Priorities

In the run up to the 2012 US presidential election, there has been loads of controversy cropping up regarding various politicians’ positions on various issues. The most recent and perhaps the most far-reaching example is last week’s birth control/insurance hearing at which no female witnesses were called to testify.

In a world where economies are crashing, regimes are collapsing, and wars are raging, some in America have expressed the feeling that the US president (whoever he or she may be in January 2013) should be chosen based solely on those ‘bigger issues’. They argue that it’s entirely justifiable to vote for a candidate who doesn’t match their own views on, say, birth control and insurance policies if said candidate ticks all their boxes on the (perceived) bigger issues of domestic (read: economic) and foreign policy.

I’m not by any means arguing that a presidential candidate should not have a solid plan for the economy and America’s place in the world–both are hugely important issues. But I’d like to ask this question: when do the ‘little things’ become important? When does birth control or school curricula or the environment matter enough to be something that we choose a president by? In any global scenario I can imagine, there will be war and poverty and turmoil; those things never go away. Looking at ancient art tells us that those things have been around at least since humanity was capable of making cave drawings. So if the big things will always be issues, at what point do we decide to care about the other stuff? And how do we prioritize the other stuff once we start thinking about it?

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2 Comments

  1. I’m not sure these are “small” and “big” issues at all. The entire surreal birth control kerfuffle speaks to a view of women’s rights that directly goes to a huge civil rights issue, an issue that easily ranks with views of economic policy. Health insurance is probably one of the two or three most significant drivers of economic and social change, especially in a country with as massive systemic inequality as the US — so I don’t think that’s a fringe issue either. Specific topics (abortion, birth control, prenatal screening; even religion) may seem like small issues, irrelevant to the bigger picture. But they’re not.

    I do disagree with your historical perspective, though: war and poverty may always have been around, but that doesn’t mean that making them go away shouldn’t be a political goal. Things have been better for more people in the past, and there’s no reason why one shouldn’t strive to return to that closer-to-ideal state. Simply throwing in the towel on big issues because the world will never be perfect is too defeatist by far for my taste.

  2. I completely agree (clarity is one of the things I’m working on in my writing, obviously…)!
    My stance is that the so-called ‘fringe’ or ‘small’ issues are actually far more important than they might seem. I’m aware, however, of many Americans who feel that these issues are not important enough to be of concern during election season, and it’s that point of view that I intended to question.

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