Jacob Meeks

American Politics and Me: Where Do We Go from Here?

Jacob Meeks examines the division in American politics today and seeks to bridge the divide. He starts with his own personal path to try to find answers.

  

Everyone has a journey, right? That and politics is a four-letter word these days. Everyone’s in a gang. I’m a liberal. I’m a conservative. Those people are idiots. A lot of us have stereotypes. We’re all guilty in one way or another. Most of us anyway. Sometimes I don’t even know where we go from here as a country. I don’t know how the people in the little conservative Wyoming town I grew up in would relate to all the people in the liberal city of Portland, Oregon, that I now call home. Or the other way around. There has to be a better way though, right?

One would hope. I don’t know how we move forward as a country if we can’t even have a civil debate about things.

Everyone’s got a story. Here’s my political story in a nutshell. I tell it because I’m trying to figure out the same thing a lot of Americans are trying to figure out: Where the hell do we go from here?

Like I said, I grew up in a little Wyoming town in the ’80s and ’90s. Wyoming is a red state through and through. It’s the home of a former Vice President, Dick Cheney. It’s the first place in the U.S. that gave women the right to vote. Most people you’ll meet are Republicans. My parents are Democrats. As with most people in both America and the world, what your parents are generally dictates what you are. So, for my voting life, I’ve been a Democrat.

There have been five Presidential Elections in this country since I’ve had the right to vote. I’ve voted in three of them. In two of those, 2004 and 2016, I voted against the Republican candidate. My vote may have gone for the Democratic candidate, but I wasn’t really voting for them with true enthusiasm. In both cases, I just really, really didn’t like the other guy. Only in 2008, did I vote for a candidate, former President Barack Obama.

We, as a nation, were involved in two wars at that time. One of those, I had never believed in. The other one, I had begun to lose faith in. I never trusted former President Bush. In my mind, I figured he was third-generation money, had been given most everything during his early life, and, at least at the beginning of the wars, did not know the cost of war. Certainly not the way his father, the elder President Bush, who had been a pilot during WWII, had understood it.

So, I voted for President Obama. Partially, maybe even primarily, because of his stance against one of those wars and because I saw that Obama was a man who had worked himself up from obscurity to challenge for the highest office in the land. I respected that. He promised hope and change. After eight years of the younger President Bush, I was all for that.

To be honest, I only lived in the U.S. for the first year of Obama’s presidency and the last year. For the rest of it, I was living abroad doing aid work. I must say I was pretty damn busy for a good part of that. I didn’t keep up with politics. I returned home in early 2016 and there were varied opinions of how Obama did, depending on where you lived in the country and the people you associated with.

For my part, I agree with the former President on many things (I want to address this point again later, hopefully my conservative friends don’t switch me off right here), particularly on the domestic side of the fence. I did have one thing that had always bothered me deeply. That was the drone program. It greatly expanded under President Obama. I don’t think it’s right. I’ve never thought it was right. It’s not something we, as a nation, ever seem to really talk about. But that doesn’t make it right. I bring up the drones to say that you may agree with someone on some things, but that certainly doesn’t mean everything. American politics tries to force you to choose a team though and, once you choose that team, it’s hard to say anything against what it does.

I don’t know how we move forward as a country if we can’t even have a civil debate about things.

Fast forward to 2016, I voted against President Trump. I would do so again. I voted against him for a multitude of reasons, from climate change to the economy, but there were two big issues for me. First, there was the rhetoric. There were the calls to ban Muslims, there was the stereotyping of Mexican immigrants, there were a lot of things. I thought the rhetoric was stereotypical, divisive, and a lot of it simply wasn’t based in fact. It brought out hate groups. Plus, if you switch your group for any group he was saying those things about, well, most people would probably go crazy about that I imagine.

A second main reason was because the man has six bankruptcies and quite an, um, “interesting” history when it comes to his business life. If you question that last part of the statement, I challenge you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. For me, I was just worried he might bankrupt the country. I still hold that worry.

So, that pretty much tells you everything I think is truly important about my politics and what I care about. What’s important to a person certainly varies from person to person. Priorities vary. Histories vary. Opinions vary.

I want to return to my earlier point about agreeing with President Obama on several domestic issues. For example, healthcare.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know shit about healthcare. If you want to have an educated discussion about America’s foreign policy, foreign aid, and similar topics, I can hold my own based on personal experience and learning from my time in the military and doing aid work, plus books and education and reading. Healthcare? Not so much.

That being said, instinctually, in my gut, I feel that people should have healthcare. I feel that healthcare is a right. I feel that nobody in America should worry about dying from some disease because they cannot afford or get health insurance or because things are too expensive. So, if you tell me that the government can provide that, then fine, I’m good with that. It seems to work in Canada and Europe and other places. Sure, it’s not perfect, I go to the VA for my healthcare, I’m damn sure that government-run healthcare won’t be perfect.

So then, if you tell me that it’s better to have the market run healthcare and that solution can lower costs enough and make healthcare affordable for all Americans, well I’d be hard-pressed to believe you, but if you could prove it, fine. I don’t really care what the solution is to the problem, if the solution works.

Maybe you disagree with the problem that I brought up or the way I defined it or framed it. That’s fine. You would think we could have a reasonable conversation around that.

I just don’t care about sides anymore. I can’t think that those are the only two answers. In an infinite universe of possibilities, I can’t think that there’s only two ways of being. I care about defining the problem and then having options for solutions. I care about discussing things reasonably. It doesn’t seem like we’re doing that. The more and more we can’t have reasonable discussions about things, the more divided we become.

Somehow, America’s got to figure this shit out.

 

 

Jacob Meeks

Jacob Meeks is an aid worker, a leader, an operations professional, a complex problem solver, a veteran, and a writer. He has been working for the past seven years as a humanitarian in a variety of different locations from South Sudan to Lebanon. These experiences have afforded him a broader cultural look at the world and also offered a great many learning opportunities. Jake hopes to learn from these opportunities, stay involved in the humanitarian world, become more involved in the veteran’s world, and eventually become a writer in film, television, or another medium.

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