Long ago many of us were told that politics and religion
were unsuitable topics for conversation. In my case, family and money were off
limits also. (How I became as talkative as I did, given that four very “talkable”
topics were forbidden, is a mystery.)
This election season, all these prohibitions seem to have
been lifted. Obama’s family, Romney’s money, the religious views of
presidential and VP candidates alike, all became grist for the mill of public
opinion, and filtering out the irrelevant has been a strain. I don’t give a
hoot about where you came from or what your financial situation is. Any talk
along those lines is mere gossip and for me a major turn-off. Talking about public
officials’ personal lives is no more appropriate than talking about a relative’s.
I voted two weeks ago and it was a moment of connection with
the rest of our country’s citizenship. In
making my choice, I tried to keep them in mind. I thought of the very young and
the very old, personnel in active duty and veterans—especially those needing
medical care. I tried to do what was best for the business community, knowing
that everything else grows from its success. Rational analysis is harder than
capitulating to the appeals to emotion that we’ve seen on both sides.
Frothy rhetoric evokes associations that may or may not be
warranted. Like blocking out personal details, separating substance from
superficiality becomes a distraction. To whom are these candidates (or their
operatives) appealing? Why is anything but one’s work record and policy
platform even in the picture?
Everyone has a unique reason for voting as he or she does,
and all those factors feed into the big numbers at the end of an election. The system
places a great deal of trust in us, as citizens, to take this process very
seriously. That’s meant—not just this year, but increasingly over recent
elections—identifying what’s relevant in all the information that comes at us
and ignoring the extraneous. Only then are we certain that we’ve made our
choices for the best reasons.