Friday, October 31, 2008


I try really hard not to write about politics. We all live beneath a Niagara of political news, and I figure we could use a break.

But I have to say I’ve been experiencing some angst about this election. I don’t mind a fight where people make up their minds based on facts and policy proposals. I do support one candidate over the other, but I think they’re both honorable people, and I can see how someone might prefer the other guy.

What ties me up in knots is the persistent campaign of lies about Barack Obama. I see many of them at work as I read what readers write on our newspaper Web sites. I also visited a blog on Tuesday, prompted by comments on another blog I frequent, that echoed many of the same lies -- that he won’t release his birth certificate, for example. (He’s done so, and Hawaii has verified it.) Or that he’s a closet muslim extremist, or a radical, or whatever.

I just don’t know what to do with people who willfully disbelieve the truth. As a journalist, it ties me up inside. Democracy is endangered when people make choices based on lies, distortions and conspiracy theories that they choose to believe and perpetuate against all available evidence, and it kills our national spirit as well.

I think this election is vitally important. But last night, I read a wonderful quote from Dean Sluyter’s book, “The Zen Commandments.” I’m going to try to keep it in mind when I feel election angst.

“We’re all temps around here. The entire drama of our life and our world, everything that seems so crucially important, is like a dream that eventually evaporates, along with the dreamer. If there’s nothing after this world, then we vanish into such utter oblivion that it’s as if it all never happened. If there is a next world or next life, then what seemed like the whole story is part of a much bigger picture. Either way, our worries were blown out of proportion.”

(Photo: Ridgewood, Queens, Oct. 2008)


  1. Confirmation bias makes us look for things that support what we believe and ignore the evidence to the contrary.

    I love the except from Zen Commandments. Thanks.

  2. brilliantly stated:
    "Democracy is endangered when people make choices based on lies, distortions and conspiracy theories that they choose to believe and perpetuate against all available evidence, and it kills our national spirit as well."

    word verification is "consp".... of course my mind automatically flashes on the word 'conspiracy' and how despite my skepticism, I do strongly feel that there was some sort of conspiracy at work in 2000 and 2004 which allowed two elections to be stolen from the american people.
    the word is quite interesting - conspire of course is rooted in the latin word meaning 'to breath together' and according to my oed means: "to combine privily for an evil or unlawful purpose; to agree together to do something criminal, illegal, or reprehensible; to plot.

    this continuing campaign of lies to some may be seen as a part of a bigger conspiracy, no?

    well, there's a tangent!!

    thanks for the zen quote.... so, so true....and is just another version of the irish 'why worry' story!! don't you love the universality of certain things!!

  3. The attachments to untruths is related to a certain kind of religiosity in politics today, a counter-phobic fervor. Believing in something against the public record demonstrates faith and solidarity. Acknowledging the facts puts you into a chaotic universe without a benign diety who agrees with you in every particular. Also, it's all fear of death (idea about a thing getting killed).

  4. People are going to believe what they are going to believe, no matter how preposterous. I eat Sat. breakfast with a person who has the absolute opposite political views from mine. We connect on so many levels, but this is one that we just don't. She started telling me some of the untruths about B. that she said came from t.v.. I said, "You can't have been hearing this on mainstream news!" She said that no, only one television station (the only one she listens to) was broadcasting the truth. I can't waste my precious time on earth in disuading her from untruths, but I use her rhetoric to remind me that we have such different beliefs across our nation, it's a wonder that we have managed to stay one HUGE country. I do urge her to fact check what she is quoting, but since she hasn't managed to get on the internet in the six years I have known her, I doubt that will happen. So, I turn the conversation to quilting or common friends, or something else and make sure I vote absentee so that my vote will cancel hers. ::;sigh:::

    I leave with a quote from Richard Corey:

    "So on we worked, and waited for the light"

    I find myself saying this as I walk into my school every morning.

  5. Steve, so wise and reasonable, as always.

    I love that Sluyter quote. It reminds me of some age-old good advice, the words of which most of us learn in childhood but the meaning of which many of us never truly "get:"

    Row, row, row, your boat,
    Gently down the stream,
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but a dream.

  6. Wow. That quote is one of the best things I've read in weeks. It's pretty much my philosophy of life in a few simple sentences. I may even find a way to add it permanently to my blog header. In any case, it will be on my desk from now on. Thanks!

  7. it could lead one to despair, couldn't it?

    i liked adrianne's comment.

    but then couldn't help myself but think of this variation:

    row row row your boat
    gently down the stream
    belts off trousers down
    isn't life a scream?


    v. sorry

    i'll get my coat...

  8. LOVE the Zen commandments. That's definitely my experience of the world, whenever I take the time to notice, that is!!

    All the weird rumors about Obama have to do with the fact that Americans need a smoke screen to cover their racism. If he was a white man, the campaign would be over. It's sad, isn't it?

    I LOVE this post. Thank you!

  9. Reya, sadly, I think that's true. And yet what's so silly is that he's just as much white as he is black. In fact, he's post-racial -- a white/black man raised partly in Asia! What more could we want?

  10. He's truly the best of both worlds and I can't wait to get him elected. I'm counting on us and all those out there untainted by the lies to do it on Tuesday. We are in big trouble otherwise...

  11. Oh Steve - I am SO with ya! But, I have to say that the lies are really nothing new - the entire conservative hypocrisy is built on them; misinformation, untruths, distortions, and fear. This is why I shouldn't pay attention to politics - I get VERY wrapped up in it, and VERY emotional - the hypocrisy is so outrageous, and so blatant. But, I truly believe that many people see only what they want to, or need to, see.