The doorbell rings.
On your porch are several cute kids dressed up in costume.
You hand them candy. One kid - perhaps 4 of 5 years of age - hands you something back.
How nice, you think. You look at it. The piece of paper is a fake dollar bill. You look at it closer. It slams President Obama.
“How dare a parent use a tiny little boy to disrespect the president!” you think to yourself. “No matter what you think of him, he is still our president.”
That scenario happened to Sonya Beard, who had that reaction after trick-or-treaters stopped by her Manteca home Wednesday.
Sonya, at age 76, remembers a lot of things. There were the dark days as a child when the world was at war. There was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of a president, the attempted assassination of two others, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil strife, the terrorist attacks on the United States, and other dark moments including the Great Recession and massive foreclosures of family homes that we are slowly emerging from underneath.
You’ve got to wonder what values we are teaching our children.
The answer, of course, is as close as your TV or mailbox.
With five days to go until Election Day, no less than four dozen political mailers have made their way into my postal box. About a third are vicious. Strike that. They’re all obnoxious.
What does it say about someone who wants your vote that they will search for the ugliest and most repulsive photograph they can find of their opponent to splash across a mailer? Then there’s the pièce de résistance: torturously twisting an opponent’s position in order to scare the dickens out of you as you read it. There is a reason they’re called hit pieces. They are designed and distributed by political bullies with little regard for respect or fairness.
The TV commercials are worse. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “There are three kinds of lies: lies; damned lies, and political commercials.”
Even commercials zinging an opponent in a manner that is halfway funny reek of contempt and disrespect.
Low brow political discourse is nothing new. It’s as old as the republic itself. In many ways, what we are subjected to today is much tamer than that of 200 years ago. The big difference today is that it has become so pervasive we can’t escape it even during a once-a-year adventure designed for kids such as trick-or-treating.
We are all guilty of it to a degree.
But we have made it so personal and we so viciously attack anyone who disagrees with us or supports another ideological candidate with so much venom that the bite lingers long after the balloting has ended.
And we wonder why it is now so difficult to govern this nation.
We have turned it into all about ourselves instead of all about us. Governing is no longer something done between elections. Instead it is pure political posturing on both sides of the aisle.
Not too long ago when real political titans clashed — such as the leader of the modern American conservative movement Barry Goldwater and Old Guard liberal Hubert Humphrey in the US Senate — they buried the hatchet after a debate and moved on. The bottom line was America first, which meant falling in line after struggling to reach a decision. It wasn’t wholesale abandonment of principles or values. Instead it was a tactical acknowledgment that non-stop full blown dissension undermines the ability to govern. It can lead to a rudderless country just as much as one party running roughshod over another because they can.
Every vote wasn’t the proverbial line in the sand.
It’s too bad politicians don’t stop for a moment and reflect what their grandmother would think of their behavior.
Unless she’s Cruella de Ville or “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley, she probably implored them while growing up to “be sweet.”
Nowhere is it written that the prerequisite of being a leader - or wanting to be one - requires you to forgo any semblance of being a gentleman or a lady.
Nor should one feel compelled to use a child to poison a festive event such as trick-or-treating with body slam politics, no matter how witty the adult thinks they are being.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.