I'm taking a PhD class at OSU this quarter. I'll be done with my MA in about two and a half quarters and I couldn't be more excited. Except, now I want to go back and get my PhD. But we'll save that saga for another day...
I mention it because since the quarter has started, I haven't been able to turn my brain off. Ever. I analyze almost every thought that goes through my head, I question my motivation to do half the things I do every day (why do I go to starbucks? why do I think I like gray's anatomy? Does glee perpetuate more stereotypes?). It's not a sustainable model, and I know that, but I also think it's a worthwhile exercise as long as it doesn't become all consuming.
On the heals of yesterday's election, though, my brain is spinning virtually out of control. What is most frustrating is that I don't know what we (and I mean we on both sides of the aisle) can do about the state of politics. I am of course frustrated that the democrats lost so many seats to the republicans, but not because I think they present the best form of politics out there, it's just because I agree with them more. Our political system is profoundly broken and it's broken in a way that is not easily remedied.
There is this concept in education (and elsewhere) that talks about the locus of control. If a student feels like they have control over certain things in their life they are more likely to be successful students, to work harder, and to have fewer emotional problems. But once they perceive that locus of control to be outside of them, they give up more easily, don't work nearly as hard, and tend to act out in class. So, if they judge their teacher to be unfair and and the coursework to be "rigged" (whether or not that is actually the case), if they do poorly on a test, their response will be "whatever, I wasn't going to pass anyway, the teacher hates me and there's nothing I can do about it." But, if they think the class and teacher are fair, they are more likely to respond along the lines of "I will have to work harder or study harder next time and maybe I can get a better grade."
So for this reason, I'm choosing to believe that there is something that we can do about the political climate in this country. If I let myself believe that there's nothing we can do, that the locus of control is well beyond our reach, it all feels pretty futile. People are frustrated. The economy is bad; there is still a double-digit unemployment rate, and I understand that people want to fix it. But neither electing a bunch of republicans or continuing to let the people in power stay in power is going to fix the problem long term. Have you listened to the news lately? Did you watch the political ads? Have you listened to a political debate? We have turned into consumers of media that are ok with being told part of the story, with being present with information that only touches the surface of any issue and most importantly WE STOPPED ASKING QUESTIONS!
It became democrats versus republicans. And they both want us to believe that the other one is evil and doesn't care. It can't stay this way or we will continue to live in grid-lock indefinitely. I've got news for you--if either platform thinks they have all the answers, they are just wrong. And if you think that your elected official should support his or her party line at all costs, should fillibuster when they don't get their way on every issue, and that you "win" only if your agenda is moved forward, then you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
It is our responsibility to be informed, educated, thoughtful consumers of media. That means the news, the paper, magazines, books, political ads, political speeches, debates. Everything. It means asking questions. I means thinking about the source of the information and what agenda that source might have. And it means telling the people we elect that we aren't ok with any of this rhetoric. Want to talk about health care? Great. Then if you oppose it, stop throwing around "Obamacare" and "Socialism." Talk to me about facts. And it goes both ways--if you want to be mad about the election, be mad that WE are not demanding more. Until we collectively change the dialogue and demand to be treated as if we are intelligent people, capable of understanding and participating in the actual debate, we are getting nothing less than what we are asking for (and consuming).