Last December while taking a walk I suddenly lost much of my hearing in one ear. The medical world did tests and walked me through several courses of nasal, oral and injected steroids. In the end, I was diagnosed with sudden onset asymmetrical sensorial-neural hearing loss. Last week I was fitted with hearing aids so I am again able to hear the world around me.
But, as wonderful as it is to enjoy conversations, television, music and the birds in my back yard once again, I now realize something I hadn’t noticed before. We live in a noisy world. Having been peacefully abiding in the muted realm of hearing loss for six months it was shocking to once again have no protection against the cacophony of living in a society that abhors silence.
But the noise that can be the most frustrating and confusing is about to become all too pervasive. Yes, I am speaking about the voices of political candidates and the media that make sure we are constantly bombarded with what is being said, what it means, why we should be afraid, and how we should vote.
One of the great features of my hearing aids is that I can adjust them using my cell phone. Among the settings I can adjust is a noise filter that can mute much of the background noise that drowns out what is important.
Sadly, we can’t adjust the volume and frequency of political pronouncements, advertisements and myriad interpretations of them that will surround us. I suppose you could just opt out and refuse to listen, read and evaluate the views and promises of the candidates, but that will only heighten your frustration when you find yourself living in a society shaped by other voters. However, you can set up your own “noise filter.” Here are four settings you can use to eliminate the chaff and discover the core of what the various candidates think, stand for and promise to do.
1. The Truth Filter: As election season progresses, we can expect a deluge of advertisements, promises and pronouncements. But ask yourself: Is what I am hearing verifiable? Are the statistics and proclamations true? Do I trust the source? We’re all aware that simply asserting something doesn’t make it true. My advice: Trust only what can be verified and has the ring of truth.
2. The Whole Story Filter: Politicians are notorious for only sharing the part of the truth that makes them look good. Ask yourself: What information is missing? What other options are worth looking at? What unintended consequences resulted from the “success story” being trumpeted? My advice: If something sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Watch out for those who are overly eager to be the hero of all their own stories or take credit for what others accomplished.
3. The Purpose Filter: It isn’t wrong to say every political voice, be it a candidate, political operative or reporter, has a desired end-goal. They want us to think and/or do something with the information they give us. But ask yourself: Is this structured to inform me or enrage me? Is the intent to create fear or understanding? Are they using words and phrases that carry emotion or truth? Is the manner in which they communicate meant to appeal to my intellect or my self-interest? My advice: Remember that political noise is meant to get you to either like or hate a candidate. Force yourself to be motivated by truth and never manipulated by innuendo, speculation, or outright lies.
4. The Alignment Filter: Lastly, what really matters is how closely a candidate aligns with your beliefs, values and desires. It is imperative to form your own beliefs and standards rather than allow politicians to talk you into theirs. Ask yourself: Do I want more government or less? Do I believe people should have more responsibility for their lives or less? Do I believe integrity is important? Do I believe in natural law or is morality fluid? Do I have religious beliefs that form my ethical practices? My advice: Too many of us don’t know what we believe, so we become pawns to be moved about by those who can manipulate us with charm and well-worded speeches. My advice: Figure out what you believe, who you are, and what is best for our community, then support candidates who agree with you.
Democracy only works when the electorate is educated, knowledgeable and dedicated to the common good. Nothing will make the flower of democracy shrivel faster than the worm of selfishness. My advice: Stop complaining and start committing to know yourself and the truth. Then, filter out the rest of the noise and cast your vote.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.