Wednesday, November 5, 2008

גם אנחנו יכולים Yes We Can, Too

I have not been posting recently as I have been working approximately five million hours a week, trying to wear and stress myself out enough that I will really and truly be desperately in need of my vacation next week.

But just a few thoughts about the US elections.

I have the right to vote in the US elections. This year, for the first time since I have been eligible to vote, I did not exercise it. This is not because I found both candidates appalling. I mean, I did, to an extent. But as I always have the option of writing in Dave Barry, this is no excuse. No, the reason I did not vote is because I determined that it would be hypocritical for me to do so.

Allow me to explain. Every so often, I hear arguments that 1) Israelis overseas should be able to vote in Israeli elections and/or 2) all Jews, worldwide, should be able to vote in Israeli elections. I find these suggestions to be ludicrous, at best. Why on earth would we allow people who do not live here and who are not going to end up footing the physical and financial bill for government policies determine what the price tag should be?

Note to Israelis b'hul: you already voted. With your feet.

Note to right-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do those crazy left-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to give Israel to the Arabs and/or devoid Israel of its Jewish character.

Note to left-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, so do all those crazy right-wing Jews who simply do not understand the realities of the situation here (or reality at all, for that matter) and who want to carpet bomb Aza and/or turn Israel into an ultra-orthodox theocracy.

Note to center-wing Jews abroad who want the vote here: remember, if you get the vote, you will have to endure months and months of fear-mongering, mud-throwing and remarkably vicious and hysterical campaigning from the left-wing and right-wings. Nu, you did not get enough of that from your own elections?

(In other words, to those Jews think you want to be involved, but really, take it from me, you do not. "Ugly" does not even begin to describe it. As a case in point, by the end of the current round of elections, everyone and his grandmother, including yours truly, will have been defined by someone as a Nazi. And that is just for starters. Just count your blessings that you are missing the insanity, and keep on coming on vacations and sending the checks. Israel is great in small doses, isn't it?)

So how can I hold these views about non-residents voting in the Israeli elections and still justify my participation in the US elections? I can not.

Do I want the United States to continue to be a staunch ally of Israel? Yes. That being said, if the people who live in the US and who will be responsible for picking up the tag associated with that policy determine that it is no longer worth the cost-that is their right. Just like any other country. I mean, I would love it if all of the EU and all of Arab countries were to become staunch allies of Israel. And I do not get to vote there either. ( Of course, one could argue that in certain cases, even the actual resident citizens do not get to vote, so who am I to complain? But you get the idea, right?) Why should the US be different? Why should those in the US not be allowed to choose what they want and what they believe in?

The People of the United States of America have chosen.

Yesterday, the American people chose Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I have to admit that I am not a particular fan of Barack Obama. I distrust his lack of experience. I distrust his lack of voting record. I distrust his collection of questionable associations. I distrust his proposed economic policies. I distrust his lack of foreign policy experience. Had I voted in these elections, I would not have voted for him.

And even so, I am thrilled by these elections. I am thrilled because I am inspired. Not by Barack Obama, but by the American people. They did this.

Forget about the media and the political machine. Yesterday, it was the American people that got up and went to vote. It was ordinary American citizens who--instead of turning election day into an excuse to take a very long weekend or a daytrip-- elected to stand in line for hours, in record-breaking numbers and in who-knows-what-sort-of-weather in order to exercise their right to vote. It was the American people, each individual acting in the privacy of a voting booth and in accordance with his or her beliefs and concience, that submitted the ballots that have turned the political establishment on its ear by voting in a previously unknown, African American candidate.

I am not inspired by Barack Obama. He has words and I am an action girl myself. I am very inspired by the American people. They have action in bunches. They ditched the apathy. They demanded a change. They voted.

Whether or not Obama makes good on his promises of change, the fact remains that the American people believe that change is possible and are willing to act on that belief.

If they can do it, we can do it.

Some months ago, I stood at a busy intersection with members of the (now defunct) Tafnit party, handing out flyers calling on Olmert to resign. The overwhelming response I received was one of apathy, frustration and despair. ? מה לעשות? יש מישהו אחר What can one do? There is no one else.

Maybe there is not. Maybe not yet. But as the United States just proved, there can be. And as the Americans just proved, when there is, if we want that change we can make it happen. We are entering into a round of elections right now, starting with the municipal elections on November 11. You have a voice? Let it be heard. *

גם אנחנו יכולים.

Yes we can, too.

*Unless you are voting for Porush in the Jlem elections. In that case, please stay home. (just kidding!)



Nicole said...

I completely agree that if you don't live in the country, you shouldn't be able to vote. However, I do think there should be some leeway for people who just happen to be overseas on election day (maybe let people place an absentee ballot if they have lived x number of days in the past year in Israel but are not her on election day).
hmmm, I just read your intro to people leaving comments - you seem to have forgotten your rule that this is a politics-free blog :-)

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Nice post Gila.

rickismom said...

Good post! (Except for your political views...)

Andy Levy-Stevenson said...

Good post ... although personally I'm impressed with Obama, I think the points you make are very valid. He is to some extent an unknown, but that's been true of other Presidents too.

Your point about Americans taking action and wanting change is the big one though; given America's checkered history with race, the election of the first Black President is a wonderful historic achievement.

To be clear ... I wouldn't vote for someone based on race. But I believe he was the best candidate regardless of race, and the fact of his election leaves me deeply moved.

Mia said...

I totally agree with what you wrote in the first part. I feel it is wrong for me to vote for something if I do not have to live with the consequences. We will have consequences of Obama being president, (the Gazaens are checking the pulse now with the shower of rockets over Shderot) but that still isin't enough for voting, because it is not the whole picture.
In the same way I think it is hypocritical for people not living in Israel to vote in this country. If
But I do not think that a change is coming to our area so soon. But maybe some potential great leader will be inspired by Obamas win, and will come forward.

Benji Lovitt said...

Nice post.u

Risa said...

Excellent post! I don't vote in US elections but I'm much happier with the results this year than I was in 2000. Now we have to get our own house in order.

Joshua B. Toas said...

Great post as usual, but I would have preferred if you voted, you could have written my name in.

tafka pp said...

I think you need to change your half-joke at the end to "unless you are voting for Porush or Gaydamak in the Jerusalem mayoral elections" !!

Not that I'm thrilled with the alternative, myself. Oy. Maybe I should become a politician. Or better still- maybe YOU should!

Baila said...

I agree with you: the American election was inspiring. I am nervous, however about the historic outcome.

Time will tell.

Maus said...

In my opinion mr. Obama is going to surprise all of us by his skills to communicate.
His lack of .............?, how do you know?, get out of this conservative lounge chair and open yourself up to a better world.

kinzi said...

Gila, I'm glad you posted this, there were some interesting thoughts and it was really instructive as I know NOTHING about Israeli politics.

I wish the US would tighten up both immigration and voting rights. I found out this year, anyone who was born in the US, no matter 'on vacation' with foreign parents, can vote their whole lives in any state they want.

I hope you have forgiven me my preaching post :), someday I would llke to hear more of what you think about Evangelicals and Israel. I'm in week seven of hypo hell and surviving :S

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. I didn't vote for the same reasons you mention, and I've even brought up that same argument about Jews abroad believing they should be allowed to vote here, when clearly, they shouldn't be.

I am excited by the outcome. I don't know how Obama will do as president, but he comes across as intelligent and well-spoken, and he has succeeded in doing something that politicians in the US haven't managed to do in years - he stirred up the passion among Americans to care enough to go out and vote. I'm impressed.

muse said...

Yes, I agree.
Great post.

Lady-Light said...

What's wrong with Porush?

Ted said...

one of the earlier comments in this thread said, in passing:
> he stirred up the passion among
> Americans to care enough to go
> out and vote.

but that's not true -- voter turnout was about the same as four years ago -- see, for example:

I'm certainly apprehensive about the consequences of this election -- but, who knows? maybe it will turn out well. In any case, the decision is made and we'll find out soon enough.

aliyah06 said...

Great post! We didn't vote either, although mostly because we weren't motivated enough to get the absentee registration in. I was a bit ambivalent about voting anyway, since I'm not a huge fan of either candidate.....but I loved your perspective on Americans and their lack of apathy in this election. It was exciting all the way down to the wire.

And now you can move back to Jerusalem [grin}]--Barkat won!!

George said...

Great post, but...
1) There is a difference between ex-pat Israeli citizens voting and ex-pat US citizens voting - US citizens have to make tax returns. Remember "No taxation without representation."?
2) While indeed it is a wonderful thing that the USA has elected a black President, let us not kid ourselves that we have reached Utopia. Many of the first time voters who voted for Obama did so purely because of the colour of his skin. Utopia will come when America elects a black President based on his policies.