Thursday, October 25, 2012

Foreign Americas

A few weeks ago I was at the movie End Of Watch, about a pair of uniformed officers who patrol the mean streets of downtown L.A. .   It's one of these films that prides itself in being realistically gritty.  As I watched the movie, I noticed the heroes of the piece interacted with basically two kinds of people.

1. Civilians - These people just wanted to be left alone and wondered, from day to day, whether they'd be a victim  of a violent crime.

2. Gang Members - These characters were more than willing to sell drugs, and slaves, in order to make enough money to keep partying and remain high.  Crime & killing were so second nature to this group that they nicknamed their leader "Big Evil," relishing the cruelty they inflicted on a daily basis.

While these characters were "Americans," it struck me that I was watching a story about a completely foreign way of life.  It was a totally different America than my America.

My America is centered around middle income suburbia.  In my America we keep our lawns nice, join churches and/or other social/volunteer groups, see a movie & maybe eat out on the weekend, read some good books, and a few times a year we treat ourselves to a major concert or sporting event.  Such a life sounds completely normal to me, but it may very well sound as bizarre to an inner urban American as constantly getting high and carrying machine guns sounds to me.

Someone from The Ozarks would have a hard time identifying with a native of Chicago, while a laid back resident of Haight Ashbury may find it difficult to see eye to eye with a Wall Street player.  Yet, at the end of the day we're all Americans.  It's in that capacity that we're due to come together, in a little under two weeks, to choose a common leader.

Rather than voting for who will best lead America as a whole, we'll each be choosing the candidate who best represents our version of America.  Being middle class, I'm pretty set on the guy who's going to deliver health care to those around me.  On the flip side, the aforementioned Wall Street player, who makes his bread & butter from investments, is going to identify with the guy promising capital gains tax cuts.  Does that make me right and him wrong?  Well, I think so, but he thinks the reverse.

What's my point?  My point is that those of us with strong informed opinions can't afford to sit back and trust that voters will hit upon "the right answer."  In the end, the election won't be decided by which side is objectively right, but by which versions of America can deliver more voters to the polls.

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