Y'all keep asking when I plan to write a column about politics. It's such a hot topic, one that is especially important to families. It only seems natural that I'd chime in with my beliefs, right?
Maybe it's a sign that I'm getting old, but I've decided that even if it kills me, even if I have to sit on my hands to keep from typing, I will not use this space to write about my personal political viewpoints. It's not that I don't have strong opinions - I do. But I've seen what's happened to other writers who've gone there. Our nation is so polarized; the end result is usually quite ugly.
Watching my older sister get into trouble when we were kids taught me that sometimes the best thing to do is the opposite of what everyone else is doing. I have also learned, more often than I care to admit, that it's much easier to hold one's words than to chase them around in a panic later, trying to repair their damage.
I was passionately vocal about my favorite candidate during the last presidential election, something which cost me a few friends. I didn't know when to zip my lips. It was a difficult way to learn that friendships are worth so much more than representing the winning team at the end of an election.
It's funny to look back now and realize that I truly liked these people until we talked about politics. I dare say we even respected each other. But then somebody said something in jest, and someone else replied, and respect was violently drowned by hot-headed debate. It tore us apart. And four years later, I'm here to tell you - it wasn't worth it.
So why do we do it, for candidates who don't even know we exist? Has anyone truly ever been swayed by the strong political rantings of another? Maybe it's happened, maybe there really is a Sasquatch, but I've never seen either. Most of us are so stubbornly entrenched in what we believe that we cannot - will not - see the other side's viewpoint no matter how strongly it's presented.
I believe that some people still run for office because they care deeply about improving their world. But I've had several opportunities to work with politicians. Only one of them ever made a positive impression on me.
The others were pompous and unapproachable, with the sickening air of elitist superiority. Another was like those sour candies with a super-sweet shell, but beneath the surface, nothing but tart bitterness inside. They used me and my cause to further their agendas when the cameras were rolling. Then they vanished when we actually needed their help.
Experiencing that was good for me. It showed me that though we tend to put politicians on the same platform as superstars, they're just ordinary people. Some truly have a heart for service. But many run for office for purely selfish reasons, and it isn't always easy to differentiate the two. Because of that, it isn't worth sacrificing my personal and professional relationships over their agendas.
If I told you that I felt the Obama/Biden ticket was the one to support in November, would it change the way you think of me? If I were to say that I think McCain and Palin are best suited for the job, would you label me another way? You might not want to, but on some level, you would. Yet at the end of the day, would it really matter? I am no one special, sorely lacking the political expertise to share in-depth commentary on the issues facing us today.
What I do have is the right to vote with my convictions, as do all American citizens. I sincerely believe that's enough.
Some would say refusing to comment is the coward's way of handling this. Maybe that's true. But someone much wiser than I, King Solomon, I believe it was, said that there's wisdom in remaining silent.
I haven't quite mastered that wisdom thing yet. But hey, I'm trying.
I'm Kari Apted and I approved this message.
Kari Apted may be reached at email@example.com.