Thursday, October 7, 2004

Oh, the humanity. I can't wait for Election Day. Yeah, I'm dying to know who our next president will be, and hope it's not the current guy, but in general I'm just so ready to get past the bickering, sniping and sloganeering that passes for political discourse these days. You see, the last couple weeks, while my editor's been on vacation, it's fallen to me to approve most of the letters to the editor that come in to the paper. During an election year, with presidential, state, local issues on the ballot, it's a frickin' flood of letters. I've been averaging anywhere between 20-40 a day recently. And let me tell you, it's gripping reading.

Most aren't worth the paper they're written on -- regurgitated talking points endorsing candidate A or B. They're just dull, and I fail to see how they persuade anybody but the writer's immediate family. Then there are just the pure savage ones, using slash-and-burn venom to attack the candidate they're against. Some of them are just plain kooky and get tossed out entirely -- for being too long or violating common decency or just being bizarro. I'm thinking of this rejected 4-page handwritten gem the other week that managed to quote extensively from the book of Revelations, let me know that AIDS is God's punishment, the Jews will burn soon, and warned of the end times, before finishing up to tell us to vote for Bush because God put him there. Hey, if it's the end times, why vote at all? The occasional letter that actually makes an original or thoughtful point stands out like a diamond in the sewers.

Anyway, reading so much dogma just sickens you that much more of the whole circus. It's part of it, and part of the democratic process, but sometimes it's hard to hear the "truth" for all the noise in between. I put my bias aside to read the letters with an open mind and only can those that violate the aforementioned rules. You just kind of shut off the opinionated part of your brain when you do this. It's like being a Stepford Wife.

Best of all are what other editorial page editors call "astroturf" -- campaign-created form letters spammed out from all over the country. I got one, pro-Kerry, last week that was the exact same letter from four different people. Both sides are doing it, and see nothing odd about the idea of having someone sign their name to a letter not actually authored by them. When we call people on it, their response is often "but I agree with it!", as if that makes sanctioned plagiarism OK. I at least respect the people who go to the trouble to actually WRITE a letter far more than those who just rubber-stamp one because they're too brainwashed to think for themselves. A month from today, it'll all be over, for better or worse, and regardless of the results I'll be happy to put this ugly political year behind me.

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