How is it possible I've come nearly nine months without any discussion of either Politics or Food? Two essential topics, in my view. I'm afraid that today, I'm going with the politics.
Larry and I are lucky to count among our friends a marvelous, colorful group of people who represent a wide array of styles and ideas on the little issues, such as parenting, religion and politics.
Given the state of the Union and the world, it's a challenge to stay completely away from any discussion of politics. Okay. It's all but impossible. As we gather regularly for an endless stream of pot luck parties, dinners, kid events, and so forth, discussion of the election will rear it's head.
I wouldn't say things never get ugly. And they definitely get loud. Voices are raised (along with an occasional fist, but only for emphasis). Pleas are poignantly plead. Tears shed. Yes, I said tears!
Yet, no matter now far apart our ideologies or loyalties lie, all ideas seem generally to be heard, shared and respected.
I find the exchanging of ideas here in Panama vastly different from the States, where it feels like opposing parties (and friends) scream, sling and shout ideas in an endless volley that goes nowhere, since the shouting is usually coming from and going toward angry people with intractable mindsets. To wit: no one seems even interested in listening.
As to whether here any of our minds have been truly changed, I couldn't say. I think perhaps a few, including my own, have at the least been cracked open some. (I once heard that cracks are good. Crack are how the light is let in.) But regardless of how hot things get, all friendships here seem to have remained intact.
I wonder whether we hold together as a group because we have become like a large family in a tiny village, dependent on harmony at the end. Or whether our integrity comes by virtue of our all having moved from there to here, sharing a common thread... one that both pulled us here and that runs through our lives, stringing us, ultimately, toward togetherness.
The upcoming election, then, has I'd say brought some of us out and also a little closer. It has done so also in my relationships with siblings and extended family, who are proudly involved and active in their election efforts back home.
A few folk here have cottoned on my penchant for preaching about voting. I can definitely get on a soap box about how you never know when your vote will count. And how one person can bravely walk to the front of the bus, only to be tossed in jail, or worse, and to no avail. How then, one day, someone else takes the same brave hourney to the front of that bus and changes forever the direction of a nation. We never know when our vote will count. I suppose I just believe life rewards action and so I just keep moving.
My beliefs of course were influenced by my upbringing. I had a grandfather who, at an advanced age, drove at a frustrating 20 mph all the way from Chicago to Washington to participate in a protest, and who canvassed, again in protest, wearing a sandwich board.
I can recall my mother campaigning for JFK, and recall her distraught tears when he and RFK were assassinated.
My father was our boldest, most colorful leader who routinely sent feisty, pointed and angry telegrams to President Nixon, usually around the New Year. He would pound his fist on our Sunday dinner table, declaring that voting was 1. a Right and privilege 2. Our duly and 3. Private.
However, my influences notwithstanding, it was when I moved to the Southern Philippines as an utterly naive, 17 year old Greenwich Girl exchange student that I came to feel the meaning of my father's passion about voting.
President Marcos has only recently declared martial law. There were guns and curfew and the sound of distant gunfire in nearby Cotobato. As I walked with my foster mother in the street one day, holding a clipping from the New York Times my dad had sent, I was sharply admonished "Lizzy! Put that away! Don't you know that we don't have free press here? Don' you know you can be sent to the stockade for this?"
That moment forever changed my world. That, and the time I read with horror about a group of Haitians who were shot dead, point blank, for turning out to vote.
Yes, I'm a voter. But, and despite opinions to the contrary, I can also be a listener.
So I've been brought around to understand the reasons some of my close friends practice what I'll call Active Abstinence. They believe that the system is hopelessly corrupt so they choose to abstain from voting in protest, believing that this is the way to change or reform the system. And I see the point. After all, radical action is only radical until everyone does it. Then it becomes the norm. If we were all to abstain, this would definitely force change.
(Relax. I sent in our ballots a full month ago.)
Other friends here remain pro-Bush and/or McCain, while Larry and I are registered, voting Democrats and hardly alone as such. Still others have switched sides, having voted at least once for Bush and are now sad, angry and disillusioned. (How I wish they would at least now cast a vote in the other direction! Alas. I still love them.)
So onward we go here in our Panama life. Arguing, voting... or not, as the case may be. The pot lucks abound. Friendships form and occasionally fracture, bond anew, strengthen, grow some more. So far, it's all good, at least for us.
Next time ... Food Talk! But I'm afraid it will have to wait until after this election.
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