Monday, May 26, 2008

Meddling in the muddle

In one of those funny blogging synergies, my last post coincided with a couple of calls to political action on Arduous' wonderful blog. Although both posts were about issues I care deeply about (equal marriage rights and climate change), I declined to take part in either action. I detailed my reasons in a comment on the climate change post:
"I agree that American policy has huge implications for those of us who don't live in the country. But I'm afraid I'm going to pass on this one. I have VERY strong opinions about not meddling in the politics of countries I don't live in. Even my last post caused me a lot of anguish before I decided to go ahead and post it (I changed my mind about 10 times first, and I was only sharing a funny photo and stating an opinion, not lobbying anyone).

As an ex-pat Brit, I don't even vote in the UK any more. This is despite the fact that it kills me not to have a vote (I can't vote here in Canada yet). The reason is that I don't think it's fair for people to participate in such important decisions if they don't have to live with the consequences. I used to get seriously pissed off when the ex-pat vote was mentioned during UK elections, and any attempt by individuals from other countries to sway voters in the UK or Canada really gets my back up.

Sorry to go on a bit, I told you I had strong opinions!

Think global, act local, right?"
Arduos graciously replied:
"CAE, I totally respect your opinion and you make very, very valid points. I totally get why you wouldn't want to meddle. However, as an American, I realize that American policy affects the whole world and not just America. So the truth is, the entire world from Bangladesh to Canada will be living with the consequences of America's climate policy. Where global issues like climate change are concerned, I think country boundaries matter less.

That said, I completely respect your decision, and thank you for voicing your views so articulately and passionately."
I responded (now with added links and corrected typos):
"Oh I totally agree that climate change has consequences without boundaries. But there are right wing political leaders closer to home who need to be leaned on first - Harper's* government is almost as blind as Bush's in this regard. And believe me, as soon as I'm a citizen, I'll be leaning as hard as I can.

US politics are so tricky because your government's decisions affect me so much - possible more than the Canadian government's, and definitely more than my home nation's!"
So, what do you think? Should I join in the lobbying of US politicians and make my voice heard as someone who will be affected by US policies? Or is it none of my business?

Did my not-entirely-serious last post cross that line already?

I'd love to hear from both Americans and citizens of the rest of the world!
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*The English footballer version of Stephen Harper listed at the top of that article is my team's goalkeeper and one of our most solid performers in recent years. I have significant cognitive dissonance when I hear that name now.

12 comments:

  1. I think you are right not to meddle in another country's politics. I'm always amazed when I listen to the BBC and they offer so much commentary on what Americans should (in their opinion) do to change their government. I would never dream of offering that kind of opinion to the British. So many times the analysis of the situation they are discussing doesn't ring true to me, and I sit there thinking "how do they know-they don't live here!" There are cultural nuances that can never be captured from across the border, as I am sure you are finding with your move to Canada.

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  2. I disagree. I think it's fine to voice your opinion about another country's politics as long as:
    a) you realize your audience and are prepared to defend any statements you make with real facts, and to listen to their argument as much as yours
    b) you are sensitive that others may not share your views, but may not say anything, so don't be too loud or vehement in your argument (especially when you don't know who is listening)

    I think it's important for EVERYONE to make their viewpoint known about the issues they feel passionate about, because so many people are apathetic about it.

    However, as I mention above, it's all in the way it's done.

    That being said, I'm known as being infinitely outspoken myself :)

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  3. I voted in Ukrainian elections up until I received U.S. citizenship, mainly because I am considering going back some time in the future, and most of my family continues to live there and deserves a decent government.

    That said, I have a bit of a problem with Americans meddling in other countries just because they *can*. Personally I prefer to not stick my nose where it doesn't belong.

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  4. Joyce, welcome! Good to hear from you. I'm surprised at what you say about the BBC as they're usually the model of impartiality. (They're funded directly by license fees from the public, so they're much easier to hold accountable than a commercial broadcaster). Was it the world service you were listening to? They do frequently have commentary and debate on US (and other international) politics, in which both sides will state what they think ought to be done. It's a very different style to the debates I see on CNN and other US stations, which seem to be more of a shouting match!

    That ties in nicely to Infinite Science's comment and the difference between stating an opinion and taking direct action. I realised overnight that I do agree with you on the universal right to express an opinion - but the posts on Arduous's blog were about lobbying politicians and asking them to take a particular action. I think there's definitely a difference there. I know I'd have a problem with American citizens lobbying my local MP about their vote on issues such as equal marriage rights.

    Oh, and you, outspoken? Surely not! ;)

    ScienceGirl, interesting! I think there's probably more at stake in Ukrainian elections than in British ones, if the events of the Orange Revolution are anything to go by. I can't imagine similar events in London, although maybe I'd be surprised.

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  5. On the issue of continuing to vote at home as an ex-pat, I completely agree with you. I have declined to do it for 21 years and I still think it's the right thing to do.

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  6. Oh good, it's not just me!

    How long have you been a Canadian citizen?

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  7. How long have you been a Canadian citizen?

    I am a very recent canadian -- just in time to cast a proud and useless vote in last March provincial elections. Felt funny to arrive in Montreal and be greeted with a "welcome home" by the immigration officer, as opposed to "What do you do in Canada ? Where do you live ? Why were you abroad ? For how long ? What's your favorite hockey team ? Oohhhh... well, then, welcome back !" ;-)

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  8. Hmmm... I have to say that if I were an American ex-pat, I think I would absolutely vote in American elections! But again, I think America wields so much power that no matter where I moved, I would still be affected by American policy.

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  9. But again, I think America wields so much power that no matter where I moved, I would still be affected by American policy.

    OK, I have to admit that this is an excellent argument, and I am not sure how I would resolve this issue if I were an American citizen (my wife is, and she does vote in the US elections).
    Since I am an italian ex-pat, this is hardly an issue though (ROTFLLLLL)

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  10. Okham, congrats on your citizenship! I'm eligible to apply at the end of June, and I've heard it takes around 18 months to complete the rest of the process. I can hardly wait, not so much for entering Canada, which has never given me problems, but for visiting the US. Once I'm a Canuck there'll be no more fingerprints, photographs etc taken at the border!

    Arduous, I actually know a couple of US citizens up here who'd never voted as ex-pats - until 2004! (not that voting then did them much good!)

    Voting in the last British elections wouldn't have made any difference to the UK's impact abroad since I'd have voted for Blair anyway (in the absence of a decent realistic alternative). So we'd have been in Iraq either way... in other arenas we're not influential enough for me to stop my non-voting stance!

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  11. I think I would still vote in US elections if I moved away, for the same reasons Arduous gave. I think it's appropriate for people in other countries to lobby the US government on global issues (e.g. climate change policy) but not issues with more local impact (e.g. abortion rights). As an American, I would write to my respresentives about local issues, but not a California state respresentative about a CA ballot item.

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  12. EcoGeoFemme, that distinction definitely makes a lot of sense. Who can forget the impact of the Papua New Guinea rep's statement at the last climate talks: "if you're not willing to lead, then at least get out of the way".

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