“If you can’t say anything nice…”

 In Practical Guides, SHIFT

What if our politicians had to follow this tried-and-true adage? Picture a campaign with no mud slinging. It would have the added advantage of saving millions in campaign advertising. Judging by the recent election ads, there would have been no need to put out much in the way of paid advertising. What a savings! And the world would have been spared all the vile spewings of both major political parties.

We heard this wise bit of advice from our parents. It is one of those time-honored words of wisdom that benefits everyone. When we talk bad about someone, no matter how we couch it, be it slander, or “just stating the facts,” or plain old gossip, who loses? Those about whom we are speaking will say they suffer. We may say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” but we believe the opposite. In reality hurtful words cause deep wounds and may never heal where mere physical injury seems to heal in time.

Politicians know that getting out negative comments on one’s opponents serves to put them on the defensive. Should they comment, defending themselves? Whether or not the sullied one chooses to comment does not matter. We tend to believe “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” To not counter the accusations tends to make the person look guilty as charged. The smeared opponent may spend more time refuting the negative than planting their attributes and qualities in the minds of voters. What are we left with – a smudged picture of the politician who got the heaviest smear job. What a way to pick a candidate!

Back to our parents’ advice, why not dig up and expose alleged dirt? No skin off our noses? Au contraire. I am not naïve enough to believe that professionals who seek to smear others are plagued by their consciences; however, there are laws in the universe that work whether we believe in them or not. We cannot control outcomes just by using our venomous tongues as we please.

We defy the natural laws at our own peril! The law of return is just as powerful as the law of gravity. Words spoken can never be re-captured even if one has second thoughts. To refer to an age-old story line, words hitting the air are like feathers that will follow the prevailing wind, never to be retrieved.

All of the prickly poisonous venom spewing from our lips may hang around our opponents for a time, but they will not stick unless there is truth in them. Instead, the words boomerang back to the speaker, gathering some icky things in the bargain. Part of another adage, they return to the speaker to “stick like glue.”

Does anyone care beyond childhood that the admonitions of our parents were universal truths, not just guiding glimmers of light to help us navigate our early lives? Truth and doing the right thing is forever.

When we consider any recent election, think of how and to what extent negative campaigning influenced us. The more I heard someone knocking a candidate, the more I researched for myself, discovering so many untruths. The more furious the dirt flies, the more I cannot imagine wanting someone who “approved this message,” being put in charge of anything: a school board, city council, or Heaven forbid, an entire nation.

We ask, what kind of world would it be if there was a mandated moratorium on mud-slinging? I can only imagine, but I know I would want to live and raise my kids in that world.

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  • j.d. ruby

    Yet another opportunity to realize that politics is holding up a mirror to who and what we have become. A nation of people who win by crushing the opponent rather than outperforming them. Like bullies on a schoolyard we follow the law of relative deprivation: If I can’t be better than you at least I can cut you down so I am relatively better. Studying poli sci in college was heart-breaking and eye-opening. Where are our men of renown? Where are our heroes who lead through a strength larger than their own? Where are those who lead the herd toward something larger, something more grand than we could have dreamed on our own?

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