Honest Politics Myth Busted: Through Innocent Eyes

In Opinion/Personal, Work Related on October 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

The main thing I love about my job is spending time with my clients. Paperwork and phone calls and meetings are important for the services I provide and monitor, but the time I spend with my folks – chatting and learning more about them – that’s when I really benefit from working this job. I have no doubt in my mind that this is because my clients are who they are. It’s a strange combination of “what you see is what you get” and a mountain of surprises all in one. They don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. They are painfully honest because they aren’t concerned about social issues that could stem from it. They say what they think without hesitation. I wish I had this ability, but I’m too busy thinking about how other people’s opinions of me might change or that someone might judge me and treat me differently because of it. I know what’s “cool”, and although I try to fight that, I still sometimes catch myself falling into that desire of inclusion. But my clients – they don’t over think things. They don’t second guess themselves. They have a belief and that’s that. It’s amazing to me. And the more I’m around each of them, the more I learn about their abilities and their opinions. A perfect example happened today.

I’m with my client, a male in his late 30’s, who is diagnosed with mild mental retardation and presents symptoms similar to that of schizophrenia. He has a speech impediment that can make him very difficult to understand, suffers from a seizure disorder that requires him to wear a magnet on a bracelet used to activate a unit implanted in his chest to send electric pulses that can sometimes stop the seizure, and he walks with very small, shuffling, uncoordinated steps. He’s on a plethora of medications and requires 24 hour supervision for his own safety and welfare. Once a month he goes to see a therapist and we have a routine: I pick him up from his day program and if we have time, we go through a drive thru to get something coffee related for me and the largest Dr. Pepper available for him. If we don’t have time before the appointment, we get the drinks after the appointment at a little gas station where he likes to get a fountain drink and pay fully on his own. The car ride is about 20 minutes long, depending on traffic, and we spend this time discussing any recent mental health issues he has experienced, any issues with his roommates (which are usually plentiful), about his girlfriend, and his plans for the weekend. But today he takes me by surprise by asking me if he is registered to vote.

Sidenote: I normally avoid any discussion of politics. I keep my opinions to myself because no one can ever seem to agree and I’ve always watched it turn from a cool hang out to a political discussion to a heated argument to suddenly everyone is pissed and righteous because someone else has a different opinion. No thanks.

In addition, I generally feel that any election is just a choice between the lesser of two evils. Each candidate makes promises that they have no idea they will be able to keep. They both slander the other while brushing their own questionable facts under a rug. There’s never a straight answer and levels of honesty are questionable, at best. And honestly, if I had never been registered and decides to go to it today, I have no idea what I would register as.

I registered when I was 18, as soon as I could. I was 15 when 911 happened and all eyes were on the former President Bush. I had no knowledge of politics, but I felt it in my heart when he did his speeches. His words for Americans was like the perfect band-aid for a child’s scraped knee. It wasn’t going to heal the problem, but it made it feel a little better. It gave everyone the comfort of knowing that he was aware, he was going to give it attention, just as a parent would to their crying child while knowing they couldn’t do magic to take back the pain. That’s how I was hooked. I loved that about George W. Bush. I loved the fact that he took a stand and defended his people. War is horrible, yes, but being a soldier or marine or seal or any if that is honorable and I watched at my high school graduation as several classmates voluntarily and proudly went through the ceremony to declare their service to their country, knowing full well what their chances were of going off to war. So when I turned 18, I immediately registered Republican.

But then the war changed. The motivations changed. The stories changed daily on where we were or why we were there. I was still young; I didn’t fully understand all the talk. But I knew that these soldiers had been getting shipped out for a really long time. And I knew that things were happening that were making people question the president. But I held onto that hope and devotion that I felt originally. But as it always seems to happen, after two terms under a Republican, America went democratic. And that makes sense to me. Republicans and Democrats focus on different things, so while one can build up one area of the country but let’s another slack, the other party can pick up the slacking area and completely turn it around. I’ve always felt that was a great thing.

I have never been completely closed-minded, so I was always open to hearing different opinions from each side of the political world. Moving away from my small country town opened my eyes. There were a lot of issues that I did not agree with the Republican side on. There are still a lot of issues that I don’t agree with the Democratic side on. I feel like I have no political party because I’m split in half, or dead center. And it doesn’t help that the debates are just more slander and finger-pointing and no real answers. I just don’t really know, and that’s the main reason I tend to avoid political conversations.

All in all, politics are never honest. That’s what you’re told, right? I felt that way, until today. When my client asked if he was registered to vote. Here was our conversation (as word for word as my memory is allowing, but all the main points are here, my dialogue is in italics):

Am I registered to vote?
I’m not sure. I can check. Why, are you interested in voting this election?
What would you register as if you aren’t already?
So you’d vote for…?
I don’t know his name, but I know which one I want.
Black guy or white guy?
That’s Mitt Romney. Why would you vote for him?
Jobs. People need jobs and they don’t have any. He can make jobs. That’s why I’d vote for him.  And babies.
Yeah. Why do people get rid of their babies?
I don’t know. I think it depends on the person that makes that decision.
I don’t get it. I would never get rid of my baby. I mean, I know raising babies is hard, but you keep your baby. You raise it up, it becomes a teenager. It goes to school and then it gets a job. What do you think?
If it was me, I don’t think I’d be able to get rid of my baby.
Me either. That guy – the guy who’s doing the job now but won’t have the job if he doesn’t get votes – he just hasn’t done what he was supposed to do while he’s had that job.
You think so?
Yeah. And coal.
Yeah. He lied about the coal.
He kind of did, yes.
Why did he lie?
Well, honestly…all politicians lie sometimes. They have to look good and make the other person look bad so they can get more votes. They all do it.
But he lied about the coal.
I know. My hometown does a lot of coal mining and a lot of those mines have shut down. A lot of those people don’t have jobs now.
…I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry about your hometown.

And that’s when it hit me. I was seeing politics honestly, through the eyes of my client who was innocent of conformity. He wasn’t over thinking it. He wasn’t holding back like I did. He wasn’t confused. He made good and relevant points when I was surprised that he had even questioned any of this in the first place. He didn’t flip-flop. He didn’t waiver. He gave straight answers. I had just successfully had a political conversation without discomfort, and I felt confident that it was not a facade. He wasn’t saying these things to make an impression. He honestly felt and believed this way and knew exactly how to give it straight.

Hint hint, politicians. My boy just showed you all up.


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