Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On new voices

Okay, so I want to make it clear that when I hire interns, I do it without any regard to national politics. I mean, come on, much as I hate it, my work centers around the freaking fashion industry; there's very little going on in Washington that influences price points or hemlines, and I can say this with authority, because I'm researching for a story about it.

Just know that our current intern, Super Intern, got her job because of a solid resume, good clips, and an absolutely bangin' cover letter (job seekers, take note). It was only after she was hired that I discovered what she does when she's not checking facts and updating contact lists (reprinted with permission):

Give me liberty or death... just give me anything except APATHY
by Elizabeth Thurman
The Chanticleer News Editor

There are few things in this world I love more than a good, fiery debate with another person (or persons, depending on how many people I've managed to recruit for a small-scale version of "Crossfire"). No, I don't always win, but I rarely back down, and I never shut up.

Having said this, there are few things in this world I loathe more than ignorance. Stupidity I can handle. It's not a crime to simply not know any better. But a thick headed, conscious choice not to learn? I have zero tolerance.

This became glaringly obvious to me last Monday night in the midst of my efforts to round up a team of young, opinionated twenty-somethings who were just as intent upon pouring themselves another drink as they were participating in my political forum. Not exactly James Carville, I know, but I take what I can get.
I was just getting into the thick of my personal political stance when a onlooker abruptly interjected, "Elizabeth, I can't believe you would consider voting for someone who looks like Frankenstein."

For once in my life, I was rendered speechless. Not because he didn't see eye-to-eye with me about politics. I respect everyone's right to support Bush or Kerry or whoever. Not because he had beer stains on his shirt. I carry Shout Wipes in my purse for these inevitable mishaps.

I couldn't speak because I instantly realized this country is probably full of people just like him. Some people probably do base their views on something as irrelevant as the shape of a candidate's face. Once I recovered from the shock of my unwelcome enlightenment, I was furious.

In the wake of my fury, I demanded to know his stand on the war in Iraq, his views of the economy, and his own moral background, praying he would reveal a shred of evidence that would anchor his politics to something that resembled credibility. All I got in response was, "I don't care about any of that. I probably won't even vote. I just don't like looking at the guy."

I had to walk away from that argument. I knew that if I didn't, one of two equally undesirable scenarios would ensue. Scenario #1: I would jump on my soapbox and preach the merits of voting and democracy and I would crumble as my "United We Stand" speech fell on deaf ears. Scenario #2: I wold throw a blow and the beer stains on his shirt would be replaced by blood.

To avoid the impending fisticuffs, I retreated to give myself time to cool. This is what I've come up in the week it took me to do so:

Don't be that guy. Be smarter. Be passionate, but don't do it blindly. Sit down by yourself and do some research. Don't let your friends' jokes or your parents' voting records dictate what
you want for yourself or your country.

It makes me physically ill to think of the votes that won't be cast Nov. 2 because people are apathetic and lazy. Sure, we have the right to choose not to vote, and if you make that choice, I hope it's because you truly believe none of the candidates are qualified and not because you just don't care.

I've overheard people say things like, "Regardless of what happens Nov. 2..." or "this country's doomed if so-and-so gets elected." It makes me think: these peopel talk like the fate of our nation is out of our hands - like it's somethign that is just going to
happen to us. Here's a piece of advice to these people. Get up. Get out. Do something about it.

To those who are too lazy to vote on Nov. 2, I don't want to hear the complaints and the insults and the "Yeah, things would be different if Joe Schmo had gotten elected." Yeah, maybe things would be different if yo had gotten off your passive posteriors and gone to the polls.

To those of you who will vote: bless you. Bless you for being American. Bless you for being smart. Bless you for being heard.

To the Frankenstein guy at the party: thank you. Thank you for showing me that I am still affected by ignorance.

And she works for me now.

Even though this column was written before last year's elections, it still kind of struck me when I read it, because so many of those issues are ones that we're dealing with right now. Republicans like to complain about how partisan we Dems are as we continue to criticize Bush in the aftermath of Katrina, but the fact, is, both sides do their share of knee-jerk criticizing. Sure, there are Democrats slamming the Bush administration, DHS and FEMA without actually doing any research to find out who dropped what ball and at what point, but there are just as many Republicans supporting him just as baselessly. There are Dems willing to completely exonerate local government in Louisiana without knowing what really went on, and there are a shocking number of Repubs willing to blame the victims of an act of God just to find some way that their elected officials aren't culpable.

So my advice will echo Elizabeth's: Get up. Get out. Do something about. Don't blame the evil, partisan mainstream media for keeping you ignorant; do some research, look at all sides of the story, and decide for yourself what lines up. No one is going to do it for you, and if your information is coming exclusively from Fox News - or from CNN, for that matter - you will, will, unequivocally, sound like Larry Wayne* standing there in his beer-stained "United We Stand" t-shirt and spouting off uninformed crap. Go out, do the research, reach your own conclusion, and if you come talk to me after that, you've got a discussion. I will respect any opinion that can be backed up with facts, even if I disagree with it. Any idiot just parroting talking points from either side is worthy of all the derision and pie-throwing he gets.

*new and wonderful alternative to "Bubba," also offered by Super Intern, as in, "You can bet that if Larry Wayne backed his pickup into your car, you wouldn't even get his tag number before he spun out of the parking lot." If we were paying this girl, I'd give her a raise.

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