Ok. First. I have a very hands-off approach to politics. I don’t like talking about them, I don’t like thinking about them, and I am so very willing to just leave everything to do with politics, arguing, and ridicule up to everyone else, all these people who seem to care so much.
Which doesn’t mean that I don’t care.
It just means that I will only talk about politics if I am convinced right down to the core of my being that I have to say something.
Twelve Directions Towards Wisdom
1) PR has nothing to do with how well anyone can do anything except PR (or pay people for PR).
Obama has great PR -he’s great at making himself look good. But PR has nothing to do with how well anyone can do anything except PR (or pay people for PR strategies). Therefore, how you feel about Obama as a person (as a result of his PR) has nothing to do with how well he can run a country. This works for any politician who is good at spreading a positive image of themselves.
Conversely, Romney has terrible PR- he’s terrible at making himself look good. But PR has nothing to do with how well anyone can do anything except PR (or pay people for PR strategies). Therefore, how you feel about Romney as a person (as a result of his PR) has nothing to do with how well he can run a country. This works for any politician who is terrible at spreading a positive image of themselves.
2) Stop voting by party. Seriously. Vote for your values, all of them. Look beyond what the politicians say to what they really do, take the time to research the facts of the situations that matter, and vote as holistically as you possibly can. If it comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils, do it. Don’t back off, because backing off won’t change who’s running for office. Backing off and not voting is only ever a decision to silence yourself. To cut out your own tongue.
3) Do not make emotion a part of your deciding process. Yes, you’re going to make your final decision based on how you feel about the situation, that’s how we function, but do not let emotion get entangled with the arguments, the process prior to making that final decision. Rather, let the facts lead and take what you feel from them, and not from anywhere else, even if it’s your best friend who you’ve known for years. Make your own decisions.
4) Every single candidate lies. All of them. Not just the one you dislike. The one you like lies just as much as the other. Don’t ever take their words as the full truth; go find it out for yourself.
5) Get over how much you like or dislike a certain candidate or a certain party. I cannot emphasize this enough: It does not matter how much you like or dislike them. What matters is their track record. What matters is what they actually have proven that they stand for, and not just what they say they stand for.
6) Yes, voting responsibly takes work. It takes more than just relying on emotional and cognitive shortcuts. It takes wisdom. It takes way less conflict and mudslinging, and way more level-headed integrity.
7) Take seriously the party/candidate you don’t like. Even if you don’t end up voting for them, not taking them seriously means that you’re reducing them to a straw man. It means you’re not willing to make a truly informed decision.
8) Say this with me: Party is not identity. You’re not Republican or Democrat (or whatever, wherever). You’re you. Politics do not define who you are. Political parties do not define who you are. What other people do or do not do does not define who you are. You are who you are. Vote out of values, not out of a misguided idea of your identity. Not because of how you’ve “always voted”.
9) Consider all the issues, not just the hot-button ones that you hear about all the time. Politicians and their PR are trying to sway you over the hot-button issues, and trying to get you to ignore the less sexy issues. They’re trying to get you to vote out of a place of blind emotion, not a place of wisdom. I know that this makes them sound like some kind of conspiracy, but I know what I’m talking about. Go take a social psychology class, or a class on social influence, or anything related to those subjects. What they’re trying to do is plain as day to those who know what the tactics are.
10) Educate yourself. Make sure that you are in control of the decisions you make. Make sure that you vote from your values, that your vote is informed, that your vote is objective. Vote responsibly. Vote wisely. Vote from understanding, not from confusion. Vote with the future in mind: Your future and the future of your descendants. For the repercussions this next term could have generations from now.
11) Accept nothing less than wisdom. Whatever you do, vote wisely. Wisdom is the ability to apply truth in a practical manner. All you have to do to act wisely is to apply truth practically. And doing that that requires both knowledge of the facts and clear thinking.
12) Think clearly, for the love of Pete. Get away from the noise, away from the offendedness flying around up all of everything, away from the polarization, away from the ridicule of the people that people around you don’t like (whoever they are), away from the manipulation tactics of politicians and their PR, away from all that chaos and confusion. Get away from the distractions and let the river run clear. Vote for what gives you peace. Peace, trust, and strength.
Why Am I Saying All This?
The reason I hate dealing with politics comes partly from an aversion to conflict of any kind, and partially from an experience I had at a church that I went to several years ago.
Basically, the church board had made a decision as wisely as they could, but that decision was very unpopular with the congregation. Because of this, we had a church meeting, where everyone in the congregation had a chance to voice their thoughts in front of everyone, and to ask the board questions. Before this, the board explained as best they could why they made the decision they did.
Now, I supported this decision fully. It was reasonable, rational, and loving at the same time. It was the best thing they could have done for the church as a whole and for the individuals it affected the most. It was a hard decision to make, but it was a wise one.
When I spoke to everyone that day, I spoke of peace, of moving constructively into the future, but I was in the minority. It didn’t help that I was also only about fifteen.
Almost all the adults around me were hugely emotional about this decision. I saw one man get so angry that he was nearly violent, I heard others accuse the church board of only thinking about themselves, I listened to verbal abuse coming from the mouths of those that I respected, I watched as a church divided into polarities that were spreading to the point of breaking open into a gaping, ragged wound.
I stared in horror as this ugliness poured out all around me, raw and terrible to behold.
I had never, ever seen adults act like this, and my heart was breaking at the sight of it.
And then, after the meeting, I saw one man who was opposed to the board’s decision, and who was almost like a leader for all the others opposed to it, I saw him…
Ok, this was a man I respected. He was funny, he was outgoing, he had a great deal of knowledge, he had always treated me well. Of all the people in the room.
He had been acting kindly with someone and, when their exchange had finished, he stood up. I saw him as no-one else was looking at him and his face took the expression of a shark looking for a meal. It was a calculating expression, one I had never seen in real life before, but I knew he was looking around for the next person to win over to his side. And then he went to my mother and started telling her everything that would make her think well of him. I could hear some of what he was saying, and it made me sick.
I was shocked, too shocked to be angry at first, but I was definitely angry afterwards at seeing him go and try to manipulate my mother like that. If I thought violence could solve problems, I would have beaten him black and blue.
Honestly. It didn’t matter how much bigger and stronger he was, all I wanted was for him to admit publicly to his deceit and manipulation, and part of me didn’t care how I convinced him to do it. What he had done was just so, so wrong.
And then I had to go home and try to process all my emotions about everything that had just happened, about how the world had just turned upside-down all around me and I hated, hated, hated the ugliness. I hated the blackness.
Because of the violent opposition of the congregation, the church board took back their decision and many people left that church, including my family. In only a few years, the church died completely. It doesn’t exist anymore, and that’s why.
See, I hate talking about politics because I’ve seen them at their worst.
Please, please, please perpetuate the best.
Be that voice of peace. The more of us there are, the more the chaos will have to retreat. The more wisdom there is, the brighter a future we will have. The more love there is, the less fear there will be.
No matter what you do.
No matter where you are.
If not for you, do it for your children and for all the children around you who are watching what you do, who are looking to you for how to live. Who are depending on you for wisdom in a world they are learning isn’t always good and isn’t always wise.