Friday, September 7, 2012

Something a Little Different

Below is something I wrote that is a little different than the usual things I post on this blog. I wrote this yesterday and posted it on Facebook and people seemed to like what I had to say, so I thought I would re-post it here (with a few edits) for a different audience.

I don’t normally post political comments to Facebook, but since that is increasingly becoming the thing to do, I have a couple of requests. First, can we do away with the hyperbolic personal attacks on the candidates? President Obama is not a Communist that hates freedom and Mr. Romney is not an evil capitalist that hates poor people. Those kinds of attacks using emotional trigger words like ‘hate’ and ‘evil’ and ‘Communist’ are aimed at polarizing the public without anyone bothering to look at the facts and the issues at stake in the election. Political discussion on those terms becomes a battle of the lowest common denominator. The truth is that both men love this country and want to see it prosper. The difference between them is how they believe prosperity can be achieved.

That brings me to my second request: please read and consider both sides of all of the issues. If you identify as a Republican you should go beyond Rush Limbaugh and FoxNews and if you identify as a Democrat you should go beyond Jon Stewart and MSNBC. Those shows and networks are slanted in the way they are because people generally like things that they agree with, which is great for our comfort level and their ratings, but terrible for developing informed participants in political discussions. The problem is that when we listen to only one side of an issue, the opinions become like a feedback loop getting louder and louder until you can hear nothing else. You become insulated from other perspectives and the polarizing rhetoric starts to seem rational. If you believe that the other side is ‘crazy,’ ‘evil,’ or ‘stupid,’ then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate how insulated you’ve become. When you take that step back, consider that the people that support the other side are your neighbors, friends and family. They just want the best for themselves, their children and their country. You may disagree with them on the best way to get there, but that’s not a reason to demonize them.

Here is my suggestion: listen with an open mind to the speeches, advertisements and debates, then read opinion and analysis on all sides, and then (and this is the important part) use your own brain to sift through the spin on both sides and decide which candidate you believe has the best plan for our country. Then vote.

What I’m asking isn’t easy. You have to pay attention, read, think and make a decision for yourself. It’s so much easier when you can vote based on simple labels that have been pre-packaged for you by the talking heads that have seemingly thought through all of the issues for you. But they are not you. They aren’t looking out for your best interests; they are looking out for their best interests – which means ratings. We have the ability to critically think for ourselves. We should use it and decline to participate in the Jerry Springer Show-style of politics that is prevalent today.

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