Political bashing hurts human spirit

Monday, August 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:17 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

There doesn’t seem to be much difference these days between a job as a political reporter or a job cleaning out horse stalls. If anything, muckraking the stalls would be more productive.

Somehow, a political candidate’s position on the issues is far less important than any dirty secrets that can be discovered. Of course, the news organizations insist they are only telling the public what it wants to hear, and it is true that most of the time the candidate who slings the most dirt wins.

Even so, a constant overload of negativism can’t be good for the human spirit. And it seems to spill over into other areas of news reporting. I heard several sports fans complaining that Olympic reporters seem to spend most of their time looking for negative items to discuss. I sometimes tease my friends who run for the school board and other nonpaying jobs by telling them how much the community appreciates their sacrifice of personal time and effort to serve the public and how often they show that appreciation by turning on them and trying to tear them limb from limb. Seriously, you have to wonder why some people are still willing to try to take on social responsibilities when they are often treated so badly.

It would seem that our thirst for scandal can never be quenched. If we believe the majority of people are generally law-abiding and lead decent lives, it’s amazing that we seem to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find people who are able to comport in a dignified manner during a political contest. Most distressing is the reality that one of our two primary presidential candidates will be elected and afterward will represent us to the world. Obviously, we Americans will believe that after all the derogatory statements about the candidates, people in other countries will simply overlook them and be willing to follow their leadership without question. That is a quality of Americanism I find astonishing. Can we really have so little regard for the intelligence of people who live elsewhere?

That, of course, is a rhetorical question, since we hardly ever seem to consider how our behavior affects others. We never take kindly to criticism of any kind. We sincerely believe that we are impervious to world opinion and, as a people, the object of great envy.

Fortunately, those of us who are not entertained and certainly not informed by all this political bashing have many routes of escape. Some rely on sports, others on movies and videos. Physical fitness and exercise classes are overflowing in many cases. The libraries are getting new readers. Healthy outlets abound for people who have overdosed on negativism.

For a long time, along with reading, one of my favorite routes of escape has been audio recordings. I find books on tape a great way to relax. I recently acquired some cassettes of old radio comedies, featuring George Burns and Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx and Spike Jones and his City Slickers. It helps me remember how uplifting good, clean humor can be. I’m in the market for more of these.

I’ve recently read some criticism about the groups who are trying to get out the youth vote. Frankly, in spite of their lack of experience and/or education, I don’t think the youth could do any worse than their elders in selecting candidates.

But I can say that because I refuse to buy into the party packages. In other words, I don’t believe that all the people who vote Republican or Democrat fit any single profile, even though that may be true for the majority. I truly believe there are a lot of independents who don’t have any place to go but with one or the other party. Because neither party considers instruction in civics for young people a priority, and both seem to be interested only in tallying up votes, I would suspect that youth interest probably will be temporary. Without a foundation in civics, they will learn little about the responsibilities inherent in a democracy by listening to the party lines.

It really is too bad that young people are being sold out by this society. As far as I can understand, no educational component exists within the context of popular culture. It seems to be about passive acceptance of whatever the market chooses to offer — inappropriate clothing, questionable entertainment, improper role models and tacky, tasteless and vulgar reading and viewing materials. One can only sympathize with parents who are struggling to try to provide their children with the tools necessary for healthy, successful living.

I suspect that no matter who wins in the upcoming election, the people will be the big losers. Depending upon your point of view, only the degree of loss may be different. I hope one day that will change.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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