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Monday, November 10, 2008

Looking at the Election Through Eyes of Faith

I normally do not copy and paste entire articles but a friend and former colleague wrote a great piece for the Amarillo Globe-News and I thought I would pass it along. Have a great Monday.

Lead Strong,Shawn...

Election observations from the faith/belief/ethics perspective:

First, while truth is the first casualty in any election, this one wasn't as distorted as most. The 1800 election pitting Thomas Jefferson against John Adams - both heroes of American history - is my favorite for negativity and distortion. Despite our romanticized remembrance of the founding fathers, our current politicians are more likely to play fair and tell the truth than our heroes of old.

Second, this year's election did have the most biased media coverage, at least in modern history. The Pew Research Center (a highly credible organization) found 36 percent of the national media reports on Barack Obama were positive, 35 percent neutral and 29 percent negative. By contrast, 57 percent of national news reports on John McCain were negative, 29 percent neutral and 14 percent positive.I doubt the bias was intentional.

Still, you may have sensed as I did that national journalists couldn't quite fathom why anyone wouldn't support Obama. Indeed, Pew found 70 percent of Americans perceived the national media as favoring Obama. Even Democrats rated the coverage biased in favor of Obama, and "Saturday Night Live" parodied the absurdly positive coverage. (For context, in 2004 Pew found 50 percent of Americans perceived media bias favoring John Kerry.)

Third, religious and gender prejudice is alive and well in America. Obama is not Muslim, and even if he was, by constitutional guarantee, his religious affiliation does not determine his fit for office. That the accusations - though false - reinforced many votes against him speaks loudly of lingering religious discrimination in America.

In light of this, I wonder if, as a Mormon, Mitt Romney had a chance of being elected. As a Jew, was Joe Lieberman disadvantaged?We apparently are willing to accept religious apathy and demonstrated indifference from our candidates but not deviance from our poorly defined sense of "mainstream" Christianity.Similarly, women are still significantly disadvantaged. No male candidate had to waste time fending off comments regarding hair, wardrobe or glasses. That the media - purportedly an "enlightened" group - found Hillary Clinton's pantsuits and Sarah Palin's wardrobe worth reporting, speaks volumes as to where we are on gender.

Finally, I was distressed by McCain campaign stops that brought forth hateful catcalls from attendees, but I was equally impressed that McCain - even in the face of "boos" from his own supporters - rightly asserted that Obama is a good man and not worthy of the slanderous accusations.We need more of that. We need our leaders to step forward and return civility to public discourse. At the end of the day, both McCain and Obama are decent men. Both are flawed, with positions that trouble many. Regardless, they are decent men pursuing what they believe to be the best interests of the country.May God bless and heal them both.

James Hallmark is provost/vice president for academic affairs at West Texas A&M University.

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