In this season of political acrimony and persiflage (don’t worry, I had to look it up, too. It means “light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter”) it’s easy to get bogged down worrying about what the lunatics who want to run America are going to say next. TV and radio networks have fine tuned their systems for presenting the information in a way that’s designed to get you worked up, and your friends’ knot-headed posts on Facebook aren’t likely to help much, either. So you find yourself curled up on the couch, wringing your hands and eating stale birthday cake in a bowl of lowfat milk. Not a strategy designed to get your ass kicked into gear.
We’d like to suggest that you do a little truth seeking. Almost everybody has one or two things they’re good at, and we’re betting you’re no exception. If you’re reading this post, we’d like to think you’re good at many things, one being how to pick out a good read. At some point, what you’re good at is going to intersect with something these goofy politicians are trying to sell you on, and your Truth-O-Meter is going to hit its redline. At that point, how about taking a step back, taking a big breath, and then setting out to figure out whether what’s being said really makes any sense. If it does, does it stand for the proposition it’s being used to support?
Because there are two things wrong with taking the words of a politician at face value. The first is that politicians always have an agenda. Always. They’re not in the business of truth-telling, they’re in the business of selling a point of view. The second – which is far more important from a getting-your-ass-kicked-into-gear perspective – is that taking the words of a politician at face value is a passive activity, not an active one. You’re letting someone else compose the music of your intellectual life, and once you start doing that, it’s easy for it to become a habit.
If you’re good enough or knowledgeable about something that your Bullshit Detector reacts when you hear a politician talk about it, do a little independent research. Use that irritation and anger and find out where the truth lies. Warning … that may not be as easy as it might sound. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of bad information on that internet thingy you’re always looking at.
You might find out that neither party is telling you the truth. You might find out that there are some people outside the mainstream who really understand the issue and who are doing something about it. You might find out that you can help those people. You might find out that you have some expertise that can actually make a difference. Or, at the very least, you might find out that you can and should be an active participant in the political dialogue, rather than a passive consumer of stale birthday cake.