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Political Pinocchios would be wise to zip their lips

March 31, 2014

By: Lynda Hollenbeck

My mother-in-law's philosophy was basically this: "If you can't say something good about somebody, don't say anything at all."
The worth of this concept becomes especially significant during political campaigns. It would be a giant step for mankind if all candidates were to embrace the thinking of the late Winnie Hollenbeck.
She truly practiced what she preached. Once when a ne'er-do-well died in her hometown, someone pondered what words of kindness might be said at his funeral.
Winnie offered this suggestion: "Well, he was the best whistler in town."
We have months ahead of us to hear the downgrading the candidates will sling against their opponents. It would be so nice if they subscribed to the thinking that "silence is golden."
The top awards for ugly campaigning should go to the individuals who run blind ads criticizing their opponents, or any office-holders.. The fact that they are unsigned discounts them immediately for most people — not exactly what the scribes intended.
If you're going to criticize someone publicly — whether fairly or unfairly — at least be brave enough to say who you are.
There was a time when newspapers published unsigned letters to the editor. Fortunately, that practice has been relegated to history. But social media has a field day with this practice.
It's so easy to sling the accusations and insults when you don't have to acknowledge who you are and take responsibility for hateful, often untrue words.
A few candidates wisely subscribe to the power of positive thinking and go for the "Nice Guy" approach. They get my vote every time.
Years ago I came up with a proposal for changing campaigns altogether. I proposed that all commentary should be subject to the treatment given contestants on the old TV Gong Show.
Before taking the podium, the candidates would be ordered to tout their own merits. Period. The first time one might slip and say his/her opponent's name, the gong would sound. This would serve as a warning.
Second time, there would be a double gong. A more serious warning.
Third time for a gong, the candidate would be outta there. Permanently, as in G-O-N-E. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just go to the house.
This, though, is the tactic for merely making mention of the opponent — not criticizing, whether truthfully or with malice and falsehoods aforethought.
With the first actual lie the candidate would tell, his/her nose would start to grow — just like Disney's Pinocchio. And with each lie that would follow, the nose would get longer. And longer.
At some point, the ears would follow suit, till the candidate would change on the outside to the grotesque being he/she probably was on the inside for having told the untruths in the first place.
Kind of like the old movie "The Picture of Dorian Gray." The uglier he was as a person, the uglier he became in his portrait.
My late spouse, who had a vivid imagination, came up with another suggestion a few years back. Most voters would like it, but the candidates would be horrified.
All elections, in Ed's perfect world, would be silent.
"From the moment the candidates announce, they can never say another word in public," Ed said.
Silent elections could be conducted in the same manner as a silent auction, he said.
"If the candidates ever speak publicly, they have to withdraw from the race," Ed said. "There would be no excuses acceptable. It would be silence all the way or they would have no chance for winning the office."
It's a pretty innovative idea, and the closer we get to election day, the better it sounds.
Maybe Ed should have left the pulpit for politics.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of the Benton Courier. lyndahol@yahoo.com

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