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Water November 19, 2012

Posted by craftlass in politics, Sandy.
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It covers most of our planet. It exists on the moon. It has definitely existed on Mars and might still. We can’t survive without it. It makes up most of our own bodies. Our relationship with water is so strong and important that most of civilization is near a large body of it.

Most of us take it for granted most of the time. In America we have a fairly safe and expansive public water system and a variety of the bottled sort to choose from. The only time we really think about it is when we are thirsty or want to jump into some.

In the past three weeks I have thought more about water than I ever have before.

Obviously, water causes floods, and a flood has been at the top of my mind. Academically I knew that water was a very powerful destructive force. I know how the Grand Canyon was carved, I’ve seen images from floods and tsunamis all over the world, and I’ve heard incredibly scary tales from people who survived various water-induced tragedies. Until I saw water covering my very own street, though, I had never grasped just how powerless it makes you feel. It does not discriminate yet the destruction has a random quality that logic can not process. I would stare out the window at length and just marvel at this invader without a brain or a plan that took away everything humans had created – power, comfort, even the ability to just walk over to the next building like civilized people do. It’s the most humbling experience I’ve ever had and I’m no stranger to humbling experiences. Water is relentless.

One of the basic items everyone knows to get before a storm is enough water for at least three days for however many people will be in your home. We’ve been having 5 gallon jugs of Poland Spring delivered for years and always try to keep an extra jug on hand just in case. Thank goodness, because there have been a few times we’ve really needed it and area stores sell out instantly if there are water issues. So, we were set for drinking water. We filled our bathtub just before Sandy hit so we would have water for other purposes. We were as prepared as could be for losing water service. Somehow, amazingly, we never did lose it this time. It was one of the truly bright spots of Sandy, just not losing water. It doesn’t take much to realize that is our most important utility of all. Water is life.

As our home grew colder the only time I really felt the temperature impact was when I had to use the bathroom. The floor, toilet, faucet handles – all so incredibly cold! They were nothing compared to the water, though. Washing hands was brutal. We were heating up water on the stove for washing dishes and ourselves, but who bothers just for a quick hand wash? It’s one thing to wash your hands in freezing water when there is heat around you but entirely different when there isn’t. You can’t dry them enough, the water clings to your skin, pulling out whatever little bit of warmth had been left after the dip into running water. Water is conductive.

Showering, properly showering, was out of the question, of course. On the second flood-free day our friends got their power back and let us come use their shower. It was one of the best showers of my life. It’s one thing to choose to go a few days or more without a shower because you are doing something fun, like camping or traveling a lot, but when you did not make that choice? Wow. Yeah. It gets you back to a certain sense of normalcy and even confidence. I found myself wanting to just stand under the shower for hours but didn’t want to be rude or waste too much of it. I had no such qualms the next week when we got to our hotel. I took a long bath with a good shower rinsing. I won’t go into too much detail (because ewwww) but let’s just say I really needed an extra-good scrub. The truly amazing thing about a bath, of course, is the way the water really soothes all the little achies that you had been bearing for so long that you couldn’t remember what life was like without them, both of the physical and mental varieties. One of the great perks of most places in Manhattan is you have this unlimited supply of high-pressure hot water that feels like magic after living almost anywhere else. I luxuriated in the hottest water I could stand and enjoyed every second of it, allaying my guilt over using that much of it by reminding myself I’d barely used any for weeks. Water is wonderful!

The other perk of Manhattan is that the tap water is safe and delicious as long as you’re in a building that doesn’t have decrepit pipes. It’s the main thing I miss about living here (even though I love my water cooler). Chlorine has never agreed with me and Hoboken’s water has so much of it that sometimes it smells like a pool is being emptied through my tap. We even had to get a filter for the shower as it was wrecking our skin, causing rashes and other problems. I took the tap water for granted when I lived here so it’s nice to just turn on a tap and drink the free stuff at restaurants with appreciation. Water is luxury.

My life may be crazy right now and full of tension and uncertainty, but I have access to water. Sometimes I might have too much of the wrong kind around me, but even through that period I never lost the ability to drink or wash my hands (no matter how awful it felt) or cook with it. I didn’t walk through the floodwaters full of sewage and who knows what else because I didn’t absolutely have to. That makes me luckier than a very large chunk of the population of this planet. That makes me downright privileged. If you are reading this piece you probably live a similarly privileged existence. The human body can adapt to survive many deprivations but a lack of water is not one of them. 30,000 people die every week simply because they have no access to clean water and/or live in unhygienic conditions. Just spending a couple of weeks with the aftermath of floating sewage is intolerable but millions live with that every day of their lives, with no end in sight. It disproportionately affects women, too, as in many places it is up to them and their children to walk long distances every day to fetch the minimum needed for survival. Children miss out on education even when it is available because water must come first.

Meanwhile, those of us in the developed world have to simultaneously worry about an uptick in flooding as arctic ice melts and drought as global temperatures steadily climb. The western states are hurting and already having political water wars over rivers such as the Colorado, which is responsible for delivering water to far too many people as it is. The eastern states are learning that large-scale infrastructure projects are absolutely necessary to survival as sea levels rise. Simply protecting New York City will cost an estimated $6 billion, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of damage just from Sandy. It’s also something the government has to do and that will mean raising taxes. It’s time for taxpayers to get over themselves and realize that even from a place of selfishness, it’s time to pay up and protect ourselves. Not only do we need to adapt to a changing climate but we need to upgrade and improve our infrastructure for power, fuels, and communications. Old cities mean old infrastructure, outdated and unable to handle the new realities, and difficult to repair since young utility workers are not trained for such old equipment. Bonus: A lot of that money would create jobs and opportunities for businesses of all sizes! Something cutting taxes has never actually accomplished.

Some of what I’ve experienced in the past few weeks would be unthinkable in more progressive countries. Did you know China spends 9% of their economy on infrastructure and it’s a big part of why their economy is booming? European countries average 5%. America spends 2.4%. America is geographically massive and geologically diverse and that gives us a far wider variety of concerns than most nations. We should logically be outspending most of the world when it comes to infrastructure. It would actually save us a lot of money. It would save lives. It would make businesses run more efficiently and therefore help the economy. Very few businesses can survive a week or more of being unable to do any business due to infrastructure issues. Even on a normal day, good infrastructure helps get products and services delivered and makes it possible for employees to get to and do their jobs. How could that be a bad investment?

We will never be able to call ourselves truly civilized until we are actively doing our best to make sure that everyone, from the richest to the poorest, no matter where they live, can have a better relationship with our most precious resource. Water doesn’t care if you’re a billionaire or a celebrity or living in an urban slum or rural community or fancy gated suburban neighborhood, too much or too little of it will take your life.

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Just some of the important sources that you should read:


Guilt and Language July 2, 2012

Posted by craftlass in beliefs, current issues, politics, women's rights.

I am a feminist and atheist.

These days, those words are treated more like curse words than any term for genitalia. It’s a clever way to try to take the power out of them, it makes a lot of people apologize for being either or both. Language is a living thing, as any writer or English major can tell you, and usage can completely change the meaning of the word.

For example, let’s look at “conservative”. Politically, it used to mean someone who believed in small government, letting people make their own choices as long as they don’t harm other people on purpose, and allowing the market and society to sort things out without government intervention. These days in America, it means people who want to shrink the parts of government that help people, grow those that don’t, think companies are somehow more human and should have more rights than actual people, and want to restrict the rights of individuals if they happen to be anything but straight men. Often, it is also used to describe people who want America to turn into a theocracy, as long as it’s based on the Christian Bible (usually the woman-hating King James version that was commissioned by a man who was probably gay, but let’s not dwell on those ironies beyond a good chuckle).

See? Words are malleable. A century ago I would be a staunch conservative, now I’m a wild liberal simply because I believe in a person’s right to choose how to live her or his own life. I am exactly the same person with the same convictions, either way. It’s the definition that has changed.

I was raised very Catholic (as seems to be the case with many atheists). One of the classic stereotypes of that particular religion deals with guilt. Catholic children are taught to feel guilty about everything, even just being born. Catholic parents, clergy, and teachers often use guilt as a tool and it can be pretty effective. My poor godmother still has the ability to make me feel truly awful about the fact that I’m not Catholic simply by telling me that she thinks it is her fault, that she did something wrong and could have made me devout if she had just done something different. She’s completely wrong about that, it was the Church and the Bible that made me an atheist and the only way she could have changed those was to go back thousands of years to change everything about both. Still, letting her and other family members down is the only thing about my choices that bothers me. I got pretty lucky in the family lottery of adoption and would love to make them all proud in every way but I can’t deny basic truths about myself just to make anyone feel better.

Similarly, I see a lot of women who are strong supporters of women’s equality and rights who are afraid to call themselves feminists. There seem to be two causes for this: 1) They are not quite sure what feminism actually means and don’t want to use a term they don’t understand; 2) The word has a lot of negative connotations these days. The former is a good reason to not use a label and should be inspiration for further study, the latter is a horrifying one. When people demonize feminism and we allow them to take the word away from us we are handing over the power of the word. Isn’t that analogous to handing over all of our power? Isn’t that the exact opposite of our goals?

There is so much misinformation being disseminated about feminism. I think it’s a pretty simple thing, feminists want equality and full participation on every level of society and for women to be able to make their own decisions. What is wrong with that? With the exception of true misogynists I think most people want that, when you boil everything down to the essence. I don’t want women to control everything, I just want over half the population to have an equal voice. This is not how things are at this time. When Congress bans women from testifying about contraception, when state governments relegate the women within them to working only on minor areas of state law, when politicians equate women with livestock… We are nowhere near equal. If anything, we are losing the ground that the generation before mine paved for us.

According to Save the Children, the United States is one of the worst places in the developed world to be a woman (they make it painfully clear that we can not begin to compare the developing and developed world, so please don’t comment that women here have it better than those in places like sub-Saharan Africa, okay? We know that already). We are behind in almost every category they study, from amount of women in powerful positions in government to basic needs like being able to breastfeed our children without reducing our paychecks significantly.

In a country that reveres children to a sometimes unhealthy point isn’t it weird that we care so little about the only people who can bear them? Once again, oppressive people want us to feel guilty for wanting careers, wanting to choose whether and when to get pregnant or not, even down to guilty about what we wear or how we have fun. I recall an old friend telling me about her stint in a mental hospital and how one of the ways to show you are ready to be let out is to do your hair nicely and wear makeup because that is “normal” behavior for women, even if you’ve never owned a lipstick in your life. Really? Should I feel guilty because makeup is something I generally reserve for the stage and fancy nights out when there are real things to worry about? A woman could be crushed under the weight of it all and many are. There are so many levels of societal oppression and even the little things are part of an overall pattern that culminates in things like the War on Women and women who truly believe they are worth less than their fathers, husbands, and even the sons they have raised.

I’m done with all of it. I refuse to give in and feel guilty about who I am and what I fight for. I didn’t get a choice about being born female, intelligent, and with some talents. I do get to choose how to use what I have, though, wherever it came from.

I’m taking my cue from the gay community, who took the insulting meanings out of “gay” and “queer” and turned them into positive ways to identify themselves. Go to any Pride March and you’ll see countless examples of how words with formerly negative connotations are now celebrated as empowering. It breaks my heart when I hear young people using them as insults again, but I think the positive aspects will far outlive any negative ones in time, especially if we keep educating relentlessly about how it’s okay to be whoever you were born as or have been sculpted into by your experiences.

Restricting or abolishing the use of a word never has the desired consequence of eliminating the meaning, but changing the definition can. It takes the guilt and stigma out and replaces it with strength and unity. It takes time and constant effort but it’s one of the few things that can actually change the way people think in the long run.

I am a feminist and atheist.

Heroes July 20, 2011

Posted by craftlass in NASA, people, politics.

As a musician, you’d probably think my heroes would be the musicians who inspire me. While I give them credit for making me the artist that I am, my musical heroes tend to be more the technical and business people who created the ability for me to be a truly independent artist. The engineers at ProTools and the wizards behind Audacity, for example, especially the latter, since they do it in an open-source way that gives me the ability to record a demo on my laptop wherever I may be without spending a dime. This is important since I’m a classic example of struggling artist, especially since I’m still sort of a newbie at being on this side of the microphone. Then there are the people at Bandcamp, Tunecore, and Reverbnation who create the opportunities for us independents to have many of the marketing advantages of major players in the industry. These people have enabled an outright revolution that is making the world of music a far better place. Despite my lack of love for major labels I also admire the people who do the real work of getting their music out, the assistants and “little people” who go about their duties with passion and vigor without getting any of the credit or even a big enough paycheck to live in the cities they have to live in to do their work or usually even a simple, “Thank you.” I was one of them once, and it’s the hardest work in the industry. Makes being a musician feel like a piece of cake even when I’m working 16 hour days or exhausted from traveling and promoting myself.

As a space geek, you’d probably think my heroes are astronauts. Don’t get me wrong, I admire them beyond measure, but the real heroes are the people who toil endlessly to get people, satellites, and robots off this planet. You may never know their names but you benefit from what they do every single day of your life. In the next few weeks many of them (those in the shuttle program, of course) will be out of work and they’ve known this was coming for months and years yet continued to put their best efforts in and show pride in what they do. Whether writing software, training astronauts, interpreting data into something usable, designing systems, building, or any of the million duties that are required for success, every single one of them is an imperative piece to the giant puzzle that is spaceflight.

Watching people I admire, even love in many cases, lose their dream jobs and do it with a smile and gratitude they even got to be a part of this for awhile has completely changed my perspective on heroes. Sure, there is bitterness as well, but the grace with which most are accepting their fates is something beyond admirable. Some of them will never be able to sell their houses and move where jobs are available. Some of them will lose everything they’ve worked for all these years, serving the American public in a concrete way politicians could never understand. I have never seen so many houses for sale that will probably not find a buyer as on the Space Coast. It’s easy to look at numbers and dismiss them, after all, what’s thousands of jobs lost in an economy that has lost millions of them? Getting to spend a lot of time in an area that likely won’t recover anytime soon, no matter what the national economy does, provides insight into how disjointed America can be. We are not just two nations occupying the same plot of land as some would say, we are thousands of micro-societies with unique problems and things to contribute to the whole.

When the shuttle lands tomorrow an era that has been an integral part of any greatness America can claim to have will be over. No matter how quickly we can get new programs going the end of this era will also signal an end to a community of the best and brightest we have produced as a nation. They span the nation, most obviously in Florida and Texas but also in hundreds of towns you would never think of as being enhanced by the shuttle program. Some will move into different areas of space work, others will have to move into fields they have never wanted to be part of because there just isn’t enough room for them in a scaled-down space industry. Their training as NASA or NASA contractor employees is incredibly valuable to many industries but many of those industries are ones that simply don’t contribute to our society in the ways that truly matter. I wish we could keep them working for the greater good instead of helping to line the pockets of the already-wealthy. Even worse, they will no longer be working as a team.

Do I think NASA should be a jobs program? No. Is there bloat and waste in the agency? Absolutely. However, the way to fix that is not to push out the very people who can take us to greater heights as a community, a nation, and even the global community of humans. As citizens of one of the few nations with the resources to embark upon these grand adventures in science and exploration we are responsible to be angry on the behalf of heroes.

But first, just find yourself a shuttle worker today and say a heartfelt, “Thank you.” A small gesture, to be sure, but one they could use a whole lot more of.

I’m thrilled to add this has been cross-posted at the Space Tweep Society blog at http://www.spacetweepsociety.org/2011/07/20/heroes/

Same Person, Different Rights October 2, 2009

Posted by craftlass in current issues, hypocrisy, marriage equality, politics.
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I was just reading a post I’d missed on my new favorite blog, Are We Married?, about the fight for equal parenting rights and it led me down a familiar mental path.
See, I’m in a very long-term committed relationship with a man, but I have a few ex-girlfriends in my past and have been truly in love with a woman in my life. I’m also very sensitive about
rights when it comes to the most important decisions a person can make, to marry and to have children. I’m marriagefree and childfree and proud of it. I haven’t 100% written marriage out for some time in the future, I’m realistically flexible and can see some practical advantages to the institution, but I am not having kids under any circumstances other than taking in the children of those I care about if there is no other option but them going to strangers. I knew I didn’t want to be a mother for certain when I was 3 and have yet to waver as of 33. To be perfectly honest, the thought of having a kid terrifies me more than jumping out of a plane did! Only one thought is scarier — pregnancy.

My only problem with my decisions is the conversation I have had oh, so frequently with strangers. acquaintances, some family members, and even a few friends:
Them: “So, are you two married?”
Me: “No.”
Them: “How long have you been together?”
Me: “About 12 years [or whatever amount it was at that point].”
Them: “Oh! That’s a long time! Well, when are you going to get married?”
Me: “I’m not sure, probably never.”
Them: “But what about the kids?”
Me: “We’re not planning on having any.”
And then, depending on religion or age group, they launch into one of several tirades. The most common is just that if I don’t have children I will end up regretting it, which is funny because I refuse to regret things, it’s such a waste of time and energy. Another regular is that I will lose my boyfriend if I don’t give him a family, which is ridiculous as he doesn’t want those things either and we ARE a family as it is, we certainly act more like one than many married people. My personal favorite was the guy who told me I should kill myself because I am not fulfilling my function as God’s daughter. I am not joking, he was a cabbie who picked me up at JFK and drove me to Manhattan, a very long and strange taxi trip.
I know I could just lie or try to change the subject but why should I have to do that? I much prefer being proud of myself and my choices, even if it can be painful to hear the reactions.
Then I look back at my life and realize that I could be having such a different conversation if I’d settled down with a woman. The very same people who lambaste me for choosing not to marry or have children would be telling me that those are not even an option for me as long as they have their way. That would hurt a lot more. The concept that a decision I made to go out to the bar where I got to know my boyfriend one spring evening years ago could completely change my rights is mind-blowing.
I think about Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez and how a clinic refused her access to IVF. I think about the droves of right-wing voters who came out for Prop. 8. I think about how people used to complain about gay couples having more disposable income than them because they didn’t have children yet they don’t want them to spend that money to become parents or support children.
What worries me more than the serious Christian Coalition-types, though, is the amount of generally rational, tolerant, accepting, and loving people I know who are pro-gay rights in every other way but are also anti-marriage equality. Why? Why does it affect you in any way? It’s not like anyone is talking about taking away a heterosexual’s right to marry.
People who love each other should be able to marry each other or not as they wish. People who want kids and can care for them properly should have them, people who don’t and can’t shouldn’t. It’s that simple. We have an awful lot of control over these things today, the capability for a whole new level of personal freedom and choice.
We need to strip away all the laws that take away anyone’s rights and worry about people hurting each other instead of who we can continue to oppress and how to best oppress them. Politically, spiritually, and in our attitudes as well. If that happens it will be the moment America truly becomes The Beautiful.

Welcome to the Only State More Corrupt than Louisiana! Now, Go Vote! September 29, 2009

Posted by craftlass in politics.
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How do you choose who to vote for when there aren’t any viable options?

I live in New Jersey these days and my first state-wide election here is coming up. For those of you who don’t follow our politics here (outside of scandals that landed many in jail, including the mayor of my town), we are in the midst of perhaps the most heated election cycle of my lifetime. Our incumbent, Jon Corzine, is a favorite of Obama’s (apparently, as he seems to spend almost as much time campaigning for him as he does on television appearances and screwing up New York City traffic) but pretty much no one else. His numbers are as bad as David Patterson’s yet the Democratic Party seems to be fighting for him instead of asking him to step aside. I can’t figure out if they really want to lose NJ or something. If they do I’m thinking it’s because Corzine’s opponent, Chris Christie, is so corrupt that they think he’ll raise a lot of money for the party every time he does something that makes Democrats mad.
Either way, I have ended up with a huge dilemma. I’m very (theoretically) excited to vote at last in the state I grew up in and left before I was old enough to register but I have no one to vote for.
As you know if you’ve read my post on The World’s Smallest Political Quiz, I am a Libertarian. The problem is, if I vote for my own party’s candidate, it’s pretty much a wasted vote. That is why the two-party system does not work. Call me crazy, but I’d much rather vote for the least of several-to-many evils than the lesser of two. I’m wise enough to know I will be unlikely to have the chance to vote for someone I might actually believe in but why do I only have two choices? In this case, it’s not even the lesser-of situation, it’s more, “I’m voting for pure evil and shortsightedness either way.”
Two of my most politically-aware friends also live in New Jersey and are staunch Democrats. I respect their views immensely even when we completely disagree but they are considering not voting at all. That’s how bad it is. They are not the sort to skip voting and they have very strong opinions on this election but they can’t in good conscience vote for either of these men. They know better but just can’t figure out what to do.
For me, not casting a vote is not an option at all, but I understand their sentiment. As far as I can tell, these are my options:
  1. Vote for the status quo and accept that my state will continue on it’s extreme downslide. This is also a vote for corruption and irresponsibility.
  2. Vote for the “other guy” who is even more corrupt and wants to focus on issues that hardly even matter in this economy and time period rather than fixing anything for anyone.
  3. Vote for my party’s candidate just to up their vote count, perhaps aiding the cause of being able to vote for a third, fourth, or fifth party someday in the future but more likely having the same effect as not voting.
New Jersey is, I believe, unique in that we depend so much on two other states (New York and Pennsylvania) for employment and therefore it’s pretty hard to change our fate when we can’t do anything to change their policies. Still, things used to be better here for individuals, families, and corporations alike. When I was a kid this was an exciting place to be, always growing and changing. As much as I’ve railed against the development around me and particularly hate how much farmland has become condos, at least most people could find a job, usually a very good one to support living somewhere so costly. Now we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and it’s still more expensive to live here than anywhere but Manhattan and San Francisco. Everything has gotten worse. Everything.
I think about these things almost all the time with at least a few brain cells yet I am no closer to a decision than I was when the primaries ended.

Death Penalty Truly Does = Homicide September 7, 2009

Posted by craftlass in beliefs, current issues, politics.
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Capital punishment. Just the words make my blood run cold. I am not a great believer in the Bible but I have often thought that was one of the best lessons of the New Testament, that capital or even corporal punishment are not the way to handle justice on any level.

On a logical level, it is nearly impossible to know a person’s actions with 100% accuracy. Even video can lie, heck, you could be standing there watching something happen and not know the truth. It happens all the time, even to highly observant types.

The only good argument I’ve ever heard for the death penalty can be summed up in Ted Bundy’s escape from prison via a law library and the subsequent murders he committed before Florida put him to death. However, that level of cunning is rare and Ted Bundy is an exception to many “rules” of criminal behavior. We like to pin the label sociopath onto all kinds of criminals but the truth is they are incredibly rare yet share the trait of most criminals that the death penalty is not even slightly a deterrent to them. If anything, it just ups the stakes of the game and makes it more interesting.

Well, I’m off on a tangent again. The point is, I’ve always been against capital punishment, but today I read an article that made my veins particularly icy and included a sentence that, to me, is the truly unrefutable argument to be made against it: “On his death certificate, the cause was listed as ‘Homicide.'”

I don’t know if that’s standard, but it certainly makes sense, as it is quite intentional and thus homicide. Still, to see that we completely admit that we, as a society, are committing homicide on a regular basis just makes a horrifying concept seem that much more contentious. I’d honestly never thought about what they put on the death certificate in such cases before.

Even scarier, what the article was largely about was the appalling state of arson investigation in this country. If you watch much prime time television you must have seen some amazing arson investigations using all sorts of gizmos and scientific methodology. Well, it turns out that is more fictional than I thought. “In 1997, the International Association of Arson Investigators filed a legal brief arguing that arson sleuths should not be bound by a 1993 Supreme Court decision requiring experts who testified at trials to adhere to the scientific method.” Seriously? I don’t even have words (and that is extremely rare, as you may know if you’ve been reading this blog). Arson investigators often claim their profession is more of an art than a science. I’m sorry, but if you are going to kill me over something, I’d like some solid factual science to be behind it. Luckily, in this case the Supreme Court agrees, but arson investigators are still grappling with the concept.

Why is this country so much more accepting of art than science? Alas, that will have to be a discussion for another day.

The excellent article from the New Yorker that inspired these thoughts is a long one but well worth the time:

Cameron Todd Willingham, Texas, and the death penalty: newyorker.com

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World’s Smallest Political Quiz August 14, 2009

Posted by craftlass in beliefs, education, politics.
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One fact about my family has defined more about the way I look at everything than any other: My father has been a passionate Republican for my whole life while my mother was just as passionate of a Democrat. It was like growing up with James Carville and Mary Matalin in reverse, only not political operatives but just intelligent and educated voters who care. Objectively, their points of view were unsurprising, as he was an executive at large companies while she was a Ph.D. who opted to teach in and, eventually, run public high schools instead of working in the relative luxury of colleges. They generally lived by what they preached and that obviously led to some heated debates at the dinner table. While this drove me absolutely nuts as a child it also made me learn the importance of being politically aware very early on.

The second most important lesson I learned is to respect people who disagree with you. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only person in Generations X or Y who feels that way. The vitriol between parties makes me physically ill when it’s my friends spouting it. Disagreements are necessary and even helpful but the sheer petty meanness from both major parties is purely depressing and helps not one single person in this world.

Even worse, I’ve never fit on the right/left line, so the debates have always made me feel like even more of an outcast than I felt from being a geeky girl with odd interests all my life. I’ve also found that a lot of people I’ve met who THINK they know what party they belong in actually disagree quite a lot with that party. That’s one of the many problems of a two-party system, many (if not most) people join a party that fits one or two of their pet issues and ignore that party’s position on everything else.

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive an email from Dad with a link to The World’s Smallest Political Quiz and a note about how he was surprised by his results. I immediately took it and, while not surprised when it told me I was a libertarian (I joined the Libertarian party a while back after doing a lot of research before transferring my voter registration to a new state), it was a revelation to see just how intensely libertarian I am. What validation! People have been trying to convince me I’m a Democrat for years despite my enormous issues with many of that party’s stances and their underlying system of beliefs. I knew that wasn’t right.

Being a natural skeptic in general, though, I felt the need to test the quiz a bit further and had my boyfriend take it. He scored precisely where I expected, as pretty much a super-liberal. Yup, I ended up with a significant other almost as different in his beliefs as my mother was to my father. We really do grow up to be our parents!

So now I want to encourage everyone in the country to take this quiz, it only takes a couple of minutes but it is by far the best way I’ve found to distill what you think into something quantifiable. The other wonderful thing about the quiz is that it will lead you into ways to explore the parties you might fit well into, regardless of which they may be. No matter how politically aware you may be there is always more to learn. Always.

Perhaps the most important thing about this quiz and the group that publishes it is that they are trying to redefine the political landscape, get away from the left/right line that leaves so many people like me out in the cold. Libertarians AREN’T conservatives, as many people think, and statists aren’t liberals. They use a diamond-shaped chart that makes so much more sense than any straight line ever could, the world isn’t flat and neither should our political options be. There is no category where you can divide the nation’s population into exactly two positions, let alone one as sophisticated and complicated as politics.

John Adams famously said, “There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures into opposition to each other.” The man should be considered a prophet.

Please take this quiz!

The link again: The World’s Smallest Political Quiz