Monday, November 3, 2008

Yeah, But Does It Do What It Says On The Tin?

Tomorrow is Election Day in Uncle Sam’s Land. Almost everyone I know has participated in Obama’s campaign in one way or another. People who had never voted before have worked the phones, they have committed to helping out on Election Day, they have emailed, blogged, spammed.

What is impressive to me is that someone has finally campaigned at US: the not-young-not-old, not-rich-not-poor, the educated-but-not-elitist, the aware-but-not-obsessed. Obama has woken us out of the long political naps we take because nobody cares about us anyway; he has reminded us of why we came, did, studied, of what we once wanted to achieve – whether we’re still there or whether we’ve moved on.

On a personal level, I am so happy that someone who, like me, was born in one place, raised in a couple of others, and has moved around a fair amount, can use that to his advantage in a country where they sometimes seem to scorn anyone who is “other”.

As we near the end of the campaign however, he has started lowering expectations, admitting in speeches that things won’t be easy. The “Yes We Can” has been turned into “we can, but give us time”.

It makes sense. This man is 100% human, and so his achievements will be as well. Unlike so many others in his business, he does not claim to be superhuman. He has not tried to position himself as a kind of modern-day king, privy to God’s ear and information in a way that common folks are not. Obama has admitted to flaws and accepted mistakes. He isn’t Louis XIV. He eats cake as well as dry bread. What a relief.

It’s been quite entertaining, in a vindictive kind of way, to see the other side’s ugly tactics ricocheting back in their faces. Nothing has stuck for long. None of their attempts to link Obama to Osama have worked, and The Weathermen story has made them look even more ridiculous.

Do I know a hell of a lot about American politics? Probably not as much as I should.
Would I be able to win a debate about it all? I wouldn’t put money on myself.

When it comes to the issues, I feel quite ignorant. I am a pretty broad-strokes voter in that I base my decision on things like abortion rights, gay marriage, health care and invasions of foreign countries on the basis of misinformation. In that sense, I’m as ignorant as any Republican: I don’t keep track of what congress is working on on a weekly or even yearly basis, I don’t even know the political intricacies of the very issues that I myself am interested in. I’m as much of a target for big PR campaigns as anyone. I want to be able to choose whether to give birth or not, I want a gay couple’s “I do” to legally mean as much as mine, I think we should all have access to a great education and be able to get sick without going broke. For me, that’s about as deep as it goes.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m voting from the gut; voting for someone whom I have been convinced can bring change in the few areas that will most immediately (and superficially) affect me – just like they want us to believe…

Does that mean I would be less likely to vote for a politician with less charisma?

In Israel, the very existence of the country is supposedly at stake, and so elections are usually much more dramatic, the views taken much more extreme: settle on other people’s land, or not; apartheid as a policy or not, etc.
Over there, “Who are you going to vote for?” is apparently a trick question. It is not as much a request for information as much as an opener for the imposition of the other person’s opinions. And, rest assured, in Israel everyone really does have a very strong opinion.
“You’re voting for Obama!?” a friend of my grandmother’s exclaimed in disgust, “that’s terrible.”
This was last year, during the primaries.
She shook her head, “no, you have to vote for Hillary. She’s a woman!”

To me, voting for a candidate because she’s a woman (or a democrat or a black man) is like marrying a man because he’s Jewish. It doesn’t work for me on any count.

In college, I campaigned for so many people… Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak (by accident), Yosi Beilin, Uzi Even (the first openly gay MK), and a smattering of other centrist and left-wing politicians. I was also very active in the left-wing student group at my university. I even ran as a representative of the English department – twice.

When I think about it, however, unlike my friends who found candidates that they could blindly follow, I never believed in one person – not on a student-level and definitely not on a national level (although at one given point, Peres did come relatively close). Still I campaigned for this cardboard cut-out, or that, handing out stickers, urging people to use our democratic rights, attending rallies, making phone calls, and even physically accompanying people to the voting booths.

Politicians are like philosophies or diets: I admire anyone who finds one specific one to believe in. My comfort zone lies somewhere in the middle, taking a little bit from many different ideas, research, promises.

The main reason I campaigned wasn’t for the greater good, or because I thought the person whose picture was on my badge would really make that much of an impact… In all honesty, there is little in my life that has come remotely close to the rush I got when I was actively participating in political campaigns.

The feeling of power between your fingers as you pore over the names and personal information of thousands of strangers, the manic months and weeks of planning, the tingling energy that is almost visible as the election nears, the hundreds of people you get to meet and chat to; and then finally that last push, the actual election day that goes by in a blur of emergencies, live-or-die moments, hours of feeling like the fate of the world is in your hands. It is easy to give up personal space, time, interests for the sake of the bigger picture, especially when you feel there isn’t all that much to give up in the first place.

I campaigned because I was lonely, because I was lost and scared and needed recognition and attention but had no idea how to go about getting any. I supported candidates and their agendas because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my own life. I gave myself fully to getting others elected so I would have to figure out where I was going, who I was, what was important to me.

Being part of something bigger than oneself is a great feeling.

And that is where I think Obama has done such a great job: instead of capitalizing on the usual “us versus them”, he has made it about giving power back to the individual. Obama has made his supporters feel that we actually have some modicum of control over our destiny. He has made it seem as if his campaign isn’t about him but rather each one of us. For the first time in a long time – for some of us, possibly in our lives – we feel heard, or at least as if someone would listen if we needed them.

Elections are a two-way street, a ready-made community that accepts all applicants, as long as they can pay their dues and vote. Campaigners need attention, as do the people they court. When I was politically active, I had a full-time group of friends, people with common interests, who were available to me twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We lamented the fate of our doomed ideals together and cried on each other’s shoulders when our civilian, uninterested boyfriends dumped us for girls who cared more about rubbing their shoulders than the important stuff.

But our egos didn’t ever suffer for long. We knocked on hundreds of doors; and for every one slammed in our faces, we met two or three who invited us in, who wanted to be our friend – because we were important people fulfilling an important task.

For someone like me who is naturally friendly, it was doubly satisfying as I quickly figured out my recipe for swaying people. Mix a dollop of goodwill with equal amounts of charm and true belief in one issue or another, serve in people’s faces with self-confidence and a smile. People want to believe that change is possible, and even the biggest cynic wants to be liked.

Some people love to be courted, while others prefer to be left alone. There are those who vote on big issues and those who are just happy to get out of the house.

People use elections for all sorts of reasons.

With regards to tomorrow… My fingers are crossed, my breath is bated.

My only hope is that we get what we’re voting for…

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Too often, especially in vegan and raw food restaurants, dishes like “pasta” and “cheese” are in fact very different from what one would normally expect. I can only assume that this is done in order to put non-converts at ease.
However, if I’m expecting little pockets of cooked flour when I order the ravioli and what I receive is thinly sliced squash pockets filled with nut paste instead, there’s a good chance I may be slightly disappointed.

Having said that, what do you call something that looks like cheese, tastes cheese-like, but isn’t cheese? “Goop” doesn’t quite wet the palate.

This past Saturday was World Vegan Day. To celebrate, I made a vegan dinner. It didn’t turn out fabulous, for a myriad of reasons, but one standout little side was the cashew “cheese”. It was flavourful, creamy, pronounced delicious even by those who eat the real thing.

Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for the recipe. There are so many different versions of it online but I decided to keep it simple and based myself on the recipe I found at maybevegan.blogspot.com

4-5 cloves of garlic
juice of 1 lemon
2 t sea salt
1 C water (I added a smidgen more)
3 C raw cashew (pieces)

Mince the garlic or crush in a press
Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed and blend until smooth
(You want the mixture to be thick and creamy)

I’m not sure what to call the result, except absolutely delicious.

2 comments:

A World in a PAN said...

Just loved your post, Gabriela, a mix of candid reflection, self analysis, experience, fun, and a recipe to topple that up!

A World in a PAN said...

Just loved your post, Gabriela, a mix of candid reflection, self analysis, experience, fun, and a recipe to topple that up!