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Senior Momentum - April 2016 - Zoë Tummillo

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It's a Big Headache...

by Zoe Tummillo

Remember that party game where a whispered comment went from person to person, then the last was compared to the first – followed by laughter? Who thought it would one day be elevated to become a legitimate communication tool among candidates! Promises flow out from one source to the next and the next with one context, then, backpedal into something quite different – depending on who’s talking; who’s spreading the word. I don’t hear much laughter. 

I’m not too concerned about us old goats and gals. We can usually spot a con game a mile away. It’s the frightening images of all those screaming, brawling mostly young voters following recycled Pied Pipers and Music Men, leading them cleverly toward – what? – and smartly keeping the volume and rhetoric just loud enough to crowd out thinking. 

Ambiguity has taken on new, fascinating and expanded parameters. They include implied expectations and assumptions. “Re-clarification” is routine, and is treated as if it’s an entitlement – even a privilege. Candidates recklessly expound on the one hand, and “smooth it out” later on the other. Sounds like bait-and-switch to me. Let anything fly out of your mouth – not to worry; you can always renege (but only if you have to, of course). We’ve heard it at least a hundred times already, some form of: . . . that was the heat of the moment; I didn’t really mean it that way! The job gets done.

One clever, silver-tongued young fellow c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y explained (so my elderly self could grasp it...) that egging folks on with deliberately inflammatory language and gestures, implied veiled and dangerous suggestions, and speculative hints of violence are all part of necessary and acceptable contemporary campaigning tactics. Duh... (Dirty politics isn’t new, young fella!) What’s troubling are the images of our youth embracing this gross negativity, on a grand scale, as if it is a positive technique.

As one of many in my generation who remembers with brutal clarity the fights for equal rights and other fights, we had our share of combustible situations. We broke long-standing barriers against the freedom to protest, to advocate, to assemble, to be heard under duress, and just to be. It is a provocative challenge, now, just trying to view today’s debacles fairly, and trying to figure out what is different? What is really going on? What’s the point of the wholesale vulgarity? And, how come these guys get away with inciting to riot? We didn’t!

It’s not as if the radical Right, radical Left, iffy Independents, the Undeclared or even the Switcheroo voters haven’t been a part of the mix all along! They have. They have been busy hedging affiliations, playing with loyalties, vitriolic on Monday, your “friend” on Thursday; all depending on how the wind blows... Turnabout is fair play; deliberate misspeak is a practiced skill. (It’s always all been part of the game, the race. Yet, somehow this season it looks and sounds and smells worse.)

The “sucker punch,” in one camp, is elevated to a tactic of honor, a measure of machismo and commitment. In another camp, promises residing on cloud nine are portrayed as simple pragmatic guarantees. Hapless voters (that’s supposed to be us) get to choose the frying pan or the fire. 

As corny as it sounds, in many ways the difference seems to be in the motivating factors. There’s a big difference between being motivated by love, compassion and fairness, and being inflamed with hatred, bigotry and avarice. We keep watching the performances with the same pull that transfixes one passing a highway pile-up. You don’t want to see the blood and guts, but part of you wants to see the blood and guts...

The launch into this election cycle, many would agree, has been a chaotic brawl, from the get-go, with no signs yet of changing anytime soon. There is work to do.

Zoë Tummillo is a Business & Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Commercial Writer, dba COMMUNICATION CONCEPTS, in private practice since 1974. In addition to Commercial work, she writes “Senior Momentum: A Series of Situations”; “Pieces of My Path”©, essay memoirs of growing up first generation Italian American; and Senior Momentum: Front And Center!©. To contact her: email: writingservice@earthlink.net