Our culture has lost its way and its priorities, a fact that is on display every November. Our mailboxes, inboxes and TV screens are inundated with political ads filled with lies, half-truths and personal attacks. Truth and facts are inconvenient irrelevancies readily sacrificed to the god of political expediency. Winning is all that matters it seems, but the truth is that there are things more important than winning.
I have a good friend running for re-election to the school board in Los Alamitos. I have known Jeff for over 30 years (we were medical school classmates). We have worked closely together in leadership roles for the hospital staff, including on the physician well-being committee which deals with doctors struggling with substance abuse and other serious issues. Jeff handles the cases with grace, dignity and class. He is the volunteer medical director for a charity that serves women recovering from abuse and neglect, and in his free time is a reserve officer with the Orange County Sheriffs Department. On top of all of these activities he has served his community as a member of the school board. (Where does he find the time?!) Jeff is a truly good and honorable man.
Which apparently does not matter to someone who is against him serving on the school board. This someone recently stated putting signs around the city that read “Dr. Jeffrey Barke, Bad for Women, Bad for Students.”
While I know Jeff well enough to find the sign’s claims laughable, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of people in the city don’t. I am more politically informed than the average voter, but when it comes to my local school board all I know is what is listed on the ballot. I don’t think I am alone in this regard as most of those running for these “lesser” offices do not have the financial resources required to fully inform voters. As a result there is no way for them to defend themselves against personal attacks.
I thought of this recently when I received emails and ads attacking some of the candidates for city council in Huntington Beach. The ads were funded by special interest groups. I have to admit the ads influenced my vote. I read the ads against the candidates and decided that if these special interests so desperately wanted to keep these men out of office, they deserved my vote!
I think this might be my new voting strategy for local non-partisan offices. If winning is more important to you than kindness, dignity and respect, you won’t get my vote. If it is so important to you that you are willing to lie and cheat in your pursuit of victory, you aren’t the type of person I want.
Perhaps the first step in restoring truth and civility to our political system should be refusing to vote for those who aren’t civil and truthful!