Monday, September 17, 2012

An American's Most Important Job

A lot of people have been grumping a lot about people talking too much about the election and making too many political posts.

Let's be honest, when most people post "I'm tired of political posts on Facebook" what they mean is "I'm tired of people posting things I disagree with on Facebook." Because if they agree, then by all means, it's open season to promote that side of things.

I promote some political things on my Facebook account, and I admit that I'm tired of finding out that people I used to like have beliefs I can't respect. So I'm not saying I'm blameless here.

But I'm going to try to be bipartisan for a second and ask that every single American Citizen that may come across this do me a huge favor:

Don't just vote.

Educate yourself. And then vote.

And when I say educate yourself, I don't mean watch the news. Because if there's anything this election has taught us it's that the news is no longer a valid source of credible information.

NONE of the news channels are anymore, okay? Not the liberal ones and not the conservative ones. PLEASE, I'm seriously begging, do not just get all your political information from one news source and make your decisions based on that.

We're all being lied to on multiple levels by the news media. Outright lies, lies of omission, misdirection...it's rampant and it's disgusting.

So please, get online, and start looking around at some of the bipartisan efforts to inform voters.

Start by finding out where the candidates stand based on your OWN beliefs at "I Side With." Their website lets you mark each question with how important it is to you in order to help you find out which candidate is most like you and in what ways.

Once you've got an idea of the candidates and how they feel about the issues, then you also want to stay up to date on two different websites that have proven repeatedly and through multiple elections that they will present the most unbiased and factual information available:

Factcheck.org is run by Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This is probably one of the most quoted sites for other news outlets (the ones who bother to deal with fact checking) and it's for good reason. They're comprehensive, and they don't hesitate to call people out for lies, exaggerations, false impressions, and out of context quotes.

Politifact is a good stop if you want a quick graphic interpretation of what's true and what isn't. Their truth-o-meter has a variety of settings, but the most infamous is "pants on fire" which is getting thrown around a bit more in this election than last. They're also very good for checking on your local races, since those actually are almost more vital than the presidential race most years. I know I spent a few hours on it recently checking up on the various Virginia politicians up for election this time around.

And a final recommendation: if you read a story that seems outrageous and ridiculous, then do a quick check on Snopes to see if it's actually remotely true or not. This is especially vital for email forwards that you might get, EVEN if they're saying something terrible about the guy you hate. We all should be striving to be the kind of people that dislike somebody based on what they actually said and did, not some random rumor that somebody we barely knew in high school mass forwarded.

So please, be active, be involved. Care about our government, because we elected these people and we deserve to be represented by them. But don't base that vote on random things you're learning from the evening news or Facebook posts. Listen, learn, read, educate yourself, and vote responsibly.

Because let's face it, the mess we're in is because people don't vote with their brains, they vote with anger and misinformation.

And just in case, make sure that you're registered to vote! If you're over 18 and you fit the requirements, then it's vital that you turn up at the polls in November!

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