September 11th, 2012

I’m not a big Twitter user.  I tried to be.  Actually, I’ve tried a few times.  But I fail every time.  It’s a failure I’m willing to live with.  Most people aren’t that interesting in 140 characters, and I have little patience for Tiny URLs and hashtags.  Nevertheless, a Tweet from Emily Nussbaum (which I found via a slide show on HuffPo) gave me something to chew on.  A few days ago she tweeted,

“I’m better off than I was 4 years ago, because back then, I had a 2 year old and a baby. Thank you, Obama!”

Obviously President Obama had nothing to do with the fact that her kids are now six and four.  Obviously, she’s making light of the current election-year climate, in which candidates try to take credit or cast blame for everything that has happened in our lives since the last time pollsters dedicated their lives to ruining my children’s nap time with robocalls.  The march of time happens no matter who’s in office.  And much of the good and bad that befalls us between election years has little to do with who took the oath of office on a fated January day.

I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Is it good that my life is so insulated from the politics of the Oval Office?  Is it good that our elected officials can dicker and lobby and negotiate over issues for weeks and months and on a daily basis the only ways in which it affects me are through the coverage I listen to on NPR?

I suppose it means that I’m lucky.  I am not in the military.  I don’t have “pre-existing” medical conditions.  I am not a gay person who wants to get married.  I am not a small business owner (not that small business ownership is a misfortune of any kind).  I don’t even have any kids in the public education system.  But does that mean that only people in certain sectors of society are actually affected by the policies set by our government?  As an average white woman living in the middle of the country should I really be that far removed from the repercussions of my government?

In the long run, I am not.  But on a day-to-day basis it sometimes feels like it, and part of me is grateful for that.  I am thankful that I am healthy, have a good job, am not subject to military deployment, and live in a part of the country that is reasonably economically stable.  My life today is vastly different from my life four years ago, but – much like Emily Nussbaum – that is due to the presence of two little boys who had not yet arrived on the scene during the 2008 election.  My life is more full but less restful.  It is less predictable and more filled with adventure.  It includes more diapers and fewer dates with my husband.  It is filled with more hugs and more spills than my life was four years ago.  These things would all still be true if John McCain had been elected.

Even though the layer of insulation that exists between me and the federal government is a byproduct of a largely privileged life, I’m not convinced it’s a good thing.  It allows me – when I’m feeling lazy – to disengage from the political world more than I should.  It allows me to focus only on my own existence, and not on those whose lives are drastically affected by policy shifts.  It gives me the opportunity to live an insular life that negatively impacts the degree to which I am informed about the world around me.

I try to do a decent job of looking outside myself; of understanding how our government’s actions have real and vivid effects on so many other people in this country.  I have no idea how I succeed on this score compared to other people.  I’m sure I could do better.  And I’m sure I could do worse.

In four years my two boys will be seven and four.  There will be things about that life that are vastly different from the life I live now.  And those changes will come about largely independent of whether President Obama wins a second term or not.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I get to stop paying attention.

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