The weather changed toward autumn a bit this week in Platte County.
Our lawns and trees are green from the rains, something to cheer us up as the seasons roll ever too quickly past. But of course this year there is a painful, nagging intellectual and emotional fog hanging over us. It is a major election year, perhaps the most lowbrow one our generations will ever see.
We should be celebrating democracy and freedom.
You can look around the world and see places where they don’t exist in the abundance we enjoy. And many places without healthy democracy have violence, hunger, suffering and danger, too. So it seems that even we who have generally plenty of those things should be better at our own governance.
Perhaps we are in some ways, maybe more thanks to professional civil servants than the elected politicians. However, the tone, tenor and content of political advertising that assails us in this season makes voters appear pathetically intellectually weak.
With Labor Day weekend past, the full-fledge election advertising assault is upon us.
I find numbskull postcards in my mail. When I go to use the Internet, I see web ads rolling across the screen targeted for my zip code that use distorted facts and half truths to smear an opposing candidate.
Elections pitches are made as if everyone casting a ballot is an idiot easily swayed by negative insults with little basis in fact. And we’ll avoid the topic of big money from unknown sources footing the bill because that’s discouraging.
How do sane and sensible people survive the election season? Here’s my suggestions.
Turn off the TV and be quick about exiting nonsense on your computer. The invention of the mute and channel changing buttons are very handy if you must watch television. Keep the trash can handy for quick disposal of campaign mail. Avoid cable news shows.
But those steps leave extra time on a person’s hands. It’s autumn, and the cool weather makes us feel like being active, so here are some alternatives to election garble available in Platte County.
Do a small town tour.
Let’s face it. Many of us leave the driveway, head to a job in the city, return to the house at night and rarely break out of the routine route. When’s the last time you drove to Iatan, Dearborn, Edgerton and Camden Point?
Don’t just drive through. Park the car, get out, walk around a bit and ponder history, changes and what endures. Yes, they’re small. Some buildings are empty, but there’s both a past and a future for them, and a sort of irony that they stand as small-town America so close to the city and suburbia.
Consider it a change of pace.
Don’t forget Weston’s Apple Fest the first weekend of October.
There’s a reason it gets crowded some years. Weston is one of Missouri’s best preserved historic small towns, and residents there know how to throw a good street festival.
No talking heads on TV there. Real people walk about in the open air, live music and crafts, noble architecture, things that make you feel alive.
Go online to the website for Platte County Parks and Recreation.
Once there, study the trail map. The county’s parks staff has done a fine job implementing trails in a park system that still has room and need to grow. Go take a hike. If you’ve not been on the county’s trails, you will in for a pleasant surprise. Visit a park new to you, too.
New experiences are an uplifting antidote to bad politics.
Make a weekend or late afternoon visit to Park University in Parkville.
Find the historic Mackay Hall; you can’t miss its regal presence atop the bluff. I like to sit on the benches out front and watch the Missouri River valley and old downtown area below.
Think of how many politicians come and go, but good scenery is more lasting in memory.
Follow up with a walk along the trail bordering the Missouri River at the city’s English Landing and Platte Landing parks. The river’s size, power and ceaseless movement can make human endeavor seem more humble.
Lose yourself in a library.
The Mid-Continent Public Library has kept its past promises to patrons and voters. The system has a library in towns big and small throughout Platte County. If you’re tired of staring at the world on a cell phone screen, stop by the library’s magazine racks. It’s funny how pleasant old-fashioned reading can be.
Check out the new book arrivals or find an unread classic in the aisles. A library is a lot better place to find honest and useful information about the world than a political ad.
Finally, since the weather is looking up, spend some time just sitting on your porch or in the yard. Watch the world from a slower perspective. Wave to the neighbors, friendliness is a badly needed commodity during this election year.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.