October 24, 2007

On Political Engagement -- Story 2 (a reshuffle)

Two years ago, my feelings about voting were much like those of 18 year old Fallon Zeimet. I interviewed her before the mayoral debate on campus earlier this month.

For her, voting is another way of expressing her opinion. She will cast her first ballot in Duluth instead of voting absentee back “home,? because she said her parents can take care of the politics there.

“I’m interested in this town because I live here now,? she said.

I found that I envied her sense of place. It took me two years to figure out I don’t like it here all that much. (How convenient, right?) Now I get to wallow in that blurry zone between home and homesick, counting off the days until I get to go home to my Black Hills and her sweet ponderosa pines.

Some students I talked to choose to abstain from voting altogether. Senior Kelsey Redland said she probably won’t vote in this election because she may not live here after graduation to deal with the consequences of that vote.

“I don’t feel like I should be making political decisions if I’m only going to be here another year,? Redland said.

Much to the dismay of my political comrades, I’m probably not going to vote either. I’m not “here? for much longer and I’m not “there? yet. I already missed the mayoral election in Rapid City, S.D., I don’t even live in Duluth, and I don’t really want to register in Superior because I’m not here for much longer.

However, despite my own inner conflicts, I do still believe in the kind of democracy where people pay attention. I also acknowledge that there are other ways to be an active participant than just voting, especially for those of us with less-conventional perspectives.

There is something to be said of the irony that more people to show up for national elections than local elections, when local elections affect our lives more directly. Debbie Ortman, co-chair of Duluth League of Women Voters, articulated this perfectly. She also made me examine my own (frightening) lack of engagement in the last few months.

Ortman emphasized that the decisions of elected officials affect citizens’ lives on a personal and professional level, as well as within their neighborhoods.

“The definition of a democracy is an informed and involved populous, and you aren’t going that unless you have people that are involved,? she said.

October 21, 2007

Web Search (due 10-22-2007)

1. College Blog -- "Abroad in Wales"

A University of South Dakota student is blogging about studying abroad in Wales. I like that she's calling the news as she experiences it -- for instance, the crowd of annoyed students after a rainy night's fire alarm. As a result of her clear and narrative voice, I am getting to know her new campus and the people who go there by way of blog. It is not news in the traditional sense, but still tells stories about a time and place.

2. Iraq Blog -- "A Star from Mosul"

A woman from Mosul, Iraq, writes about her experiences there. Some of it is about her personal life, and some of it is about what we see in the news. She comments on both of them, and it is the contrast that gripped me. One minute she talks about an explosion in a nearby neighborhood, and the next she talks about two kids in her life going to kindergarten.

"The situation in Mosul was very tense, a big explosion in Al-Sina3a neighborhood (Thursday, 11/10) resulted in fire which wasn't extinguished till Sunday. Relatives passing by the place said it was still smoking and that there were people loading their cars with things from the shops there, not sure if they are looters or the shop owners.
The neighborhood, as its name implies in Arabic, is an industrial one. Full of small shops for repairing cars and the like. ... Moving to another, pleasant subject: Aya and Ayman are doing great, especially after they started to attend the kindergarten together. Aya's almost treating Ayman like a mom, occasionally calling him habibi (love) and kissing and complementing him for his good behavior. Ayman on the other hand is getting naughty and breaks at least a thing a day."

The writing itself is very descriptive of the people and places she experiences. I highly recommend checking this out.