I don't know how you folks who watch television keep from shooting yourselves during election years. Now, I don't mean fatally shooting yourselves. That would be crazy. I just mean firing a single low-caliber round into your foot to see if you can still feel anything.
I make the above jest after having watched a single evening of regularly scheduled television programming last week. It wasn’t the programs that upset me. What overcame my peace of mind was the cavalcade of angry, spiteful, mildly-factual-at-best political ads (and not just the ones funded by right wing folk).
A bit of background:
For reasons ranging from budget to personal taste, I don't get television in my apartment. I have a TV set. But it isn't hooked up to satellite or cable. And I've never gotten around to updating my antenna to digital. Oh, I get the news. In fact, thanks to NPR and reading newsprint articles, I assert that I am better informed than many TV watchers.
Still, on nights I use the Laundromat, I enjoy catching some TV. It takes me one hour of local and national news plus two game shows to wash, dry, and fold. Lame as that may sound, I’ve found it’s a decent way to spend an evening. I even look forward to it. Last week, however, watching TV at the Laundromat was an ordeal.
During each commercial break, as negative political ads followed one after another, I felt cynicism welling up in me. It couldn’t be helped. Watch that much negativism in super-concentrated doses, and you grow embittered. Viewing ultra-violent films and porn couldn't be any less healthy. At least the makers of that fare admit their work is sensational fiction.
That said, I want to plug a great information source that is free, user-friendly, and extremely helpful to citizens: The League of Women Voters. In the 21st century, the gender-centric title is a bit of a misnomer. This nonpartisan organization seeks to educate all voters. Still, in 1920 when our federal government finally got around to granting women the right to vote, it was the perfect name.
I first picked up a copy of the league’s Voter Guide from a pile of them in my college dorm. Ever since, I’ve regarded it as must-read political literature. The League’s printed Voter Guide, true to its claims, provides a concise nonpartisan primer on candidates for each federal and state category. This includes judges and statewide ballot proposals. Candidates are given three basic questions related to the position they are running for, and the League prints their brief responses. At least, that's what the local league in Michigan does.
The political ads, by fondling base impulses, tried to convince me this election is a do-or-die end game. The League of Women Voters reminded me it’s not. Elections are part of an ongoing process that does not begin or end with any one election cycle. So if you feel discouraged or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone. Also know that, depending on when you read this, you still have a full day or maybe a couple of hours to pick up a Voter Guide, or read up online. Find a local league here. Michigan has one worth bragging about in my opinion. Take it from me, it beats watching the television ads.