Before you post that political slam...

Once when I was young, I forwarded a political e-mail to a group. It was quoting a senator--funny with a bit of "heckyeah" added.

I received a response from an older gentleman explaining why he didn't share those views.

You know what?

His view was compassionate.  Mine wasn't.  It was a rebuke that has had lasting influence on me.

Now that political season is ramping up, I'm beginning to see a slew of political posts enter my Facebook stream.  And I wonder if people ever consider why someone created the content.

Because  if I had paused for a moment to think about why my "senator email" came to be, I never would have forwarded it. When reviewing political posts consider that:

1. Some of it is out/out lies.  It makes me shudder to think how many doctored photos get passed around and how many lies are dressed up to look like news stories.  This has been going on in politics for WAY longer than we've had the Internet.  Photographers have been manipulating photos since the medium began and the really skilled ones were hired by politicians. (For more on that, read here.)  Sometimes you can check validity out on Snopes--the website that works to verify or disprove internet rumors and urban legends.

2. The best way to get someone to act is to make them feel, not to make them think.  Ever wonder why there is so much religious dialog associated with politics? Well, if I can not only make you think the other candidate is wrong, but can also make you think they are evil, then I can get you to do a lot more promotion for me.  Why? Because while reason produces logic, emotion produces action.  (And fear is a REALLY strong, action-producing emotion.) Consider if the content is emotionally manipulative by "demonizing" a candidate.

3. Political content creators are counting on dualistic thinking.  Dualistic thinking bypasses wisdom. It highlights the simplicity of polar opposites.  Right/wrong. Hot/cold. Left/right. Mac/PC. They count on our love of labels and if they can pull you into a camp, then you don't have to do the research on individual candidates. People are varied and nuanced. And quite frankly if you look at a matrix of all of the people and all of the issues, decisions get overwhelming.  So politics has simplified and created pep rallies around two parties. But parties aren't serving in government.  People are.  It is wise to reject the labels and look at the people.

The thing about democracy is that by nature it is messy and inefficient. (A dictatorship with one guy calling the shots runs pretty smoothly.)  But democracy is the best possible way (until someone tries another experiment that works) to create the hope and opportunity that is so uniquely American.

Let's make sure we pause to celebrate that and learn to personally engage the process without forwarding lies, emotional manipulation or dualistic thinking.

© Random Cathy
Maira Gall