Monday, February 18, 2008

When Did Politics Become Such a Spectator Sport?

I know we’re in the oversaturation-of-information age, and we feel inundated with stories about Britney, but there is so much coverage of the 2008 Campaign I feel like I’m living in an Orwell novel.

“Did you vote?” “What do you think of Obama or Hillary?” “Do you think McCain will do it or does Huckabee still have a chance?” What I think is honestly none of your business, and it shouldn’t matter to you. I wish it didn’t matter to you. You see, once you know what I’m thinking, you can slot me: I’m either with you or against you. I’m either fair-minded and intelligent or a complete and total moron.

Whenever I get into political discussions with friends, if there’s a difference of opinion, it’s rare that we listen to each other with open minds. We wait for our turns to speak, often yelling over each other, and simply try to show just how wrong the other person is.

It’s just like sports. “Oh, you’re a Yankees fan! Figures.” Once you know I’m considering an opponent, or not your candidate, your entire opinion changes, and often quite harshly.

Maybe we should start selling jerseys, blue or red naturally, with names and electoral numbers so everyone can go out and root for their fave. And we’ll know exactly what you’re thinking by the color of your jersey. Except we won’t, of course. No one party or candidate can ever sum up our personal thoughts or perspectives on different issues. I have different opinions on different topics; they could never be formed into one platform, represented by one party or shared by one candidate.

I don’t care how attractive or unattractive the candidates are. We elect orators. We elect the photogenic. We have to sift through marketed imagery and slogans, and more misinformation than a 4-year-old telling you how the spaceman broke the lamp. What we don’t get to base our vote on is someone’s honesty. I’m not saying any of the candidates in particular are dishonest – just that we can never truly know what they’re thinking without all of the various marionette strings helping them through the campaign.

I want to be represented by someone who will actually weigh each situation intelligently without preconception, instead of heading into office with all the answers ahead of time and a fully hand-picked staff.

I cherish my rights to free speech, to vote and to privacy. I think we could all exercise a little more of the latter.

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