November 03, 2008

Who Makes You Afraid?

When you head to the polls tomorrow--whenever you evaluate politicians--there’s one question you should ask yourself. “Who makes me afraid?”

I’m not telling you to think about who you’re afraid of. I’m asking you to do something very different and think about who wants you to be afraid.

Who goes beyond talking about our problems to paint you a picture of the most dire consequences of not voting for them? Who’s telling you you’re going to die or go to hell or lose your country? Who is telling you your family is threatened? Your marriage? Your children? Your job? Your house? Your vote?

Fear has its place in making choices. It keeps you from walking too close to that edge or taunting that bear or trying to beat that train. It’s excellent at pushing you to make snap judgments when you face an immediate danger.

Aside from that, fear is a lousy basis for decision-making. The thing that makes fear so useful in that dangerous instant--the ability to suppress conflicting thoughts--makes it counter-productive when you have a complicated situation to evaluate. It’s difficult enough to sort through some of the issues and competing interests that we elect our representatives to deal with without fighting fear’s little injections of adrenaline that clamor for a decision right now!

That’s why it’s always worth looking at who wants you to be afraid. It is possible that they’re just communicating the urgency they feel over a particular issue. However, it’s also possible that they don’t want you thinking very hard about the rest of what they have to say. Anytime you see fear injected into a campaign, it’s always worth taking a step back until you can figure out which it is.

So, as you prepare to vote, don’t forget to ask, “Who makes me afraid?”

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