I stayed up several nights watching the conventions of the two political parties. I was mesmerized by what was happening. The different opinions. The different visions of the future. The year was 1964. I was ten years old.
Over the years, I have repeatedly admitted to being a political junkie, though this year may finally cure my habit of watching the political banter from start to finish. What on earth has happened to honest and respectful political discourse between people who happen to have different ideas about the best path forward?
2020 has brought us more challenges than we could have ever envisioned. Southwest Georgia was still crawling out from the rubble of Hurricane Michael when the Coronavirus appeared. The economy tanked and millions across the country filed for unemployment. 177,000 Americans have lost their lives to a virus that did not even exist in the public’s mind last February.
As if everyday life in America was not difficult enough, we have historic fires in the Western states. We have not one, but two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, something that has never occurred in our history.
Farming has been challenged with extreme weather conditions and low prices. Tourism has dwindled down to a small fraction of those venturing out a year ago. We are trying to re-open schools in the most challenging of times.
Churches are trying to share their desperately needed message through virtual platforms, some with more success than others. Ironically, when we need spiritual guidance and the comfort of the human touch more than ever, we find ourselves struggling to worship on Zoom, Facebook, or some other social media platform.
As we look forward to solutions, the heartiest of us who follow politics watched some of the many channels carrying the Democratic and Republican conventions. In 1964, I had a choice of watching CBS, NBC, or ABC. This week, I could watch dozens of channels on cable, some offering commentary so far removed from what I witnessed that I wondered if we had seen the same speech.
As the conventions struggled with their own impact from the Coronavirus, we found ourselves watching productions more suitable for Hollywood. There were no people dressed in red, white, and blue while waving signs and making good natured fools of themselves. There were no balloons falling from the sky and bands playing patriotic music.
This led me to think that this convention business is ineffective no matter which party or candidate you may favor. Ninety percent or more of the voting population has already made up their mind about who they are going to support.
Unless there is a miraculous vaccine announced within the next few weeks, or unless one of the candidates makes an inexcusable error in judgment, we are destined to listen to increasingly negative ads played with increasingly greater frequency. This drives the public either to anger or despair.
At the end of the day, I think you should think of the overwhelming advertising, posturing, and news coverage as a distraction. You are not being asked to support Trump or Biden because of their vision for the future. You are being asked to vote against the other candidate because they are the greater of two evils.
Consider this time as your own opportunity to make up your mind about America’s future. If you are simply repeating the talking points from the commentators on any of the news channels, look deeper for your reasons. Besides, who on television can honestly call themselves just a reporter of the facts any longer?
Your vote matters, but it should be something that you determine on your own. Think bigger than what you are being spoon-fed. What do you long for that would make this country what it can be? What it should be? What it was destined to be? Who can lead us to that place?
You are a convention of one. That is an amazing part of what makes America great. It is your vote alone that matters.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org