With two weeks before the mid-term elections the “volume” has been turned up on political ads. Locally there is only one item on our ballots: seat for this district’s seat in the US House of Representative. The television market place is saturated with political ads. The internet has places that saturate the moment, e.g., YouTube. I think we have all grown so accustomed to the unrelenting, intense bombardment of political ads that we don’t listen and just hunker down ans take shelter until it is over. Too much money and the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. FEC have make all this possible – the funding, technology and access. But the content is a different matter.A friend sent me this quote from H. L. Mencken —– “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” Sounds about right. Sadly, maybe it has always been that way because the people that construct these ads have done their homework and know what topics we are most likely to respond to.
In our local race, both sides are appealing to a “fear factor.” If these are the only source of one’s research, then you would have no idea what each candidate actually stands for. Debates are not much better. Most candidates ignore the questions asked by the moderator and quickly move to prepared responses with clever hooks and mantras. I remember one candidate responding, “That’s the wrong question. What you should have asked….” and then move into the prepared response. And then the fact checkers go to work to debunk or affirm what was just spoken to let us know if it was true. Of course, we now live in an age where truth seems to be optional.
My friend wrote: “Most of the history of mankind has been defined by cultural truth, denominational truth, national truth, scientific truth, rational truth, factual truth, personal truth. It seems like most of the “truth” we hear is actually opinion —- or a justification for actions favorable to the speaker —- or a wish for how things might be or should be better.” I would add to his list the current cringe-worthy line “my truth.”
St. Vincent of Lerins defined truth as “what is believed everywhere, always and by all.” My friend noted that was a pretty tall standard. Perhaps the timeline of always is beyond the scope of one election cycle. Perhaps not. But it the lie or misdirection is planned just for one election cycle, how does that serve the common good? And if we cast our vote for the little or the big lie, we take one step away from truth and away from the common good.
As Pope Francis urges: “It is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.”
It is now, more than every, necessary that voters take the time to invest time and effort into making their vote count by assessing and voting for candidates outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good.