Words of occasional wisdom from Bruce Oakley

A better class of people

Posted by boakley59 on November 3, 2008

We must do better. No matter who wins this election, the choices that matter will come after Election Day, and they will not be the choices of the new leader. The choices that matter will be ours to make.

Will we choose reason over ignorance? Will we choose empathy or demonization? Will we choose convenience or necessity?

If we are to solve the energy problem, either to end reliance on foreign nonrenewable resources or to save the environment, let’s stop being fat, lazy pigs who buy more and more gadgets simply to amuse ourselves. Let’s all cut back and learn to live simpler lives. We don’t need one car/TV/computer per person or one phone per limb. We can carpool, walk or ride a bicycle to work or for short trips.

If we are to seriously address the problems of real life, we can read whole books until we understand an issue in depth instead of scanning the Internet for a few paragraphs or sound bites of presumed conventional wisdom. We can stop idealogues and demagogues the moment they spout us-and-them nonsense instead of offering a full argument.

We must walk a mile in someone’s shoes before we presume to demonize them.

Think welfare recipients are all lazy frauds of one particular race? Go down to the welfare office and see who is applying. Or maybe sit down and calculate how you would live on a welfare check if you lost your job.

Think atheists are the dangerous, amoral ones? Check the prison statistics to see whether atheists are a larger proportion of the criminal population than of the general population. Or find an atheist and compare which of you has more often cheated on your spouse or income taxes or padded your expense account or is more prejudiced.

Think there is a left-wing media tearing down the fabric of our nation? Go to any newsroom and see if you can find any two journalists who consistently agree on anything enough to have a clear agenda that could be turned into a coherent policy of sufficient strength to have any impact on our nation.

Think any group is mostly bad? Talk to anyone you know who is actually a member of that group, and you will almost certainly say, “The ones around here I’ve talked to seem reasonable, not like all of ‘them’ out there.”

And when you have walked that mile in those other shoes, stop being such a jackass.

This is not an election about red or blue, black or white, Christian or non-Christian, patriot or traitor. It may be an election about idiocy or rationality, but if so, that means we all have failed. If our choice is which side is not really so idiotic or mean-spirited as it sounds, which side really is only flinging such poo because that’s how campaigning is done, then we all have already lost this election. We have already left “real America” vacant.

Do you want a better nation? Be a better person.

Don’t shrug your shoulders at prejudice. Don’t demonize, whether it’s atheists, homosexuals, blacks, Jews, plumbers, lawyers, politicians, Muslims, jocks, geeks, urbanites or country folk. Use resources wisely, whether it’s fuel, time, food or emotion. Admit when the evidence, when reality, is against you and give up your self-delusions. Vaccines do not cause autism; horoscopes are not meaningful; the aliens have not landed, unless perhaps we are all the evolutionary descendants of a seed chemical or microbe from outer space.

Don’t sit quietly by through injustice. Be sure when you are fighting injustice that you are not replacing it with a new injustice. Be sure when you are screaming your condemnation of some twisted “other” that you have looked in the mirror first and asked, “What are the ways I am just like that poor damned fool?”

Cast your vote — every day — for a better you. Make that daily exercise the most meaningful election of your lifetime.


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