Hey, America, expat friends, and whoever you are if you are not in the above categories. In the midst of yet another drawn-out and beleaguered election cycle here in the States, my time living abroad made me realize some things that I think might be valuable to share. This is an opinion article and yes, I have turned comments off (but because you get a lot of spam, even on a low-traffic blog like mine, not because I don’t want to converse). All content is of my own experience, plus I made all the pictures (thanks for linking back here if you’d like to share). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but I think there’s some things no one ever talks about that we should talk about.
1. People aren’t perfect and everyone is biased. Objectivity is a myth.
Everyone has opinions. Stop expecting people to be unbiased. It’s human nature to both have opinions and yet to expect there to be an objective, non-biased entity somewhere. Debate moderators, journalists, researchers, pollsters, television networks, all are human or run by humans and therefore, biased. Nothing is objective, even. There have been studies that show researchers’ beliefs, inklings, or desires influence the outcome of the results – and certainly the interpretation. That’s right, all studies are interpreted. All of them. Humans have a hand in every part of everything, so nothing can really be objective (political or not). (This isn’t to say that they can be quite useful in decision-making if the human factor is understood.) So yes, the news and journalism and surveys that we are subjected to constantly are all biased to some degree. Know this.
2. Everything is theoretical. Facts presented to you are not actually facts.
I’ve already explained how I’ve come to see that nothing is objective. Similarly, nothing is “for sure”. No candidate has been president, with Congress of x make-up, in year 20xx, when x happened, with x bubbling to the surface, and with y and z pressures. Here come humans, extrapolating and interpolating to come up with theories about how each candidate will or will not do something – and did you notice that I used concrete terms, just like they do? (Will or will not.) Not may not, or likely, but these theoretical babblings are stated in false language of objectivity. None of these situations have actually happened and we need to stop talking like they have. Similar, sure. But we’re talking about huge proportions here – the United States, global conflicts, natural disasters, crises, international relations, grassroots movements, these are things no person can predict with accuracy and no one therefore has any business acting as though they can. And if you think about it, a leader who can survey these critical issues and take them to heart instead of spewing machine-like reactions is probably something we need. They, like any other human, are biased and subjective.
3. POTUS is a person.
Therefore, the above rules apply to him/her has well. S/he is biased. S/he is subjective. We should not expect otherwise. Yes, consistency and knowledge are important, just as much as not being a liar or theif, but it seems to me that the expectations for this office get higher every year, as well as dehumanizing. Along these same lines, everything that happens during a term is not the complete fault or causing of the president. A striking proportion of people seem to have forgotten that our government, regardless of how well you think it works, is three branches of checks and balances. POTUS is one. There are hundreds in the House and Senate and an esteemed panel of Justices also in the mix, not to mention millions of us citizens – plus the unpredictable events I mentioned earlier. Nothing, no event, no person is one sided. Things take years to happen, decades. They also take seconds. One person should not be pinned as a result.
4. It’s not the end of the world when things don’t turn out how you want them to.
Really, it’s not. Think of your world view as a pie chart. The narrower your point of view slice, the more of the pie that’s left to be angry because of what isn’t included in the view. Please spend more time thinking and less time in a tirade against other people. Even if you intend your tirades for the politicians themselves, we all have to read them on Facebook. It’s great to care about your country or really believe in causes, but remember: you are unique, you are biased, you are not objective, and you are one of millions. Here’s another example: a lot of us have different political opinions from our parents, but love our parents all the same. While we might agree with some of your tirade, your harsh wording against the views of my parents still tick me off. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but no one, no one, is entitled to belittle someone else’s. Chances are, you’re not going to get what you want all the time. Life usually isn’t fair. Grow up and deal with it. Thanks from the rest of us.
5. “Black and white”, “yes or no” are mythical questions.
Everything is a gray area or really closely related to one. Think about it – if everything were such simple dialectics, Congress’ debating time would be quite a bit less. Also, a lot of people would be left out. The two big parties would be even more dominant. If you think things are bad now, I urge you to take more of your world view pie for the view part, and consider what things would really be like if the questions that news/opinion show anchors and journalists really did only get yes or no answers. There are a lot more than two opinions on every single matter; every issue is either a continuum or a revolving door. Adopting the “you must answer yes or no” attitude is the worst way to form an accurate picture of a person and his/her political views. This is related to all of the above, as well. Speaking of that world view pie, please include more than two ingredients. The standard “political view” and “anger” ingredients make for a very, very terrible pie.
6. Research is up to you.
There are billions of influences – and dollars – that go into our elections. If you only listen to one source for your political view-making, you’re basically being willingly brainwashed. Please, please, take in other points of view. Change channels. Listen – actually listen – to some people that you generally don’t agree with. Take the time to actually consider their concerns. Walk a mile in their shoes and understand why they get blisters. Listen to some smaller parties and treat them as equals. If you were them, wouldn’t you like to be heard? Treat others as you’d like to be treated (possibly the exemption to #5, to be treated with a resounding “yes” in all situations, if you ask me). I’m not saying you need to change your political standpoint, but having the heart and knowledge to understand those different from you (given that we’ve already discussed the critical weakness of forcing people into groups) will usually just make you a better person, less angry, more willing to cope if the election doesn’t go your way, and perhaps most importantly, less susceptible to journalistic and editorial bias stated as fact. Widen that world view pie slice. See how it changes your life.