Polar Bears v. Big Birds

The 2012 US Presidential Elections came and went and the Incumbent, Barack Obama, has been re-elected. For Americans, Election Day is a monumental event, happening every four years, where citizens get to voice their preference for the next president, senate members, judges, etc. It’s an important process and has come to represent so much more than it really is – the land of the free, democracy, and all that jazz. I always dread Election Day because, well, simply put, I’m indecisive and I do not like the polarity of a two-party system. But this year, I’m not in the United States and the distance really impacted me more than I expected. I saw a different perspective, actually many different perspectives since Tel-Aviv is such an international city these days and I’m currently enrolled in an international master’s program at Tel-Aviv University. The Israeli perspective, which really can’t represent “the Jewish vote” because it’s so diverse, was not as Republican as the US media made it seem. However, Tel-Aviv is a young and fairly liberal city (social protests occur about once a week in the summer, Sudanese refugees get deported or are not granted access to legally live in Israel causing quite the political debate in the Jewish democracy, oh and that whole Arab/Palestinian – Israeli conflict thing), and since I’m not exactly in direct contact with religious-Zionist-settlement dwellers, I only absorb one side of the coin – there’s that polarity issue again rearing it’s ugly head into my shades-of-grey-toned life.

Anyways, the point – I felt more American and more part of this special voting process from Israel then I ever felt in the US. Everyone’s posts on Facebook, urging citizens of Ohio to make the right decision, Twitter photos of everyone’s ‘Election Day Outfits’ – it all got me really excited. But instead of wishing I was at home voting, I was excited about seeing how my country impacts the rest of the world and how everyone has an opinion about this. Why should the old Israeli lady standing at the bus stop with me care about the US elections? She does, and she pointed to the Romney/Obama pins I have tastefully pinned to my environmentally friendly tote bag, and said: “This is confusing. You need to choose one.” Also, working for a newspaper (and spending the late night/wee morning hours helping update the website and getting access to the wires) probably added to my general excitement. Everyone was overjoyed at the results in the Haaretz newsroom. The excitement rubbed off and I felt very good about where I come from and where I am now. 

Despite the excitement, I’m extremely frustrated and indifferent with the results of the election. I’m not a Republican, but I really don’t think the country is in a good place after four years of the Obama administration and I’m worried that the next four years won’t amount to much progress. I’m upset that the polarity of a two-party system means I have to make a decision of which one is the lesser of two evils, I’m irritated that I can’t get excited about our President and put up an inspiration picture of him near my work desk. I’m pissed off that the popular vote really doesn’t hold much weight and that there is so much praise for the Electoral College, which really just gives swing states, where no single candidate or party has overwhelming support, disproportionate influence. A colleague of mine from University said it best: “Here’s to 4 more years of mediocrity. Better than 49% Romney, I suppose.” He wasn’t American, but I am and I feel pretty similar.

Spoken as a true Republican, my father shared with me some criticism of my opinions. Actually, he more or less scolded me for 1) not registering in time to be able to participate in this election (which I’m very upset I let slide), and 2) my smart-ass response to him of “Michigan is a blue state, my vote doesn’t really matter anyways and I don’t really support either candidate.” He said that the reality of the system is that one of the candidates will be elected president and that my duty as an educated American citizen is to pick an existing option based on (in order of importance): 1) whose policies are best for you and your family, 2) whose policies are best for the nation as a whole, and lastly 3) the representative whose ideology and goals will best serve the entire world and foreign relations. This individualist (v. collective) mentality is very American, but yet the candidate with more socially beneficial policies won the election. Regardless, the small to large (egocentric perhaps?) perspective really struck a cord, because I always thought that we, as humankind, are suppose to make decisions for the greater good. But maybe my way of thinking is why I have such a hard time making personal decisions in every aspect of life. This is not say I think my dad is selfish – he is an educated American, who is very proud of his country and of himself and his family and firmly believes (as an immigrant) that America is the only place, where he was able to fulfill his goals and make a life for himself. His America, is the America I want to be a part of, the one I want to vote in, and the one I want to actively participate in – but the world has changed since 1977 and The Land of Opportunity is no longer parallel to the American, white-picket-fence dream and the inspiring image of the Statue of Liberty. But how does one rewrite their past and personal experience, when home is truly politically ingrained? 

In negotiations, professional mediators recommend following a three step metaphorical approach for better conflict resolving statistics (Jonathan Kowarsky Negotiations Lecture, 11/5/12):

     1) TARGET/GOAL – what you want, desired outcome, visualization

     2) STRATEGY – how to achieve your goal

     3) TACTIC – what action you chose to do, your decisions

As humans, we tend to spend more time developing and deciding on a tactic and little time crystallizing the target/goal. The opposite should be the case and if the tactic and/or strategy does change in the course of the game, which it commonly does, players rarely pay attention to how it affects the end goal. Did the target stay the same during the change? Do we want it to stay the same, or have our goals changed since the start of negotiations? 

Being aware of the decision making process and why we make certain decisions is crucial in understanding what we want and why we want it. Whether it’s a top-down or small-large perspective we employ of the world, or simple decisions we make on a daily basis, how often do we think about the end goal of it all? With a presidential election, the target/goal is in place – but isn’t it dangerous to ideologically develop our strategies? 

In conclusion, I’m frustrated that Romney didn’t offer a healthy alternative and I couldn’t stand behind any kind of progressive change from either side/party, although I am hoping that the experience of the last four years have taught Obama something and change is afoot. However, my expectations are low (although his victory speech did cause a few chills to run down my back – a clear difference Romney calls Ann “the best choice I’ve ever made”; Obama calls Michelle “the woman who agreed to marry me.””). All I can do at this point is complain (it is my democratic right) about the extremism of the Republican party, even though fiscally, I agree with some of their policies. But I am a women and of course I believe in a women’s choice to do whatever they want with their body and throw binders at their male counterparts; and of course I don’t support religious/ideological rationale to any political decision that our president will have to face during his term in office. But my surprise is that these are actually still the issues in our presidential debates – are we really still talking about Roe v. Wade?? The year is 2012 not 1973 and I’m really ready to bring serious and current discussions to the table (what are we going to do about climate change? how about unemployment – the bailouts only did so much, and what about everyone’s favorite – Iran?) and not debate about what has already been decided by the system that created the (arguably) “Greatest Country in the Free World.” I know these topics have been brought up, and I’m willing to bet we can all agree that climate change is bad, Iran is potentially dangerous, etc. But now that we have these targets/end goals in place, can we devote more time to the strategy of getting there? The how, instead of the what, and definitely, maybe we can try to stay away from the emotional, often irrational tactics we choose to proceed with?

Interesting article about how America’s values won President Obama the election and not demographics (thanks, Mara!): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/opinion/obama-won-on-values-not-demographics.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp&

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