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RURAL REFLECTIONS: This week's top story

It's election week, and, of course, our top concern is that everyone who is eligible and able gets to the polls to cast their vote. You've heard it before: By staying home, you're giving your vote to someone else. And by waiting for the perfect c...

It's election week, and, of course, our top concern is that everyone who is eligible and able gets to the polls to cast their vote. You've heard it before: By staying home, you're giving your vote to someone else. And by waiting for the perfect candidate, you're putting potentially great ideas and solutions on hold.

Obviously, I'm not going to endorse any particular candidate, party or initiated measure in this column. I'm not the kind of journalist who strives to be influential. My job is to be informative, so informed citizens can make their own choices.

However, I would like to share some ideas about democracy in general and the way we collectively make decisions about our society. If you disagree with my thoughts, feel free to let me know. If you agree, it's always nice to hear that, too.

Voter beware

Beware of becoming too distracted by the "squeaky wheel." It's important to take care of sudden, urgent problems, but two things can happen if we focus on that alone.

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If we pay too much attention to the squeaky wheel, sometimes it squeaks louder because the noise pays off. We also run the risk of neglecting the well-oiled machine. It's important to pay attention to what's going right so it keeps humming along.

Realize that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Some political philosophies imply that losers just aren't trying, and winners are inherently virtuous. Yet one of the hallmarks of our society is the desire to support those who are in trouble through no fault of their own.

Some of our most beloved historical figures suffered hardship, and they became stronger because of it. But many received help at some point in their life, sometimes from a stranger who wound up shaping history through their act of kindness.

Candidate qualities

Reward curiosity. That doesn't mean you have to follow every pied piper who comes down the pike pitching a new idea. Some people are very good at discovering new innovations, but at the very least, you should expect your leaders to want to know "why" certain tried and true ideas work.

Leaders who have no desire to ask questions or broaden their knowledge are not only dull, they are dangerous. They're often disinterested in supporting people who aren't just like they are. They're also much more likely to be blindsided by changes in the world around them.

Expect accountability. Someone who is willing to put their ideas and promises in writing is far more likely to follow through on them. They'll also spend more time thinking about what they're going to say before they say it.

Information overload

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Decide what matters. Talk radio and 24-hour news channels will tell you every detail of a candidate's life, largely because they have so much time and space to fill. If it isn't important to you that a candidate failed a fourth-grade math test, forget you ever heard about it.

Everyone makes mistakes, but we have better technology now for tracking errors. That doesn't necessarily make today's politicians inferior to those in previous generations.

Personally, I'm more interested a leader's motivations than mistakes. I'm interested in knowing what's in their heart and soul, and I'm still waiting for technology to find a way to measure that.

Finally, look at the big picture. It's easy to support ideas that meet our own immediate needs. It's harder to do what's right for the community around us and even consider what's best for future generations.

I believe that's what our founding fathers strove to do. The historic documents that created this nation were not designed to make early patriots wealthy or omnipotent. They were written to provide a framework of justice and opportunity for generations to come.

It's a lot to think about. But I hear voter turnout will be big, which is good, so you'll probably have plenty of time to ponder your choices while waiting in line.

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