DIGGING UP DIRT
by Nancy Rechtman
It's that time of year again. The leaves are starting their glorious transformation from green to fiery gold and orange. The air is changing from stagnant and soupy to crisp and reviving. TV shows have gone from endless loops of reruns or discarded pilots that had little hope of every making it through an entire season, to hopeful newbies and familiar standbys that might actually provide us with some form of entertainment. And, while we're watching those new shows, we are inundated with the voice of doom. You know the voice. The one that tells us why a particular political candidate is dirt, a piece of slime, not worthy to be walking on the planet with the rest of us. And then the music swells to remind us that the candidate paying for the commercial was born with a halo over his/her head, will save us from all of the other evil, corrupt politicians and might even save us from ourselves.
It doesn't matter what your political affiliation is - don't you just get tired of all the mud-slinging? Don't you want to yell at the TV that what you care about is how these politicians are going to make the country safer, find a way to improve our environment, help our country regain its standing in the world community, help us to find a way to afford to live in decent housing and feed our children, help us find decent healthcare that will actually cover us in times of illness without running our savings into the ground? These are our concerns. What planet are the politicians living on when all they do is bash each other over the head over things they may have done 20 years ago - as if this matters to us today? I'm not talking about a capital crime here, I'm talking about ads such as the one we've been inundated with recently in our area, telling us that the opposition candidate did not actually spend his entire life in the region but only moved here several years ago so his heart can't be in this campaign - are you kidding me? Is that the best they could come up with? Where is the emphasis on what matters to us? It's like a schoolyard battle - but not even high school - elementary school is more like it. The tone of recent elections on all sides can be summed up by the following scenario:
CANDIDATE A: No one wants to play with you. You have B.O.
CANDIDATE B: Oh yeah? Well, I saw you picking your nose before class last year.
CANDIDATE A: (incensed) Take that back!
CANDIDATE B: Make me!
CANDIDATE A: You cheated when we played soccer in kindergarten. Susie Jones said so.
CANDIDATE B: I did not! She doesn't know what she's talking about!
CANDIDATE A: She put it in the school paper so it has to be true. And don't forget the time two years ago when my cat was outside and your smelly, old dog barked at her and scared her.
CANDIDATE B: Well, maybe your nasty cat deserved getting scared.
CANDIDATE A: Take that back!
CANDIDATE B: You take it back!
The two candidates fling themselves at each other and wrestle each other to the ground until the teacher comes over to break it up.
Unfortunately, there is no teacher who can break up the nonsense that goes on during political campaigns. The slings and arrows get muddier, the issues are clouded over and the level of civility in this country descends into the sewers. Meanwhile, people are suffering, losing jobs, unable to put food on their tables.
According to David Broder in a recent article in the Washington Post: . . . look at the broad question of the overall direction of the nation -- right path or wrong track. In this latest poll, by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent, people said "wrong track." Last November the comparable numbers were 68 and 30 percent.
We are currently in the midst of hearing the repulsive details of a congressman's alleged shameful behavior towards young, teenage pages. But it seems that the concern of both parties is either laying blame on the other party for their inaction on this matter, or politicians trying to protect themselves against allegations that they covered up for this congressman or ignored the complaints about his behavior for years. Do any of these people actually care about the boys who received these unwanted advances? And how it has affected them personally and their outlook towards our political system and the adults who are supposed to be looking out for them?
When are the politicians going to grow up and listen to the people? We don't care if someone once sang the wrong notes to a song. We don't care if someone drives a car different from our own. We don't care if someone moved here from somewhere else as long as they actually care about the issues facing us. We are hurting, and we are looking for honest people of good character who actually understand the meaning of "public service." Stop dragging us all down into the dirt and find a way to get along. The world is a very scary place these days. Instead of flinging mud at our fellow citizens and trying to further divide us at a time when we should all be pulling together, it's time for the voters to make it known that we reject these juvenile, hurtful tactics. Or on Election Day, we'll just have to send you to the principal's office.
Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail email@example.com.