The political climate of 2008 is even more overwrought, it seems to me, than ever before. Certainly the choice of President of the United States is important, but in the heat of battle, more and more people are losing their heads and saying things that should never be said. Pundits on network TV routinely attack the personal lives of candidates, making such vicious insinuations that one has to wonder why. (Think I'm kidding? Look up the remark Ann Coulter made last winter about John Edwards and the death of his son.)
A recent email going around now is castigating Michelle Obama for the senior thesis she wrote as an undergraduate at Princeton University. The email message purports to have the credibility of snopes.com behind it, yet when I went to snopes.com myself, I found the email to be quite a bit off base. See http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/thesis.asp
Michelle Obama was 22 years old when she wrote her senior thesis in 1985. She was a college student, getting ready to graduate with her Bachelor's degree and worrying about getting into graduate school. That's 23 years ago. For most adults, the time period between college graduation and middle age constitutes a lifetime of experience and a world of change in perspective. Mrs. Obama is 45 years old now and a different person. Do we have any fact-based reason to not believe that her perspective now would be, if she is an average person like you and me, based on that of a seasoned adult and not an immature undergraduate?
Should anyone's potential as First Lady be predicated on a viewpoint expressed before she'd even graduated from college? I would hate to be judged on some of the boneheaded opinions I held when I was in my early 20's. I would hate to have someone accuse me of thinking the same way now as I did then, because it would be patently untrue. Some of my opinions at that time were due to an uninformed and immature view of the world, some could be chalked up to an attempt at trying to please someone else. Can you say, in all honesty, that none of the opinions you expressed in the past have changed? Are you exactly the same person you were in your early 20's? Studies show that the human brain is still developing during a person's early 20's -- right up to the age of 25 or so. What does that say about our thinking at that time in our lives?I'm not defending Mrs. Obama (or Mr. Obama for that matter), nor am I expressing in this entry an intent to vote for one candidate or another. Rather I'm using this situation as an example of how crazy and damaging the political process has become. Candidates should be judged on the record they amass during their time as adults in the real world, not when they were college students barely out of high school.
And I think, more than ever, that our culture has lost sight of the fact that the candidates are human beings. A campaign does not constitute "open season," not on John McCain and his family and not on Barack Obama and his family, nor on any other public person. Spreading rumors and innuendo is wrong, no matter who it is and, quite frankly, no matter what they've done.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the Golden Rule. That should apply during a political campaign, too.