With Election Day happening next week in the United States, I hope that my readers in the States are making plans to vote, have made plans to vote, or have already voted. While there is no presidential election on the ballot this year, unlike last year, many of us have races at the local and state level—races involving representatives who, if elected, will in many ways have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives than who is elected as President of the United States every four years.
However, with Election Day coming up, I think we should talk about more than just the importance of voting. We should talk about the importance of parents having not just themselves, but also their kids, involved in the political process.
But why? Hasn’t it been said that the two topics to avoid at the dinner table are religion and politics?
While I understand why people want to avoid talking about politics at the dinner table (politics can be so stressful, frustrating, and at times infuriating), it is important to talk about politics at dinner (and other times), including and especially around your children, so that they can get exposure to:
Who their representatives are, at all levels of government
What some of the major issues are, at least from the perspectives of the parents or guardians
Who is running for office, and therefore who they may find themselves being represented by, in the future
What the process of voting and deciding on which candidates to vote for may look like
In addition to talking, there are other things that parents can do to expose their kids to the political process, such as:
Listening on television to news stories about candidates in various races (with the caveat that some news sources offer more balanced coverage of the races than other sources)
Watching a televised debate for a political office with kids
Taking children with you to the polls
Taking children to see legislative activity going on, whether it be at the local, state, or federal level
Some kids may end up largely agreeing with their parents’ political stances while others may end up largely disagreeing. And some may end up somewhere in between. That is to be expected, but what should not be expected is to not talk about politics with a kid one is raising, so that they end up being ill-informed on politics and the people running for various political offices when they are all grown up.
After all, the goal is for the children to grow up as kind, caring, and well-informed citizens of the areas, country, and world they reside in. Not doing all we can to ensure this would be an injustice to the kids and to the world.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with the response to my “what is” post last week about gaslighting. I never know when a post will resonate with my readers, and I could tell that my post resonated with quite a few of you. It’s unfortunate that so many related to the post because of their experiences as victims of gaslighting, but I’m also hopeful that some people will come to a better understanding of their experiences through reading that post.
However, I think it is worth doing a follow-up post because of things I’ve learned even since last Monday, and things people should learn as well, about gaslighting in contexts other than one-on-one relationships with other people.
In saying this, it is worth remembering that gaslighting is “a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.”
Phrases like the following can be commonplace:
“Of course that didn’t happen. You’re being crazy.”
“Your mind must be playing games.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“You’re being too sensitive.”
These challenges to one’s reality, memory, and perceptions happen a lot in relationships, as I said in my post last Monday, but they can also happen in other contexts.
One other context in which gaslighting can happen is politics—something that a couple of the comments in response to my post pointed out last Monday. When a politician makes a person, or a whole group of people, question their own reality, that is political gaslighting. In fact, as controversial as it may be for me to say this, I think that the American people are a victim of President Donald Trump’s gaslighting regarding the election results—he is trying to get the entire country to doubt the basic reality that he lost, so that he could be president for four more years (or for life). Thankfully, no amount of gaslighting can result in giving Trump an election that he undoubtedly lost, but in the meantime the American people have to deal with the fact that he has successfully convinced a group of people of a reality that simply does not exist. And, when you have someone with a large platform who engages in an act of political gaslighting, the result is that a group of people gets convinced of a reality that does not exist (as is the case here with the election and President Trump).
Yet another context that gaslighting can exist is in the experiences of people with disabilities, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and other groups that face discrimination. Reading a post from Jackie at Disability & Determination helped me recognize that gaslighting absolutely exists in this context. Jackie’s post talked about gaslighting in the context of the disability community—it is painfully common in the disability community for someone to question or doubt the reality that there are certain things you aren’t able to do, or at least not do in the same way, as an able-bodied individual (or dismiss the reality of the disability in general). It can exist in the context of LGBTQ+ individuals through people who counter their perceptions of their sexual or gender identity, in the context of Black people through people who try to divert attention to how difficult they also have things in life, in the context of poor people by countering any notion that they are working hard yet struggling to still get by (saying that they simply need to work harder), and much more. Groups of people face discrimination and are gaslit about their own experiences of discrimination—a double whammy.
There may be other major manifestations of gaslighting that I did not cover either in last week’s post or this post; if so, please let me know in the comments section below. However, it is clear to me now that in addition to gaslighting rearing its ugly head in relationships, it can also rear its ugly head in other forms, such as in politics and the experiences of people in groups that face discrimination.
He hasn’t even taken his oath of office yet, and I’m already writing about a concern I have with the Biden administration. Yes, I voted for him (and even wrote a blog post about my planning to vote for him), but this doesn’t mean that I (or anyone else) should avoid holding who we vote for accountable.
The offense? President-elect Biden nominated former Secretary of State John Kerry to be Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate. Kerry, who is also a former United States senator and the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States back in 2004, is a believer in climate change and taking measures to address it. However, people should have concerns about whether Kerry will be as bold as he needs to be (and by extension, concerns about whether the Biden team will be as bold as it needs to be) on climate change, which is a major crisis.
Why am I concerned? Just look at Kerry’s investments. I don’t know about now, but at least as of 2013, Kerry had investments with dozens of companies in the oil and gas industry. And these are not all small investments, either—at least six of those companies he had investments in were of $100,000 or more. At the very least, in the recent-ish past, he was benefitting from big oil money.
I hope that between 2013 and now, Kerry has dropped all of his oil and gas investments. If he hasn’t, then people should definitely be concerned about his investments keeping him (and, by extension, the Biden administration, potentially) from being as aggressive as he should be on the issue of climate change. That concern should be present because aggressive action on climate change would go against the best interests of what’s potentially profitable for many of these companies Kerry has invested in, and by extension for Kerry himself; because of that, it’s reasonable to be concerned that this conflict-of-interest could result in Kerry not advocating for actions as bold as they should be.
Let’s be real though—Kerry is only a microcosm of a larger issue, which is the concern that money, and particularly receiving of money from certain people or entities, could influence politicians in unjust ways.
This problem can manifest itself in many major issues, ranging from climate change to income inequality. From Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma saying odd things about environmental issues and then having the oil and gas industry as his second largest industry of contributions, to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer being criticized for being cozy with Wall Street (with Wall Street being accused oftentimes as being a big reason for our current income inequality) and then having big banks as four of his five largest lifetime contributors, there are serious concerns about money having a major influence on our politics and politicians.
However, these concerns about big money polluting our politics in unjust ways can only be recognized if we follow the money. If we learn about the monetary connections to the policies of the Kerrys, Schumers, and Inhofes of the world, we can start to recognize how it might be the large donor class, and not so much the constituents these politicians are supposed to serve, that influences the work that is done (or the work that is not done).
As to how we can learn about these monetary connections, I would strongly recommend starting with a website called Open Secrets for national candidates (presidential candidates, as well as members of Congress). This website can allow you to learn about what sorts of companies contribute to individual candidates, as well as which companies a candidate has investments in. That way, you can learn, for example, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot of money invested in the technology sector, so if she ever sounds tepid about holding Facebook accountable for certain things, maybe it’s because of the $500,000+ in investments she appears to have in Facebook. As for holding local and state-level candidates similarly accountable, it varies from municipality to municipality, and from state to state, but in many cases there are ways to find out even at the local and state level who your elected officials seem financially beholden to.
By learning to follow the money with our politicians and their actions, we will hopefully also learn how much big money can result in some of the positions our elected officials take, even if some of those positions are unjust. Recognizing this might not solve any injustices, but it could offer one explanation of how we ended up where we are in the first place with issues like climate change, income inequality, and many others.
One of the ongoing struggles—even more so given the misinformation coming from places of power (if you are a blog that talks about politics)—is to discern which sources to use when writing your posts. As such, I think it is important to dedicate a blog tips post to talking about which sources of information to trust, because if we fail in discerning which sources to trust, we are doing an injustice to both ourselves and our readers.
I will start by advocating for the use of sources to begin with. Even if your post is completely opinion-based, it is worthwhile to at least look at sources (even if you don’t cite them in your post) to make sure your opinion is based on facts.
But how can we, and how should we, discern which sources to trust?
I think that we should consider three things: currency, bias, and sourcing, or CBS (no, not the acronym for the network and major news source in the United States, though hopefully this acronym will make what I’m saying easy to remember).
Currency: Do we know when the piece was written, and if so, is the piece current?
You will want to see when the piece was written. If you don’t see a date on a particular piece, then I would recommend avoiding the source, as there would be no way of knowing whether the piece is current or was written several years ago.
Many sources show when the article was published. Please look at the date! There’ve been a number of times over the years when a news article would spread like wildfire on social media, but the article would turn out to be something published years ago even though some people (even some social media friends) would be promoting it as if current. The last thing you want is for your blog to be a source of promoting old news that’s no longer relevant.
Note: This is not to say that an old piece can’t be relevant. For example, a story from 2009 on Joe Biden’s role during the collapsing of the automobile industry is still relevant to today because it is a part of the extensive record of the president-elect, and particularly his record on handling crises. However, a piece from 2009 on a current events issue is not a piece to rely heavily on, other than for the purposes of seeing how a particular issue was being covered back in 2009.
Bias: What sort of bias might your source have?
I do not believe that there is no such thing as a source or an article with no bias whatsoever. Everyone has some level of bias. But that’s why it is really important to discern the bias of the source you’re reading.
An easy way to do this for news sources is to visit a site such as “Media Bias/Fact Check” and see where the news source (if the source you are looking at is on the site) fits along the spectrum of bias. If you are looking at a source and it falls into the categories of “least biased,” “left-center,” or “right-center” on Media Bias/Fact Check, then chances are quite high that the source is well-balanced and trustworthy. I will make a note, though, that if the source you are looking at has a “left-center” or “right-center” leaning, you may want to look at other generally credible sources (according to Media Bias/Fact Check or other well-regarded sites rating news sources based on media bias) to make sure that what you are reading is true. However, I would strongly recommend against using far-left and far-right sources, such as Huffington Post a Fox News, in your blog posts—such sources may be skewed to a particular viewpoint, unreliable as sources, and can result in producing an unreliable blog post.
Sourcing: What sources does the piece use?
All too often, an article posts about a particular issue or subject matter but does not quote anyone. Or, if they quote someone, it is someone who is not reputable or some entity that is not reputable (or someone who is “anonymous” or an “unnamed source”). If you come across a source like that, then the source you’re reading is not one you want to draw many conclusions from.
If you’re not sure whether the source (or sources) of knowledge for the piece is reputable, do a quick search of the person, people, or entities cited in the piece you’re reading, and/or do a search for the person who wrote the piece you’re reading. For example, if you’re reading an article on economic issues that cites findings from the Brookings Institution, then a quick search will help you find that the Brookings Institution is a highly respected center to center-left think tank that covers a variety of issues, including economics. But, if you’re reading a source on COVID-19 where only a podiatrist is cited, then you might not want to cite the source in your blog post.
So now that I’ve gone over things we should consider when discerning which sources to use in a blog post, what should we do if we have serious doubts about the source’s currency, bias, and/or source (CBS)?
Personally, I think it’s best to avoid citing any piece where there are serious doubts about its currency, bias, or source. If we use a piece with doubts about its currency, we run the risk of writing a blog post based on outdated information. I would also recommend against using sources with a far-left or far-right bias, because use of such sources can result in oft-inaccurate blog posts. I would also be careful with a piece when there are doubts about the sourcing, regardless of bias—the last thing we want is a blog post based on dubious sourcing (even if the article you are reading is not from a publication with a far-left or far-right bias).
But, regardless of my own personal take of what pieces to avoid or not, we need to remember how important CBS (not the network) is to determine which sources to use in our blog posts. Because if we don’t discern what we use in our blog posts on currency, bias, and sourcing, then we run the risk of our blogs becoming sources of misinformation.
Please note that as next week is Thanksgiving, I will not publish a blog post.
 I will be mostly referring to news sources in this post, but what I say here could be applicable to other types of sources.
 This post could double up as a “blind injustice” type of post, but given the amount of misinformation being spread online, I wanted to write this as a blog tips post so as to hopefully prevent readers from also unwittingly becoming sources of misinformation.