I'm going to go off topic for a moment to say that one of the most kick-ass things about being in your 50's is that you no longer need to prove you're mentally compelling. If the words "Romney" or "Obama" never come up over a two hour lunch with your best friends, you can still feel brilliant in their company.
As a rule, I host or attend enough dinner parties with intelligent people to know that if I can't discuss what-all has happened in politics since 1788 , I should at least be able to toss a sound-bite grenade over my shoulder as I clear between entree and dessert. I also know I must have at least one person present who feels the country is falling apart, and one (preferably their spouse) who feels the people who live here are falling apart, and hopefully another who drives this chicken-egg debate into the ground. Like this:
Liberal: You think the country's in big trouble now? Wait until Planned Parenthood gets wiped out.
Conservative: Planned Parenthood will never be wiped out. It just won't be funded with my tax dollars anymore.
Me: "Who wants dessert? Also, who thinks it's true that Obama wants to gut welfare reform?"
I've observed that while many people are politically savvy, some are just politically emotional and like to take a shot at someone who is being bombastic. But eventually, someone, tired of the exchange, will wander into the kitchen to talk about the school official who got charged over the weekend with assault and battery, while the others debate whether or not Mitt Romney really does eat middle class citizens for breakfast.
My kind of dinner party.
Still, I know what I know, but not what I don't, and because I don't respect headline mentality, I owe it to myself to stay in the loop in a left-brain way, to dig into those headlines a little, visit a few fact-checking sites, read the editorials in respected (if super-biased) publications, listen to my heart, feel my feelings, be who I am, trust in the power of me, and turn my frown upside down. I make it a game. No shopping at Hannaford for appetizer ingredients until I've read something in the Boston Globe that does not flatter Obama.
But there's more. Now that our youngest child is able to vote, I owe it to him to insist passionately that he do that: take a stand and, if only in his own heart, if it is never even vocalized, believe passionately about something bigger than his own concerns enough to represent it with his vote. In other words, care.
And, there's more. I owe it to my husband who isn't just in the loop, all of the time, about all-things political, with every fiber of his being, but lives in the loop with his blanket and pillow and thermos during the political season. I believe he's taught himself to leave the room if we veer toward politics before he can feel his own feelings about my lack of attunement. Thankfully, even if God made him a politically tenacious dog and me a politically distracted cat, God also made me a quick study with good research skills.
So all things considered, this year I realize I have to adjust my own mask before assisting others. This year, I need to make an example of myself. To that end, I will endeavor to stop fooling around and pay attention.
Perhaps I'll don my goalie mask at breakfast and start with this:
It's not true that Obama is gutting welfare reform and intending to "hand everyone a check even if they don't work." Under the new policy, states can now seek a federal waiver from rigid "work-participation" rules which would allow welfare recipients to engage in “work activities" instead. This could mean college or other training so that career options for an undereducated family breadwinner are no longer limited to a couple of minimum wage jobs. (Factcheck.org, don't make me sorry for believing this. Don't let it turn out that one hour of work activities can mean circling job openings in the paper before doing the Jumble puzzle for twenty minutes. Don't let it be true that work activities logged are like, say, driving miles that are logged by a student in Driver's Ed.)