Shut Up And Carry On

My grandfather rarely talked about politics and advised his children and grandchildren to avoid the subject. He never said so, but I’m confident this wisdom came at a high price. During WWII the local draft board in our poor mountain county had refrained from calling up the few young men from the area who were fortunate enough to be in college, but when it was discovered that my grandfather had “voted wrong,” they called up his son as punishment, and they told him so. It seems that “cancel culture” is nothing new.

We’ve avoided the subject of politics here for a while now. All the news about it, the opinions, the talking heads, the headlines, are like itching powder, and we wonder why we keep having to scratch. But with the election just around the corner I’m reluctantly crouched at the computer this morning with a few words of wisdom purchased at the cost of years of observation and no small amount of discomfort.

Don’t tell anyone how you’re going to vote, and when you have voted, don’t tell anyone who you voted for. There is a reason ballots are secret. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and with all the hurt feelings and goading from politicians and corporate media, people have huge chips on their shoulders. You might lose a friend. I’ve seen that happen more than once in recent years. If someone tries to tell you how they voted, change the subject as soon as possible. Consider for a moment how many people you think less of now that you know about their politics. Let that sink in for a minute.

Your politics doesn’t matter much beyond local and state elections, and it doesn’t matter at all beyond the grave. I know. Civilization itself is at stake yet again and news is breaking and all that, but the hands grasping at the rudder of the ship of state are essentially apolitical. To the owners of those hands, politics is for the little people, a tool to be used for gaining and maintaining power, and it doesn’t matter how the tool is labelled or whether it comes in a red box or a blue one. We could go on about this for hours, but if you will consider just this one thing, you may get the point: In spite of all the hateful rhetoric in Congress, and no matter who sits in the White House, the political class is always able to work together to make sure that, one, plenty of weapons are sold overseas and two, salaries, benefits and perks for the political class are always increasing. OK that was two things, but we’re talking about politics now, so we can be liberal with the facts as long as we push the narrative forward.

Vote your conscience, shut up about it and carry on. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone who votes differently is lacking the same integrity and reason (and cognitive bias) that informed your own vote. Just about everyone you could possibly meet has a conscience as well, and some basis for making value judgments. Whether guided by faith, tradition, peer pressure or popular culture, no one gets up in the morning intending to do ill unless they are deranged or criminally insane.

You may suspect that your neighbor who votes differently suffers from some form of mental illness, but it’s best to keep that to yourself. You can’t cure it, but you can treat it with kindness. The possibility of mental illness increases dramatically for the political class, which seems to suffer from an epidemic of various forms of narcissism. Keep that in mind if you find yourself waving a banner with someone’s name on it or getting angry when anyone criticizes the name on that banner as if they had insulted your mama.

By the time you read this, the damage will most likely be done and a new round of gaslighting and drama will have commenced. The headlines will dutifully report the accusations and recriminations, and of course the celebrity reactions to it all. The planet, however, will not slow its rotation nor pause for even the briefest possible moment in its journey around the sun to acknowledge our upset or concern about the election results. Our immortal souls, when they are weighed in the balance, will not be judged on how we voted, but rather on whether or not we were kind to our neighbors, and how we used the brief and precious time that was given us.

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