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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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The Tramp ponders the UK elections. [20050505|11:56]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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Today, UK citizens go to the polls to elect a new government - or, more likely, the same government.

I am neither proud nor ashamed to be an American. It's part of my identity, but I don't feel any patriotic fervor or antipathy. I often turn apologist when I speak to British citizens who are largely infuriated by the actions of my government, particularly if I don't know the person well enough to engage in rational debate. I begin every conversation at a disadvantage. As soon as I open my mouth, my alien status is clear. My accent feels like a brand, and one that carries more negative connotations than positive. I approach everyone gingerly, cautiously, trying hear their concerns about my country and their scorn for its citizens, to let their anger wash over me and respond with respect and compassion. I'm sure this is character-building, but it's also exhausting.

It's a peculiar day to be an expat. For the first time in my adult life, I'm watching an election in which I'm unable to participate take place in my country of residence. It's disquieting. I am, after all, in a precarious position. I am here because of the latitude of this country's laws. The ones that permit domestic partners of two years' standing to obtain identical visas, a level of leniency that my own government doesn't allow. I can't select government officials and by extension, I can't influence the creation or revision of the law. I'm not arguing for the right to do so - I don't believe I have it. I've only lived here for seven months. I'm simply remarking on my own powerlessness.

I love the act of voting. Despite wavering between cynicism and idealism, despite the microscopic scale of my influence, despite my ignorance of the particulars of much of the political system, I have my principles and I leap at the chance to express them in this way, to cast them into the great body of variable beliefs that composes the sluggish bureaucratic giant of government. But today, I can only stand aside and watch.
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[User Picture]From: andytsai
2005-05-05 13:02 (UTC)
It's pretty easy to decide. Did you agree with the Iraq war? Are you a university student, do you thin you should be paying more or less for it?

Then you can consult a comparison sheet like this one: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/vote2005/issues/html/grid.stm?s1=CON_UK&s2=LAB_UK&s3=LD_UK&x=9&y=11

And wahey :) you've decided who to vote on (not taking into account misinformation or tactical voting..)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-07 11:14 (UTC)
If you don't feel that any of the candidates adequately represent you, you can also spoil your vote. It's meant to give you a concrete way to express your dissatisfaction with the government, as opposed to totally abstaining from the vote. (Disclaimer: I don't know how much effect spoiled votes are thought to have on the political process.)
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[User Picture]From: repoman
2005-05-05 15:08 (UTC)
Isn't it a horrible feeling not being able to vote?

When I lived in Canada, there was an election and there I was, reading about the candidates and their positions...and feeling helpless. The woman I was dating didn't vote, making it only worse. Here I am trying to persuade her to vote, if not for her then for me. I gave her a list of people I thought deserved to win.

She never left the house...bitch!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-07 11:19 (UTC)
Yeah, it's pretty disconcerting. And while I agree that everyone has the right to abstain from voting, it's frustrating to watch other people exercise it when you can't make that choice and you actually care.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2005-05-05 15:45 (UTC)
Do you think that the British feel as on the spot in the US about their national political stances? It seems like France is one of the few countries whose politics are even mentioned in our media.

Two curious and irreverent questions from the States on the Old Country. Are there American-style voting booths, and if so are they the cool retro ones with the curtains and the crank?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-06 12:31 (UTC)
I don't think they feel as intense a pressure from the global spotlight as Americans. Perhaps from the Europeans. But I don't think most Americans are interested in British politics. In fact, I doubt most Americans could tell you what the major political parties are. They don't care what British people are saying, so long as they get hear the accent. :-P

I don't know about the voting booths. I didn't go to any of the polling places.
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[User Picture]From: communistgnome
2005-05-05 17:18 (UTC)
Screw being apologetic. The downside of being in a democracy is that when stupid people are motivated to vote, they are in the majority, and can be easily swayed by people that their leaders tell them are right. No pun intended.

And this is not to say that Republicans are, as a rule, stupid. Somewhere along the line, though, Republican became synonymous with "let us be a Christian nation". Which scares the ever-loving FUCK out of me. To a degree I find difficult to quantify with words. The "liberals" in the U.S. are actually the more politically conservative of the two parties. The "conservatives" are financially and socially conservative. I have no problem with financially conservative, but socially conservative is BAD BAD BAD. Somehow, socially conservative = Crusades.

Now that I've gone off on stuff that has nothing to do with what you wrote...

Learn German. And any time anyone starts hassling you about being an American and our interference policy, start goose-stepping around screaming in German about Der Fuhrer.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-07 11:43 (UTC)
Maybe I should just start giving people ridiculous answers. On violence and environmental concerns: "Back in the States, I have eight guns and an H2." On Iran: "Nucular, it's pronounced NUCULAR." On abortion: "We see it like this: it's okay to eat babies, but not fetuses."
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[User Picture]From: communistgnome
2005-05-08 02:20 (UTC)
Wasn't Jonathan Swift from England? They'd probably be okay with the whole baby-eating thing.

I find it best when being accused of being an Ugly American to live up to the reputation.
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2005-05-05 17:46 (UTC)
re: responding to silly, prejudiced people, i applaud your restraint and taking of, as it were, the high road. personally, i'm ashamed that my country has produced so many prejudiced types, and i would like to apologise for them, but i'm not sure what sort of a difference it would make. i just wish that you and anyone else against whom such people are prejudiced didn't have to make such an effort to overcome such absurdly formed first impressions.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-06 12:27 (UTC)
Well, the way I see it, if I react poorly, all I'm going to do is reinforce their preconceived notions. On the other hand, if I react calmly, I stand a chance of breaking down their prejudices. Fortunately, most of the British people I meet and speak to for more than five minutes seem mostly to be interested in hearing my perspective without assuming that it must be the one they're expecting. The worst thing that's happened so far is that I was standing on a street corner in South London chatting with a friend of mine, and a woman walked by, heard my accent and spat at me. (She missed.) I just hope that stays an isolated incident.
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2005-05-06 21:41 (UTC)
you have a very good point - i applaud your standpoint. i'm glad you've generally had a good experience with people you've met, though i'm pretty horrified by the random woman spitting at you. i think London is probably one of the least prejudiced parts of the country because it's one of the most genuinely multicultural parts of the country, and Londoners are used to the presence of people from all corners of the world because of all the tourists.

i am still annoyed that there are prejudices to break down, but then this isn't an ideal world...
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[User Picture]From: bellelaqueen
2005-05-05 20:40 (UTC)
If you have residency status you know you can enrol to vote here.





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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-05-05 22:57 (UTC)
Yeah, but I can't apply for residency for another three years and five months!
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[User Picture]From: bellelaqueen
2005-05-06 15:22 (UTC)
Ah, I guess I lucked out because the monsta is an EU National.
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