Well, here we are again, four years later and another presidential election cycle about to end. Four years ago I thought that Hillary Clinton would win by a landslde and was suprised as anyone else that Trump won. I make no such prediction this time around. I won't bother rehashing anything about Trump or Biden either. No, what prompted me to write a blog entry this morning is an opinion article in USA Today that I totally agree with. Titled "Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden deserve a honeymoon from cynicism" and written by James Bovard, it highlights an attitude I've admitted to for many decades and have had a sort of love/hate relationship with: cynicism.
I've always been a cynic. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always look a gift horse in the mouth. The light at the end of the tunnel is probably a train. Like many things in life it can be a positive or negative force. When it prevents me from taking a chance on someone's goodness it's negative. When it keeps me from making a questionable purchase it's positive. Politically I have always been an independent, never fully believing the publicity from either party. Many times history shows that politicians do good things mostly from enlightened self-interest as opposed to altruism. Who really believes anything that national politicians say these days? My favorite line from the article is this: "... cynicism is a natural blowback to deceit and corruption." After hundreds of years of lies from politicians cynicism is the instinctive response.
So regardless of who wins next week (or whenever they agree that all the ballots are counted), I will look sideways at our politicians as I always do and consider what they actually do and have done, as opposed to what they say they will do. Our news organizations are built on that principle no matter what their natural bias is. They question motives of people in the public eye and we readers in turn review media's conclusions with a jaundiced eye. Too many lies from all have left us in this position.
You might be asking yourself, "is that any way to live?" It's a good question. In light of what I've written above, I see no particular reason to change. Skepticism is healthy considering all the deceit that floods us every day. But I'm not a cynic in all aspects of my life. I find I still trust people that I come face to face with and get to know. I want people to be better than what a negative cynic might expect, so I try and treat people with respect and be positive when I interact with them. I fight my cynical tendency with kindness and try to go beyond myself when interacting with people that are different from me. And you know what? It works. A kind word, a thoughtful act of help, letting someone go ahead of you - little things like that bring out what's better in people. This is a biblical lesson you know. Proverbs 15:1 states "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (ESV) - a very well quoted proverb but one that is quite true.
On this last day in October, with the political landscape possibly changing (locally and/or nationally), use your cynicism as a power for good. "Trust, but verify" as the old military axiom goes. But in your interactions with people, try a little kindness. You might be surprised at the results.