These days we spend so much time denigrating “the other” and clinging tightly to whatever political stance we currently hold that we cannot hear what “the other” is saying. Many people quickly align themselves with the opinion of the politicians and talking heads that are on their side without a thought of whether their information is valid or even logical. We have relinquished our ability/responsibility to judge issues for ourselves. When the opposition comes out with data that refutes the opinion we hold, we rush to support our own side rather than measuring the merits of the data.

I’m asking you to do some soul searching. I’m asking that you consider information that you have accepted without question to see what effect that acceptance has on your own life and on society. Have you repeated that information to others without checking it? Have you based major life decisions on that information? Let me clear. I’m not attacking or denigrating your leaders. We spend most of our dialogue assessing their responsibility for what’s happening in the world. But what is your responsibility for what is happening? If you live in your own feedback loop, supporting only what your side says and criticizing everything your opponents say, without considering if any of it is true, you are doing yourself, your family and your country a grave disservice.

As a citizen of a democracy, it is your patriotic duty to make well-informed decisions for yourself. A true patriot does not blindly follow the words of a person, a party or anyone else. We have all heard some information that we believe to be true that criticizes our own candidate. If we are unwilling to publicly point out when our candidate was wrong, that is an act of puppetry, not patriotism.

I believe that educated or not, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, you have the right, the power and the responsibility to question and decide for yourself. When your blind adherence to someone else’s words turns out badly for you and for the world, please don’t excuse yourself by saying, “I didn’t know.” It is your responsibility as a voter to know. Soul searching is hard work. And it takes a lot of guts to do what you know is right. But that’s what patriots do. Let’s honor the brave people who died for our right to do so.

Tobey Miller, Fort Payne, Alabama

Send letters to the Times-Journal by writing P.O. Box 680349, Fort Payne, AL 35968. Fax 256-845-7459. Email emily.kirby@times-journal.com.

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