(Ten Tips for TCK Voters is at the bottom of this post.
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I’m a Third Culture Kid with an American passport. I grew up in countries where Washington mattered because its selfless sacrifices saved powerless strangers. But I’ve returned to this country to find Washington adrift, saving itself and sacrificing the powerless.
My parents instilled in me a deep love for America’s ideals and an allegiance to its goals, so it isn’t disinterest that is souring my perspective. It’s the irreconcilable distance between the historic respectability of America’s stature and the toxic tactics of its electoral spectacle.
I know—believe me, I know—that political processes in other nations are far more immoral and violent than what we know here. But I expect more from the United States. I want better. Silly me.
Since my return four years ago, I’ve discovered a country in which money, hyperbole and venom masquerade as democracy, in which legitimate voices are too intelligent and sincere to be heard over the bellicose roar of manipulative figureheads with power to gain and checks to cash.
Some candidates show courage and the tenacity to speak truthful purpose into a maelstrom of pandering. But those very traits—their honor and self-respect—make them unelectable in this pitiful season of Real Politicians of DC.
Just as in the world of reality TV, notoriety and payoff seem to have eclipsed character, logic and foresight.
I’d still rather be American than any other nationality. This damaging Crazy Season cannot diminish that, and yet…
The overstatements are offensive. If you’re Republican, you hate Muslims and worship the NRA. If you’re a Democrat, you kill babies and hate the police. Republicans destroy the planet and Democrats destroy marriage. Republicans are good Christians and Christians can’t be democrats.
Please. The world is more complicated than single-lens indictments. Society is more complex than mono-religious affiliations.
The “allegiance extortion” of the political elite feels restrictive and insulting: either you completely adhere to every tenet of a party’s discourse or you’re a turncoat, tacitly aligned with the contemptible “other side.”
And We the People in search of truth and a path forward, we who hold with our vote the future of this country, are forced into the painful quandary of supporting the comprehensive agenda of self-preserving parties or casting our ballot for the “lesser of two evils,” for the platform built of less dangerous vows.
Or we simply walk away, as TCKs often do. We declare that our convictions and concerns demand our abstinence. We tuck away our passport and step out of the fray.
It’s not surprising, really.
As TCKs, we hear the coverage in foreign languages in our minds. We see the perplexed expressions of newscasters who report on l’Amérique through the grid of geopolitical differences and shake their heads at the antics and anarchy of our presidential debates.
We hang our heads, our multi-cultural sensibilities shamed by the tactics employed by the fear mongers, manipulators and popularity-chasers racing for the Big Red Button that could alienate (at best) and annihilate (at worst) places and people we love.
God help us as we live with the projected outcome of this electoral war fought through Twitter skirmishes, Facebook propaganda and outrage championships, waged with toxic assaults and strategic fabrications that aggrandize flawed generals and disempower common soldiers.
I love this country. I want to stay engaged. I’ve pledged to cast my vote. But it feels meaningless in a race to the White House fueled by the lies of made-for-ratings leaders.
I’ll say it again: I grew up in places where Washington mattered because its selfless sacrifices saved powerless strangers. And I want to believe in an America that still liberates, both within its boundaries and abroad. But this TCK who once viewed this nation as a noble example of intelligent democracy now fears for its future and its impact on the world.
TEN ELECTORAL TIPS FOR THIRD CULTURE KIDS:
- Ask questions of people you trust, whose political savvy and experience are greater than yours.
- Educate yourself. Invest time in doing your own research about domestic and foreign issues and policies.
- Second-guess the perspective of most American news outlets. Compare their coverage of events, and assume that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
- Examine the facts in political ads and assertions before you share them. Also verify the context of outrageous quotes.
- Do not take statistics and polls at face value. They can be manipulated to support the party/media disseminating them.
- Consider the coverage of nonpartisan outlets with less of a vested interest in political outcomes. (I like BBC News. Please add your own suggestions for less biased sources in the comment section below.)
- If you’re going to discuss your political views with friends, be civil, truthful and emotionally neutral. Avoid debating—make it conversational. And if it gets tense…talk about eggnog.
- Do not feel forced into 100% adherence to one party or the other.
- Determine what you deem to be the most important issue for this country and the world, and cast your vote for the candidate who will most wisely tackle that issue, whether he/she is popular or not.
- As futile as it may seem and as disheartening as the process is, VOTE. It’s a right for which countless lives have been sacrificed and a duty denied in too many countries worldwide.
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