Politics are messy... because people are messy, and messy people make flawed political systems or corrupt decent ones or some combination of both... It seems that all we have is slow, democratic improvement.
Back in sixth grade, I fondly remember learning about the levels of municipal, provincial, and federal government, and getting to visit the mayor's office in Leduc. I had been fair-and-square elected alderwoman of St. Ben's Grade Six Class (we only had 16 voters, but still) so I got a special seat near the mayor's in a mock debate. It was such an informative, and naive time. I got this feeling that a system was put in place that automatically 'knew' what was best for me and everyone I knew. Only the most optimistic perspective could come out of 6th Grade social studies with Mr. Merchant (who also taught science, and was also the principal of our small town catholic school). There was no better year for me than that last one before the start of junior high, when I believed the world was truthful and fair, and I could balance nerd grades with occasionally kissing boys behind the building before I walked home. Little did I know, it would get so much more complicated...
These days, I don't know much more than the average politically disengaged millennial. I like to be informed, but 'information' is often more of a misleading spin-contest and the winners who make decisions on our behalf seem to just be the people with the most profound ad reach. I can't even vote in the US as a noncitizen, but that doesn't mean I can escape the endless sensationalist soundbites or the effect of asinine policy on my female, trans, gay, immigrant, and racially marginalized friends. I have found that there is a whole lot of anger and not a lot of listening across party lines. But I have two, very simple, philosophical 'rules' that guide me through conversations and decisions on who to support.
1. Treat every single person like a human being, and put forth your best effort to listen to their story. That doesn't necessarily include their regurgitated news headlines or unchecked assumptions, but their actual story. Nobody is interpreting 100% facts. We're all mixing the media bias with our own personal opinions, traumas, and fears. But when you listen to a person, struggling to provide for their family, and well intentioned but misinformed on a sensitive subject like immigration or abortion or gay rights, you might find a chord of humanity similar to your own that can be gently conversed with.
2. If someone's policy innately supports the suffering/oppression of another person or group of people, it's not a policy for human progress, and it's not a policy I support. Seems basic... constitutional even. But here we are, watching governments take away basic rights from transgender humans, witnessing voter suppression, hearing racist/classist comments from major political leaders, and fielding inflated statistics/flat out lies about everything from climate change to education reform--from government office and major media. How can we not disengage? I have no hatred for conservative opinion. I do not waste time hoping the other side will suffer. Instead, I look to the side or the groups working to alleviate suffering, that lift people, that bring awareness and put a stop to harm. And yeah, I think people should have clean water and access to healthcare without hellacious debt or pharmaceutical scams, more than I think billionaires should get tax cuts. I think human beings deserve homes, meals, resources for mental and physical wellness, and the same well funded education as everyone else. This principle is the same idea behind pretty much all of my choices--food and consumer product consciousness, acts of service in my community and basic interactions, and the company I keep.
The more time (and election cycles) I spend in America, the more smart, kind, creative people I meet. Americans have taught me to reach further to take hold of my dreams, to work hard and think for myself, and to make a conversation out of (not perpetually avoid) a disagreement. America gave me a lot of hope and adventure when I wasn't ready for the predictable tracks laid out for me in small town Canada. I wish the media and political system was easier to wade through, but I have no less faith in the incredible people I've come to know and their desire for change. And no matter where I end up, I'll be better for having witnessed the courage around me, of all the heroes working against hateful policy and crooked agendas. All the good humor, clever art and grounded dialogue that resists against those who promote the suffering of others in order to get ahead.
We all have to do what works for us. Believing there's a way that takes the pressure off of the hardest hit in our society, is the simplest place for me to start.