I'm really excited about today's election, and I can't even vote. If you know me, you know that by British standards I'm considered left-wing, which makes me tantamount to a communist over here. Generally I won't ram that down your throat though. Mostly because if anyone calls me on my principles or beliefs I tend to get all flustered and cross and end up crying 'because it's just not fair that's why'. So instead I will quietly plot to bring down the American healthcare system from the inside (free healthcare and cabbage soup for all!) and I will subscribe to Voltaire's philosophy that 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'.
At least that's what I thought until the last few months, but then sheesh people, stop barking your opinions at me. America prides itself on freedom of speech, but I do believe there should be a caveat with that (I am nothing but a geographer and believe in 'shades of grey' wherever people yearn for black and white) - my caveat is; give me freedom of speech coupled with the right for people to tell you to shut the fuck up already.
I don't care what you think! Why do the vast majority of people over here feel the need to display their beliefs on their homes and vehicles? 'Pro-Life/Pro-Choice/Got Jesus?/My pigeon is smarter than your honor student'. I'm surprised it's not de rigueur to tattoo your affiliation on your preschooler and present them at school emblazoned with 'No on 8!' in case there are any undecided 3 year-olds present. Are you honestly trying to change my mind? Am I supposed to think - hmm, I like what you've done with your landscaping I must follow you in voting no on battery farming. I realize it's been a long time since I've lived in the UK - and I did see a rare few 'Conservative' or 'Liberal' placards amongst the privet hedges of North Yorkshire, but my general opinion is if you harangue people about your ideologies in the UK they will generally tut and say 'I am trying to watch Gardeners World'. A Brit's idea of shouting his/her affiliations to the world in general is to be seen reading the Telegraph vs. the Guardian.
How many trees have died for this election? How many bumper stickers, placards, flyers, posters have been generated over the last couple of years? It seems to be made particularly worse because there are so many issues to vote on. One of the key differences with voting in the UK vs here (other than here you can vote for the person not just the party - novel concept) is the number of additional ballots they have. There are countless propositions, measures and people to vote for; councillor, treasurer, janitor, town prostitute etc. It's mind-boggling, people's gardens are positively bristling with placards. I can't imagine what it must be like to be resident in a swing-state - there mustn't be any TV time left for shows at all, wall-to-wall political rhetoric. Good grief.
Obviously one advantage to these political banners that have sprung like mushrooms around this country is that you become aware of the general voting trend in your town, and if you disagree with the general perspective, it might possibly rally you to get out and vote differently. Case in point; one of our tenants has a giant placard in their front window, urging people to vote for a proposition we find morally reprehensible. At first we were in shock, not least because from the street it looked like one of our windows - and we seriously debated asking him to take it down. Obviously it's his apartment, but it's our building, and we are not bigots. Then a good, wise friend, reminded us about freedom of speech, (and less than 1 week of campaigning to go), so instead we didn't say anything and just keyed his car and upped his rent.
Democracy is a joy.