Reflection from U.S. Politics Event of the 22th of February 2016by Erin Worden
For me, I have often found that the hardest, messiest, and most complicated conversations are some of the most worthy exchanges. I was reminded of this fact earlier this week when my American peers and I from Arcadia University’s Athens program gathered with a handful of Germans, Russians, and young Greeks brought together through Inter Alia. Together, we discussed our unique relationships with political, social, and economic structures.
We started with politics, comparing and contrasting the Greek governance model with America’s political style. We discussed the implications of differing government bodies and structures, the opportunities and challenges of civic engagement, and voting registration processes before trying to unravel the United States’ current presidential election. As the Americans from my program gradually patched together an understanding of our government’s exceedinglydecentralized and sometimes archaic election processes (the primary elections in Iowa rely on coin tosses to break ties), I was struck by our conversation about the role of parties in shaping policy decisions, national attitudes, and our unique understandings of “progress.”
Inter Alia then introduced an activity that encouraged participants to evaluate politically concerned statements. Based on our reactions to these words, we were expected to place ourselves in the “I agree,” “I disagree,” or “I am not sure” sections accordingly. Importantly, we could change our location if we changed our opinions. For me, this sense of fluidity the ability to be approving, disapproving, and unsure within a matter of minutes was the most important element of this activity. There is something intrinsically democratic about engaging in political conversations and listening to one another deeply enough to be changed by what we hear.
We shared ideas and frustrations and at times deeply personal reasons explaining our thoughts. We did not all agree on the issues we were tackling, which ranged from same sex unions to wage standardization. But, at the end of the day, we created a sort of “loudness” surrounding deeply important discourses from which the average American politely disengages. Democracy was at work.
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