Tired of low-rent political advertisements that make you hurl objects at the television set? Bored with the finger-pointing, whining, squabbling, temper tantrums and gotcha games? Got indigestion from one too many robocall from Bill Clinton or John McCain during dinner? Perhaps all this has you looking for the “none of the above” box at the voting booth.
It’s election season and the assaults to our values, intelligence and patience are out again in full force. If you’re among the majority of Americans who feel the tone of our civic conversation sounds like five-year-olds at recess (with no offense to five-year-olds), nonpartisan Tallahassee nonprofit The Village Square offers you their “2010 Citizen’s Election Season Survival Guide.”
Filled with tips to save your sanity (while you improve your citizenship and get a new spring in your step), this guide will become your indispensible companion as you dream of making it past Tuesday, Nov. 2nd without losing your temper, sanity or belief in democracy:
Fight Like Founding Fathers (who did not have the luxury to stop talking with each other… if they had failed, they would have been hanged). Disagree – even enthusiastically – without making it personal. Find an honest, factual civic conversation somewhere and jump in. Embrace the disagreement; it’s what makes us America. Our Founding Fathers had a country to build and so do we. Let’s get on with it.
Add professional polarizers to the ranks of the unemployed. Beware (and turn off) information sources that make big bucks if you stay mad. What’s a handful more people looking for jobs in these hard times? This will save you money on therapy or blood pressure medication as well.
Keep good company online.
* DON’T read blog comments. If you read blog post comment threads, please for goodness sake stop. This will damage your level of sanity more than almost any single act.
* DO talk to your friends but…
* DON’T read their forwarded junk emails. Just because you love Aunt Sue doesn’t mean she’s fact-checked her spam. Breathless and delusional emails have done an amazing amount to damage our civic debate. (Note that you can write anything in an email. Try it, open a brand new email and just start typing…)
* DO make SNOPES.COM one of your favorite sites.If you do want to fact check an email, check out www.snopes.com a truly wonderful source.
* DON’T pay too much attention to web sources (or any other) that has a fixed point of view. For example, do they always hate all Republicans/Democrats? Will they ever change their mind? If not, why are you paying attention to them?
* DO use solid fact-check websites like Politifact and FactCheck.org
Give THE HAND to white hot combustible politics. There should be a huge price to pay if you choose to poison the public debate by comparing people to Adolph Hitler and political parties to the Nazis. Why not punish the hooligans who pour gasoline on the dialogue, whether they’re in your party or the other one?
It is surely time for lunch. Have a lunch with someone across the aisle, be nice and listen at least a little bit.
Separate Signal from NOISE.
* NOISE: Don’t believe everything you hear
* NOISE: Don’t assume that extreme allegations are true
* NOISE: Assess the credibility of your source
* Signal: DO measure the fundamental beliefs of a candidate against yours and vote accordingly
Make a politician mad. Don’t cast your vote based on a 30-second ad (especially if the ad has scary breathless music). This will be the ultimate citizen revenge against ugly campaigning and this ad cost the candidate roughly 8 zillion dollars. Mwahahaha.
Refuse to go tribal. We are having real difficulty as a society with the rise of tribalism. Author Bill Bishop describes in his book The Big Sort that Americans are more often in every area of their lives keeping the social company of people who agree with them politically. Problem is, like-minded groups consistently behave the same way: They grow more extreme in the direction of the majority opinion, even to the point of being willing – as a group – to deny factual reality. Groupthink is apparently on the rise. Why not be unique? Let the sheep jump up the cliff without you. Bah.
Lend and borrow sugar regularly. Despite all the disagreement afoot in America, we’re still neighbors. Act like one.
Vote early, then step away from the television set. While everyone else is being pelted with toxic TV ads, you’ll be fishing.
Early reviews of The Village Square’s survival guide***
President Barack Obama: “There is no Red Citizen’s Survival Guide, there is no Blue Citizen’s Survival Guide. There is just The Village Square’s Citizen’s Survival Guide.”
Karl Rove: “James Carville and I agree on just one thing: Do not read this guide.”
Senator John Kerry: “I was for the Citizen’s Survival Guide before I was against the Citizen’s Survival Guide.”
Glenn Beck: ?[Furiously scribbles something on a blackboard.]
***LEGAL DISCLAIMER: THESE QUOTES ARE WHOLLY FICTITIOUS AND ANY SIMILARITY TO ACTUAL UTTERANCES BY ANY INDIVIDUAL LIVING OR DEAD IS PURELY ACCIDENTAL. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE VILLAGE SQUARE BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF YOU NOT GETTING THE JOKE AND PRESUMING THESE QUTOES ARE REAL. OPINIONS OF THESE INDIVIDUALS CANNOT BE ASCERTAINED BECAUSE WE HAVE NO INTENTION OF ASKING THEM SINCE WE KNOW FULL WELL THAT IF ASKED WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF THE VILLAGE SQUARE THEY WOULD SAY ‘WHO?’
LEGAL DISCLAIMER IN ENGLISH: At the risk of stating the obvious, none of these people said any of these things.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER IN LIBERAL: CES CITATIONS SONT COMPLETEMENT FACTICES ET N’IMPORTE QUELLE SIMILITUDE AUX EXPRESSIONS REELLES PAR LA VIE D’INDIVIDU OU SONT COMPLETEMENT PUREMENT ACCIDENTELLES.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER IN CONSERVATIVE: IF YOU WEREN’T SO OBNOXIOUS WE WOULDN’T NEED TORT REFORM.