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Questions for you!

For the first time ever, I feel engaged in the political process.

Until a few months ago, I felt there was no way I could ever become informed enough to really be entitled to express an opinion. Recently I’ve seen signs other people feel the same way. I want to work against this. I want to help engage people across the political spectrum in locating the resources they need to find and voice their perspectives.

I’ll begin posting about politics on Saturdays instead of throughout the week. While I’m newly enthusiastic about politics, my life is full of touching moments that have very little to do with anything newsworthy. Today’s post was going to be a collection of several such moments but ended up being about a tree and a conversation.

So, a few questions for you:

  • What does “politics” mean to you?
  • Do you feel engaged in the political process? Were there any specific experiences that especially engaged or disengaged you?
  • I have a fairly new politics page. Today, I’m grouping articles by date of my posting. I’m toying with grouping them by topic, but I’m curious what you think might make such a page easier to navigate. Thoughts? Suggestions?
  • Anything else you want to say while you’re here? 🙂

Successful communication requires information being expressed in ways that can be understood. If I’m just data-dumping, I’m not really helping engage anyone in politics. I’m just, well, data-dumping!

I appreciate your sharing and support your efforts to use your voice for change!

If you’d prefer to comment privately,
please submit a comment using the form below.

  1. August 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I am speaking for myself, but I find pages don’t really get very much traction. I never visit them (except About pages), and from my blog stats I find very few visits to pages. Instead, I always recommend that you go the metadata route and tag your posts appropriately. Then you can add links to those tags in your menu. Does that make sense? I should make a video explaining why, I am having a hard time writing it down.

    And yeah, avoid data dumps for sure. That’s hard though. Maybe you could write a first draft as if you were explaining it to your children and then edit it up appropriately? And then have a, I forget the word… um not footnotes… a bibliography appendix sort of thing at the end with links for further reading.

    • August 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

      I created the page so I could aggregate news articles; since I want to move away from posting something politics-related as a blog every day or two, that gives me a place for it. It also helps me quickly locate articles to link when I’m commenting.

      Reflecting on your comment, perhaps I’ll keep that page going as what it is, and then post highlights at the bottom of my weekly post. That makes a lot of sense because there are definitely a handful of articles I read each week that are more important by far to me than the others.

      Thanks for the food for thought!

      • August 28, 2016 at 4:28 pm

        Yeah, that’s what I mean by using appropriate tags. Blogs already aggregate for us, so why do the work twice on a separate page? It’s quite a lot of work to maintain for very little payoff. I’ll make the video later today to explain better. It really helps to see what I am talking about, I swear I am not a crazy person, lol.

        • August 28, 2016 at 4:34 pm

          Oh, I know what you’re talking about! I’ve had a webpage for more’n twenty years now, though I’ve fallen into laziness since finding WordPress. 🙂

          (Okay, okay, it’s not actually laziness … more like, fallen into the glorious time sink that is parenthood!)

      • August 28, 2016 at 5:54 pm

        I agree with this suggestion. I like the fact that you have a separate politics page because it’s a quick resource. I can pop in there, dip in and out – a bit like sharing your newspaper. I wouldn’t necessarily go there to look for your thoughts, though … The long one you posted recently, which I need to go back and read again, needed to be posted on your regular blog page because that way my reading was aligned with your writing, which in turn was aligned with currently unfolding events.

  2. August 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    I am feeling less and less engaged as I get older. I still go through the motions for the sake of my kids because watching my parents involved in the political process (i.e. voting) got me interested in it as a young adult. Power corrupts in all cases and it leaves me with little hope. Gosh. I sound terribly jaded! :-/

    • August 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Me of six months ago might have thought you sound jaded; me of today, having read hundreds of articles since, agrees pretty emphatically.

      I’ve talked to Li’l D a lot around each election. I want him to feel engaged and know he has a stake in this. By the same token, I’m not sure if that’s totally true. We certainly seem to be on a path where it’s no longer true in anything but name maybe three or four presidential elections down the road.

      My last few months of reading have left me with the horrible sense that huge money is more determinative than individual voices in political outcomes. Well, this is more than a sense, actually; at least a dozen articles I’ve read the last few months document how this is truth, not mere “sense.”

      How do we change that? I don’t know. I’m looking for (peaceful) answers. I have to hope–for our kids–there can be another way, even if I have no idea yet what that way looks like.

  3. August 28, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    What does “politics” mean to you?
    Well … there’s what it should mean, and what it does mean. It SHOULD mean how we, as a nation (or on a local level as a community) define our values and priorities, and then decide how to live together and work together in a way that’s consistent with those shared values and priorities. The reality, sadly, is that politics is about how a small group of people manipulate the vast number of people in order to gain and retain money, influence and power.

    Do you feel engaged in the political process?
    Not really. I tend to get a bit het up around election time, with all the stuff flying through FB and the media. I really passionately would like to see REAL change – not just superficial, but significant, drastic, way-down-deep change in the way America’s political process works, as well as what government does, what programs do and don’t happen, what judges get appointed, what taxes go up or down, etc etc. But deep down I don’t believe Americans want change – and those who claim to want it all too often give way to cynicism or fear. There is HUGE resistance to voting for a third party – people have made up their mind it can’t win, so they won’t vote for it, so it won’t win. It’s a horrible, destructive, self-defeating thing. So I get excited about it and then I find it begins to depress me and I intentionally disengage. Because I have a life – one in which I do have some influence.

    Were there any specific experiences that especially engaged or disengaged you?
    Not an experience so much as gaining knowledge. Like learning recently that the Electors can actually vote according to their personal conscience, and not according to the mandate of the people they represent, in many states. Like the more I learn about the electoral college system, the less I like it – but when you criticize it you get the response, “We’re not a democracy, we’re a republic” and “the electoral college protects us from mob rule” … and seriously, wtf? I mean, I’m part of the bloody mob, and I want my vote to count for something!

    I have a fairly new politics page. Today, I’m grouping articles by date of my posting. I’m toying with grouping them by topic, but I’m curious what you think might make such a page easier to navigate. Thoughts? Suggestions?
    I think it’s important not to get sucked into spending hours on that. It’s a resource – I don’t particularly mind that it’s a data dump. Maybe use headers or tags to sort by topic? The problem with organizing by topic is that most topics intersect – so either you’re going to have the same stuff repeated over and over, or you’re going to miss connections.

    Anything else you want to say while you’re here?🙂
    Your recent piece “Politics, stories, and lies” was very thought-provoking, but it was a LOT to absorb in one go. I’d encourage you *usually* – not every time – to break up a piece like that, maybe write it in a chunk and then break it down into a short series. I learn a lot from you, and also from the comments … Something that big is hard to comment on because you don’t know where to start, so dialogue doesn’t really get going.
    Also, just, you know … When are you running for President? 🙂

    • August 28, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Your comment about “Politics, stories, and lies” makes me laugh in light of how I feel reading your comment. I have at least an hour of typing that I want to do in response to it, but only maybe 30 minutes more of wakefulness before the hubbub of the week begins … and I’m back to being able to allot only seconds at a time for most activities!

      For now, I’ll say thank you for taking the time and care you did with your comment. I appreciate it–and all our dialogue the past couple of months–immensely.

      (Also … aw. Thank you. ♥)

  4. August 28, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Here in Morgan County, Alabama, we’ve just voted to allow the sale of liquor in the county. I voted and I cast my vote “yes” and the “yeses” won, by a margin of 49 votes. A friend of mine and I figured that only about a third of the voting population went to the polls. I was proud that I did. My act of voting defines me as a free citizen of a democratic nation.

    Do I feel that way when I vote at the national level? Especially when I vote against the Republican candidate in a hard-core Republican state and knowing that my vote will be trashed by the electoral system. ? Yes, I do.

    I am awed, and I’ll admit a bit intimidated by your incredible effort to engage the ongoing political process. My first response when I scrolled down your “fairly new politics page” was that you simply hate Hillary Clinton and the boys in Alabama would love you for what they would see as running a “Hillary is a Criminal” campaign.

    I went back and read several earlier posts where you had rejected Trump as a candidate, and you stated you would vote for Hillary…grudgingly. Obviously you searched for and found tons of data that changed your mind. And now you will vote Green Party. And you are voicing that opinion as loudly as you can.

    I absolutely applaud that.

    I have not reached your level of engagement, but I see it as model behavior for the rest of us.

    My definition of Politics? In a word: You.

    Thank you!

    • August 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Whoa! Thank you for sharing about the closeness of liquor sale vote! I hope someone will read your comment and be heartened by the difference their vote might make.

      Thank you for your note about my politics page, too! It makes me think I should include a note there about why I’m posting what I do. I certainly don’t hate Clinton. It’s complicated to explain briefly, but Clinton is Washington-now politics through and through. So while I don’t hate her, I’m deeply disturbed by the elite above-the-law bipartisan establishment of which she is a perfect example.

      When I share links about Clinton’s candidacy, they’re less about her–to me–than about that establishment she represents. She didn’t get where she is now single-handedly. She got there with the help of countless like-minded individuals in a virtual collective of people who through their collective activity have far, far too much power, IMO. Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who wrote three books I just read back to back (and whose Twitter TL I highly recommend), addresses this pretty powerfully in With Liberty and Justice for Some … which was nearly 300 pages, hence the difficulty of my boiling it down without having yet had much practice doing so. 🙂

      The other part of posting what I do is in protest of and supplement to mainstream media. A couple of years ago, I began to notice how mainstream media outlets use passive voice to actively conceal certain power dynamics. Once I began seeing that, I noticed it was everywhere; there were so many opinions and jabs being passed off as facts. I was alarmed by how fact and opinion were woven together in what were superficially neutral recountings by people who are being paid, presumably, to report more fact than spin.

      This election cycle really upped the ante, though; everywhere, I see assertions by mainstream media folks presented as fact that are far from fact, then shared broadly by people who perceive them as fact. That made me want to have my own place to present accountings that properly raise questions which should be, in the ideal world, being asked not only by bloggers but by media folks themselves. Many come from mainstream media sources, but they’re outlier articles, published almost as if a nod to maintain an illusion of neutrality. Interestingly, even a recent NYT opinion piece by a reporter there called this out.

      I use Twitter to get a more comprehensive view of the news, so my hope is that someone might find here what I find there. That I might reach another person looking at the news going, “Wait, what? The facts don’t match up here!” can find something of use there.

      Of course, absolutely none of this context is provided on the page, a fact I’ll work to change some upcoming weekend! I want my own biases to be explicit, as I’m trying to make them in my politics-related blogs.

      (The reason there’s not a whole lot of Trump stuff is that, well, the media already has a field day with him, and rightfully so. He’s not yet–and probably won’t ever be?–part of the “Deep State” the way Clinton is. I like how Julian Assange responded when asked why he hasn’t yet leaked anything about Trump; as recounted in one article, “[Assange] said it was difficult to release anything that was more damaging to the man than what he says publicly on a daily basis.” Again, I now feel–having read your comment–like I should probably include this in preface to the page.)

      Thank you again for sharing your time and thoughts. I’m grateful, and now very, very ready to sink into a biography about people who lived 200+ years ago and would have no idea what a “Politics page on the internet’ is. Heh.

      Have a great week!

      • August 29, 2016 at 5:16 am

        Wow, thank you for the really detailed and thoughtful response. You make a lot of sense!

        I did have the feeling that the lack of Trump assessment was as a result of the fact that it’s s unnecessary in that most people can see the absurdity of the man.

        And I definitely agree with you that a preface would be helpful for the newcomer to your Politics Page.

        Again thanks.

  5. Deb
    August 28, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    I think that I’m more engaged this election year than ever before, and I attribute that to the fiasco that is Donald Trump. I know this has been said many times, but watching him and his campaign is like watching a train wreck–as difficult as it is and even when you know you have no business being a gawker, you simply can’t help yourself or look away.
    I’m a liberal, I’ve always voted Democratic because my views have been more closely aligned with that party in our spectacular and totally uncontrolled-by-corporate-America two party system 😦
    I easily fell into the camp that finds Hillary has to be better than Donald, but very recently, as I deal with my own personal issues, and try diligently to stay true to my beliefs, and want to set an example for my granddaughters and their future, I have turned to Jill Stein.
    Her policies are idealistic given the world we live in, but her platform is the only one that coincides with what my ideal America would be.
    Third party candidate as accepted vote getter…I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, but I feel good and right about adding my voice to the mix and voting for the only person who seems to truly represent me.

    • August 29, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      Like you, I’ve always voted Democrat until now. I can remember sitting in my university’s student union and casting my first presidential vote, absentee, for Bill Clinton.

      I also fell into the better-than-Trump camp, only to find my reasoning waver and then fall away completely earlier this month. This was particularly so as I read books by Glenn Greenwald and was able to begin finding words for things I’d noticed but couldn’t articulate prior.

      Her policies are idealistic given the world we live in, but her platform is the only one that coincides with what my ideal America would be.

      Hear that. This is exactly where I am. Because so many are so horrified by the thought of “throwing away a vote for a third party,” I was careful to post in two separate parts: first, that I will never, ever, not ever vote for warmonger Clinton (whose cinch on war criminal endorsements pretty much sums up my no-not-ever), and second, that I will be voting for Stein.

      I want to make it crystal clear that the alternative to my voting Stein is not that I vote Clinton. It’s not voting at all. But that’s not the choice I want/choose to make: I choose not to step back from voting, but to vote “for the only person who seems to truly represent me.” And, more than that, hope for my children.

  6. August 29, 2016 at 5:31 am

    I’m glad someone is still passionate about politics. Once upon a time, I was a news junkie. I could tell you the name of every cabinet member and supreme court justice. I was fiercely loyal to one of the major parties, albeit while not agreeing with every plank of their platform. Now I find the whole thing positively odious. This election is downright cartoonish and it makes me feel completely hopeless. Therefore, I find I spend much more of my time paying attention to the poltics of Bikini Bottom.
    Politics to me is synonymous with corruption, and it doesn’t matter which of the parties you’re talking about. I suppose by that I mean the traditional 2 big parties. Unfortunately, unless we can resurrect/clone Teddy Roosevelt, I’m not sure a 3rd party has a chance in hell at this point.

    • August 29, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      I feel like the chances of a third party win are very, very slim this election cycle; however, the fact that a good showing in this election (5% or more for a given party) enables millions of dollars of party funding for the next presidential election, I’m hopeful that steps taken now might lead to better prospects in future elections.

      I hear you about the corruption and odiousness, though. Part of me feels like we missed the window for genuine change by 15-20 years. The rest of me hopes like hell that we haven’t, so that our kids have a better chance than I can currently envision.

  7. August 29, 2016 at 5:48 am

    I’ve been vocal on my blog about this seasons political festivities. I certainly have some interesting and eye opening moments in the past several weeks that has made me question what it actually means to me. The process is broken. Politics, for me right now, is a word that is similar to “dysfunctional.” I’ve realized that I *do* have power in words (both online and in real life) to assist others in finding their own understanding of the word. I’m hoping that with some effort, and constructive dialogue without anger, “We the people” can work together and change the system that for so long, hasn’t included our voices.

    I definitely feel engaged at this point. The moment I decided that neither Republican or Democrat felt served me personally was when the heavens parted and I heard violins playing in the background. It was the day that I decided that voting for a third party actually made sense and was NOT a wasted vote. How can me exercising my right to vote in a figuratively free country ever be a wasted vote?

    My interest in a blog will drive me to read blog posts and pages. Where the information is doesn’t really matter to me. I expect blog posts to be dynamic and contain active and engaging comments, replies. A page is more static and meant for perspective depending on the subject of the page. I agree with one of the above comments, pages don’t usually get a lot of traffic, however their purpose is for static content and once read, rarely need to be reviewed again. I’ve been flirting with the idea of creating a sub-blog of types that is focused entirely on politics and politically driven material.

    Last thing I want to say is thank you! Thank you for helping me with my eye opening journey and see the political landscape for what it current is, not what they want us to believe it is. My book “With Liberty and Justice for Some” arrives today, and I’m excited to start reading it.

  8. August 29, 2016 at 11:35 am

    I know some political group or another has to be in power in order to get something done (like if a lot of candidates from the Green Party could get elected), but the whole process and the word ‘politics’ itself just sounds dirty and opressive to me now because of the way some factions only want to rule or obstruct — and nothing in between.

    I feel engaged in the process because I pay enough attention to catch a lot of the bias behind what people say. People on all sides have considerable bias, and if we don’t listen for it and weigh it along with what they say, we miss a lot of truth. I appreciate how you’ve been writing a lot about that lately.

    I like the suggestions above about your politics page working well as a resource. And I agree that slightly shorter, conversational posts on your blog work well to frame information and make it clearer for folks like me whose brain power feels stretched thin in the current political climate. Conversation in the comments section can reinforce points, if necessary.

    As for anything else on my mind: I missed what you said about Trump before, and I didn’t want to come right out and ask your feelings about his candidacy because I got the impression that I had missed something, and that you would tell me when you thought it was relevant to something I asked or said. But not mentioning him made me think you thought he was a benign figure in this election. I was glad to read your comment above, that he was being talked about so much, you didn’t think it necessary to mention him at all.

    The only thing I would say on that is to remember that you always have the opportunity to speak to new people when you post. Opinion pieces by definition wear their bias straight out for all to see, but to foster conversation and new ways of thinking, it’s good to touch on facets you can anticipate others factoring in. You don’t need to dwell on something like Trump, for instance. But a line or phrase, in certain articles, about what you think of him lets newbies or sporadic readers know you haven’t failed to consider his impact, you just want to focus on something else that you don’t think gets enough ink.

    Thanks for asking the questions. And thanks for writing. People are reading what you say. That means a lot.

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