Is It November Yet: Don’t Forget Local Elections!

With all the talk over who will make the best President, I want to make sure my readers are remembering something vitally important come this election season: your local elections. Trust me. I know that the Presidential election is important. I’m not saying to ignore it. In fact, I want you to research the issues and make the most informed decision that you can (without insulting your Mama). But I also want you to remember and research the issues that are important to your immediate location.

As an example, in our city, there are three fire levies hitting the ballot this November. Three. And whether or not they are passed or not greatly affects my family as well as all of the other fire families attached to our department. Do you know about any fire levies on your ballots? Do you know of anything on your ballots other than the McCain/Obama race?

I had a discussion with a friend who was well-educated on this Presidential race. She knew the pros and cons of both candidates and their Vice Presidential running mates. She knew the issues. She knew the fabrications, the times the truth has been stretched (for either side) and the outright lies. She knew quite a lot about the whole election and I consider her one of my most well-spoken friends on the topic of this election (even though she is supporting a different candidate than me!). But she knew no one running for local office in our area. We have a judge up for reelection! She didn’t know that we have some Senate and House seats in the race again. And she knew nothing of the fire levies.

Yikes.

And that’s why I am reminding and imploring you: learn about your local election issues. Please don’t just show up at your polling place and tick off boxes. Find out who is running for even the smallest of elected positions in your area. Get to know what they stand for and what they oppose. Show up and ask them questions. Push your local newspaper to cover these local elections even closer than they are (if they are at all). And get down to the bottom of what Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So being elected will mean for your family. Don’t make it a popularity vote. Don’t show up and check off boxes based on blind pointing and pressing. Educate yourself as well as you can about the issues that are of importance to your area and vote accordingly.

We cannot afford to ignore local issues just as we cannot afford to ignore issues that are important to us as a whole. Put in the leg work. Put in the time. And if you can’t find the answer, call someone who will know. There’s no excuse for being surprised with a name or an issue when you enter that polling booth. Get the information and pass it on! (Just not in the form of a slanderous forward, okay?)

Every Tuesday through November 4, 2008, we will be discussing something political here on Stop, Drop & Blog. Our weekly series is entitled “Is It November Yet” because, well, we’re excited for change, ready for the number of posts in our Google Reader to go down and overwhelmed with the wealth of information to search through. Next week we’ll be talking a little more about what fire levies mean for you if they’re on your ballot.

 

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Is It November Yet: How to Argue Politics (Without Insulting Your Own Mama)

I’ve been engaged in some political debates over the past month-and-a-half. I’ve also watched more of these internet-based and real life debates go down. And, most of the time, they’re not so pretty. I find it frustrating. Instead of discussing different view points with respect, the intelligent adults that I know and admire are name-calling, playing off of their own fears and generally acting strange. And there’s a much better way to go about this, folks!

I’ve, thankfully, had very little personal aggravation when it comes to political debate. Here’s what has helped me over the past few weeks.

1. No name calling. I’m serious! I don’t care how insane you think someone is for whatever they just spouted, but referring to them as a “moron” only serves to make you look like one as well. Resorting to name calling doesn’t show off your vast vocabulary and instead places you in the uneducated camp. I don’t care if you went to an Ivy League University. If you call someone a name or have to resort to insulting their Mama, not only will your point not be heard but you come off looking as stupid as the name you just used. (And end up insulting your own Mama in the process. And she’s gonna smack you for that.)

2. Avoid sweeping generalizations. I know. All liberals believe x. And all conservatives do y. And those in the middle are all z-kind of people. Except that they’re not. Maybe you think they are. Maybe in your personal experience, those that you have encountered fall into that stereotype. But let me assure you, your sweeping generalization is not true. Go on believing it if you must. But using one to debate will only serve to make you look like a name-calling, uneducated, politically-informed-wannabe. Instead, speak personally. When debating with a liberal that believes x, say, “I know that you believe x but here’s why I disagree.” It works much better than, “OH. MY. GOODNESS. ALL YOU RAVING LIBERALS BELIEVE X AND YOUR MAMA IS DUMB.” (The previous example is to help you avoid combining points one and two.) We’re a wide and varied people, even within a specific political spectrum. Treat individuals as, well, individuals.

3. Avoid insulting someone’s integrity. This is different than name calling which is usually based on a lack of vocabulary or ability to state your point. Insulting someone’s integrity is more like calling them a liar, telling them they have no morals or generally insulting their moral fiber. You don’t believe in abortion but your debater thinks that removing the choice will create further problems? Avoid telling them that they hate children and shouldn’t ever have a family. There’s no truth in that statement.

4. Just avoid your friends and family until November 5th. That would solve most of the problems, right? Because it’s fine to debate (even when name-calling and insulting others’ integrity) online but when it is your brother, your mom, your best friend or your grandparents, well, it gets a little sticky, doesn’t it? If you can’t avoid them until November 5th (meaning, after the election) and your political leanings differ greatly (like ours with our families), I’m going to suggest this: avoid the topic. I know. You want to save the world. You want your family members and friends to realize the error in their ways, leave the dark side and come back to the light. But it is highly unlikely that you will change the mind of someone set in their ways. Now as for those undecided voters in your family or friend circle? Hit them with all you’ve got, keeping the first three points in mind.

5. STOP SENDING FORWARDS. All of you. Liberals. Conservatives. Independents. Anarchists. ALL OF YOU. STOP. IT. NOW. (This should be said of all forwards, not just political ones.) I know you think that the email gods are always right and that everything that enters your inbox is the total truth but, trust me, its not. If you think an email you have received is the truth, please research it first. Try Snopes. Use Google. And when you find out the truth (most likely that the content of your email is a total falsification), please, for the love of all things political, do not forward it. Not even to those who have the same political leanings as you. Forwards are so 1997. Please enter this millenium.

6. Know the issues. Research your candidates. Let me make that clear: research both candidates. Compare and contrast their viewpoints. Know where they stand on the issues that are most important to you. And note that I said issues. Plural. Don’t be a one-issue voter because someone will call you a name and insult your integrity and, well, they might be justified in that case only. (As long as they’re not insulting your Mama. Unless your Mama is a one-issue voter, too. Then, well, all bets are off. Sorry.) When you haven’t done your research, it’s painfully evident. You don’t have to be ready to take over any political commentator’s jobs. You just have to know the issues. Get on that.

7. Leave the racism and sexism at home. I don’t care what generation you grew up in. If you launch into a tirade about women in leadership roles or minorities in general, I’m not going to hear a word you said. And you’re probably going to have limited access to my children. I know that this election has brought up issues for this country. I know, from the words I have heard family members use, that we are not as progressive as a country as we would want (or need) to believe. But using these two issues to “prove your point” only makes you look like a hateful person. Try to avoid that… even if you are a hateful person.

I could go on and on. But I’ve kind of run out of tongue-and-cheek points to bring up. I think, for the most part, people realize these points. But politics are a deeply personal issue and everyone wants (or needs) to be right. What people are forgetting in the process is that we all are individuals with vastly different individual experiences. My political  beliefs do not negate, diminish or dismiss your political beliefs. I think, of course, we’ll have bigger issues when one candidate or the other is elected and those changes start taking place. But, well, that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, get to researching the issues. That’s the biggest point of all of this, isn’t it?

Every Tuesday through November 4, 2008, we will be discussing something political here on Stop, Drop & Blog. Our weekly series is entitled “Is It November Yet” because, well, we’re excited for change, ready for the number of posts in our Google Reader to go down and overwhelmed with the wealth of information to search through. Next week we’ll be bringing you a very important reminder. Exciting, right?