This is the first in an upcoming series of posts on politics and food. Please forgive us if it gets a little heavy in here for the next few weeks. Your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.
For a long time I was ashamed to say that I wasn’t politically active. I thought (rightly so) that responsible members of society cared about the things that are happening in their government, and (wrongly) that this manifested itself as being active in political campaigns for candidates. But recently, I’ve realized that even though I don’t contribute much to campaigns, I’m politically active in ways that are far more important than the people on the ballot.
This began with a conversation that I had with fellow travelers on the day of the recent elections in the US. We’d spent the whole day climbing together, away from news and internet connections and cell phone reception. As the day drew to a close our thoughts focused more and more on the unknown results of the election. We’d heard whispers from others throughout the day that the race was neck-and-neck, and we were nervous to learn of the result. As the sun set over the mountains they went off to check the results, and would deliver the news to us in an hour or so.
As we waited that hour, with no new information to give us hope or worry, we could do little but sit and stare out the window. We were too occupied by our thoughts to focus on anything else. When they finally arrived, waiving huge thumbs up and sporting massive grins, we could relax. We were proud to be Americans.
High on adrenaline and relief, we sprang into a discussion about politics, and I admitted that I was happy to be disconnected from most of the election hoopla. They shared some of the same sentiment, and put it in a way that changed how I think of political engagement: Why are we always talking about people, and not about issues?
After further reflection, I realized that I am engaged on a political level, far more intimately than I imagined. I’m in New Zealand, learning a trade (self-sufficient, natural farming) that I intend to take back to the US and implement. This kind of engagement in an issue is far, far more meaningful than making phone calls on behalf of a candidate. If we all stopped wasting time talking about people and focused instead on problems and solutions, we’d be a more efficient democracy and a improved society.