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A four-way solution to ballot blues, incivility

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Chris Edwards editorial thumbBy Chris Edwards
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We as a nation are ramping up another political season. Credit our short attention spans and our willingness to be distracted by hyperbole, but every four years marks, yet again, “the most important election of our lifetime.”

Our unwillingness to think past election cycles could prove to be our undoing, but I’ll stand on that soapbox another day.

Elections are typically an exciting time in the news business, and as luck would have it, 2024 happens to be the year that the seat in the Oval Office is up for grabs. Some of you, by the time you read this, may have already cast your ballots for the March primary, courtesy of the early voting period.

There is great power in that vote, and making your voice heard as a citizen. When Jimmy Carter made his farewell address from the presidency, he stated that although he would, in a few days, lay down his official duties of the office he held, he would, soon, “take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President: the title of citizen.”

Much of the conversation, nationally, is focused toward the general election in November, or more specifically, who will occupy the White House. As the race to November ramps up, neighbors will engage in the new national pastime of ripping one another apart, especially on social media, over things that, in the long run, have such little impact that the rational minded folks are left scratching heads, wondering “why?”.

The current generation of young folks probably doesn’t realize this, but there was a time when we didn’t yell at one another over nonsense, when there was civility in our discourse. There was a time when we interacted and talked among ourselves about family; sports; music; food; fishing; the weather and so many other relatable topics.

A friend of mine was telling me about how an ill-mannered buffoon accosted him at a fundraising event earlier this week featuring Gov. Abbott. The reason for the interaction: my friend deigned to ask a question of Abbott that, although based in objective fact (i.e. reality) did not align with the man’s viewpoint.

As a voter, what interests me is what can be done for the good of the people and finding candidates who are running for their respective offices with that willingness to serve, and not their party affiliations.

No matter what race you are voting for, or ballot measure you are looking at, the maze of elections can be quite confusing. Luckily there is a solution to help you make that choice.

The service organization Rotary International has a moral code that can be applied to pretty much every aspect of life including, yes, voting.

The Four-Way Test, which is used by Rotarians around the world as a test of “things we think, say or do” was created by a businessman in the early 1930s by the name of Herbert J. Taylor, who developed the test a step toward saving his struggling aluminum products distribution company.

Taylor’s simple four-way test consisted of these questions:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test was later adopted by Rotary International in the 1940s and is likely the most inclusive set of basic humanitarian ethics known to any group. It is devoid of partisanship and not beholden to any faith, but it can be used in any situation, not just in business or personal relationships.

Commit these questions to memory or clip out the four questions above and bring them with you to the polling place or apply them thusly as you are gathering information on how to cast your votes prior to heading out to do so.

Those four questions transcend any cultural or religious boundaries and they are still as relevant today as they were when Herbert Taylor wrote them on an index card so many years ago. Those questions, simple as they might be, involve depth, perspective and maturity that should be required before casting any vote.

Putting the myriad of options to the Four-Way Test can eliminate a great deal of confusion and/or queasy feelings one might have after begrudgingly voting for one candidate just to spite another. It also clears up that “lesser of two evils” mentality that affects many.

Hopefully the coming election results will yield officeholders and policies which will be truthful, fair, beneficial to all concerned and will bring us back from the ever-increasing divide.

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