Though I’d heard about the site before, it wasn’t until today that I visited FactCheck.org. I wish I’d taken the time to chase this down sooner, because I think it’s a worthwhile resource for those trying to sort through the political maze that ends today at the voting booth. I don’t know if the net result of an expedition to this little corner of the www would have been a change in how you vote, but it’s certainly interesting reading. As far as I can tell, these folks are giving a pretty objective treatment to as much of what the candidates (and partisan groups like MoveOn.org, Swift Boat Vets, etc.) say as possible. While you may be disgusted at just how much distortion and outright lying is going on, I’m finding a little relief in this site. Here’s why…
I find political ads (and most campaign messaging in general) to be even more insulting than beer commercials, and that’s saying something. Think about it – the folks at Budweiser have decided that the best way to maximize their profits is to appeal to the base instincts of men. They believe that showing me boobs and butts will somehow trigger a Pavlovian response culminating in me buying Bud Light. That’s insulting, but it pales in comparison to the verbal pornography being churned out by the political ad makers. When they aren’t blatantly lying, they’re doing everything they can to twist facts and perception to portray the guy across the ballot as Satan’s spawn. Pay attention to the music you hear on campaign ads. Look at the grainy photo they show of the other guy with his mouth agape. This is happening because someone with an Ivy League education has determined that a thirty second, low budget horror film is what you need to responsibly exercise your rights of citizenship to the end of securing America’s future. Beautiful.
If you think I’m just being cynical and dark, wander around FactCheck.org. In fact, here’s an easy starting place – The Whoppers of 2004. This is their final pre-election piece that highlights some of the incessant distortion and deception we’ve been subjected to for the past several months. Just be warned – if you have some internal need to continue to admire your chosen candidate without reservation or disappointment, this is not going to be fun for you. These guys both told lies and allowed their surrogates to tell lies. Not fibs. Lies. For the noble cause of protecting or pursuing power, they devalued and disdained truth. You probably already knew that, but I think it’s helpful to be aware of just how brazen and intentional most of it is. I think it’s important that we move toward future electoral exercises with higher demands for those who covet our votes.
I don’t expect perfection in politics. Sadly, I don’t even expect truth. What would be nice, though, is for someone to be honest about the dishonesty. When you try to convince me that one candidate is a saint and the other is a villain, I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU. Politicians whose campaign crayon box only contains black and white crayons are, for me, inherently untrustworthy (and that’s pretty much all of them). Consequently, I am heartened and encouraged by someone who takes the time to call b.s. where b.s. needs to be called, regardless of the offender. We should delight in the exposing of untruth and hypocrisy, even when everyone on the stage is stripped bare. If we must choose from this lot, let us at least thoroughly inspect the livestock, dark underbellies and all.
It is easy for us to become so loyal to a cause or a person that we fear and resist any information or experience which might undermine our certainty. I get that because I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’m just tired of it, and I can’t pretend that these choices are as simple as they’re portrayed anymore. Let us love the truth more than we love comfort, and let us pursue it without regard for any lesser agenda.
As an afterthought, I think it’s only fair for me to bear down and be honest about what I’d do today if I could vote. It’s easy to rant and whine about how bad everyone is, but I’ve long contended that demagoguery is a poor and usually immature substitute for responsible citizenship and humanity. I’ll stand at the front of the confession line for that sin, no doubt. I’d just like to repent lest I continue needs confess it over and over. In this case, I think that means we still ought to vote, at least unless we’ve found some productive strategy for pursuing a better solution. I’m open to the existence of such a course, though I’m not sure what it might be. I just don’t think apathy or passivity gets any of us anywhere, or at least not anywhere good. So while I joke about being disenfranchised and admit that I found some relief in not having to battle through my conflicting convictions about the choices in this election, I still wish I could vote. And I’d vote for Bush. Then I’d pray my guts out that he’d redirect himself and those around him in some crucial areas.