I Just Don’t Understand Americans

I’ve long been somewhat of a politics/history junkie, and as such I read a lot about both topics, from ancient times to modern; I read about events, wars, issues, personalities, elections, debates, governance, and the philosophy of politics. I read books, newspapers, websites, magazines, social media, and more books. I don’t have cable TV, however, but I do get to several reliable media sites online every day, including BBC, CBC, Al Jazeera, Atlantic, Reuters, Spiegel, Agence France Presse, Forbes, Macleans, New York Times, The Star,  Globe & Mail, Slate, and others.* 

So even though I am not an American, I like to think that, for a foreigner, I am reasonably well acquainted with American history, geography, and politics. It’s hard not to be at least somewhat aware, when it’s splashed all over every paper, website, social media, and radio news even in Canada. I try to be well-informed about the events and issues that affect our biggest trading partner and (sometimes uncomfortably close) neighbour because they always affect us here.

But for all my reading and attention, some days I just don’t get Americans. Don’t get me wrong: I have known and loved many Americans over the years; I count quite a few Americans among my friends or at least friendly acquaintances. I’ve worked for them, I’ve travelled with them, had sex with them, I’ve partied with them, played music with them, and danced with them. I’ve sipped tequila with them in a tiny bar tucked away in the hills of central Mexico, and I’ve played wargames and paintball with them. But when it comes to politics, I just don’t get them.

Why would ANYONE have voted for Donald Trump? It was like standing on a train track seeing the light coming towards you at full speed, hearing the whistle warning, and yet staying on the track because you believed it would pass you by and hit someone else.

Come on, folks: it splattered body parts all over the nation. He’s spent almost four years proving he’s a racist, intolerant, lying, narcissist, fake-Christian, barely literate, uneducated, vindictive, nasty clown doing his best to destroy the United States economically, environmentally, socially, and politically. He is shredding your nation’s democracy as we speak, undermining your Constitution, destroying your ability to vote,  and making Vladimir Putin a very happy man. He mishandled the pandemic at the cost millions of jobs, a worse economic collapse than the Great Depression, and more than 170,000 deaths (and rising). He mishandled international trade at the cost millions of jobs and hikes to consumer prices. He alienated every ally in Europe and North America. He has screwed education, tried to sell Puerto Rico, wanted to use atomic bombs on hurricanes, thinks windmills cause cancer, put incompetent sycophants into the Supreme Court, golfed this term more often than most people golf in their entire lives, and played footsie with America’s sworn enemies.

The whole fucking world is laughing at Trump and his blundering, his ineptitude, his unpresidential shenanigans. And they’re looking aghast at the overt fascism being rolled in. Unidentified, armed federal agents kidnapping people off the streets. Children separated from parents and put in cages for years, suffering abuse and sexual assault. Billionaires making billions more because of his tax cuts to the already-rich while workers lose jobs, rights, and benefits. Is this how you want American and its leaders to be perceived?

So who in their right mind would vote for him again? Especially now there’s a reasonable alternative in another candidate (and an excellent choice for VP) who can help the country heal and regain its stature in the world. Not the perfect candidate, sure, but in comparison the two Democrats simply outweigh the incumbents in ethics, morality, humility, public spirit, and intelligence.

Apparently, being in your right mind is not a requirement to vote for Trump or his enablers (Moscow Mitch McConnell, Lindsay “Vlad’s Boy” Graham, and the other crypto-fascists). Voting for any of them would be like asking to be disembowelled right after the executioner had lopped off your arms.  I just don’t get it. Who does that to themselves?

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Internet voting this election


This election will see Collingwood’s first use of internet and phone voting (the latter includes both smartphone and your bog-standard touch-tone phone). Eligible voters will be mailed a PIN early in October, and voting will be open Oct. 12, with the final tally on Oct. 22. Before you vote, however, you need to make sure you’re on the voters’ list (you can do that here). Collingwood town hall has a full page on the process here.

I’m torn about the online method. On one hand it offers opportunities to engage voters through the convenience and ease of online access, and might encourage more younger/millennial voters to participate. In theory it might mean a higher voter turnout. That is generally seen as good and desirable.

Higher voter turnouts are often used as yardsticks to measure success in an election. But it does not – nor cannot – measure whether voters are informed or engaged. Far, far too many online surveys and polls are completed simply because they are there or because they’re seen as an entertainment (it’s called game-ified). Will an election be the same?

Plus there’s the question of how people without computers or smartphones – or those with them but are not technically skilled in their use – will vote. Yes, they may have a touch-tone phone but I hearken back to numerous occasions trying to reach a corporation help line or service centre through the quagmire of button-pressing only to arrive, a dozen presses later, at a recorded message telling me how important my call is so please stay on the line. The wait time is an estimated 27 minutes… That sort of experience tends to colour my view of phone systems somewhat negatively.

Those without computers but want to vote that way will have to go elsewhere. To friends, relatives, or some public-access site like the library. That makes me wonder about security, the ubiquitous cookies (those little data tags that are stored on your computer every time you visit a site), someone overseeing your choice, privacy and the whole gamut of computer-related issues. Not to mention how some seniors or shut-ins will be able to get to those places.

Even though I’m a techie who has oodles of hardware and software at my disposal, I actually prefer the old polling booth method for several reasons, despite the ease and convenience of online methods.
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Electoral reform for Collingwood

Collingwood elects all of its council at large. There are no ward systems for local or neighbourhood voting. But is it the best system for Collingwood? I don’t think so, and want it to be discussed by the next council. And maybe a referendum question on the next ballot.

At-large are good for mayor, and deputy mayor (if the latter is elected directly and not otherwise selected from the representatives). Everyone gets to vote for the top positions. But the next seven we choose are also elected at large. And why should everyone have to vote for all of council? Why not simply for one ward representative?

Can any councillor elected at large truly represent all the interests, issues and voters throughout the community? Based on my experience both as a reporter covering the region for a dozen years and a councillor for three terms, I don’t believe so. The electorate here is very diverse and what affects, say, voters in the long-established far east side of town may be very different from what affects them in the new subdivisions in the west.

This term the problems of at-large of representation have been exacerbated by a large group on council focused not on the electorate, but on furthering their own agendas and entitlements. As a result, the community has suffered much these past four years. Electing blocks like this is harder to do under a ward system.

Back when I was on a previous council, I wanted to have a ward system added to the ballot for a referendum, but the council of the day voted it down. I want to open that discussion again. And if not a referendum, I want it to be an open, public discussion with public input. (There was a staff report, 2009-11, that is on p. 63 of the agenda package, which noted that in a ward system, “Elected officials have the ability to build strong relationships with the people he or she represents, becoming more aware of their needs and concerns and are more accessible to those people.”)

There are some good reasons for a ward system:

  • Residents always know to whom they can turn or can call about local issues.
  • Localized issues that may get overlooked by an at large council can be brought to the table more easily when there is a ward advocate.
  • Election campaigns for wards are less work and less expense, so they allow a wider selection of candidates to be able to run.
  • In wards, people often vote for (or against) someone they know, not a stranger, so the choices are more personal.
  • In an at-large system, areas of the municipality may be under-represented or not represented at all by anyone on council.

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