Monday, October 22, 2012

All You Really Need to Know About the 2012 Election You Learned From Popular Science Fiction & Fantasy

by Megan S.


In just two weeks, Americans will decide the fate of our nation with the 2012 presidential election. Sounds a bit dramatic, doesn't it? That's because it is. We will not only be electing the leader of our nation, but setting the direction for federal legislation and, with judicial nominations, how our laws will be interpreted for decades to come. The biggest domestic issues dividing our country currently are up for debate on Nov. 6, and the outcome could drastically change your life and that of your loved ones.

What's at stake in the election? The economy, women's rights, health care, and gay rights are four of the biggest domestic issues up for grabs this November. The intricacies of the topics and the arguments surrounding these wedge issues can be overwhelming. How's the average voter supposed to wade through all of the detritus to get to the heart of the matter so she can determine how she should vote?

Strangely enough, one of the best places to turn to for help interpreting wedge issues is science fiction and fantasy. Genre fiction (whether it's a television show, movie, or novel) examines our biggest issues from all sides in ways that are easy to understand, and our four biggest domestic problems are no exception.

So let's examine the hot topics using some of the most popular science fiction and fantasy of the last decade. This will make your choice at the polls on Nov. 6 much more clear after we discuss allegories from our favorite genre.

The Economy & The Hunger Games


Taxes and job growth are the biggest points of contention in the election with regard to the national economy.  Why?  Because we're struggling.  People are out of work and the federal government is $14 trillion in debt.  How do we fix it?  Stimulating job growth by lowering taxes on the "job creators" (companies and the wealthy) is being discussed.  The idea behind this argument is that by lessening the amount "job creators" pay in taxes, there will be more money to expand business and therefore more jobs available.  The more jobs, the more people can people pay for food, housing, and even luxury items, which in turn would generate tax dollars.  That sounds great, right?

Well, let's see what we can learn from The Hunger Games.  The citizens of District 12 have jobs.  They work in areas such as coal mining and bakeries, yet they're starving.  They're employed, but they're barely scraping by.  The Hunger Games, in part, is an examination of the working poor and highlights the fact that low unemployment numbers will not fix our economy.  Tax cuts for "job creators" shift the burden of generating a revenue stream for the federal government to the middle class.  We need those tax dollars to pay for programs such as defense and education.  By shifting the tax burden, we increase the number of working poor, and the disparity between classes gets far greater.  Just like the Capitol citizens, the "job creators" prosper while the rest of Panem (and the rest of us) get poorer.

Women's Rights & Buffy the Vampire Slayer


The threat to women's rights this November isn't as cut and dried as the problems surrounding the economy.  It's a bit more insidious.  What threat is this, you ask?  It's the coordinated efforts to make accessing reproductive health care and medicine more difficult, as well as legislating invasive and unnecessary medical procedures in an attempt to make obtaining an abortion more traumatic, all while continuing to leave women unprotected from gender-based inequality in the workplace.

These aren't isolated incidences backed by unaffiliated individuals.  In February of this year, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California and the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, conducted a hearing about the mandate that health insurers provide birth control for women.  The panel of experts his committee called to testify were all men.  Sounds sketchy, but not enough to condemn it as an attack on women.  Well, how about this?  In August 2012, Republicans approved their national campaign platform, which included barring abortions, even if the fetus was the result of rape or incest.  Oh, and by the way, during the Republican National Convention,  Issa said, "If only men voted, Republicans would win every time."  Sounds overtly sketchy now, right?

Why is it a problem to have a group of people who are far removed from the realities of a particular issue making the decisions about its fate?  Let's look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Watchers Council.  The Council, the group responsible for legislating the moral and tactical decisions for a slayer, is far removed from the everyday battle Buffy fights.  By being unfamiliar with the minute details of the situation and without giving enough weight to Buffy's crucial observations, the council continues to make poor decisions that often lead to failure.  What lesson do we learn from Buffy?  Any legislating body making decisions for the people must be of the people in order to protect citizens from tyranny.

Gay Rights & Every Urban Fantasy Love Story Ever


Gay rights is the most cut and dried issue in this election.  In the United States, marriage affords heterosexual couples more than 1,000 legal rights that range from joint insurance policies to spousal rights in medical decisions, to joint adoption.  Unfortunately, marriage rights in this country are tangled up with moral objections to gay marriage based on religious dogma despite the fact that the union is a legal contract in the United States and has nothing to do with a couple's religious belief.  The idea that homosexuality is a sin is the main argument against gay marriage, and it has so far prevented one out of every 10 people in the country from being recognized on a national level as wed to his or her same-sex partner, should that person choose to do so.  The war on gay marriage is further threatened by the Republican National Convention's promise to ban gay marriage. 

A community dead set on preventing two star-crossed lovers from being truly happy sounds familiar, doesn't it?  It's the basis for pretty much every Urban Fantasy love story there is (and even some science fiction ones such as Torchwood's Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones.)  For example, Kate Daniel's Alpha of Atlanta being in a relationship with a human? FOR SHAME.  Or how about a sparkly vampire loving his lamb-like prey/girlfriend? NEVER.  All these UF stories are allegories.  We know true love when we see it, and the idea of barring it because of societal pressure based on antiquated morals is unbelievable.

Health Care & Gattaca


There has been a significant amount of debate around "Obamacare" (aka The Affordable Health Care Act of 2010) over the last few years. In the beginning, the opposition falsely claimed that the comprehensive bill would mean the government dictated what medical procedures a doctor would be forced to provide (this, by the way, came from the same party backing the legally mandated and completely unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound before an abortion). The argument against it now mainly consists of objecting to mandating every American carry health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

So, why would the government force every American to have health insurance? Because, like everything on this list, it's an issue of inequality.  Prior to the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, Americans across the country were being denied health insurance by providers because of the financial risk they posed.  Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or a history of cancer were denied coverage because any related treatments could cost the insurance companies too much money.  By mandating every American have health insurance and barring insurers from rejecting individuals with a history of health problems, the insurance companies are able to spread the risk, making it more fiscally solvent for them to cover those with pre-existing condition.

Now, the Republican presidential nominee has promised to overturn the Affordable Health Care Act on his first day in office should he be elected.  Is this really a big deal?  Yes, because doing so would essentially declare those with health care conditions as less worthy of protection than their healthy neighbors under the law.  In Gattaca, citizens with health problems or even just the potential for health problems are banned from doing anything but menial labor.  Vincent's heart problem and poor eyesight are seen as too much of a threat, and he is prevented from fulfilling his lifelong dream of going to the stars.  Through subterfuge and determination, Vincent proves that he's just as worthy as his healthy competition.  The lesson from Gattaca stresses the fact that the U.S. government cannot willfully overturn a law protecting its citizens nor even sit idly by while others deny health care to the people just because it may cost more money.  Those with pre-existing conditions are worthy of protection.
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