Monday, September 20, 2010

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls

(Image stolen from Hamilton Health Sciences.)

There are all kinds of ways I could have begun this editorial.

"If you don't have anything to say about someone, don't say anything at all."

"Best to sit in corner in silence and have people wonder if you're stupid than to open mouth and remove all doubt."

"What goes around, comes around."

"Live by the sword, die by the sword."

"Decorum and politics keep scant company these days."

"I can't wait until the debate; they're gonna get eaten alive."

But maybe the best way is to dive right in: as surprising as it might be to hear me admit this, I actually have no interest in 'election-time politics'.

For me, the word holds powerful connotations having to do with the bullshit that surrounds, coats and suffuses the campaigns required by local governance. (I'm restricting my comments to the most intimate level of government, turning away from the provincial and federal arenas.) The gamesmanship. The bafflegab. The vacuous, sound-bite-borne pissing matches, the general deportment reminiscent of schoolyards that are cranked-up versions of the behaviour endemic to 'Life at term-time'.

And the sad things about it? That it seems to be just about what's expected of how campaign behaviour should look like...and that its presence isn't some unexpected development; it's both a creation of the media-driven world in which we live, and a manifestation of that very world, one that we've all helped to create to varying degrees.

Now, rather than yammer-on about what I feel is wrong with things, I'm going to suggest a few simple ways in which things might be done differently. Done better. Mostly because we all deserve better.

(N.B. While there are two other components to the election campaign dynamic -the media and the voters- I'm not going to address them at this time. What's mostly irked me has been what's been coming out of candidates' mouths...though some of the comments posted online have had me rolling my eyes something fierce, while MSM's coverage hasn't exactly raised the bar, either.)

First off, I'd like to see the more enlightened portions of our populace lead the way. That is, the candidates -who by rights should be far better equipped to construct informed opinions of our incumbents; they are, after all, being 'called' to seek office- stick to the facts and not get lost in the mire of name-calling and aspersions-casting. It's unbefitting just about everything noble associated with the idea of leadership.

So candidates, if you have an opinion about the incumbent, show some respect: be specific, be precise. Don't deal in generalities, in vague declarations that by way of repetition, make the migration from 'perception' to 'reality'. And please, for God's sake, don't conflate issues: stay on-topic. Because if you can't make cogency your mainstay, how on earth can we expect the electorate to rise to the occasion on their own?

Secondly, make almost all of what you say on a personal level be about yourself and not your opponent. Rather than trying to elevate yourself by denigrating the incumbent, take a more honourable tack and explain to your constituents why you're the better choice. By all means, go after the incumbent on specific issues, but again: stay on-topic.

Finally, take this leadership role seriously when you're talking to prospective supporters. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in exchanges that are doomed to end up as gossip-sessions. Yes, you're wanting to be your ward's representative at Council...but you're also wanting to be their leader. So lead.

Naturally, in the political world in which we live, where Internet presence and participation is a must, the urge to go all-in, to forget about everything I've just suggested is ever-present. So I'd encourage candidates to show restraint when online...and then turn that restraint up to '11'. I can appreciate the handicap that all non-incumbent candidates feel in trying to unseat their Councillor, the visibility obstacles all must overcome, but try to keep in mind what it is you're attempting to accomplish: being of service. The most honourable of Life's pursuits.

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I'm always interested in feedback, differing opinions, even contrarian long as they're delivered with decorum...with panache and flair always helping.