Think, Think, Think - Martha Carr

The upcoming elections all have one thing in common. There's a higher than average level of hysteria about what it all means. The constant analysis from every corner of the media and the steady stream of TV ads is wearing us all out. Instead of making for a richer discussion about health care, new jobs or immigration, we've gotten bogged down in mass worry.

We are spending a lot of time thinking about what's not happening.

The question that the media and politicians want to stir up isn't about solving what's right in front of us, but an open-ended query about whether or not we can stop unknown catastrophes in the future. There's a list of tempting choices, like possible terrorists on our soil, or Wall Street running amok, or health care being denied to seniors.

That one about Wall Street gives me a pause occasionally.

However, we can only create change in the day that we're actually in, by taking the next small step in front of us. Looking out at the horizon and worrying, generally leads to doing nothing at all. Besides, most of what we fret about never actually happens.

Even worse, while we're so busy trying to prognosticate, we miss opportunities to build something that would improve, enrich and stretch the boundaries of our communities for the better.

Imagine if all of those early pioneers had first worried about what might happen when heading westward. They'd never have left at all.

If we were to just insist that the topics be kept to what each politician plans to do next, we'd finally have a clearer picture of where they actually stand on each issue. It'd probably be more boring, but good government isn't supposed to be entertaining.

It's not too late to step back and take a look at where each candidate in your area stands on the issues that matter to you. Go to their individual web sites and start reading. Pay careful attention to whether there are any quantifiable suggestions about how they plan to accomplish the tasks. Or, are there loads of broad statements about what could go wrong or how things ought to look, without any specifics from them on how they'll accomplish their goals.

We don't need a lot of details, but get enough to see if the candidate really knows how to handle the role. That would be a minimum in a job interview. If any of the rest of us was asked in an interview how we'd strengthen the bottom line, and all we said was losing market share was bad for business, we'd be shown the door.

Yet, somehow we get turned around by the pundits and attack ads till we are so worried about what's not actually happening that we forget to ask the right questions. So, with the time we have left, visit your candidates' web sites and bring along a few questions that apply specifically to your current situation. Look for answers on health care that you need to know for the upcoming year, and see if they have specific steps to a solution.

Take the same approach to making sure the infrastructure, such as roads and schools, are up to date and reliable. We can even use the same process to determine if there's any kind of reasonable steps to create new jobs, or are they only pointing out we need them. Thanks, we already knew that one.

Then, prioritize the list in order of what needs doing most. Every family knows that there may be a long list, but they can't all get done at once for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is the budget.

Ask where the money is coming from to pay for all of it. Don't get distracted by the alarmists who insist that we need to do it now and can worry about paying for it later. Take into consideration how each decision will affect the community right around you. Armed with that much information, you'll be able to turn off your TV for awhile, and go hang out with friends and family instead. Make sure and vote, everyone.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com