Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Plea for Sanity

I've been blogging for nearly three years now. As might be expected, the nature of this blog has changed over the course of time. As I've noted a couple of times since, I used to be much more open about writing about political realities in the world in which we live. I haven't stopped caring about these issues, but after a few months, it became clear to me that these issues can be so divisive that it can be difficult to write about them clearly without being misunderstood. I'm not terribly concerned about whether or not someone might disagree with me. I'm actually fairly proud of the fact that I have friends who hold very different opinions than my own. But it seems as though there are people out there determined to look at any political view sufficiently different from their own in the worst possible light. Indeed, although I've been generally pleased with the ability (facilitated by social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace) to reconnect with friends I haven't heard from in years, I've found myself downright embarrassed to read some of the more strident (and occasionally at least mildly delusional) views expressed by some of these former acquaintances on their own blogs. Was I ever like that? (I'm saddened to say that, yes, I probably was. Perhaps still am more than I wish to admit.)

I'm likewise glad that I don't get as much political spam e-mail as I used to (thanks to a good spam filter, no doubt!). I learned long ago that most of that stuff can't be trusted, but I'm just as happy not to have to bother with it in the first place. Sadly, the same can't be said for many of the people with whom I work. Perhaps it's natural, working in a seminary environment, that many of my friends and colleagues receive these letters so often. Despite well-meaning intentions (at least by some) to advocate for "the separation of church and state," religion and politics seem inseparably tied together. If you care deeply about your religion, politics probably matters to you on at least some level. Indeed, that's why I still do wade out of the safer waters of "Transformers discussion" from time to time to touch upon these matters. But these e-mails almost always amount to little more than scare tactics: "Listen to me, because everything you hold dear is being threatened!"

Most of you probably didn't click that link in the previous paragraph. Please do so now. It's an essay written by Lori Robertson of FactCheck.org on the subject of chain e-mails, and how unreliable they truly are. In particular, it addresses how such e-mails have been used in the recent and current presidential races. I don't care whether you consider yourself "liberal" or "conservative." The tactics described in this essay, which I've seen time and time again in these e-mails, are simply evil. And if these e-mails can't be stopped, at least those of us who care about truth should make sure that their power is blunted by simply committing a) to never stoop so low as to write such an e-mail. The ends do not justify the means! b) that, if such a letter falls into our hands, we at least follow the steps outlined in the above FactCheck article (seriously, I implore everyone to read it. Here's the link again, just to be sure you can find it) to determine truth from fiction, and c) to never forward an e-mail of this type without at least first having verified its veracity (and even then, I'd suggest to "sit on it" for a day or two, rather than do anything rashly. If the danger in the e-mail is real, it will probably be made known through a more reliable source soon enough).

I know my readership is far too small to make much of a difference, but I'm hoping that, perhaps due to the diverse nature of my friends' views, this small plea for sanity might at least have some effect. We simply can't allow things to continue like they have been, allowing scare tactics to dictate our responses. We should be voting for the President we think will do the best job, not the one we're least scared of....

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