November 20, 2007

Buddhist In the System

So, the other day I mingled. I actually did a fairly good job too, by my own standards. I went to a big fancy house, crowded full of people I didn’t know, and I chatted, I networked, and I politicked. It was the University of Nebraska Student Leaders’ Dinner at the University President’s house and every senator and student executive from all three campuses, along with deans and professors from various colleges, were invited.

I discussed vegetarianism with Corina, a nice senator I have seen at our meetings but never spoken to. She said was vegetarian for several years but decided she wanted to be “more like Jesus,” who ate a little meat from time to time. I can’t argue with that. I wish more people aspired to be like Jesus. Not to say that the comment didn’t leave me feeling a little awkward, but that’s definitely my issue.

On a side note - I still have to decide how I’m going to ‘handle’ our team project of decorating the Osborne Athletic Complex for Christmas (they say “the holidays,” but they mean Christmas). It seems my strategy lately has been to simple not mention that I’m not Christian and entirely avoid the mention of Buddhism. After all, no one ever actually asks. But somehow that seems less than authentic, like I’m hiding something when all I’m really doing is not announcing it to the world. It bothers me sometimes.

Anyway, back to mingling. I found it somewhat indecent that the University President lives in such obvious luxury when his students are declaring bankruptcy and counting the pennies of their grocery bills, but I dutifully complimented the hosted on their beautifully maintained 100-year old home and expansive collection of original art. Again, I think I may just be trailing a little of my own baggage here. Maybe.

I chatted up both the candidates for Student President. Adam was all about bringing me into the fold (of the party) and making the maximum use of my voice representing graduate students (who are typically under-represented) and simultaneously ensuring that I get the kind of appointments which will keep me engaged and enthusiastic. Emily was concerned about sustainability and promised to send another senator my way so we could pool our resources in regards to a specific project which I would love to make a pet of. Both were good conversations.

Here’s the rub: should I join a political party? My choices are “Bright” and “Ignite” parties and I have no idea what either platform is, but the entire idea of joining one at all seems divisive. I take a bizarre pride that my conservative little state is the only one progressive enough (at its founding, at least) to enshrine a non-partisan unicameral legislature in its constitution. Even if one or the other of the student parties seems to be a better match to my own goals, is better able or willing to support me, and seems more likely to get me re-elected (or just elected since I actually got appointed to this term) it still seems like joining would immediately create an “us” versus “them” scenario. If I am for/with Bright then I am automatically against Ignite, right?

Our student newspaper reporter recently did a poll to breakdown demographics of the student senators, including political affiliation. He used Democrat, Republican, Independent, or No Answer. The first thought that entered my head when the question came up was “None.” I wouldn’t even go so far as to call myself Independent because that implies I have something to be independent of.

I’ve never been one for trying to dismantle a system from the outside, especially a (nominally) democratic one. I would much rather work to reform from within. However, as much as that applies to government, I’m not sure it carries through to the parties. I would prefer if that system did not exist at all, therefore I think I would be happier working outside of it. I will have to weigh my options here.

In the meantime I smiled, stole more than my fair share of the cookies, and did my best to reconcile feeling both energized and engage with feeling absurdly out of place.

No comments: