- by Chelsea DeMark
No one raises his or her voice outside of closed doors in Washington, DC. The tone of conversation is usually amicable, whether you overhear it in an office building, restaurant, or on public transportation (excluding the fair share of irascible crackheads who frequent the busses in the US Capital).
Every four years though, there is a disruption in the calm I experience during my morning commute, during lunch with coworkers, during my part time job as a waitress in the middle of the city. This disruption even permutes my day job, where I’m supposed to be working with the nation’s finest intellectual personalities employed by a top think tank.
This disruption is called the American Presidential Election.
All of the sudden, for an intolerable 1-year span, tones become more hostile. Friends having drinks in public wind up shaking fists at each other over the issue of the freedom to obtain contraceptives or abortifications. Strangers on the train sporting election paraphernalia for opposite parties can be spotted arguing about the national debt, spitting through their teeth from anger.
The title of Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, or other weird third party will put you at odds with any other, as discourse rises from a slight murmur to a practical shout along the course of 11 months, and then subsides thereafter. Now, two weeks after the election and probably for another two weeks still, the losers of the race are hesitant to curb their opinions and the winners are hesitant to stop slamming it down everyone else’s throat.
I’m personally a-political by nature. When politics gets brought up in conversation, I have historically tuned out and ignored whoever was spewing their opinion at me. When I graduated college and started taking positions at government affiliated or politically oriented institutions, I had to adopt to the conversations that were going on around me, which meant at least developing an opinion on the important topics.
There is a certain point though, between the month where people start shaking their fists (August) to the month where friendships literally end over political issues (October), where people like me want to retreat and hide under a rock until it’s all over. Until civilization returns to its previous state of normalcy, the a-political and the ambivalent regard their fellow citizens with disdain for the idiocy of their behavior.
The only way to sway the opinion of someone who opposes your own views is with a delicate combination of rhetoric and reason. There needs to be trust and respect between two individuals for perspective to be altered, and we usually make friends with people who hold viewpoints similar to our own. The only people we argue with are strangers, and the arguments are always futile.
I would like to walk along the monuments and not have to hear tourists babbling about how Romney would have made a better president, or walk down the street in Dupont Circle and not have to hear how Obama is the right man to save my country. The truth of the matter is, neither of them was the right candidate for the job, but now we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
What I’m especially tired of, though, is people offering up unsolicited yet shoddy reasons about who they voted for and why. Stop calling into the radio and saying you voted for Obama because, well, you’re black and so is he. Stop saying you voted for Romney because he has nice hair. Stop saying that either of them was going to put America on top, because they won’t. And for the love of all that is beautiful stop saying that if you didn’t’ vote you’re an imbecile, because if you voted without a good reason then you are the main problem with American Ethics.
“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent:” sound advice that my fellow citizens ought to abide by.
Chelsea is a Philosophy and Mathematics graduate of American University and is currently a National Security Research Intern in Washington DC.