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Join hands and sing Kumbaya

Great news, people; just a few more days, and the presidential campaigns will finally be over! Regardless of who wins, I think we can all be thankful for that.

Is there anything positive to be said about a process that takes an American hero like John McCain and, through an endless series of increasingly bitter and negative attacks on his opponent, strips him of his dignity and integrity? Or that paints a decent and dedicated public servant like Barack Obama as some sort of radical socialist and terrorist-by-association?

The insinuations, half-truths and outright lies coming from all quarters have made a mockery of both campaigns’ pledges to keep things clean and avoid negativity, but I imagine we should have expected that. They are politicians, after all.

Much more disturbing is what this campaign season has revealed about us, the American public. This election, more than any other I’ve seen, has exposed us as mean-spirited, divisive and downright ugly people, and I, for one, am absolutely ashamed by our behavior.

I’m an avid reader of both CNN.com and the New York Times website, but as those are both considered left-leaning, I also read FoxNews.com just to keep things “fair and balanced,” which Fox News doesn’t even make an attempt to do, despite that being its slogan.

I read commentaries from as many pundits as I can, making sure to check out the backgrounds of each one so I know their political biases, and then I peruse the reader comments responding to each. That is where things seem to go horribly, horribly wrong.

Surely we can disagree on McCain and Obama without resorting to comments like this one, from a woman responding to a FoxNews.com article:

“Those of you who are voting for Obama have nothing to lose. You don’t make more than 200K and you never will. Go ahead and taint the American dream. You have to because the jealousy that you feel about those of us who do live it justifies the vote in your minds. Disregard his radical ties and relish in the fact that a few hundred dollars more a month will CHANGE your lives. Little dreams, little lives and little people. You are an embarrassment to real Americans.”

No, ma’am, you’re an embarrassment to real Americans. Real Americans understand that, despite what Sarah Palin would have you believe, every part of America is “pro-America.” Every part of America loves this country and believes in what it stands for. Making over $200,000 a year doesn’t make you any more of a “real” American than does having white skin or owning a gun or listening to country music or living in a small town.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not claiming that it’s just Republicans and conservatives who are contributing to this problem. I’ve read countless reports of liberals and Democrats keying people’s cars because they displayed a McCain bumper sticker, or vandalizing property because there was a McCain sign in the yard. It’s sad and pathetic, and both sides are equally guilty.

It’s ironic that before campaign rallies — Obama’s, McCain’s, Palin’s and Joe Biden’s — the audience and the candidates all recite the pledge of allegiance. Apparently the words “one nation, indivisible” don’t mean anything anymore. We have become divided, and the media, bloggers, public forums and Sarah Palin seem to be doing everything they can to ensure we stay that way.

The right is nothing but gun-toting rednecks and thieving corporate fat cats, but they’re the only true Americans in their own minds. The left is nothing but academic weenies and lazy welfare cases, and if they had their way we’d all be communists. Blah, blah, blah.

I’m sick and tired of it, and I’m not buying it anymore. I don’t care if you’re Rush Limbaugh or Keith Olbermann. I don’t care if you live in New York City or the smallest town in the most remote part of Mississippi. We’re all Americans, damnit. We all want to make this country a better place. So maybe we don’t all agree on how best to do that. Big fat hairy deal.

If you have an opinion and must express it, do so civilly and with respect for other people’s opinions. You’ll be much more likely to be taken seriously if you do. Otherwise, do everyone a favor and shut up already.

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Todd Hartley

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