Election Cycle Sickens

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Here’s my October “no surprise” – I’m officially sick of the presidential election.

I’m not sure exactly when I reached my saturation point – somewhere between the YouTube video of a Yoko Ono-esque woman directing the “Obama Youth Choir” and the opinion piece I read assessing the authenticity and relevance of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s “Minnewegian” accent. It’s come to this.

No wait – it was Friday on an airplane bound for Wichita, Kan. I was chatting with a woman headed home for her high school reunion, when the subject of the previous evening’s vice-presidential debate came up.

My seatmate and I both had missed it. For my part, a long-planned speaking engagement conflicted with the event. The woman in seat 5B had another reason.

“I actually can’t bring myself to watch Sarah Palin,” she said. “There’s no way I could sit there and listen to anything she had to say.”

Say it ain’t so, seatmate.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard such a statement – and not only from Democrats about Sen. John McCain and Mrs. Palin, but also from Republicans about Sens. Barack Obama and Joseph R. Biden Jr.

It seems lots of folks refuse to listen to opinions that differ from their own, making me wish the entire nation was enrolled in my daughter’s government class. She is required to not only watch every debate in its entirety but also take copious notes to demonstrate she understands the candidates’ points of view.

That’s right – their platforms, not their performances.

In other words, though she’s only a high school senior and not yet old enough to vote, Betsy is informed. She can articulate the major differences between the party platforms beyond the ubiquitous (yet meaningless) battle cry “change.”

This is more than we can say about a whole lot of folks who will show up at the polls on Nov. 4.

Scary thought.

I’m all for cheering for the home team. We all have strong feelings about what our nation needs and how best to tackle the monumental challenges that confront us. I know how I plan to vote, and I’m OK with that.

But I don’t get the folks who say they cannot bring themselves to listen to the other side. In my mind, that’s like saying “I don’t read. I’m trying to get more ignorant every day” or “I don’t eat fruit. I’m hoping to contract scurvy.”

For what it’s worth, I’m watching, listening and reading about both sides. I’m learning about what each candidate plans (even though I’m quite certain neither of them will be able to effect the change they both are so certain they’ll sweep into White House).

Heck, I’m even able to laugh at what’s funny about Mrs. Palin’s awkward TV interviews and the outlandish videos of children professing their allegiance to Mr. Obama (my husband has dubbed them “the Obamatons”).

The goal isn’t to sit in front of the TV with the clicker in hand, waiting to mute the people we oppose, but to listen carefully to those folks and figure out what they believe and why they think their solutions are right.

At the very least, we parents ought to model what it means to become informed about our political options, since most of today’s issues will still be around when our children are able to vote.

But seriously … if no one is listening to anyone except the people they already support, we should probably just call it a shift and be done with the whole thing.

Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea.

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