Days Off; Geography Lessons

After my sick day on Wednesday, I made the mistake of going in to work on Thursday. Mid-morning, two classes into the day, I started feeling feverish. I felt worse in the afternoon… though I’m sure the transitions between overheated classrooms and cold hallways didn’t help. What a miserable time. So I stayed late shivering, sweating, coughing, and putting together sub plans. I feel quite a bit better today, and woke up at 7am without an alarm, feeling refreshed, but I’m so glad I called off again.

Anyway, in case you are interested in what’s going on in the world, and not just what’s going on in my sinuses…

I’ve spent my morning watching the Vice Presidential debate from last night, and using our good friend The Internet to check up on world affairs from the comfort of my own warm bed.

(Oh, if you need to be caught up to speed, here’s a 3-minute summary of the past few months. It’s funny and only sort of biased…) 😉

The debate was interesting… it certainly wasn’t the disaster that some people were predicting and perhaps even hoping for, from an entertainment perspective. (Palin Bingo!) It’s clear that Sarah Palin was a little more prepared for this media encounter than she has been previously. She is doing a better job of portraying a very intentional image of a smalltown downhome hockeymom, with America’s “kitchen table” issues at heart, gauging the economy by conversations at soccer games. This is the GOP’s effort to combat the stereotype of the rich old white guy. Smart move, rich old white guys. Unfortunately for her, Biden’s counterpoints made it fairly clear how shallow that image is, when it comes to actually making big-time, country-wide decisions. Even if they have a hockey mom as a VP, who says “gee” and “bless your heart” a lot, the Republican agenda is still protecting corporations, not middle-class America, not even small businesses. I still think that Sarah Palin was a silly choice, supported by (albeit well-meaning) people for silly, silly reasons… but last night she managed to look a bit less silly.

As for Biden, he was throwing around his experience card a lot, which is understandable considering the competition. He did come across as being an articulate and experienced politian, who can hopefully add some stability to Obama’s inexprience. I’m very aware that articulate words and well-researched and supported attacks are just part of political prowess. If you’re better at being slick and convincing, that may also mean you just have more experience with the backstabbing manipulation that comes along with politics. Just because you have little political experience and make embarassing mistakes doesn’t mean you aren’t a good, honest person. For example, there were several times when Palin harshly criticized Obama and Biden’s votes on specific issues in their political history… when McCain voted the exact same way. That just means that Sarah Palin doesn’t know how to do her homework, or maybe just is unused to politics outside of Alaska. It doesn’t mean that Obama and Biden aren’t two-faced, as well.  The ability to do your homework, know your issues, remain poised and articulate, and to work the political machine doesn’t make you a good person, or qualified to run a country… it just makes you look better and look more qualified. Which is something… but not everything.

Bleh. We’ll see. Really, although interesting, the VP debate isn’t really very pivotal. The VPs aren’t really pivotal; it’s about McCain and Obama. And even they aren’t the end-all of politics. So much depends on Americans and their level of involvement in their own (political) destiny… which generally isn’t much to speak of. Although I’m still iffy on the Democrats and Obama’s campaign, I was very happy to be able to be involved in a local platform meeting in Ypsi this summer. Obama’s campaign asked for small, local platform meetings to come together and decide which issues we wanted as part of the platform. About ten people or so gathered at Arika’s apartment and met for several hours, coming up with the issues we thought were important, and drafting some language to express our thoughts on those issues. Ultimately, I don’t know how much these small meetings did to contribute to the Democratic platform. For me, however, it was valuable insight into the political process, and just how tricky it is to come to an agreement on anything. There were only a few of us, who cared about similar issues and had similar stances on those issues, and it took us hours and hours to come up with a few paragraphs articulating those stances. When it comes to an entire country trying to agree on something… it’s no wonder politics are so tricky. Actually being involved in the political process at any level gives you valuable insight. It’s too easy to just shake your fist at the TV, or make fun of the silly things people say into microphones.

But speaking of silly things…

Right now, the press in Spain – a NATO ally of the U.S. – is questioning the kind of relationship they would have with us, in a McCain administration. (I read about it over here, but that won’t be very helpful to you if you can’t read Spanish.) McCain’s evasive answers to a Venezuelan reporter make things a little confusing. The Radio Caracol interviewer is asking him about diplomatic relationships with other countries. I listened to a longer clip, where the reporter leads into the conversation by asking about Latin American countries, but part of this interview – in English, by the way – is being widely shared as a hilarious or disturbing gaffe, of “Bushism” proportions. The reporter repeatedly asks if McCain would be willing to meet with Zapatero, of Spain, and he responds vaguely about leaders in Mexico and South America. She points out that she is referring to Zapatero, of Spain, which is in Europe… not Latin America.

Is he simply being cold because Spain pulled troops out of Iraq? Does he know who Zapatero is? Wait, does he even know that Spain is a European country… not in Latin America?

I know who Zapatero is, and what country he represents, and which continent that country is on. Granted, I studied in Spain, and I am a Spanish teacher, and it’s my job to know and teach tidbits about Spanish-speaking countries. But that should hardly make me – a 22 year old woman with a bachelor’s degree – more informed than a 72-year senator running for President. If he really was that uninformed about Spain’s politics – nevermind its geographical position on the other side of the globe from Mexico – then that is pathetic.

Perhaps these few potentially embarassing minutes are just being blown out of proportion. Perhaps McCain really was just being evasive and vaguely hostile towards countries that do not support his timeline (or lack of a timeline) in the war.

Basically, regardless of McCain’s actual knowledge and motivations, he’s certainly not clearing up the United State’s image of geographical prowess. I’ve never seen my professor in Ávila laugh harder than when we were giving presentations on our hometowns. He asked someone to draw a map to show where Michigan was located, and after some lopsided mittens were drawn on the board, I told him: “No sabemos los mapas – somos americanos, ¿vale?” (We don’t know maps… we’re Americans, right?)

The good news for me is that McCain and Palin’s chances at the White House are looking slimmer. They’ve given up on us here in the ol’ dirty glove, which may or may not be a major loss for them. I don’t know if Obama’s administration will do a great job, or even a good job… but even uncertainty is better than the apprehension I would feel if McCain’s administration took over.

Wow, who knew I could talk so much… about politics. Okay, maybe you guessed that I could.


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