Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Farewell for now, Straw Man

The presidential election is over, cleanly and decisively. I tried my best this year to avoid the pundits in entirety and instead listen to the candidates themselves. I haven't watched any of the 24-hour news channels in years. Somewhere along the way I realized that the pundits create more drama and perpetuate an "us versus them" mentality. I hear it in the media and from my friends: people attack not the candidate but the caricature of the candidate. This is called the straw man logical fallacy; rather than argue against your opponent's position you state a superficially similar and easier to attack position and credit it to him. You then attack the caricature.

Two great examples are that Obama wanted to spread the wealth and that McCain was just another Bush. Neither of these statements faithfully represent either of the men, but they are widely held as truths by many.

If you only listen to the pundits of "your" side, then you come to accept their straw men as reality. I saw it today in friends' Facebook statuses: Now begins America's slide into Socialism, Welcome to the Soviet States of America, etc. This is a reflection of the caricature, not the man.

As I listened to candidates, I came to see that I liked a lot about both Obama and McCain. Either way we would have had a new, strong leader and a break from the past eight years. A chance to revitalize our country's image on the world stage. A fresh start by an intelligent, dedicated man. Sure, there were differences in how they wanted to achieve their goals, but they both wanted the best for the country.

This year I voted for Democrats, Republicans and Greens, because I listened to the candidates and not "my" side's caricature of "the opponents." I'm proud of myself for staying out of the fray and voting for the people, not their parties, and looking for the good in the individuals. It's a good day for America, and I'm looking forward to the future.

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