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Did you have a chance to see the 1994 TV miniseries THE STAND? I’m not usually a big Stephen King fan, but that was one series that stuck with me. CREEPY! In it, the population of the world is decimated by a plague, so that only a small number of people survive for reasons no one can identify. (No zombies; this was before zombies became popular.) The survivors gradually divide themselves into two groups—good and evil. (It was the first time I came to admire Gary Sinese who played a good guy.)
One of the aspects of the series that impressed me was how easily people slipped from one group to the other. The good people weren’t saintly or perfect, just basically good. The bad people could be charming and attractive, but they contributed to evil results. The Satanic leader knew how to use people’s weaknesses and wishes to draw them to his support, then he would use his brand of persuasion to turn them against the good guys. The series was definitely frightening.
This week I heard an interview on NPR with an American journalist who has been stationed overseas so long that NPR is using him to provide outside perspective on our presidential campaign. He said some outsiders, specifically certain people from the Arab states, find a bullying approach to our national problems perfectly reasonable and appropriate. They’re used to war. However, many Europeans say they can’t understand the hatred of Hillary Clinton, who seems to them to be a well-qualified candidate. They claim they haven’t heard poisonous rhetoric like that used against her and American minorities since the rise of Mussolini (an Italian politician who became prime minister and finally a dictator who led Italy into WWII—not on our side). They’re frightened because they’ve seen ugliness win before.
When people are manipulated with deceptive techniques—whether it be by advertisements, big business, or politicians acting out of self-interest—I’m angry. I’ve spent my life in education trying to help individuals identify attempts to sway their opinions with blind emotions, twisted logic, and outright lies. I’ve been the target of unjustified assaults by people who meant well but who didn’t take the time to understand all the facts. I can tell you from experience that there isn’t much anyone can do to repel attacks that are based on half-truths and misunderstandings. Denial falls on deaf ears—especially if gender bias is part of the problem. At separate times, I’ve been called a liar, a thief, and a departmental traitor—not because I was guilty of any of those charges, but because attacking me suited the attackers’ viewpoint of the moment. Some of the attackers later apologized, but not all consequences can be mended.
I expect presidential candidates to debate issues, strategies, and financing. I don’t expect thoughtful answers to be replaced with a blind barrage of diversionary attacks (called “red herrings” in propaganda) that lead gullible listeners to unwarranted conclusions. Vote your conscience but do use your conscience and your brain. You’re voting for a huge number of people who died to give you the privilege to care for this country. You won’t have a perfect president. You never have. They’re human. But some are better—far better—than others. And remember: even well-educated citizens of countries such as Germany and Italy have been misled. You can change your mind if necessary. It’s the sign of a thinking person.
Must watch this. 🙂
Ironically, a few days after I wrote, I noticed The Stand was being offered on TV. Creepy!
You’re so right. Our election, in many cases, has turned into something out of National Enquirer.