The Not-So-United States of America

So the presidential elections (only one more month to go!!!) and having to explain the Electoral College and how voting works in the US to the French have stirred up some emotions about why I don’t like living there. The United States of America is just that – a collection of states, but states that are not all that united. All of them must follow federal laws, like driving at 16, voting at 18 and drinking alcohol at 21; but there are also a lot of laws that are decided on by state governments, which I find completely unfair. We are all American citizens, yet we don’t all have to live by the same laws just because we live in different states?

In Michigan this year, there are two proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot: legalizing marijuana for medical purposes and allowing embryonic stem-cell research. In some states these are already legal or illegal. In some states, they are voting on other amendments, like banning gay marriage or preventing animal cruelty.  How awful is it to tell people they can be married in one state but if they travel or move to another state within the same country, their marriage is no longer legal???

I believe the federal government should have more power over each state, so that the laws are the same everywhere you go in the US. Why do some states have better education systems than others? Why do some states provide more basic human rights than others? Why do some states have better health care options than others?  I don’t necessarily agree with France’s centralizing everything to Paris, but at least laws are the same in every région and département. And that is my biggest problem with voting in the US.

The Electoral College favors the Republicans by giving states with small populations a larger say in the overall vote… states that usually vote Republican. Technically, a candidate only has to win 11 states in order to win the presidency. So what’s the point of even campaigning in the other 39 states? It’s obvious that every year the candidates focus on the swing states that could change the outcome and ignore the rest. Why not just have a direct vote so that every American citizen has an equal say instead of each state having unequal say? The fact that the Electoral College was created to limit the impact of women’s and slaves’ votes says something about its true, undemocratic nature, doesn’t it? I’ve always felt insulted that the government believes states are more important than the people or that the people are not intelligent enough to vote for the president, although we do so for the Congress.

For those of us who don’t live where we are registered, why do some states require that you vote in person at your precint the very first time you vote? Isn’t that extremely unfair to those college students who can’t afford to return to their parents’ on a Tuesday during the semester? Or for those who are studying or moving abroad before they have the chance to vote for the first time? What are they supposed to do?

And why even bother to vote if you know your state will give its electors to the other candidate anyway? I’m glad Michigan votes democrat or else I would be very frustrated that my vote doesn’t count for anything. I would still vote, of course, just for the pleasure of voting against the republicans, but I wouldn’t feel that my vote could make a difference. And isn’t that why we vote?

I may be an American citizen, but most days, I don’t really know how to define what that really means. I’m an American who abides by Michigan laws (or used to when I lived there.) So am I really a Michigander first, and American second? I think that’s why I’ve always thought that I’m not really “American” – because there are 50 different types of Americans.

Two Years in France: Un Bilan

My two year anniversary in France was this past Friday, September 26. I realize I have done a lot  / accomplished a lot / suffered through a lot over the past 24 months in France: obtained 5 Carte de Séjours from my best friends at the Préfecture exchanged American driver’s license for French one and […]

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I want to be a lectrice forever.

I love my job! I work with three classes in the labs: Vocabulary, Pronunciation and Business English. In all of them, I can spy on the students with my headset and make sure they are actually doing the lessons and using English. (I have ALL the power!!!) For vocab class, I’m redoing the weekly HTML […]

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More Language Learning Tips

Websites I found these past few weeks: Dialang is a neat program that you can use to determine your European Level in a foreign language. There are 5 tests – reading, writing, listening, grammar and vocabulary – available for 14 languages – Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish […]

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Major Website Updates this Summer

Summer is over and I go back to work tomorrow, so I wanted to post the major updates to my website that I’ve done over the past few months. I’m not sure how much time I will have to devote to my site once the semester gets into full swing. First, I have created an […]

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All Things American

Mom just sent a package of things that David & I have been missing lately. Now that it’s almost fall, I’m really getting nostalgic for America… and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Apparently as soon as the temperature drops, I lump all of those holidays together. Luckily I should only have to work until noon […]

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Quick Update.

ANPE is still harassing me about finding a job. Just one day after sending me a letter saying it was ok that I didn’t go to the mandatory meeting because I had found a job, they send me an offre d’emploi and apparently want me to tell them for a THIRD time that I have […]

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How’s my accent?

I finally got David to record more mp3s for the French tutorials (we’re now halfway done with French VII, vocabulary for those living in France), and I decided to record myself speaking French as well. I just read the sentences from the first topic on French VII. David (native speaker of French) [podcast]http://www.ielanguages.com/mp3stwo/confusions.mp3[/podcast] Me (native […]

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Martha moves to Turkey

Martha is one of my closest friends from “back home” – i.e. Michigan. I have known her for about 7 years. We met in German 111 at the University of Michigan-Flint and I thought she was the coolest person ever because she had lived in Germany for a few years. Turns out Martha is also […]

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ANPE is on my list now too…

The ANPE is half of the unemployment services here in France. The ASSEDIC is the actual agency that gives you the unemployment benefits (unless you worked for the rectorat), while ANPE helps you with finding a job. When you sign up for unemployment, you have a mandatory meeting at ASSEDIC and a mandatory meeting at […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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