As those of us who live in the United States have no doubt noticed, there’s an election on the horizon. And it’s an ugly one.
Negative television ads show relentlessly on TV, Facebook is filled with political “attack” posts, and those of us who still have landlines are flooded with calls from people wanting to know how we plan to vote, and/or telling us how we should be voting. Living through a Presidential election year is never fun, but this time around the tone is even more hateful and shrill than ever before. We are constantly being told that if we don’t choose the right candidate, the consequences will be more dire than we can possibly imagine. I honestly don’t remember a time when the two leading candidates elicited such powerfully negative feelings, or a time when quite so many people felt they didn’t want to choose either one.
Still, I think we have more choices than we realize. Yes, we have to choose who we are going to vote for, or even if we are going to abstain from voting this year. That’s a personal choice that each of us gets to make according to our own conscience, and I’m not going to use my blog to try to influence anyone in that choice. But this election offers us many more choices than simply how we are going to vote, and I believe that most of those choices are actually more important than the choice we make when we enter the voting booth.
We can choose how we express our support for a particular candidate, or how we speak up against the actions and ideas of the candidate we don’t support. We can choose not to engage in on-line political arguments. We can choose not to post snarky Facebook posts about the other political party, day after tedious day. We can choose not to verbally attack people who dare to voice an opinion that we don’t agree with, even if that means they are saying they plan to vote for a candidate we find contemptible.
That doesn’t mean we have to keep our opinions to ourselves. We can choose to tell people how we plan to vote, and why. We can put signs in our yards, campaign for the candidates of our choice and participate in political discussions. But we can also choose to do so without abandoning good manners and civility, and in general acting like a self-righteous prig or a school-yard bully. In short, we can have political opinions without imitating the political mud-slinging and ugliness that surrounds us.
I do believe that our choices in this election matter, a lot. Because we can choose to be a part of the hate and negativity that defines this election cycle, or we can choose to live according to a higher standard, remembering that we are all going to have to find some way to get along when it’s over, no matter who wins. The choice is ours, and I hope we can choose wisely.