Charlotte Bronte wrote, in the stunning forward to the classic novel, Jane Eyre, that "self-righteousness is not religion... To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns." She was speaking of the dichotomy she witnessed when her work was praised while it was attributed to her male moniker, Currer Bell, and the criticism she received upon revealing that she was a woman. The message of her book became overshadowed by the fact that she was a woman. Her terse retort, much like her words more broadly, rings just as true today as they ever have: We are too quick to make decisions based on title alone.
Americans are bombarded with a tremendous amount of information, and too often it is easy to say that we know all we need to make a judgment based on a headline or a title. In fact, that is all we really have time for in an era where we can barely keep up with our email boxes and Twitter feeds, much less the nuances of the health care reform act. And sometimes a tweet is all we need: "Earthquake hits D.C., nary a politician scared straight."
On the other hand, many important topics are done a great injustice, and many people can garner a great amount of influence through suggestion and innuendo. Such misguidance makes it simple for a society to believe what isn't true.
As we head into election season, it is important to keep this sleight of hand in mind to keep from repeating the same mistakes of past elections. We need to pay attention to substance, and dismiss the candidates who stand for nothing. As we have found, the best politicians can make the worst leaders. Barack Obama wrote in his book that he "serve[s] as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." He proved this by taking words that have tremendous value to each of us individually, such as "hope" and "change," and demonstrating that they really have no meaning at all unless attached to tangible set of principles.
Barack Obama is, as a good friend often says of politicians, "a mile wide and an inch deep." However, he does not hold a monopoly on this opportunistic approach. And neither does his party.
Listen to the words that come from our future leaders' mouths as they debate and explain their positions. Take some time to understand the issues beyond the sensational tweets. We have a lot to lose by being swept away by shiny rhetoric that covers an empty platform.
The country is at a crossroads, and those that will take power after the next round of elections have to be instrumental in letting the country rebuild itself. We need leaders at every level of government that understand that America's strength is its people, not its government.
Watch for the candidates who will be leaders, not just politicians. Support those who will allow you to build your life, not build theirs on your back. Avoid those who will promote themselves by using the rocks which we could build this country's future on as stones to throw at their opponents. And above all, choose to see through the shiny facades of campaigns.
Vote for people because of who they are, not because of who they say they are, or worse, don't say they are.
Luke Malek is a Kootenai County native and an attorney. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.