The other day, I posted 10 reasons not to become politically active, or at least aware, this year. Most involved a desire to avoid the unreasoned grief you might take for opening your mouth. But now, as promised, here are my 10 suggestions for doing the opposite, sticking your neck out:
1) Do your part to fight misinformation. With so many unchallenged voices on the Internet, cable TV and talk radio, you contribute to the pall of ignorance and bad information if you do not seek the fact-based truth, no matter the issue. If you bury your head in the sand, you are part of the problem.
2) Use your intellect. This is closely related to No. 1. It’s easy to tune out the noise and fall in line with what you think might be the right side of an issue. But you benefit most by staying aware and open to facts, not misdirection and hot air.
3) Try to find some middle ground. This doesn’t mean you must compromise, but it may compel you to discover whether everyone else with an opinion is either a baby killer or greedy Nazi, as we keep hearing in the currently poisoned national discourse.
4) Guard your wallet. If you don’t make yourself heard, the machinery of government at all levels will assume you’re OK with what they are doing with your tax money. This applies to federal, state and local issues. You might be more attracted to big topics such as national defense and health care reform, but it’s prudent to watch local matters, too. This can be as visceral as a pothole on your street. As I write this, there are two rim-bending chuckholes on Glasmann Way in South Ogden. My left front wheel found one on my way to work Friday; I’ve been dodging it ever since. I should have called the South Ogden public works office. But, I also wonder, what’s the agency doing? Glasmann is a major street in the city, and you’d think that crevasse would have been patched within a few hours. If you don’t complain, they have no urgency to hop to it.
5) Your neighbor might be one of the crazies. Are you going to watch him or her exert political power, or are you going to at least cancel him out?
6) Don’t depend on the pollsters. I for one am tired of being told how to think because some pundit cherry-picks a poll result to underscore a position he or she favors. Get involved, understand the issue and take with a grain of salt the pontifications by poll interpreters.
7) Know more than a loud-mouthed celebrity. Be better able to call baloney when an actor or singer gets a lot of publicity with a political rant.
8 ) Read the fine print. Ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments are written and edited by lawyers employed by politicians. Try to do some of your own research so you know what you’re voting on when you enter the booth.
9) This is a tough one. Remember that Utah’s political party candidate nominating process is rigged to empower the firebrands, the people who would show up for a precinct caucus on their deathbed. If you don’t participate, you will have little or no influence over who gets onto the primary and general election ballots. The downside for an independent voter is, you have to align with a party.
10) By your involvement, be an educational influence on your children, siblings or friends. If they see that you care, they might be more likely to pay attention in constructive ways themselves.