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I Blame Us

I Blame Us

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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.

Replace Strategic Voting with Strategic Living

Replace Strategic Voting with Strategic Living

I’m not a fan of strategic voting. It seems to me that various arguments, such as voting in the other party’s primary, splitting one’s vote for president and for down-ballot candidates (an effort to guarantee divided government), or the ubiquitous “lesser of two evils” arguments generally amount to one thing: An attempt to persuade someone to vote their way.

In this election, I’ve been told that a vote for a third party candidate, usually Gary Johnson is a vote for Clinton. Or a vote for Trump. It just depends on who’s making the statement. Statistically, it appears that any impact one way or the other is within the margin of error. So votes for Johnson, Stein, or McMullin don’t appear to be all that likely to shift the final result in any case. Of course, one can’t be certain of that either.

I like to put my vote in context in two ways. First, my vote in the presidential election is just one vote I will cast on November 8. (Yes, I’m an election day voter.) As I noted earlier today, there are many other important races and issues on the ballot. Further, and even more important, as important as my vote is, it is only one thing I will do to try to influence society and to improve the country I live in.

If you are concerned with the nature of the election, consider that the events of the election grow out of our culture and the way we deal with one another. Just as the presidency is magnified in importance, so the election tends to emphasize and reveal the things that are or are not working well in our culture generally.

A more important question that who you will vote for in this election is this: What will you do to make this country and this world a better place? Will you work to break down barriers and open dialogue with other people or will you foster more anger and frustration?

When we look with horror at people’s behavior during the election we should consider that people were treating one another badly all the time. All the election did was put more of it on TV.

We’ll be reminded by candidates and others that our vote is important. It’s one little vote in a large pool, but that’s how major things are accomplished. Let’s remember at the same time that everything we say and everything we do is also just one small action but that the sum of these actions becomes our culture. What is our contribution to that whole?

That’s why I’d rather walk into the voting booth and vote for the person I think would be best, not the lesser of two evils. That’s also why I don’t even consider electability. I’ve been told that this is a selfish act and that I do so just to make myself feel better. (Note that I have not announced who I am voting for. It might just be a major party candidate; but my choice won’t be limited to the major parties.) If it does make me feel better, then I simply hope that I will, in turn, be more cheerful in my dealings with the next person and thus raise the “cheer” level just a tiny bit.

We like to argue the importance of one vote. I agree. It is important. Let me, in turn, argue the importance of one word, one smile, one good deed.

And let me proclaim the importance of a life lived with integrity. To the best of one’s ability.