I’ve been writing this blog for over a year and it’s been an interesting experience.
It started through my frustration over our lack of civil discourse. It became cathartic as I worked out my anguish over losing my parents. It taught me how easy it is to misspeak. It made me a careful editor. It compelled me to be a better listener. And it has demonstrated to me how far I have yet to go in harnessing my own thoughts and expressions.
If you could look back over all of my work performance reviews you would find a continuing theme – “work on your packaging.” It’s not what I am saying, it is how I am saying it. Maybe I complain so much about the “packaging” of our opinions because I am so poor at it.
After reading hundreds of Facebook posts, listening to hours of cable analysis, and surveying many of you, my opinion is that everything we see or hear is filtered through our already pre-conceived ideas. No expert opinion, panel dialogue, or survey is going to change our minds. If you are firmly on the right or left, you aren’t going to budge.
As the mid-term elections approach, I thought there would be one topic on which we could agree…get out and vote. In doing some research I found an interesting article by Carolyn DeWitt, president and executive director of Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to building the political power of young people, and Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. Their opinion on why so many young people don’t vote is because they don’t know how. That sounds simplistic; you show up, the volunteer gives you the paperwork, you vote. But they believe there is something to this and have teamed up with American Eagle to sponsor a free, non-partisan, Democracy Class which teaches kids why they should vote and how to do it. I thought it sounded like a great initiative. Rock the Vote is a nonpartisan group. They just want people to understand their right to vote and how to exercise that right. After a year you’d think I would have learned. Read the comments at the end of the link. They range from finger pointing at the opposition party – anyone’s opposition party- for their liberal/conservative teaching curriculums to someone wondering if we also need to teach kids how to breathe.
Those of us who vote do so because it is important to us. Even if we feel the odds are against our candidate or issue, through rain, sleet, or snow, we get to the polls. This is the attitude I have tried to teach my son. He has been going to vote with me since he could walk. The first time he could vote, we went together. I got all choked up, watching him ask for his first ballot. We still go together. I am so proud of him. I don’t care how he votes. I just want him to know that it’s important and to do it. Millions of people wish they had a voice, so be vocal. And to people who say they don’t vote because all representatives are the same, or they’re all corrupt, or the numbers are so big their vote won’t matter, I would direct them to the slim margins in three states during the last general election. As one article put it, Trump won Pennsylvania by 68,236 votes, Wisconsin by 27,257 votes, and Michigan by 11,837 votes. Those people combined can fit into the University of Michigan football stadium. This isn’t the first time. JFK won the popular vote in 1960 by only 100,000 votes.
So, my final blog thought is this, we get one chance to encourage someone to get out there and voice their opinion through their vote. And how you approach them, how you state your case, could make the difference in who goes to the polls and who thinks they are just hearing another finger pointing, blame laying person. If your candidate lost, start talking if you want change. If your candidate won, start talking, because he almost didn’t. Consider what you say and how you say it. “Packaging” is important.
Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to all of you who commented and critiqued. Whether we agreed or not, I found your notes encouraging and uplifting.