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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Can Watching the Olympics Help Us Vote?

I have been watching the Olympics lately. Usually I don't like to, but we were visiting the daughter's family and they get fewer channels than the wife and I get at home. However, there is something in the behavior and attitudes of many of the Olympic athletes that transcends national or, if one is really patriotic, tribal lines. That is respect. Many of the athletes show a deep respect for others regardless of whether they win or lose. And part of this respect for others rubs off on the crowd many of who whom could easily cheer for athletes from other nations.

In addition, I find that there are athletes from other nations for whom I could cheer and hope to win even if they defeated someone from the US. Joshua Buatsi is one such athlete. He is the light heavyweight boxer from Great Britain whose first concern in his first fight was the physical well-being of his first opponent whom he knocked down 3 times. Then there is the 41-year-old gymnast, Oksana Chusovitina, from Uzbekistan who made it to the finals in the women's vault. Though she did not do well in the finals, to compete in gymnastics at the Olympics at 41 is a marvel and a delight to watch. And of course, there is Usain Bolt whose quality of character is matched only by his speed. How could I root against him even though he was racing against Justin Gatlin from the US?

Unfortunately, this having respect for others practiced by these athletes is not often enough practiced here by politicians and voters for those from other parties and ideologies. We should note that a majority of voters for both Hillary and Trump are voting for their respective candidates not because they are big fans of either one, but because they don't want the other candidate to when. They have demonized the candidates from the other political party as well as the other political party itself and thus they cannot even bear to listen to each other. And we might consider whether this demonetization of the other that exists between the two political parties comes from the values of winning almost at all costs which have leaked into the values of our democracy from our economic system. And so just like some will measure their own nation's success or failure by comparing medal counts between the nations, so on election night, many will will be counting electoral votes and seats won for their party without having respect for those from the other political party who won. And without respect for each other, our Democracy dies because instead of elections serving as a vehicle for self-rule, they become the main instrument in conquering others and dividing the nation.


Of course, who could argue against the practice of voting against others rather than voting for someone who best represents you rather than against someone? Certainly those who are so partisan that they have demonized most, if not all, of those from the other major political party. And that includes those who are either voting against Hillary or Trump. But though I will vote for neither candidate, I can find points of agreement with each one. Certainly there are not enough of these points with either one which would move me to for either one, I still share points of agreement. And perhaps, a certain degree of respect for more of our candidates, some of whom will hold elected office, can begin by searching for those points of agreement. And perhaps from there, we can find enough reasons for voting for third-party candidates rather than always voting against the candidate from the other major political party. For this voting against approach is not only self-limiting, it has diminished the quality the candidates coming from either of our major political parties while making it tougher for us to face the truth about ourselves and our nation.






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