things you could do instead of watching the presidential debates

It may seem odd for a history teachers to advocate abstinence from watching a historic event, but the value of such mainstay political events has become diluted. Radio hosts, college professors, authors. pundits, historians, past and present politicians dissect every word said and unsaid. The lives of the candidates is no longer kept under wraps, each of their public moments can be re-watched online and their private moments re-imagined by every keen observer. Tomorrow the debate will be curated, dissected, analyzed, rebranded, resold, and readying for the next one. This particular election has illuminated some of the absolute lunacy and ridiculousness of American politics and even people who had been political centrists have had to face the corruption, the manipulations, the heinous acts our leaders have always been part of, yet today the curtain has been pulled back a bit more. Having grown up in a non-battleground state, it did not take long for me to understand that by the standards of the electoral college, my one woman, one vote – is truly of no consequence. I am currently residing in a so-called battleground state, but I’m not in a position to register to vote here, so maybe that hypothetical one could have value. But I still advocate voting for the little impact it can make and the significantly little energy it takes to do. My father took me voting with him, I never remember thinking it would be thrilling and once I got to color in the little dots, the only fun was gliding it into the machine. I remember even at a young age thinking, “Oh that’s it.” But because people throughout history and the present day have been prevented from voting, some fighting and being imprisoned to partake in that simple and uneventful act, I will never treat it as useless; just like finishing the food on my plate does not mean a child starving somewhere in the world receives any more food, but it is an insult to his reality to simply through away food that I am privileged to enjoy. So yes vote, it doesn’t take that much time, it requires very little from you, and perhaps has little consequence, but remember those who do not get to vote.

But you do not need to watch the circus of the presidential debates to be a valuable citizen. In fact, as our current meme’s like to remind us, in the age of information, it is wisdom that is lacking. So here are some ways your time can be better spent:

  • talk to your neighbor. sure this is a quaint notion, but in fact as we become more and more inundated with voices from machines, we forget to engage in real dialogue with real people.
  • read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a documentary. Move beyond the sentiment of outrage that has become our default reaction and gain more nuanced information.
  • research local politicians, voting districts, gerrymandering, local zoning proposals, bills being debated in your statehouse, your cities’ funding equations for public works etc. If the energy of this moment has captured you, then direct that interest in politics into the areas where your energy can make an impact
  • donate to a worthy cause. if you simply want to act like this nightmare isn’t happening, then look up a worthy cause, one that is small, not a conglomerate like the Red Cross or Save the Children, where your money can make a greater impact in the hands of smaller groups

What not to do: please do not give your time, emotional energy, tv rating viewership to this political circus and then tomorrow complain about how the system is rigged, the candidates will not follow through on what they promised during the debate, the media is in cahoots, the illuminati or mason conspiracies etc. The circus is strengthened by our participation. In recovery programs there is the notion that we can learn how to detach with love, there is a parallel for how we participate in mainstream politics. Something along the lines of only giving the minimum amount of energy required, that we begin to reframe the role of political power by how we interact with it, not by complaining about it. We have a responsibility to be informed about those in political positions, but that does not mean I owe four hours of my Monday evening to listen to lies.

to fail or not to fail, what is your response

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