I had to go to the dentist once, to get a root canal or something, and I sat and waited for my appointment when George W. Bush came on the television. This was at the tail-end of his term. We were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and America was pretty much just bored. He came on stage, a gaggle of children following him, and he announced that he would veto a bill allowing stem cell research. He got towards the microphone and spoke to the American people, with that half grin that seemed to never go away.
“Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical,” Mr. Bush said in a brief ceremony in the East Room of the White House. He called the United States “a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred.”
I remember looking at the television and being embarrassed.
It takes me a while to understand my feelings. I want to push those feelings out, instantly, and tell everyone how I feel about an issue. Normally, however, I tend to think about it for a long, long time, finally realizing how I feel about a particular problem or circumstance weeks or months later. In this case, it took me years. I was embarrassed because I didn’t know a bill allowing stem cell research had been passed. I didn’t know President Bush was going to veto it. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I was embarrassed because I was completely ignorant of politics or the wonkiness of our government.
A “wonk” is someone who understands and knows policy. Being wonky is to like policy. This is something that is looked down on in our society because caring about anything important is annoying to most Americas. Why care about Health Care policy when you can care about your Fantasy Football league? And, yes, you can care about Health Care policy and Fantasy Football at the same time but, let’s be honest, who cares about Health Care policy? Well, no one does. That’s the problem. We live in an extremely complicated time, working in an extremely complicated system created to take care of over 350 million people. I laugh when guys on television say that we need a “simple” government. Nothing that can properly allow 350 million people to live full, robust lives can be simple. If anything, not enough Americans are living full, robust lives, showing with a glaring obviousness that our system isn’t complicated enough.
I follow politics because politics are important. Politics is the art of getting elected and getting things done in government. Government is the system set up to make sure our society keeps working. That’s why politics matter. That’s why voting matters. That’s why I pay very close attention to it. That’s why I stayed up late last night and watched Former President Bill Clinton give one of the best political speeches I’ve ever heard.
To some people, and some reading this, politics are silly. They don’t matter. The world is the same as it’s always been and it will always be that way. To those people that say that they are just uninterested in politics, I say that you are not allowed to complain about anything. Not traffic. Not air pollution. Not your taxes. Not the economy. Not the educational programs. Nothing about our society. Complaining is the reward you rightfully receive if you have even a tiny amount of mental space enough to pay attention and vote for the person you believe will do a good job. I’m not saying who you should vote for. I really don’t care who you vote for. But, at least vote. It’s what grown ups do.