Monday, January 14, 2013
This is un-American to admit, but prior to the 2012 presidential race, I had never cast an official ballot in any government election. It wasn’t that I lacked respect for this civic privilege; if anything, it was the exact opposite—with no defined belief system and no understanding of the issues (and no desire to get off the couch to rectify either of those), I never felt “because I can” was an acceptable justification for voting. But as November steadily approached, and my swing state (Virginia) was bombarded with around-the-clock propaganda, I decided it was time to grow up and do at least one thing that a normal, well-adjusted 35-year-old would do.
Given that my political knowledge consisted of the tiny bits and pieces of The West Wing that hadn’t gone completely over my head, my primary objective was to get educated—both about the candidates and their respective ideologies. Without a pre-existing lean to the left or right—and without a Bartlet on the ticket—I was a blank slate, and my goal was to digest as much objective, unbiased information as possible in order to make a well-informed decision.
This, unfortunately, proved to be an impossible task. I quickly learned that, with its slanted sources and party-line punditry, what was presented as the news was decidedly editorial. There was nothing impartial about it, and before processing anything I heard or read, I first had to note from which extreme it originated. And no matter how convincing it seemed on the surface, there was always the unshakable sense of, “What are they not telling me?”
Things weren’t any clearer among my contemporaries. In fact, there was even more disdain, disgust, and divisiveness. Nobody was willing to concede an inch, and nobody could fathom how anyone could have a different perspective than their own. Like everything else these days, it played out on Facebook for all the world to see, with friends from both sides posting links to the exact same articles and interviews in order to prove the complete opposite point.
Rock bottom, though, came when I turned to my innermost circle—which was really no longer a circle, but more like a battle scene from the Revolutionary War. On one side, there were my parents and brother, who were staunchly conservative. On the other was my girlfriend, who most certainly was not. This actually had a chance to be a good thing, as I had concerns about both candidates, and I could now have those concerns allayed by each of the candidate’s supporters.
- "It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?