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Opinion

Presidential race persuades with fear

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March 26, 2008

There is an old saying that says if you want to avoid an argument, stay away from three subjects: sex, religion and politics.

Well, I’m going to risk an argument and talk about politics and, right off, I’m going to put my biases on the table for all to see. I am a registered Democrat and a rabid anti-Bush-Administration voter. OK, that being said, I’ll move on.

I consider myself an open-minded person and try to take in news and opinion from at least three different papers, Web sites or newscasts per day. Though I would tend to agree more with someone like Keith Olberman on MSNBC, I do turn to Fox News occasionally and listen to Bill O’Reilly (though I am usually quite perturbed by this guy).

One thing that concerns me about news coverage and the current race for the presidency is our politicians’ overwhelming tendency to use the politics of fear to sway the voters.

When I was in college it was the Cold War. As the Soviet empire crumbled, I thought for sure that China would immediately replace it in the fearmongers’ repertoire. Though China has indeed come into this group’s focus, it is radical Islamic fundamentalism and the terror associated with this fringe that takes center stage when the politics of fear rears its ugly head.

Though I can’t quote the source, I have read that the average American is twice as likely to be struck by lightning TWICE than to ever be the victim of terrorism.

With a defense budget larger than the rest of the world’s defense budgets combined, it would seem that we are relatively safe in our beds (at three in the morning).

Despite this figure, most Americans list national security/terrorism as the issue most on their minds in the average election campaign, though it can take second to the economy when things are not looking good (as is the case now).

I don’t blame people for worrying about our country’s safety, but it occurs to me that there are far more pressing issues to consider. Obviously the economy would be one, our nation’s image in the eyes of the world would be another, health care for everyone has to be way up on the list, AIDS, poverty, global warming… the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, the candidates return time and time again to the politics of fear to woo the voters. This plays to the masses and the tendency to be able to convince most voters that they have to ignore the problems that hit closest to home and concentrate most of their concern on this one issue.

I hope you’ve noticed that I have not accused one side or the other of this pandering. Both sides do it! I have to admit that more issues are being debated than in previous elections, but the overwhelming majority of the debates are being spent on an issue that, frankly, doesn’t occupy a great deal of my concern at this time.

I would much prefer a week’s worth of fighting in Iraq be spent on the roads and bridges in this nation (one billion dollars spent on our infrastructure would just about cover Minnesota alone).

My point in this diatribe is to encourage the students, faculty and staff (and hopefully their families) to be sure and keep eyes and ears open and not allow the politics of fear to overwhelm their decision making.

We do need to keep a watchful eye on our security—no mistake about that. I just feel there are other issues out there that we could be spending our time on much more wisely.

Drink lots of water!

Bill Henderson is the head coach of swimming and diving at UWRF and serves as the athletic department’s equipment manager. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and his master’s in physical education from Sacramento State in California.