people around the world are looking at this election as a gauge to see if America is finally ready to wake up and realize that we are not the only country on this planet. They are waiting to see if we are going to put yet another fundamentalist loon in charge of public and foreign policy, someone who doesn’t think that global warming is in any way caused by humans, so screw the rest of you who live here on this planet, we need that cup of oil with breakfast in the morning.

To my readers who do not live in America, who are not American, please know that there are so many of us here who are disgusted with what we have let happen in the last eight years and are doing everything we can to ensure that it stops. We are just as scared as you are of those around us who have their fingers in their ears and are going LA LA LA LA LA in an attempt to convince themselves that their behavior and their policies are not in direct violation of the teachings of the God they think put them in power.” — Heather, Dooce.com

And so I beg you, dear reader, not to make the same mistake we all made in 2000 and again in 2004. The rest of the world shouldn’t have to suffer another war-mongering regime that is content to violate international law solely for the purpose of flexing its military muscles to the rest of the world. In fact, to utilize the endless hours of reading I have been doing for my International Organizations class, here are a few quotes to show where the priorities of the Republican party lie (and let’s keep in mind that even though Bill Clinton was President for one of the years in a following quote, Congress, until last year, was controlled by the Republicans):

[In 1999, immediately following the intervention in Kosovo,] “Washington already was spending more on its military than the next fifteen to twenty-five (depending on who was counting) countries. With additional appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States now spends more than the rest of the world’s militaries combined.”

“In 2006, the peacekeeping budget [for the U.N.] alone amounted to another $5 billion [in addition to the $1.8 billion in the regular budget]. This new record, however, represented about one month of the U.S. costs in Iraq.”

I guess while I’m quoting this I should probably go ahead and mention this also, since many conservatives still like to use the argument that Iraq was a threat to the security of the United States. Or that it was a humanitarian intervention, in which case… where are this governments’ priorities? Clearly not with the American public.

“Iraq had no substantial links with Al Qaeda nor operation chemical or biological weapons, and it did not present a clear and present danger to U.S. security.”

And if this war, for all that it has cost American taxpayers, doesn’t change your mind. Maybe I should mention that as a nice a little going away present for George W. Bush, the country’s unemployment rate rose to 6.1%–the highest since 2003. Or the housing market that has just bottomed out so badly that the government is now placing two of the largest mortgage lenders (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) under government supervision in one last attempt to bolster the economy. This move will also cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. Or maybe that Cindy McCain’s outfit at the Republican National Convention cost more than most people’s houses at over $300,000. Or that Laura Bush’s outfit could have paid for my college tuition for a semester. I could write a several volume series of reasons why the Republican party will not be getting my vote and I’m sure many of you would still whine about how the government is taking all your money and giving it to the undeserving lower class on welfare who doesn’t work. Or about how women don’t deserve to have control over their bodies. Or about how gay marriage is some sort of abomination. In summary, I will never understand where some people come off thinking they are deserving of having a say in what other people do with their lives or complaining that the government is giving their money to causes they don’t advocate (and yet, here I am, peace-loving and tax-paying and wondering why the government gets to spend trillions of dollars on a war I most certainly didn’t vote for). But I guess that’s what makes me a Libertarian–I’m for personal liberty so long as you aren’t impinging on the rights of others. Isn’t that the Golden Rule and what the framer’s of our constitution had in mind?

“My choice is what I choose to do,
And if I’m causing no harm, it shouldn’t bother you.
Your choice is who you choose to be,
And if you’re causin’ no harm, then you’re alright with me.” — Ben Harper, ‘Burn One Down’

I’d also like to point out that in one of my political science courses the professor was talking about Iraq and the many other “blunders” this government has committed since Bush has been in office, and as he talks about it he turns to me and says, “Sorry.” I can’t explain to you what it feels like to finally understand that your country? It’s a terrorist nation and the rest of the world can’t do anything about it.

I won’t even talk about the Sarah Palin deal. Let’s just say I prefer the loose cannon that is Joe Biden (because I think we can admit that the whole “a noun, a verb, and 9/11” in reference to Rudy Guiliani was slightly comical and highly entertaining) and will be mailing in my absentee ballot to vote Obama in 2008.

“Too many people were born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” — Anon