It’s election day here in the United States, and though I will shortly head to my polling place and cast my vote, I’m not going to say who it is in any of the races. What I would like to call for is moderation, in the sense I define it when talking about religion. I know it’s odd to take such a common word and then define it in perhaps eccentric ways, but I believe both that my definition falls within the semantic range of the word as commonly used and that it is the word closest to what I want to say. In my view, a moderate isn’t always in the center, but rather is one who looks at the entire spectrum as openly as possible (perhaps from a center starting point), and allows solutions that come from a variety of perspectives. I do hold in common with most moderates I know the idea that extreme solutions often create new extreme problems while often failing to solve what they set out to solve.
With that lengthy note out of the way, why is it that I blame us?
Simple: Because today.
We get to vote. Yes, there are technicalities, but they aren’t all that incredibly difficult. If you want to know how the electoral college works (or doesn’t), you can learn. If you want to learn about the candidates for all the various offices, the information is out there. If you want to know how similar solutions have worked in the past, that information is available too.
It’s easy to blame the media. They fed us all the wrong sort of information. Quite possible, but each voter has a brain. It used to be harder to do, but now you can look up data very quickly. For some reason people think misinformation started with the internet. No, the internet just made it easier to spread misinformation. But it has also made it easier to get good information. The one factor that has remained the same? How willing are you to evaluate?
I find that quite frequently one can find enough information to debunk a story right within that story. Just look at their source information and how they cite it. Many, many stories actually have no facts cited to first-hand sources at all. Some people read just headlines and early paragraphs, which is a formula for being deceived. Headlines are hard to write. You want to be accurate, yet you don’t want the headline to be too long.
It’s easy to blame the politicians. But politicians are elected and re-elected by us. It’s interesting how popular many representatives are while congress as a whole is quite unpopular. In a way, we’re saying that we don’t like the people elsewhere in America. We like the idea of electing non-politicians, but despite the claim, you can’t really do that. By the time someone is on the ballot, they’re a politician. The question is, how good of a politician are they?
It’s easy to blame corporations. But corporations get their money from us when we buy their brands and in turn they influence elections and politicians by spending money, whether it’s a bribe in the legal sense or not. You can find out how much money the politicians you support are taking from corporations. But more importantly, if you watch what the politician does, you can see what the result is. Oh, but that’s too hard. We want it to be simple. Well, it’s not simple. We talk about the responsibility to vote. How about the responsibility to know what you’re voting on?
I believe it all comes back to us. The tools are available for us to study and to make intelligent choices. We don’t have to be misled. We don’t have to be manipulated.
Here are some ways you can be manipulated:
- Fear, and its extreme buddy panic. Decisions made out of fear are often bad. Have you ever noticed how an animal will often run straight ahead in front of a car? I have to watch when entering my driveway because there are a few cats who will sleep right out there and then when they wake up and see the car coming, run directly in front of the wheel. Even when something justifies the fear, that fear is not a good basis for decisions. Motivations? Sure. Reaction? Not so much.
- Anger. Angry actions are often dangerous actions. Anger spawns those extreme solutions that often create new extreme problems. There is such a thing as righteous anger, but it is much rarer than claimed.
- Social herding. The fact that all your friends are doing something doesn’t justify it. Your mother probably told you something of the sort. But it’s easy to do.
- Apathy. Do you know why political campaigns try to manipulate stories to make their chances look better (or in some cases worse)? In either case, it’s to build enthusiasm in their voters. Getting out the vote is a major factor in elections. Why? Because many of us will become apathetic and not get up the energy to cast our vote. Politicians (all of them, even the so-called non-politicians) would like their voters to be enthusiastic and energized and the other side to be discouraged. I have noted this year that those who are leading in the polls talk about polls, and those who are losing in the polls talk about crowd size. I don’t mean that winners talk about polls and losers talk about crowd size. Rather, I mean that a politician will talk about the thing that makes him or her look best.
- Hate. Give it up, or it will kill you. Disapprove. Reprove. Approve. But give up hate.
I’m sure someone is thinking they don’t have time for all this. All I can say is that a whole bunch of people had plenty of time to fill my Facebook feed with complete garbage. No, I’m not talking about one side or the other, I’m talking both. Yes, there were thoughtful people and thoughtful posts, but those were a distinct, almost extinct, minority.
So if you’re angry tonight as the results come in, be angry at us. Make it an inclusive “us.” You (if you’re a U. S. citizen) and I are both part of the people, and the people will be speaking.