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Stand and Be Counted

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We've been assaulted lately by political pundits and statisticians telling us what will happen this week. It is easy to roll over and assume they know what they are talking about. So why bother to vote at all? Just sit back and watch the process on TV. This is a particularly easy rationalization for cynics and those who've become resigned that they don't make a difference anyway.

Most of the hype and hysteria seems to be aimed at younger voters. It is assumed that we older voters are inflexible and have made up our minds already. Worse, many of the Boomer Generation that are active seem to be inflaming a lot of the ideological divide in our nation. But in the middle of all this furor, one fact remains: this country works on the basis that the people have a choice and we exercise it at the ballot box. If we don't exercise it, we give up our right to complain and risk losing the other rights that make us who we are.

A lot has been said in this blog and elsewhere about the Baby Boomer generation. Advertising is clearing shifting toward "gray" and marketers are beginning to research what our generation wants. I have been interested in aging and the potential impact of the 'Baby Boomers' for some time and have come to appreciate that we are not a single generation, that in our 70 million strong demographic there is as much diversity of interest and belief as there is in the population as a whole. Attempts to generalize or stereotype folks in a certain age grouping is, I believe, a subtle form of ageism that either reinforces our historical biases about who we are or conversely manipulates people based on their age.

A great example of this is when AARP ran a contest to find "senior models." When I saw the finalists, I had to laugh because 90% of them looked to be in their 30s. The results reaffirmed the culture's bias toward youth and resistance to growing old -- "buy my product and you can stay young longer..." Anyway, back to politics.

We have a choice next week. Do we vote and be counted or do we sit back and watch?

Older voters generally turn out in larger numbers than most segments of our society, but those that don't are the one's who need to speak. Moreover, as John Erickson has been saying, the pundits and politicians need to stop taking older voters for granted and assuming we're all of a single persuasion. The mid-term elections could very well shape the character of our country and our future for generations. We need wisdom in the polling place, not pawns of political propaganda from either side. We need the courage to vote for our principles and not have our buttons pushed by a manipulative media.

When you and I are in the booth, we need to be grateful that we have the opportunity to speak. And when we do, we should remember that even if our candidate loses, he or she is a chosen leader/representative for the time being and cannot do our work if they are not supported. What I have found most distressing in the past two years is the lack of support for our president and other political leaders once they are elected. Especially when we are at war, in the middle of an economic crisis and confronting many other life-threatening issues. What is the point of a majority rule if when the majority speaks they are thwarted at every turn? It turns politics into a "power for the sake of power" game and leadership is lost. We all suffer and become powerless spectators in our own game.

So let us take our wisdom to the polls. But more importantly, let us participate after the election by helping our elected leaders to succeed rather than undermining them at every opportunity. Our country works because the process can include both the majority and minority views. But it must be a loyal minority. When the minority actively disrupts or destroys the process, then they are at the edge of being disloyal. As many leaders throughout our history -- from Ben Franklin to Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt -- have proclaimed: "United we stand and divided we fall'.

Let this election unite us and not be another wedge in an already divided society.

© 2010 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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