As a lifelong Iowan, I admit I get a little thrill from our quadrennial domination of the political scene that is the caucus season. Our first-in-the-nation caucuses bring all the candidates to town – every single town – with the kind of doting attention that is terribly flattering and often annoyingly condescending (click on the radio spot under “on the air in Iowa” at iowa.BarackObama.com if you don’t believe me).

I’ve been called by neighbors who want me to consider caucusing for their favorite candidate. I’ve been called by professional telemarketers requesting contributions, and I’ve been called by a major university’s political science department – twice – to participate in a poll.

This is all part of modern-day politics and I accept that and play my role as best I can.

However, I am getting fed up – to the gills – with the expectation that I boil my beliefs down to a sound bite. This is the actual question I was asked by a recent pollster:

“I am going to read a list of issues. Please tell me which ONE is the most important to your vote for president in 2008. Abortion, agricultural policy, economy, education, energy policy, environment, global warming, gay marriage, health care, immigration, Iraq War, or terrorism?”

Holy crap!

Let’s talk about the unchecked use of fossil fuels to create EVERYTHING WE USE and how our greed for this finite resource has brought us to the point of panic and now we’re screaming for alternative fuels so everyone’s growing corn and ethanol plants are gobbling it up at record prices but the price of a tortilla in Mexico – where tortillas are a major source of calories and nutrition – has tripled and it now costs three times as much as it used to to feed your family there so you leave your job at the American factory that pays $7 a day and cross the border to make $7 an hour and try to save up the $1200 per person it takes to immigrate legally while some redneck spits in your face about how you should “learn to talk American good.”

Or let’s talk about how the fact that Iowa holds its caucuses first in the nation puts pressure on politicians to take the “ethanol oath” and pass enormous farm bills to subsidize factory farms and grow so much corn that processors buy the stuff dirt cheap, boil it down and make high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil to pollute our food supply with cheap food that has no positive nutritional value and causes an epidemic of obesity and chronic disease which goes undetected because families can’t afford the insurance to cover regular doctor’s visits and wind up in emergency rooms with severe complications of undiagnosed diabetes and the attendant kidney failure and dialysis and transplant and living on social security disability.

Or how about this particular kick in the teeth (quoted directly from NPR’s All Things Considered):

“Ahmed Raza Kasuri, senior legal adviser to Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, tells Michele Norris that the extraordinary steps Musharraf has recently taken are no different than what the U.S. did after the Sept. 11 attacks.”

Don’t get me started.

One of my favorite screenwriters, Aaron Sorkin, wrote a line for “The American President:”

“America is advanced citizenship.”

I’ll say.

And in the spirit of discussing politics without getting political, I will just encourage everyone to acknowledge that the issues are never black-and-white, to speak up and to ask the tough questions and to make your decisions thoughtfully.

And – oh yeah – to vote.

This is Shelley, 35, trying to make sense of it all in Iowa.

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