Learn issues first, be president later

In early 2002, I, in my youth, half-heartedly predicted that Hilary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice would respectively run for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations in 2008, mostly by virtue of “it-would-be-fun-to-watch.”

I mean, sure, I had some sound reasoning for thinking thusly, but mostly I just thought it was a pretty awesome idea.

It really would’ve been pretty great in a monumental, barrier-breaking and dramatic sort of way – if they’d both campaigned and blasted through the primaries in 2008, we’d have a black Republican running against a white Democrat, both of them women, for the title of President of the United States, leader of the free world, etc., etc.

It would’ve been highly covered, highly sensationalized and wholly superb in a “wow, really?” sort of way. Our nation’s freethinking sensibilities would’ve been broadcasted around the world. America is a leader in trends and ready to take action. America is ready for a woman president. Except that’s not really how the world works – or at least, it isn’t how the world should work.

When Clinton announced her candidacy last year, I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty cool,” remembering my quasi-interested prediction from way back when. Being right, or even half-right, leaves a good feeling in a snarky sort of way. But that’s about it for me when it comes to nostalgic political sentiments from a time when I wasn’t even old enough to vote, much less know what I was voting for.

My sense of politics has matured slightly since 2002. I no longer think the president of the United States should be elected by virtue of a high schooler’s dumbed down, idealist vision of cool or what might be fun.

In 2004, I watched George W. Bush sweep up votes and a win against Kerry after a brilliant campaign headed by the master of campaigning, Karl Rove, who astutely convinced millions of Americans to vote against their economic interests in favour of social preferences. It was awesome and disgusting at the same time.

In 2004, I decided that I’d look beyond what my intrinsic, childish, social instincts tell me to like and to vote for.

Platforms matter. Experience matters. Skill, knowledge and ability matter. What doesn’t matter is whether a candidate is black, female or any other division of human.

The brave and tireless presidential candidates and the 24/7 media coverage of their campaigns are finally beginning to wear on me. While I’m addicted to following their progress, I can’t stand it at the same time.

I get the feeling that Americans vote on face value, on dis-information, on who they’re told to vote for, on who their friends and family vote for, on who’s prettier.

I get the feeling that we don’t like understanding issues because they’re tiresome and boring. I get the feeling that we, the people of the strongest nation in the world, the sole superpower, are willing to elect a leader not by what he or she can and will do for us and the world, but by an opinion scheme that seems more suited for Hollywood than politics.

Americans must learn to learn. And not just that—they need to learn how to do it before the issues arise and become irrevocable.

Before Sept. 11 and the terrorist attacks on New York, the average American knew virtually nothing about Islam or the assailants of the day. Afterwards, we all rushed to educate ourselves by streaming through mass popular media and patriotically banding together in support of our leader. One thing led to another… I’d hate to use the word “quagmire,” but really. Really.

Maybe things would’ve been better if we’d understood issues a little better back then. Then again, maybe nothing would’ve changed. I’m not seeking to offer a solution to current woes nor am I insinuating that I’m right and have greater foresight than anyone else.

What I am suggesting is that America needs to be a smart nation. America has an obligation to the world to be an intelligent nation. We need to start thinking more with our brains rather than reacting with our hearts.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

Well, America should be the best America it can possibly be – and I’m not talking about morals or values or philosophy here.

Quite recently, under the guise of being“green” (but really in the glorious pursuit of profit – as if there was any doubt), Wal-Mart announced that it was dropping hundreds of magazines, titles like The Economist, BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune, in an effort to make room for over 140 Hannah Montana products. Because we need less information and more entertainment to keep us occupied, of course.

America is not an escapist nation. We’re a country that moves forward, advances and leads. We should not be content allowing our country to be hijacked by the luxury of ignorance and laziness.

I don’t care who you vote for come Feb. 5th, but please do vote. And when you do, make a decision based on what he or she thinks and can do. President of the United States is not a light title.