In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Mom on Measuring What Matters

What matters most in this election? Professor Sarah O'Connor of James Madison University (JMU)--who I can proudly claim as my keen-minded mother--wrote (and read) the following radio piece for her local NPR station, calling voters to consider what matters most in the election: the candidates' stances on issues or their personal life stories. I can say (neutrally, I believe) that my mom is, for starters, an inventive teacher, dedicated to engaging her college students in both their local and global community--be it through assignments to write their members of Congress on an issue they care about, to write down why they believe what they believe about the world (following the model of the NPR series This I Believe), or to volunteer a certain number of hours in a community organization; those things, and the related community service learning initiatives she's been involved with (which I mention in relation to the candidates' national service plans here), would have changed my college experience in big ways, so I find them worth mentioning. But below is her piece, called "Lipstick Wars," which can also be listened to here, via the radio station she recorded it for:

"This presidential campaign is quickly becoming a campaign of competing narratives. Who has the best personal story? Which story tugs at our heartstrings the most? Who had the most destitute childhood or the worst tragedy in his/her life? McCain advisors urged him to pull out the stops in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention and describe his years as a prisoner of war. (Comedian Jon Stewart later commented that if being a prisoner of war equates with being a leader, maybe we should start thinking of Guantanamo as a leadership training camp.) We’ve heard the speeches and seen the videos with their black and white photos: Obama’s white mother and African father, his grandparents who raised him in Hawaii, and his years as a community organizer before law school; Biden’s wife and daughter who were killed in a car accident just as he was sworn into Congress, his near-death from an aneurysm; McCain’s father and grandfather, both admirals, his military service and captivity; Palin’s snowmobile racer husband, Down syndrome baby, and pregnant teenage daughter.

It is understandable that we are drawn into these stories. Everyone loves a story, and stories are certainly more interesting than listening to a list of issues and proposed solutions. That said, our country is in bad shape. Nearly eight in ten Americans believe it is headed in the wrong direction and Bush’s approval rating is at its lowest level ever. Some of our oldest financial institutions are tanking, people continue to lose their homes, unemployment is rising, the environment is eroding, and we cannot seem to decide as a country whether it is OK to torture our prisoners or not.

I hope I am not coming across as pessimistic, because I also believe that if we have the will as a country, we can solve these problems. What I am saying is that the issues are what this campaign is really all about, and we had better be paying attention to them. Let's forget about whether we like hockey moms or not, how many kids a candidate has and the circumstances of their births, what designer a spouse uses, whether someone is black or white, male or female, and look at where that person stands on basic human rights, on an adequate response to global warming, on what we need to do as a country to fix our economy, on health care for all citizens, on making the world a safe place. The list goes on and on. These are topics that affect every single one of us, and our future as Americans and as global citizens. We do not have to let ourselves be manipulated by emotional appeals or distracted by half-truths and downright lies. We have the ability to make rational decisions, so let’s find out where the candidates stand and vote with our heads as well as our hearts."


Josh said...

that's cool from your mom man! i saw that episode of the daily show she was talking about and laughed my head off!

i hope you are well man. sorry we haven't gotten to talk in a while. been a little crazy on our end. let's try to catch up soon!

Brendan O'Connor said...


What's up man? thanks for the comment, and yeah, will love to catch up soon, just let me know if you're up this way at any point and i'll do the same if i'm by your way--if nothin happens w/that pre-election, we'll def. have to plan somethin after, as life'll slow down my way a bit more at that point. catch you later man, and hope all's well your way too, adios!