Saturday, October 29, 2016

Voting in the 2016 US Election

You are responsible for your personal vote.

Quit following the polls and focusing on the game theory behind voting. Don't get caught up in the hype. Vote for someone you believe in.

It was surreal to be in Europe when the Brexit vote happened and thousands of Brits were surprised that when they voted to leave, it actually happened. They thought they were just "protesting" with their vote. But the next morning, it turns out that their vote mattered. There was some regret that people didn't vote the way they actually felt, but voted because they were caught up in the hype of protesting other people being involved in their internal politics. It was a reasonable argument to reclaim control of Britain, but people then realized they actually felt like staying as part of the greater European Union community.

Don't vote against someone. Vote for someone. Vote for someone you believe in.

The larger tides of voting will sweep over the nation on November 8th. However, your individual vote still matters. It matters personally. It matters as part of who you are. It matters as it becomes part of a growing movement to fix what is actually wrong with the political parties in the United States. The United States if filled with division. But politics and issues are more complex than picking one side or the other. If you are someone who votes on a single issue, whether it be gun control, abortion choice, hair style of candidates... I challenge you to think more deeply about how other issues affect all of us globally. Think about how the issues interact with each other.

It's not just about the president.

One person, even though that person is the leader of the United States, still has limited power. Where does change actually happen? It's at the local level. At the local level, things are more simple. You can select an issue or two, talk with your local leaders, and make change happen. As real change occurs, it spreads and helps the wider community to thrive.

Get involved in your local politics.

It could be something that directly affects you and your children, such as School Board. It could be something that affects your region, such as electing Congresspeople who want to help your local industries grow and create jobs. But in each of these cases, you can be an effective advocate for change. Who knows, maybe you will get involved directly and run for a local office.

Make a difference in your local leadership and in your Congressional leadership. When it comes down to it, the president and Congress work together and against each other to appoint and confirm Supreme Court justices, make national policies, and shape the national values. Look up who is running for other offices and don't just get caught up in the crazy presidential election. Vote for people who will make your voice heard in Congress. The checks and balances were created for a reason. Participate in shaping how the branches of government will interact.

Go Vote

Sometimes I reflect on what I learned when I was getting my degree in Political Science, that the "passions of the masses" were not to be trusted. Jefferson said, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." And that Hamilton said, The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right." Despite the initial debates and concerns of the founding fathers, we are in a situation where we all get to vote.

Ignore the passions of the masses and vote with personal responsibility.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Bizarre Things in France - The Dentist

I have never been a fan of the dentist.  Genetically, I have terrible teeth and have always had trouble.  So, when it came to getting our act together and actually making a dentist appointment in a foreign country, it wasn't at the top of my list of priorities.  Combine this with my inability to speak French, especially over the phone to a receptionist to make an appointment, and it sank even lower in the list.  We all went to the dentist in November and December of 2015, but didn't quite make it to any dentist for our 6 month check up.  A few more months passed... A friend of mine here in Toulouse told me about and we finally took some action.

DoctoLib.FR - You can search for a doctor by type and location, read about them, then make an appointment on-line.  I found a dentist that wasn't very far from our house. On the site, under "Langues Parlees" it said "Anglais."  So, I booked the kids' appointments.  We could have visited the dentist downstairs in our building, just outside our apartment complex...  But it would have involved calling or stopping by and speaking terrible French (or Portuguese, she knows many languages, but not English).  

There wasn't a fancy way to book two appointments for the same day, so we took one on Monday and one on Friday.  When Monday came around, we hurried over to the dentist after school.  After waiting for a bit and filling out the normal paperwork, Will was called in.  The dentist did not speak English, but we managed our way through with my terrible French.  We even engaged in some random small talk about how we liked Toulouse and why we were there.  She asked if there were any problems with Will's teeth, I said no, we are only here for a routine visit.  I showed her the x-rays that I had brought from his most recent appointment, back in 2015.  She took a look at the x-rays, took a look at his teeth, and that was it.  

French Dentists don't clean your teeth!

If you are irresponsible enough to improperly brush your teeth, then you can go to the dentist to get a filling when you notice you have pain.  But, it seems to be your civic and personal responsibility to properly brush and floss.  

To cover all of our bases, and so we didn't have to drive over again on Friday, Alex also had his "exam."  It seems he does not exhibit the civic and personal responsibility necessary here in France when it comes to teeth.  His teeth were not terribly clean, even though he brushes them twice a day and flosses in the morning.  So, did the dentist actually clean his teeth and scrape the plaque off?  No.  It seems that when you have a child who is not responsible, the responsibility falls on you.  We left the office with the directive that I should brush Alex's teeth as the responsible parental representative.

Taking responsibility?  What a terribly non-American concept.  Hopefully this is something French that will rub off on the kids while they are here.

Kids Teeth!