The Politics of Abstention

It’s an election year and the political climate is a tempest in a teapot. Here’s why I’ve decided to stay out of the fray and hug it out, instead. Oh, and you can have my vote.

Sex, family secrets, menstruation, parenting missteps, tales of romantic bad decisions. In my writing, and in my life, there’s not much I don’t have a story for, and there’s very few stories I won’t tell.

Much to my mother’s (completely justified) dismay, my life, and heart, are pretty much an open book. In fact, just in the last week I told readers about my father’s shameful past and tried to find out from the historically-accurately dressed folk in Colonial Williamsburg what ladies of the day used for feminine protection.1

In fact, there are only two things I’ll ever shy away from talking about: politics and politics.

Somehow, the man I’m dating holds an endless fascination for all things political. When he brought up the fact that the recent “zombie” incidents weren’t terribly surprising given the fact that “we’ve been cannibalizing each other for years,” I knew by the look in his eyes that we were headed toward the political danger zone and quickly changed the subject. Probably to my boobs.

It’s not just with him that I have to dodge such conversations. It is an election year, after all. People are plenty free with their opinions–and will no doubt want to know yours–on the issues and the candidates.

So why would someone with opinions about every single thing keep them to herself when it comes to this one subject? Well, if politics and I were facebook official, our relationship status would be “It’s Complicated”.

First, I’m completely undereducated. While I pick up bits here and there–from the news I watch in the mornings while I’m getting ready, the headlines on the stacks of newspapers that sit by the door of the store where I work, or (most frequently) by eavesdropping on conversations that are none of my business–those tiny morsels aren’t enough to form an opinion. And they certainly aren’t enough to form a vote. Oh, did I mention that I don’t vote?

Additionally, for all of my sass and snark, at the very heart of me is a peace lover and, ultimately, a peacemaker. To put it bluntly, politics are divisive. I’ve seen many people, who connect on multiple levels, completely dismiss each other once they learn the other’s politics. How does your opinion about my worth change based on my views of same-sex marriage, abortion, or the City revoking Art 180’s permit to display children’s paintings on Monument Avenue? And if your opinion differs from mine, should that mean we can’t love each other or work through other issues together?

Look, conflict makes me queasy. It always has. And politics are at the heart of so many conflicts. Does that mean ignoring it will make it go away or that some people shouldn’t engage in discussion and action? Heavens no! If not for those people, I wouldn’t have the option of bowing out. I might be a Maria von Trapp who sings lovely, comforting songs while an army invades her homeland, but I do realize that someone has to fight off the Nazis with more than a Do-Re-Mi.

Am I just sticking my head in the sand, choosing love and ignorant bliss over the power that comes from being informed? Yep. There are eleventy seven million people out there eager to discuss politics with you and get behind your cause, but I just can’t find the time. But please feel free to tell me all about how you lost your virginity or the time your grandma got drunk and took off her top at your cousin’s wedding–for that, I’ve got all day.

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  1. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “period costume.” 
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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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