Jim Baer: Before you cast your ballot, some introspection is in order

For the Monitor
Published: 8/9/2018 12:09:43 AM

The subjects of ethical and moral applications in human development are as old as the human race. Anthropologists suggest that our earliest ancestors were faced with the challenges of survival based on many variables. Among them were some moral and ethical questions that besotted them as much then as they do to us today.

Once the practical decision was made to become hunters and gatherers, those early civilizations began to cultivate not only the land but also their societies. Those ancient peoples soon realized that their survival was predicated on cooperation, not competition. They lived in dangerous environments and the commonality of the value of family and friends along with questions about ethical and moral issues were integral to their success and long-term survival.

Philosophers have debated the subject of the worth of the human species for thousands of years. What is the meaning of human life? Are we here for a purpose? Is there a divine plan? Would our planet be a better place without us?

Those subjects bring up the seriousness of the November general election.

Americans have a long history of independence and rugged individualism. We thought of ourselves as the champions of liberty. We exported the best that we had to offer, both in moral convictions and commercial enterprises. We have had our share of great successes as well as some devastating losses. We came close to destroying our republic with a civil war. We lost thousands of lives in a litany of wars, some good, some not so good. We conquered a continent and then went on to the colonial exploitation of peoples in the Pacific rim, including Hawaii and the Philippines. It was euphemistically called “Manifest Destiny.” I call it sticking our nose in other people’s business.

It is now time to mind our own business. We are politically and morally divided. Left or right, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, religious or non-religious, white or black, straight or gay – all are called to participate in the November general election.

No political party or individual has all the answers to these vexing issues. Each of us must ask ourselves: What is important to me and my family? Will I vote to protect my self interests or will I be magnanimous and vote for the common good? Will I vote rigidly in party affiliation or will I choose to entertain political solutions offered by other political parties? Will I vote for intellectual content and veracity, or will I let raw emotions control my better judgment?

The political atmosphere in America is filled with poisonous hyperbolic and jingoistic political commentary. Sensible and practical people have abandoned cognitive reasoning and substituted it with mass hysteria. It began with a speech from a presidential candidate on June 16, 2015, claiming that we are being invaded by Mexican immigrants whose mission is to “rape and kill” Americans. That statement was not true then and is not true today. There may be rapes and killings going on in America, but the majority of them are being committed by American citizens against other American citizens.

Sadly, the damage was done. No amount of retractions, massaging the truth or denials will repair the tragedy of innocent children being forcibly removed from their parents, some possibly never to be reunited. All of this because of intolerance, bigotry and political dishonesty. What is happening to us?

The success of many civilizations and governments throughout history have been based on stability. Ancient Egypt remained stable and basically unchanged for more than 1,500 years. We fought a War of Independence from Great Britain, but we kept their common law and parliamentary system to provide stability. Stable governments are becoming a rare commodity in our troubled world.

Our current federal government is based on chaos. Each day, powerful politicians “tweet” their distrust and disgust of reputable government and civil institutions, including a free press, that have served America well for several centuries. Our Constitution’s Bill of Rights is being challenged and threatened by political pundits and self-serving politicians whose agendas are to promote chaos and hate, and divide our country.

We are living through a political anomaly. The bruising 2016 presidential campaign ended with the candidate with fewer popular votes winning that election. As long as we tolerate the arcane Electoral College, we will continue to revisit political upsets like Trump/Clinton.

In November we will have an opportunity to alter the current political landscape. I have faith that most people know right from wrong. We all want what is best for ourselves and our children. We want to live in a safe, stable society and be happy. Happiness is possible, but it should not come at the expense of other people’s unhappiness.

When you close that curtain behind you in the voting booth in November, you are exercising the most valuable right in our Constitution. The right to vote. Please do it with personal integrity and thoughtfulness.

(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)

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