Impending Democracy

The Mexican election is on Sunday and the whole country is in a state of tense anticipation. People are being careful who they discuss their political ideas with for fear of getting into arguments. My husband, for the first time in our marriage, is actually going to vote and even believes that his candidate is worthy and capable. I am not not a Mexican citizen and so cannot vote.

A couple of weeks ago my husband plastered both our cars with political stickers. Fine with me, when I lived in the US I usually wore my politics on my sleeve and on my bumper. So I’ve been driving around for weeks advertising someone I can’t vote for. Whatever, no biggie.

But the funny thing is that I’ve had several friends come up to me and get in my face about my bumper stickers. In each case the person has been downright rude and accusatory, and they even seemed to actually be afraid of my views. And in each case the person knows I can’t vote anyway so why do they bother confronting me? I’ve been walking around wondering why people are so rigid and so protective here about their political views?

In the US we’re pretty well used to the idea that we might have different political ideas from our neighbors and our friends. In my case having different political ideas won’t keep me from being friends with someone. It probably WILL keep me from talking to them very much about politics but that’s the extent of it.

But here in Mexico people are very protective of their political ideas. They care very, very much whether their friends are with them or against them. And I think the reason is that in reality democracy is a very new thing in Mexico.

The PRI ruled Mexico for over 70 years. And even though there were elections everyone knew they were rigged and the PRI would win. People didn’t expect fair elections and so their own political ideas didn’t count. When Vicente Fox, from the PAN, was elected it represented a real change in Mexican politics. It meant that the PRI wasn’t in control of the elections any longer. And it meant that if people voted it might mean something, it might have value.

So here we are about to have what everyone hopes is the second fair presidential election in the history of Mexico, and now people CARE! So that’s good and all but it seems to me the next lesson these folks need to learn is that the thing that will make their democracy really strong will be diversity of opinion…but until they figure that out I guess I should expect to be accosted for my bumper stickers.

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