I’ve just finished my nightly national radio show talking about all the negative political ads that are hitting the airwaves with a vengeance as we enter the final weeks before the election. I’ve seen an ad showing Rep. Nick Rahall’s Arab American background. I’ve seen another showing young Hispanic-looking males staring eerily into the camera inferring that Sen. Harry Reid supports illegal immigrants over the people of Nevada. After the "Swift Boat" veterans dared to question John Kerry’s Purple Heart; I guess asking how low can you go is futile.
I am embarrassed by these ads, by the negativity, the mudslinging. I am further embarrassed that they’re effective, particularly for undecided voters. Why can’t candidates run on the merit of their accomplishments or point out the solutions to the problems they claim their opponents have created? Why are so many people who want to “take their country back” buying this trash? Especially when this trash is being paid for by the very corporations the people claim to want to take their country back from!? It is a poor reflection of the American voter when these ads are successful. It shows Americans as uneducated on the issues, the candidates, and what these candidates and their party stand for. In journalism they say “if it bleeds, it leads.” I guess in politics we can say, “if you make your opponent bleed, you’ll win.” If these ads, funded by anonymous donors through the numerous nonprofit organizations that have popped up overnight (thank you Supreme Court) are telling us one thing, it’s the candidate with the most money wins. And that America is very sad, very scary, and very embarrassing.
So I sit back and I switch on my television. I see that the Chilean rescue efforts are just beginning. For the first time in 68 days, the first of 33 men might see the light of day. The Chilean president who promised to get them out by Christmas will be there to welcome and embrace each and every one. Watching this I am reminded of April this year, when 29 coal miners died in the devastating explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine. I remember a coal miner being interviewed while he was going to work as his buddies’ bodies were being brought to the surface. How could he go back to work at a time like this was the reporter’s question. His answer? The shareholders want their profits. Yes they do. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? Despite the citations, despite the fines, the production (not the show) must go on. For the profits. It’s embarrassing.
So back to the names and faces on my television. Have you heard of these?
Florencio Avalos, Mario Supulveda, Juan Illanes, Carlos Mamani, Jimmy Sanchez, Osman Araya, Jose Ojeda; Claudio Yanez, Mario Gómez, Alex Vega, Jorge Galleguillos, Edison Pena, Carlos Barrios, Victor Zamora, Victor Segovia, Daniel Herrera, Omar Reygadas, Esteban Rojas, Pablo Rojas, Dario Segovia, Yonni Barrios, Samuel Avalos, Carlos Bugueno, Jose Henriquez, Renan Ávalos, Claudio Acuna; Franklin Lobos, Richard Villarroel, Juan Carlos Aguilar, Raúl Bustos, Pedro Cortez, Ariel Ticona, Luis Urzua.
They aren’t running for office and you won’t see their names or faces in any political ads. What these men have done, if only for a moment, has put life’s priorities in perspective. For the people of Chile, for it’s politicians, and for some of us throughout the world.
As for me, these men remind me that it’s no big deal when I cant find my cell phone. It is a big deal when corporations ignore citations and fines and care more about profits than people. And that it’s my responsibility not only to vote to keep people (like coal miners) safe; it’s my responsibility to be informed on the issues and familiarize myself with the candidates. Oh, so what should you do when those negative political ads come on? Change the channel. Maybe to a story with a happy ending. How about a story where 33 coal miners who were trapped for 68 days are all brought out alive, are found to be healthy, and can finally be embraced by their families once again? Nah, it would never sell. No one would watch it. There’s no blood.