Informed decisions matter

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Next week, the presidential debates begin. The first debate is schedule for Monday, Sept. 26, and I hope all of you will be watching. That's pretty important. So far, we have seen the presidential candidates through the lens of social media.

The headlines read the same as any other clickbait shared on the internet. You'll be shocked when you hear what Donald Trump said now! Lying Hillary Clinton was caught lying once again! These token minorities support Trump, so clearly he isn't a racist! Is Clinton using a body double because of her health? Has she been replaced by a cyborg? Was she a robot all along?

I got a little carried away with some of those headlines, but they aren't too far from what I've been seeing on social media platforms. I've seen some of the most reasonable people I know share articles that give sensationalism a run for its money. Unfortunately, that's just what happens during presidential elections.

We all have our own opinions on politics. We have these same opinions when it's election season and when it's not. As many of you have gathered, I'm not the biggest fan of Trump. I find him xenophobic, sexist and generally unpleasant. Trump is more of an insult comedian than anything else, but he's not even very good at that. I'm astounded that the race is considered close, especially when looking at Clinton's credentials. I believe she's incredibly qualified to be our next president, and certainly more qualified than Trump ever will be. That's my opinion.

Many of you in our community share the opposite opinion, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. If you support Trump, that's your right. Our country was founded on free speech, among other freedoms. I can disagree with your political opinions and support your right to express them. When you really think about it, we're more alike than different. We're especially alike in the way our opinions affect what we identify with online.

Articles and memes about our presidential candidates are shared so frequently because they appeal strongly to most of us. It doesn't always matter if the story is true. Sometimes, it doesn't matter if it seems a little false. If you really dislike somebody, you aren't likely to doubt it when someone shares an article about this awful thing they did or said. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else. When I see a post that's pro-Clinton, I like it. I also like it when people share articles about the crazy things Trump says, because I believe he's unfit to be our next president. My reporting is unbiased, but my personal views will never be. That's OK. That's part of being human.

That said, I'm going to try to go into the presidential debates with an open mind. I'm not sure I'll ever think Trump is qualified to be our president. He wasn't even a very good reality TV show host. It's possible that I'll disagree with everything he says in the debates, but I'll never know if I don't watch them. The best thing about the debates is that we can finally judge the candidates based on how they stack up against each other. We will be able to use their own words to decide if we agree with them. Yes, Clinton has had several scandals. Donald Trump has, too. You can go on Facebook right now and probably find a meme or two describing these scandals.

Next Monday, you'll get to see something different. You'll see how the candidates speak, how they argue and how qualified they really are. Don't miss that opportunity. You can have whatever opinion you want, and you can vote for whichever candidate you want. It's the way you form that opinion that matters most.

When you go to the polls in November, I hope you'll cast an informed vote. Paying attention to the debates is a pretty good way to start.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com