Da Wei’s Way (January 2012)

(Photo by Rohan Lewis)

I will vote in the next election. I feel old and important knowing that I have the extraordinary privilege and heavy responsibility of choosing who will lead the United States of America.

But why am I, Da Wei Ullmann, given the right to influence one of the most important decisions of the current era? I don’t know. I probably should not be. But I am. And what scares me is that my experience with politics is basically limited to casual dinner table discussions and ill-informed chats with friends.

My political chit-chats have, however, left me with a strong inclination towards to the Democratic Party. I prefer the Democrats not because I elaborately decided that the liberal argument is superior after hearing all sides of the issues at my dinner table. Rather, it is because throughout my whole life, I’ve heard the Democrats represented as the party of morality, compassion and reason; while the Republicans were represented as greedy, cruel and backwards. I am a full-bred Brookline kid. Of course I’m a Democrat.

But recently, as a devil’s advocate, root-for-the-underdog-type guy that I am, I’ve tried to put myself into the Republican mindset, understanding that these issues must be more complex than what a couple of teenagers, who have never watched the news before, make it seem.

I wanted to know if I was truly a Democrat or just packed with liberal propaganda. So, I’ve watched most of the debates, listened to their speeches and watched all that I could online. It was fascinating, even refreshing, to hear a different perspective.

However, I’m no less liberal today than I was before my experiment. I just can’t help but feel a magnetic tug towards the left that no speech, no matter how eloquent, can persuade me against.

However, my failure to see the other side may have something to do with where I looked: debates, campaign speeches, interviews. Essentially, I saw elaborate advertising, not facts.

It is the same type of oversimplification that we are exposed to in Brookline. Propaganda does not make an argument. Instead, it tries to tell you which one is right. Thus, if given two pieces of propaganda, anyone will believe the one they are most familiar with. For me, that is the liberal one.

The only way to truly construct an opinion is by examining the hard, objective facts and deducing a solution from that, not merely holding fast to abstract ideologies without regarding the pragmatic complexity. The only thing I did learn on my escapade is that all politicians, Republican or Democrat, claim to want and fight for the same things: more jobs, better education, a safer world. I’ve realized that you have to look at the policy, not the promise.

Of course, that is a little more challenging than just choosing the candidate that “feels right.” For me, that is almost always a left-of-center candidate, and as I learn more and more about the real issues, it continues to be a left-of-center candidate.

But still, my learning is not over. I, rightfully, feel a little too ignorant to call myself a Democrat, or fully supportive of any one political view. Our society is so obsessed with opinion and argument but distracted from contemplation that we hastily jump to conclusions. We love to vote but hate to think and rethink our perspective; that takes some time. But as citizens of the most powerful nation in the world, this is essential. So, on second thought, maybe I’ll wait another four years to vote.

 

David Ullmann can be contacted at [email protected]