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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Don't be scared silly

Politics, Wauwatosa

Wauwatosa seems to be divided about a couple things, Halloween and who should be president among them. October 26 was official Trick or Treat day, but the real Halloween is next Friday. Some neighborhoods celebrated this weekend, others are holding out for the real thing. Some of us didn't figure out which until it was too late.

It's no secret that I'm a political partisan (as well as a partisan of old fashioned Halloweens), but this blog isn't about that. It's about hoping that when it comes to the upcoming election, you will figure out who you want in office before it's too late, and you will figure it out based on something besides fear and anger. A lot of false notions are masquerading as facts and scaring the bejesus out of people.

Examples? One from each side: the McCain campaign is sending out vampires and monsters to scare people with false claims about Obama's taxation proposals, and the Obama campaign has sent out a little ghoul trying to scare people about McCain's Social Security policy. Of course I think "the other side" has made many more of these undesireable moves than "my side" has. But reasonable people will come to different conclusions about the candidates, because of or despite their campaign tactics.

If you want to look under the fact-masks, Factcheck.org will help. Blogs and robot callers, not so much.

I spent the weekend canvassing. That means I clutched my clipboard and trudged through a couple Tosa neighborhoods knocking on doors and asking who people were supporting. If they were supporting the other guy, I said thanks and crossed them off the list so they wouldn't continue to get calls from "us." If they said they were supporting my guy, I said thanks and hit them up to volunteer.

Most people weren't home. Those who were came down pretty evenly divided among supporters for my guy and for the other guy. Some canvassers in other parts of town tell horror stories about people's viciousness, but our neighbors aren't like that. I ran into a few folks with tight jaws of disapproval, but they were unfailingly courteous, as I hope I was.

And there's a block or two on 107th Street that win my vote for the best neighborhood in Wauwatosa, not based on political leanings but based on great people and great houses. I'm not telling you which one so everyone on 107th Street can take the props.

There's another block on another street where thoughtful neighbors and I were able to hatch a plan to get an elderly woman to the polls to vote--whoever she was voting for.

I started out hating knocking on doors, but then I thought about Mother Teresa, who said, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."So I knocked with love. She also said we should be faithful in small things, because that is where our strength lies. That's one of the measures I'm using to discern the better candidate. Negative campaigning is never faithful. But it works because the brain is hardwired to latch onto fear.

Luckily, we have reason and access to information to help us separate real fears from false ones. In this campaign, fears about race, religion, and age are all false fears. And so are the other fears that come from projecting the candidates as extreme and outrageous. Neither is, and while I know the delicious thrill of indignation, I'm learning to put it aside for the duller sensation and harder work of rational thinking. Most of you are probably ahead of me on this.

If you are given to passion that plays out in strong statements about candidates and the future, please think about what it does to your children. When they hear that life as we know it will end if the other guy is elected, it strikes deep fear into their hearts. Like Halloween fears, it's false. The worst demons and catastrophes we can imagine almost never come knocking at the door, asking for candy.

On November 4, please do a small and ordinary thing with love. Bring your best angels and thinking to the democratic privilege of voting.

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