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Voting is both a privilege and an obligation - be informed

Fri, Sep 5th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Thomas Jefferson said, "Information is the currency of democracy."

And in an E-mail essay on Winston Churchill's 1947 comment that "Democracy is not perfect, but it's better than any of the other methods that have been tried so far," the commentator reminds us that democracy is government by the people, and that "democracy cannot function without the people, especially if the people are ill-informed or only care about their own interests."

Speaking to many people in our communities and beyond in our country, receiving E-mail, reading news magazines, it is of great concern to me that many folks seem to accept political ads, sound bites and bumpers stickers, and comments from talk show hosts as literally true. In order for our country to succeed into the future, we need to examine multiple sources and educate ourselves carefully so we are able to make good decisions at election time. We need to move beyond personal attacks and hate, and look into the actual performance of the candidates.

There are many ways to do this; all of us should take an honest look at both sides of an issue, both candidates for an office. We can do this by going to a public library or on-line to look at the Congressional Record, which can't be skewed. This will allow us to see what bills a candidate has authored or sponsored. We can check out their actual voting record on the issues of our concern. Then we can read two or three different general news magazines which lean toward each side, not just the one we agree with.

Also, we can listen to the news on several stations and networks, not just our favorite left or right commentators or news persons.

One excellent source is Public Television News (McNeil-Lehrer, Washington Week). I've had people call PBS "liberal trash." No so; they make a real effort to have commentators who have views that cover all sides. If your library subscribes to it, the newspaper Christian Science Monitor is rated by the library association as the least-biased in its approach to and inclusion of national and international news. (There is no attempt to evangelize.) These sources may sound different from the network(s) you watch, but they are likely to be trustworthy and accurate and fair.

If the candidates for an office have authored books and/or articles, read some from both.

Voting is both a privilege and an obligation for good citizens. Even if these suggestions sound like actual work, and may perhaps challenge our dearly-held opinions, if we want to be intelligent voters, we need accurate information - and that doesn't come easily and fast, in short ads, sound bites, or talk-radio from only one side. An open-minded approach is good and necessary in a democracy.

Let's take time to really know the truth before we enter that booth. Be well-informed voters!

Jeanne Martin lives in Mabel.

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