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Inspiring Peak Performance

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September 8, 2008, reprint.
Why do people support a particular political candidate? Is it an act of giving because we want the person elected to enjoy the perks and benefits of office? Or is our vote a generous attempt to help him or her get a little raise in pay so they can better support their family? Hardly. Only the wealthy can run for president. Honest Abe Lincoln would remain in obscurity today; his net worth insufficient to support his ambition.
Peel the onion. People vote for the leader they think will get them what they want. Most Americans want the same things including: security, peace, safety, opportunities to advance, freedom, equality, quality education for their children, respect in the international community, and a share in the American dream-prosperity. As a nation, we are divided down the middle about how to get these good things. It is amazing to me that two people can look at the same issue and have diametrically opposite opinions about how to move forward.
All we see is filtered through our worldview, but in politics emotions seem to rule. We tend to keep the issues unclouded with facts. Some things are subjective; there can be 1,000 ways to skin a cat. Playing on the feelings of voters means the real kingmakers are those skilled in the use of media to tell a compelling story. Millions upon millions of dollars are spent on 30 second and one minute advertising spots. Talking heads spin based on which sound-bite they choose to air. For many citizens, selecting the most powerful leader in the world is like choosing the best clothes detergent. Should I vote for Tide or Cheer? It depends on which jingle I like best and which model / actor is most attractive to me.
Candidates from both parties pander to their constituents. You have to tell people what they want to hear if you want to get elected. In the booth on election day, the countless speeches setting forth policies, positions, and proposals will have done little to change voters' opinions long hardened by party affiliation. It is sad that too many Americans are uneducated about the real issues. It is tempting to buy votes by making promises that may be impossible to fulfill or, in reality, not in the best interests of the nation as a whole. Power is seductive. She cloaks herself as altruism and service, but, too often, stripped naked, she intoxicates and corrupts. It becomes easy-necessary-to justify the means by the end in politics.
It seems to me there is one overarching issue facing our nation that is clouded in rhetoric, but obvious at the core. This is the issue: are there any absolutes or just choices? Are there clear, immutable definitions of right and wrong that should always guide our collective conscience, or is morality relative-subject to interpretation according to where we find ourselves in history and the will of the majority? It appears we are split down the middle-about half of us sincerely believe we the people are the final arbiter of right and wrong; and about half of us look back to the beliefs that were once foundational. The Declaration of Independence speaks about the Laws of Nature and Nature's God in the first sentence. It was self-evident, obvious, true, to be taken for granted to the Founders that our Rights come from our Creator.
The notion of a Creator is unsavory to some because it stands to reason that if an all-powerful, all-knowing Being gave us life, He might want a little say in how we live. Without core values anchored to something greater than ourselves, we become like a reed shaken in the wind. I have often wondered how people feel inspired by leaders who do not share their choices only their right to their choices. The leaders say something like, "Deep inside, I do not believe abortion is right, but I would die for you to have the right to make that bad choice-the one I don't agree with." This is nonsense birthed from pseudo-intellectualism.
These last decades have brought a fundamental change to our national soul regarding morality. Some see it as progress, the kind of progress seen in an increasingly secular Europe. Some, like me, see it as a dangerous move away from the God who has blessed this great nation. To me, the greatest choice-in any context-has to do with core values and character. We've got to get that part right. Choose wisely.