Pay attention, kids

IUS Horizon

When this issue of The Horizon is distributed, Election Day will be but hours away. While this weekly newspaper is still on the rack, we will know who our next president will be. This is the quiet before the storm.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little older, or pay more taxes, or am more concerned with my future than ever before. Maybe because I realized at some point in my twenties I’m not invincible anymore. I actually care what happens this time around.

I paid attention to elections in the past, even before I got my first job at that clothing store in the mall when I was 16. It was fun to make Bill Clinton jokes, even though in reality I had no idea what was going on at Capitol Hill.

An instructor at IU Southeast once told a class I was attending, to paraphrase, “There are only two reasons teenagers vote the way they do—because it’s how their parents voted, or the opposite.” The first election I voted in my reason was the former, along with a cursory knowledge of a few issues. I guess we all have to start somewhere.

Much like when I realized I was going to die someday, the time eventually came when I acknowledged I didn’t have all of the answers, that I didn’t know everything. This was critical. Suddenly my mind opened up and I took an interest in what others had to say on issues that affect this country, whether I agreed with them initially or not.

Sometimes by the end of the conversation I was left with a strong distaste in my mouth, but not because of what they were saying. What upset me was how these individuals were willing to blindly accept whatever rhetoric came across their path, and consequently, espouse this information with as much foresight.

That was a disconcerting aspect throughout W.’s presidency — his unwillingness to take other opinions into consideration. Party affiliation aside, the opposite is a trait noteworthy of Barack Obama. Whatever can be said with regard to his lack of experience in office, he has demonstrated his readiness to surround himself with people whose experience and input he values, and will factor said input into his decisions. Imagine how different our state of affairs would be right now if W. had done the same.

It’s a different world as a result. People don’t gather in D.C. like they used to, flooding the mall with chants and signs of protest. Perhaps we’re too busy these days, or can’t afford to take the time off work. Apathy has been rampant for so long.

As this is a particularly important and historic election for these United States, the lethargy has subsided. There’s still the usual rhetoric, but with two wars, a crashed economy, as well as more attention being paid to the healthcare crisis than ever before, there is too much on the line to treat the decision to vote, or who to vote for, as casually as that defiant [or obedient] kid we once were.

The word “change” has gotten far too much billing these past months, but it hasn’t lost any of its power. W. managed to draw out the Christian Right in droves to vote against gay marriage last time around. Anti-change. Let’s assume they also wanted to vote for Bush, not just against “the gays,” as Stephen Colbert would facetiously put it. It won him the election. This go ‘round isn’t so simple. The candidates have to run on their actual merits, and the real or perceived deficiencies of the opponent.

Polls can be deceiving. While some people are frank with the pollsters who call them, others… not so much. There has been much talk about the “Bradley effect” and how this could result in John McCain winning the election despite Obama’s lead in most polls. This is possible, but seems less likely in 2008 than the loss African American Tom Bradley experienced in the 1982 California governor’s race.

So, congratulations to the President Elect. Please take good care of this country, and open your mind to new ways of doing so.

Accept that you don’t have all of the answers, and do your best to find them. Listen to the people, and not just the ones who put you where you are. Be honest with us. Give us the bad news — you’ll be surprised how resilient we can be if given the facts and the chance.

Don’t insult our intelligence with scare tactics to get your way.

But most of all, please bring our troops home, and I don’t mean in 100 years. Good luck.

By MARY Q. BURTON
Managing Editor
mqburton@ius.edu