Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Re: State of the Union (or, Sh!t's getting political)


I took advantage of an opportunity to enjoy some drinks and a delicious veggie burger with like-minded people in the heart of Austin, while watching the State of the Union address last night. It was the first time I had watched since college, as I always feel as though I should be interested , but unsure of exactly what I’m interested in.  Of course, I have always considered myself a sort of Lorax- here to speak for the trees and our environment that is so unspoken for in our world, but I wasn’t sure how to integrate my passions with politics, especially as I’m traveling around and don’t have local level to focus on.
I can’t brag about having a clear political focus these days, but it was clear to me from watching Obama’s speech last night that I definitely have some un-wavering opinions.
I remember talking to a friend while I was in my second year of college, and he was in the masters program in engineering. He was berating me a bit for not having solid opinions, but I thought of myself that time as a sponge, just soaking up all the opinions there are, to be determined what I cared about most later on. Well, this is later, and I think I can form my political priorities into a simple haiku.
Amend our mindset.
 Reform education. Live
 in communities.
With that stated, here were some of my thoughts from the state of the union address. (This if my first time, by the way, publicizing my political agenda…but I feel like if you read any of this blog, none of this will come as a surprise).
The frame of the SoTU-watching party was in the form of “climate bingo” where we were all given papers with Bingo sheets, and different climate-related words that Obama might say. I did get a bingo, but not first.
I was not surprised to check off investment, jobs, security, infrastructure, debt, or innovation. But I was surprised to hear him mention floods, drought, air, communities, and “world-class education,” the latter being what he hopes America can provide. Honestly, it’s going to take a lot more than any bill that congress can pass to bring our education system up to where it needs to be, let alone “world class,” but the fact that it’s becoming more of a priority is exciting. I liked what Obama said about the work ethic of America, and reducing our energy consumption, not just changing the resources we’re using to get energy (much easier said than done, though). Investing $100 billion in natural gas is kind of missing the point, for example, but it’s a step toward “investing in fuels of the future” which I guess will be the job of the next president (assuming our planet doesn’t collapse before then).
Regardless of the specific words and phrases that Obama uses, the speech revolved around a specific theme- a theme that makes me want to shun politics and news and American culture altogether. This ‘business as usual’ paradigm that American’s are entitled to a house, 2 kids, a white picket fence and the job of their dreams. As long as everyone in America believes that’s what they’re entitled to, the environmental victories that Obama promised, and even the idealist bills that he hopes to pass that affect people’s everyday lives are going to be impossible. Even as he talks about the environment, he’s speaking to a group of over a hundred people who are wearing expensive suits made from unsustainable, or man-made fibers like cotton or polyester, who probably drove there themselves. We need a complete paradigm shift toward communal living if any of his dreams are going to play out. But how?

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