In the last six months, at the most, I've become increasingly aware of American politics, to the point of considering participation in a manner beyond just voting. Somewhere on the other end of the internet my mom is laughing, for two reasons:
It seems like since I was young, my parents have treated me on some level as an equal. Maybe they totally faked me out by pretending to include me in a conversation, but they never said "Courtney go away, we're talking about grown up stuff." Instead the let me listen in about their work, our extended families and issues that were important to them. Maybe they didn't know I was listening, but sometimes they'd ask my opinion about whatever their subject of conversation was. My usual answer was "I dunno," to which my dad expressed exasperation at my lack of an opinion.
By the time I was 20 or so, they wished I'd shut the hell up with my opinions. I had opinions about things I didn't know much about (I now try to keep quiet unless I'm knowledgeable about the subject).
Probably around the time my opinions formulated my mom suggested I take a political science class. I roundly refused, mostly because my high school government class wasn't my favorite subject. She thought I'd like it, thought it might give me an opportunity to use my people skills and my newfound opinions. In my opinion, I didn't think I would enjoy it and was already getting enough politics from my history major.
And I spent the bulk of my 20's with only a handful of opinions and stances on political items, mostly the social issues that, for reasons I still can't grasp, have become political.
Sidebar: Isn't there something inconsistent about Republicans saying "I want smaller, less intrusive government" while at the same time saying "Except for you, women. I want to tell you how to run your vagina*"?
But in the last six months, I've become acutely aware of how politics impacts my life. I work in local government, so does my husband, and maybe this kind of exposure brings politics to my attention in ways it doesn't other people. The issues that really seem to get my attention lately though are:
Healthy food/ farm subsidies. Can someone tell me why we're subsidizing the corporate corn industry to make High Fruitcose Corn syrup, but not small family-owned farms or veggie and fruit growers?
Health care. I have a Mother In Law who can't retire, thus freeing up a job to be filled by a younger employee of my generation, because she takes four figures worth of drugs a month to keep her Lukemia at bay. She probably couldn't qualify for health care with her pre-existing condition, and even if she could qualify, she couldn't afford it. Isn't access to health care a basic tenet of a "civilized" first-world country?
Debt, both on the home front and federally. We paid off our consumer debt last week. We don't live outside of our means, and don't plan to, ever. We live in both a City and a State that despite the Recession, are both currently in the black because of careful budgeting. Why is that impossible to expect from our government? On a more personal level, the debt incurred by college students chasing the dream of an advanced degree to "get ahead in life." I'm lucky to have escaped four years of undergrad and two years of grad school with "only" $24,000 in loans. My monthly payment, on a 10 year repayment plan, is $318. I consider that "not bad"; although I am in a career field where I do not anticipate making over $50,000/ year, ever. But let's see... economists wonder why the generation under 30 can't afford houses or apartments? Uhh... because we're so busy paying off our education! $24,000 would have made a hell of a down payment! And I have friends with liberal arts degrees and twice what I have in debt.
Those are only three items. I have so many other opinions. But I think it might be getting time to transform my mouthy opinions into action of some sort, I'm just uncertain where to start.