Sheila: You might have noticed by now that there’s a national election coming up—oh, right, that’s tomorrow. I’m sure the country will breathe a hearty sigh of relief when it’s finally over.
You’ll be happy to hear that I’m not going to talk about partisan politics, apart from saying that they’ve never been more evident than this year. I for one believe everyone is entitled to her or his own opinion. My only hope is that those opinions are based on fact, not hints and innuendos and outright lies.
Oddly enough, I suppose we as writers should be thrilled that how a campaign official or publicity person uses words can have a significant impact on the lives of millions of people. That’s a heady kind of power.
Let us start with the premise that most such people don’t lie. Well, not exactly. But they might bend the truth just a bit. This can be done in many ways. There’s omission (“The candidate burst into tears in front of a thousand screaming followers,” which doesn’t include the rest of the statement “after s/he was told that his/her nearest and dearest relative had minutes earlier died in a horrible plane crash.”) The first part is true (and these days, witnessed by millions of people), but it’s not the whole story.
Taken on its own, the first part of that statement makes the candidate appear weak and out of control. Read in its entirety, it could make the candidate appear much more sympathetic. It all depends on who’s spinning the story.
Or take a very fictional example: “The candidate voted to abolish aardvarks in this country, depriving aardvark-herders of their traditional livelihood.” The reality is that there were only 137 free-range aardvarks in this country and twelve herders who looked after them. And that was in 1969, when the vote was taken. Guess what: there are no aardvarks left in herds in this country, but that point appears in teeny-tiny print at the bottom of a television commercial, and is onscreen for three-tenths of a second. Thus the candidate ends up looking hostile to aardvarks and those who care for them—even though there aren’t any. [Insert picture of cute fuzzy baby aardvarks. Oh, sorry, baby aardvarks are anything but cute and fuzzy—scratch that.]
Any words can be twisted, contorted and edited to say something that the author never intended. Most writers have probably seen that in their own edits: we end up howling at the absent editor, “That’s not what I meant! You didn’t get it, you idiot!” If we are optimistic, we hope that the edits were well-intended, even if we think they’re wrong. If we are really annoyed, we accuse the editor of trying to turn what we wrote into his or her own book, at the expense of our writer-voice and our intended message.
We write fiction. We know it. We don’t expect our readers to believe that everything we put on the page is true and really happened the way we said it did. We hope they believe in the little world that we create on the page for as long as it takes to read the book, but there are few repercussions if they don’t (except maybe to our wallets). But politics is different—maybe. We want to believe a candidate wants what’s best for constituents and the city/county/state/country as a whole. Sadly that’s not always true. All too often there are other motives: ego, personal glory, money, power. All of these can be useful in a strong leader. But can’t we have a little wisdom in the mix? Some compassion? A dash of intelligence?
If you have strong beliefs about a candidate, or more than one, vote tomorrow. It’s both your right and a privilege. If you don’t know much about any of the candidates—inform yourself. Don’t just punch a button or fill in a circle blindly, or because your spouse or your mommy or daddy voted that way. Your decision matters.
November we give away one of our books each day, to thank you all for being faithful readers. I did write a book that included an election—and I never named the political party involved—but maybe you’re politicked out by now. I’ll be happy to offer the most recent one of any of my series: A Turn for the Bad, Dead End Street, or Seeds of Deception, in either print or e-format. Not an election in any of ‘em.
Just leave a comment here (and it doesn’t have to be political! What’s the ugliest baby animal you can think of?) and I’ll draw a winner (and the drawing won’t be rigged, I promise!)