Ask Auntie Establishment

Dear Auntie Establishment:

I deeply believe we need regime change at home, but I feel stuck. I want to be part of the Anybody But Bush crew but I'm having a hard time getting behind Howard Dean. I mean, he's pro-death penalty, he has a 100-percent NRA rating, and he's from a tiny northeastern state that probably has a total of two black people. Kerry doesn't strike me as any better. Help!

--Agonizing in Austin

auntieDear Agonizing,
If you want to see someone elected who completely mirrors your beliefs, I advise you to run for president. If presidential elections were the only way toward getting the world we want, you'd be stuck--at least this year. But, lucky for you, it's just one of the myriad ways to create social change. As I see it, you have four options.

  • Get someone else to be president. Howard Dean isn't the democratic nominee yet and, given what happened in Iowa, he may very well not be. There are candidates who are anti-death penalty, for gun control, and seem to have more experience with the lives of actual people of color. If you think Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton are electable, then by all means vote for one of them in the primary, and -- starting now -- start convincing others to do the same. However, if you don't think they can beat Bush, then continue on to Option #2.

  • Educate the candidate. If you think Dean or Kerry is the best option we have, then let him know (letters, campaigns, etc.) that if he wants to get your vote he's going to have to take principled stands on the issues that are important to you.

  • Hold your nose on election day.

  • Social change doesn't begin or end on election day. Once a new president is in the White House, then it's time to do some serious work on the issues most important to you. Some of the greatest environmental and health care setbacks were during Clinton's reign. Anybody But Bush is a triage approach. Stop the worst of the bleeding; then begin the grassroots organizing that can heal the whole body.

Don't give up the fight, love.

Dear Auntie,

I met this really hot guy in my yoga class. He has a great sense of humor, he does the best downward dog in class, and he doesn't hate his mother. Of course, there's a catch. We live in California and it came out on our second date that he voted for Schwarzenegger in the recall election. I was appalled! And yet, he seems so great. I deluding myself in thinking that maybe, if we keep dating, I could change him?

--Berkeley Babe

Dear Babe:
Sweetheart, of course you're deluding yourself! All relationships, especially in the beginning, are delusion. Why should yours--not withstanding the intimate knowledge that comes from seeing a man in sweatpants with his booty in the air -- be any different? We all overlook flaws of equal or stronger magnitude in potential partners. This is different from chronic disorganization, lateness, or an inability to put the toilet seat down only in that you've caught it so early. That said, there's nothing wrong with trying to get the guy to see reason, just don't count on it. And, if you need a rationalization for your progressive friends (and you shouldn't, because true friends don't require romantic rationalizations), then you can always promise to tie him to the bed and not let him vote in the next election until he comes around.

Dear Auntie,

I'm dreading going home for a family visit. My Jewish relatives and I always argue incessantly about the Middle East, particularly what's going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories. They say I'm betraying my own people. I say they're making excuses for occupation. It's no use trying to avoid the subject -- in my family arguing is pretty much the only way we communicate. I don't mind debating, but no one ever seems to change anyone else's mind and someone always ends up in tears. I'm thinking of faking an illness so I don't have to go home.

--Sick of Fighting

Dear Sick,
I recommend you follow Auntie Establishment's tried-and-true ground rule for fighting about politics with your family; bring back-up. Sometimes your family won't listen to you just because you're related to them. That's the perfect time to bring the opinion of a respected and eloquent scholar into the mix. For the Middle East, I highly recommend Robert Fisk. For the literary minded, a present of a book might be appropriate. Fisk's behemoth book on Lebanon, "Pity the Nation," is amazing or try the older account by Israeli novelist David Grossman, "The Yellow Wind."

For those inclined to do their reading in the bathroom or in the dentist's waiting room, a magazine article that articulates your beliefs -- left tactfully on the coffeetable or on the back of the toilet -- couldn't hurt. Not in My Name ( is a nationwide group of Jews working for lasting peace in the Middle East. They could probably connect you to others in your area, a support group, or, if all else fails, call your family for you and tell them you have laryngitis.

Tearing your hair out about a political dilemma? Write to your Auntie and ask for help:

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