A blog for my writerly ramblings, my rambly writings, and all things in between.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Don't Stand In Line.

With the total train wreck that this presidential election has been, I can at least say that it has taught me something about myself, something that I don't think I really knew in a concrete way before. And that is this:

I don't stand in line.

Something that drives me crazy about politics is the number of people who blindly follow. They swallow whatever narrative their party is giving them, or whatever narrative the media is giving them, and they just obediently follow along, trumpeting the merits of their candidate and vehemently denouncing the other. If you were to ask these people why they were doing what they're doing, why their candidate is good and the other is bad, I can guarantee you that only a small percentage would be able to do anything more than parrot whatever it is they've heard people say on TV or social media. The majority flood social media and their friends' (and enemies') ears with emotionally-charged rhetoric that they cannot back up with facts:

"Hillary is a criminal!"

"Trump is sexist!"

"If I vote for anyone else it's a total waste! The bad party will win!"

And if you dare to question them, if you dare to ask them to back up their statements with something so outrageous as facts and reason, you will be kicked to the curb and labeled an enemy.

A friend posted this in response to something I wrote on Facebook, and it is so appropriate to how I feel:

I don't stand in line.

Recently, I saw a video of an experiment that was performed to see how people behave under peer pressure. Watch it below.

When I watched this video, I tried to put myself in that position and I asked myself, "Would I do the same? Would I just go along with everyone else?" My honest answer was a resounding no. And not just because I don't want to be labeled as a "sheep". It's because I am well aware that there are pointless things that go on around us every day and one of my personal principles is to not get sucked into those pointless things. I want to be in control of myself and what I do, not hand over my will to someone else to decide for me.

If I were in the situation in the video, I would be the one asking, "Why are we standing up?" And if no one had a good answer, I would ask the receptionist. And if she didn't have a good answer, I would be perfectly happy being the only one sitting down, knowing that everyone else was making a fool out of themselves. I would have no qualms with being stared at, or even harassed, because I would know that I could defend my position and they could not defend theirs.

Just to give another example, I was recently at a Back-to-School night for my middle-schooler. We were following our children's schedule between classes, and at one point we ended up outside the gym. I had been talking to another mom when I noticed we seemed to be in a line of people waiting to get into the gym, which was our children's next class. I peered up ahead, wondering what the hold-up was. I couldn't see anything, so I said to my friend, "Wait here, I'm going to check and see if this is actually a line or not."

I stepped out of line and walked up to the front where I saw indeed, there was no reason for the line, and so I went back and got my friend and we walked around the rest of the people and headed inside the gym.

I don't stand in line- literally.

One more example: my husband and I decided a few years ago that we didn't want to spend 30 years paying off our mortgage. We knew how much interest we would be paying on it and it simply didn't make sense for us to pay for our home twice if we didn't have to. So we cut back our expenses and started throwing money at it. Which means that usually we are driving the oldest car in the parking lot (but we own it outright) our clothes are all secondhand (and cost a tenth of what they'd cost new) and we don't eat out. Pretty much ever. When we've shared our pay-off-the-mortgage plan with others their response has been, "But you get a huge tax break with a mortgage!"

Er...so you're telling me that I should hand over $100 in interest to the mortgage company so the government can give me $20 back? When I could be keeping all $100?

This is the narrative they've been fed by the mortgage companies and the government, so this is what they parrot. Which is fine. They are welcome to stand in a 30-year-long line handing over thousands of dollars, smiling about how much they're saving. I'm 34, and in less than a year I'll be walking over to the bank to deposit my thousands of dollars into my own account.

I don't stand in line.

I will not make blanket statements about a political candidate without being able to back them up with fact, as near as I can get it. I need to know for myself.

I will not vote in the same way as people who are culturally and spiritually and intellectually similar to me just because they say I should. I need to know for myself.

I will not blindly follow a media-written narrative about a "crisis" that our country is facing without checking the statistics to see whether or not it actually is a real problem, no matter how many people are holding protests in the streets and no matter how much airtime the media devotes to it. I need to know for myself.

We are such a media-driven society, and it's become such a part of our daily lives, I don't think many of us stop to think about how much it influences us, how much power the media has in deciding what to make us care about.

To be honest, though, I am horribly saddened and disappointed in the vast hordes of people I see standing in line as I'm figuratively walking past it. Because you know what happens when you stand in line?

You are stuck.

You must wait for someone else to move before you do.

You hand over your control to some unknown entity, someone who does not care about you, someone who has an agenda that has nothing to do with you and your values, morals, and ideas, and everything to do with theirs.

Why? Why is so much of America still standing in line?

I am not writing this post to say, "Hey, look at me! I'm better than everyone else!" I'm not. There is a ton that I don't know, but I'm willing to learn. But if you want me to take you seriously, to understand your beliefs and to respect your position, then you have to earn it. You have to be able to give me facts. And if you don't have facts, if you're just going with your gut, then that's fine. I can respect that, as long as you're honest about it. But don't act like you know what you're talking about when you don't. Because that I can't respect.

America, please. It's time to get out of line.