Flush out the story or flush down your vote: How to be your own judge

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My best friend since first grade is a Superior Court Judge. I jumped at the chance to be a character witness at his confirmation hearing, knowing that he would always do his homework and make wise, honest judgments.

A few weeks after he was sworn in, I was ranting to him about something that made me angry. I was in a terrible mood and needed to validate my anger, because even temporary misery loves company.

When I asked his Honor if he agreed with me, he replied by asking a question of his own:

“Who am I to judge?”

My reply was profound and profane:

“YOU ... you are an actual judge! Who better to be judgmental than a judge?”

As laughable as the exchange was, it made me realize something about being judgmental versus using sound judgment in decision making. With the upcoming elections, it’s a good time to know the difference.

You cannot hold a grudge when it’s time to judge.

Sound judgment means making smart, humble decisions based on factual evidence while being judgmental means making rash, righteous choices based on emotion. Sadly, the latter is how too many people vote these days.

Take straight ticket voting for example. We have become a polarized, mean-spirited society and have embraced the “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” mentality. To ignore the qualifications and character of both Democrat and Republican candidates on the ballot is not ideology nor loyalty, but absurdity. Such blind loyalty may be the chief reason we have so many government leaders who lack vision.

It is totally illogical to think that each candidate on your favorite party’s ticket is automatically the best candidate to do the job. Some on the final ballot may not be the party’s endorsed candidate, but rather the lucky one who won the primary.

While major political parties put on a good show of fake unity after a hotly contested primary, most often it is just an uncomfortable marriage of convenience. Lasting, prosperous marriages are built upon mutual respect, shared values and common morality.

Believing candidates are true reflections of party ideals because they say they are is like believing that anyone wearing a white lab coat is a physician because they call themselves one. In other words, only evidence will verify the most worthy candidates.

Rise above the fray

Judicial benches are placed at the highest vantage point in the courtroom, above the fray, as divisive arguments are made. Judges serve as impartial observers by distancing themselves from the emotion of the moment in order to maintain their objectivity.

As voters, we too should strive to stay above the fray as candidates make their final arguments. We must distance ourselves from the false accusations and character assassinations that define modern politics, away from the powerful emotional triggers that hold rational thoughts hostage. Those are the kind of emotions that compel us to rush to judgement and make uninformed decisions instead of researching the facts and reviewing the evidence.

So, with this election upon us, how can we make our votes count? Or will we just blow another chance to validate our freedom? Freedom that we take for granted and others literally die for across the globe.

Judge for yourself, our nation and future generations.

Don’t let political parties, campaign consultants, special interest groups and possibly foreign countries manipulate your mind for their gains. It’s solely our responsibility to determine a candidate’s character and capabilities.

Not taking that responsibility as seriously as we should as a society is how we got where we are today. If we do not put in the effort to vet candidates ourselves and do the homework required to make informed votes, then we will keep getting them ineffective governance we deserve.

Labels belong on packages, not people or politicians.

First, remove labels from the deliberation process. It does not matter what candidates call themselves (liberal, conservative, etc.) or how their opponents label them (alternative right, socialist, etc.). In politics and life, only actions speak louder than words. Chose records over rhetoric.

Next, sift through the evidence by researching individual candidates’ voting records if they have currently or previously served in government. If they have not, analyze their achievements in the private sector instead.

The best judges and juries follow where the facts lead them. I know candidate research sounds like a lot of work given our busy lives, but it is worthy of our time if we truly cherish the freedom we enjoy; freedom my father fought for in WWII, as did hundreds of thousands who died across generations of war.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, a little pre-election deliberation is the very least we can do to honor their sacrifices made on all our behalf.

But then again, who am I to judge?