POLITICAL AD BURNOUT

Ah election time. Here in the United States it is election time. With this triumphant event comes the onslaught of political ads. These, I am to believe, are meant to sway your opinion from one candidate to another. The amount of money spent on these ads amounts to the income of many small countries. What good could be created if this money was put to a more productive use is frightening. It is my firm belief there is enough money there to allow all the candidates to fulfill their outrageous promises.

This would not be so bad if these ads contained useful tips on how to better connect with your government or say get that awful smell out of your gym shoes. Instead let us look at what we do get for all of the tax money and other funds allocated for such endeavors. All but a slight percentage of ads actually feature the opposition. If that party is an incumbent it will proceed to explain how everything that has went wrong in your life can be attributed to this individual. Be that the crime in your neighborhood going up, the quality of your life going down or that stain you discovered on your new shirt. If, by contrast, the party featured in the ad has yet to obtain an office the ad will likely feature a doomsday prediction of what will happen if this person is elected. Things such as taxes rising 3 million percent, everyone’s job disappearing and your dog packing up and running away from home. In short, both ads will tell you what a terrible world you are living in.

It would not be so bad if we had an option to avoid all of this negative banter and mudslinging. These ads, however, find their way into every facet of our lives. There are of course television spots filled with images of impoverished neighborhoods, homeless individuals and other dire circumstances set to spread across the land unless you vote the prescribed way. There are radio ads that fill our ears with such inspiring terms as ‘liar’, ‘thief’ and ‘scoundrel’. There are ads that fill our mailboxes that combine both. There are even emails, online ads, and today I received a text to go along with those very effective automated phone calls.

Being exposed to all of this negativity can have several bad consequences. If you are a staunch political opinioned party member they are designed to get your blood boiling and heart rate higher until you are telling everyone you know how they should vote and attacking friendly neighbors even if they display the slightest chance of supporting party. If, on the other hand, you are someone like myself who is focused on your little corner of the world and votes for the best candidate regardless of party affiliation, you can still be left feeling depressed and hopeless. You may become frustrated at all of the negative things you hear and read. Even if you do not vote and could care less who wins, you are still having to take out more garbage and your favorite program is being interrupted with more and more commercials.

What can we do to avoid getting political ad burnout? There are a few things. First of all, remember just like any disagreement, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of the two sides. All parties do some right and some wrong. I say all parties because it bears remembering there are many different parties to choose from so if you have had it up to here with all the negative banter between the two major parties you do have other options. Another very important thing to keep in mind is all you can do is cast your one vote. Sure, you can hold rallies or put a sign in your yard, but when all is said and done we all have just one vote.

Here is another thing that could make this season a little more bearable and even inspiring. Election time inspiring? Yes indeed. Every time you hear, see or receive a political ad say something nice about someone. Maybe send someone some well-wishes. A few of my friends even suggested turning this into a drinking game. Unless you would like to be incapacitated until mid-November I would not suggest this course of action.

Most importantly, remember to respect others. For whatever reason, politics can seem to bring out the worst in people who otherwise seem like fairly normal and even slightly sane individuals. Do not swallow the brainwashing that all people belonging to a certain political party secretly worship the devil and want to eat small children. Although they may subscribe to a different ideology, that does not make them, or you, any less of a person. It is only by working together that we can truly change this world to a better place.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand” – Abraham Lincoln.

FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

Here is a picture of the local July 4th celebration in West Allis Wisconsin, where I live. I believe the group is called ‘The dancing Grannies’. I think it is awesome that seniors continue to be active and it was even better to hear people applaud and cheer for them as they went by. In this country July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, or the day in which this country began its self-rule.

Here is me enjoying the parade with my mother and her husband. I had such a good time and do not remember enjoying a parade that much since I was a child. It got me thinking about individual freedoms we either take for granted or choose not to take advantage of. Such as who we share our time with. Ideally, this picture would have included my lovely Margie, not only would that have added to the joy I was feeling, it would have added beauty to the picture as well. Alas, she was not able to join us due to prior obligations. I could have watched the parade by myself, or even with any of the great friends I ran into. I chose to watch it with my mother because lately we have been going for walks in nature and sharing some great conversation and fun times. The freedom of who to spend your time with is a very important one to exercise.

Here are pictures of the food truck and the tasty treats that I enjoyed from it. Do you realize how many more options we have when it comes to what we eat? Only 100 years ago small local grocery stores carried a handful of options. Now, we have stores that have thousands of items to choose from. Some from halfway around the world! We can choose to eat healthy or we can choose to eat…well…pizza. Even when cooking at home recipes and even videos guiding us through how to make exotic dishes are at our fingertips.

These are pictures of the party they held at a local park after the parade. There were things to eat as you saw in the above paragraph, as well as a band, children’s games and beverages. This brought up one of the most important freedoms of all. In a world that has headlines dominated by terrorism, racism, hate and violence, a lot of people are afraid to walk the street. Sadly, that is exactly what those committing violent crimes wish for. It is my belief that one of the best ways to combat a world that seems filled with division is to get out and meet your neighbors. Holiday celebrations are a perfect place to do so. On this day I met great neighbors such as Kristin, the mayor of our fine city, my neighbor Dan and lots of others. Do yourself a favor. As you are enjoying that hamburger, sweet corn or even that frosty beverage, take a second to introduce yourself to neighbors. If you happen to see Margie and me out enjoying the holidays, feel free to introduce yourself to us.

IT IS REALLY THAT SIMPLE

For most of us, despite our differences, would fit into these categories. Ironically, often we search until we can find something that makes a person different from us. It is almost as if saying, “That person is a lot like me.” Somehow diminishes either one of you. When we understand that we all share the same basic needs and wants, judgment and hatred become all but impossible.

If you are a person who loves others and does not want to harm them, and reading a blog like this it would be a safe assumption you are, then it would serve you well to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. Does it really matter where on this planet they are from? By writing these posts I have met and befriended many other like-minded souls from over 100 different countries. They have brought not only a unique perspective, but a great deal of joy to my life. Does it really matter what color they are? I am blessed enough to have friends of every race. Not only does it include many great and loving people, but our pictures together are a lot more colorful. Politics? Ooh…that is a good one. Quite often we can almost be at each others throats because of different ways to address the same problem. Instead we should focus on the fact that we are both trying to solve the same problem. Maybe their solution takes into account something we overlooked? Maybe a combination of both solutions would work the best? We will never get to that point if we busy ourselves with such low level minutia such as what political party is the correct one.

Even my wonderful friend Nick who sent me this picture, and by doing so inspired this post, has different opinions than me on a wide array of different subjects. Do you know what? That is great to me. Often when we talk he will bring to my attention a way of looking at things I had not considered. Even on subjects where we just ‘agree to disagree’ we still have the same respect and admiration for each other. Not only is it ok with us that we are different in some regards, but it is quite cool that we are also the same in many ways. It is that similarity that prompted him to share the above picture with me and allowed me to share it with you.

Today, celebrate the fact we are all a little different, and when it comes down to the core of who we are, most of us are really the same. Both of those should be reasons to celebrate with your fellow humans.

A LESSON I HAVE LEARNED

There are a handful of lessons I have learned in my life that really stuck with me and defined who I am to this very day. One of them I was told was that “If you hate someone or something you just do not know enough about it. If you learn about it and still hate it, that does not mean it is bad, it means you still have more to learn.” This is something I keep with me to this very day.

If we are being honest, we would have to admit there are lots of messages telling us who we should dislike, who the bad guys are and why. From politics, sports and even religion have messages telling us that there are people who are less than us. When we read about some violent episode conducted by a group of people it can be easy to say “Look this group of people are evil.” If we were to apply that same guilt by association to every terrible act that has been done I fear we would all belong to some group of evil.

How can we ever not harbor some sort of negative emotions towards people who by their very acts cause the death of hundred, or even thousands of people? It is a very difficult question to answer. Quite often we must look back in history for answers as to why things happen today. Was there an event in history where this group of people were made to suffer under the group they attacked?

Even personal history can shed some light on why people can do acts most of us would find unspeakable. Did this person suffer years of physical and emotional abuse? Did their family constantly remind them of judgmental or even hateful beliefs that hand been handed down for generations? Were they raised in a neighborhood that also promoted these beliefs? Maybe while attending school for 8 hours a day surrounded by peers their age they learned to adopt their beliefs? They might have even did so just to fit in at first, but after years of trying to fit in those beliefs became part of their spirit.

This can be even worse when an entire society is fed information that is hateful. We can use both Nazi Germany during World War two, as well as early America as examples. In the 1930’s Germany began a campaign against the Jewish people. This was not only political, but in schools, the media and in the home. An entire generation grew up being taught a terrible doctrine of hate and evil. This resulted in the death of over 6 million men, women and children of Jewish decent. In the founding years of America the same thing happened. Americans were told the native people were uncivilized and less than they were. They were told they were violent and threatened their safety. It was also said that the Native Americans stood in the way of the prosperity and freedom of the white settlers. Again, this message was delivered in the media, the government, the home and even the church pulpit. This resulted in the death of over 100 million men, women and children. What is worse is that often entire nations and cultures were lost. Medicine and knowledge we could use today are gone forever.

Does this mean we should hate the German people who did not stand up to their government? Should we hate those who acted on the beliefs they were raised on? Should we still hate the American soldiers who killed pregnant Native American women because when they were being forced to walk from North Carolina to Oklahoma they were going to slow? Sure those acts, among many others in history are hard to understand and even harder to forgive for some people.

We must not only view the history, but be careful not to view it through our own eyes. It may be easy to say “If I was in Germany back then I would have told Hitler to go to hell !” We can say that as somebody who was raised free and without judgment. If we had been told, and often given ‘proof’ as to how bad this group of people were from the time we were born, we might act differently. While there is plenty of proof of people who have overcome very challenging situations to be loving non-violent people, it is impossible to know how we would act in the same situation. In fact, we will never know as we will never have their exact life and genetic makeup.

In a world that urges us to blame and condemn, there is very little accent on compassion and understanding. Those two elements are essential if we ever hope to change the world we live in for the better. Let me be perfectly clear on one very important point. Understanding someone’s violent action does not mean Condoning it. We can certainly condemn acts that harm others, and we should, but without following that with an equal effort to understand why they happened in the first place history would be doomed to repeat itself.

FREEDOM

Today is July 4th.  If you live here in the United States it is a day we celebrate our freedom as a country.  That is not what this post is about though.  No I am talking about a universal freedom.  A freedom that we all have.  One that is in the possession of everyone whether you live in Brazil, Greenland, Egypt or California.  This freedom, however, is seldom pursued or even used by most of us.  What is this freedom I speak of?  It is our freedom of mind, freedom of thought and freedom of feeling.  There are many people who let circumstances control their minds.  “Well I would be happy if only this political party wasn’t in”.  They let things they read, words other people say, political ideology, beliefs of the masses dictate what happens inside their own heads.  Sure it stings when someone says or does something mean or vindictive to us.  Remember, we cannot control circumstances.  As the saying goes “What people say and do to us is their business.  How we react to it is ours”  Like liberty and freedoms on a national level, personal liberty is an aspiration to be fought for at all costs.  We have been told how to think, how and what to feel since we were young.  It is our duty to decide what we believe and what thoughts we will allow to rule our daily thinking.  It is time to begin the struggle for mental and spiritual independence from negative and limiting thoughts and beliefs.  For no country can be free, no people can be free if first their minds are not free.