Between the Lines

Between the Lines Actual Letter by David Lias Hmmm….

Judging by the note we found taped on the front door of the office early Nov. 4, it�s safe to say someone got up on the wrong side of the bed after last week�s election.

The person(s) who penned it didn�t hold anything back:

WE HATE YOU!!

DEATH TO BUSH!!

DEATH TO THUNE!!

� Your Worst Nightmare!!

It got me to thinking about how some men and women may likely behave after experiencing a long, arduous, exhausting campaign.

You�re physically tired. You�re mentally drained. And you�re probably not thinking about how impolite it would be to do a victory dance (if your candidate won) or to trip the person doing the victory dance (if your candidate lost) as you return to the everyday world.

This is a problem.

I don�t blame people for feeling irritable after Nov. 2, especially here in Vermillion.

If it were up to city and Clay County voters, John Kerry would be moving into the White House over the Christmas holiday, and Tom Daschle wouldn�t be looking for a new job.

There�s at least one person (or, judging by the wording on the sign, several people) who tried to ease that irritability by, well, getting a bit sentimental.

They hate me or this newspaper. They want Thune and Bush to drop dead.

Last weekend, I stopped by the farm at Humboldt on the way to shoot the Tanager/Trojan football game in Humboldt, and told my mom about the mystery message.

She said I should call the authorities. In her mind, this handwritten message constitutes a federal offense.

I don�t think she cares so much about the expression of hate; it was the threat of death in the note that really got her Texas blood boiling.

This is the woman who took five knuckle-dragging, mashed potato-hurling, belching, inappropriate-scratching sons and taught them to be gentlemen.

As she said to one of her friends at a recent function where we were all in our Sunday best, �They clean up well, don�t they?�

After giving my mother�s reaction to the note some considerable thought, it seems only reasonable that, for the sake of more civic public discourse, not only during political campaigns, but after them, it�s time to inject some good, old-fashioned manners into the mix.

The way we behave in the days after a heated election can have a lasting impact on our workplace morale, our personal relationships and our neighborhood relations. And with the huge number of passionate people who headed to the polls Nov. 2, there are likely to be some misguided manners out there in full force.

Terry L. Paulson, author of The Dinner: The Political Conversation Your Mother Told You Never to Have, isn�t from South Dakota. He didn�t see the �mystery note� on our front door.

But he has some advice for all of us.

�This is going to be a particularly sensitive post-election,� he said. �Whenever it�s a close game, the feelings are a lot higher, and as soon as it�s over, it�s very easy for people to gloat instead of realizing this is an argument among friends.�

In the interest of maintaining harmony during this post-election period, here�s a list of etiquette tips from people who make their living by being well-mannered:

Whether your candidate won or lost, offer compliments or congratulations.

Resist the urge to brandish gloat-for-your-candidate merchandise.

Leave campaign signs up for a maximum of three days.

Resist the urge to hurl political insults.

�Manners are the lubricating oil of any good political conversation,� said Paulson, whose book is based on the conversation between a Republican and a Democrat over dinner.

If your candidate won, Paulson advises acknowledging or even offering compliments to people whose candidate lost.

Sample sentiment: �It was a hard-fought fight, and while, yes, I�m excited about the outcome, I also want you to know that I appreciate your efforts.�

The same respectful approach can be used if your candidate lost, Paulson adds. Sample sentence: �Congratulations. It was a hard-fought fight and while I can appreciate that your candidate won, I�m not going to give up.�

Don�t hand out bubble-gum cigars at the office. This is America, land of the capitalists, who have made gloat-for-your-candidate merchandise available for months. For $16.99, for example, you can alienate half your acquaintances with a �Bush Wins� T-shirt from cafepress.com. The words are accompanied by a smiley face sticking out its tongue.

The Web site offers similarly smug merchandise for Kerry supporters, including a $4.99 poster print that said �Kerry Beats Bush, Told Ya So!�

Meanwhile, Concord Confections, maker of the famous Dubble Bubble gum, is selling boxes of either George W. Bush or John Kerry bubble-gum cigars.

All these items may seem like novel ways to begin discussions, but they are not. Resist the urge to wear gloating merchandise to any place where people may disagree with you.

�Hopefully, that�s not what people are using them for,� said Erin LaBarge, spokesman for Dubble Bubble�s El Bubble cigars. �It�s just supposed to be fun. It�s bubble gum.�

Take campaign signs down. Paulson insists that all political yard signs be taken down no later than three days after the election. Any longer gives the impression that you�re trying to rub it in, he said.

If a neighbor leaves a sign up for longer than three days, Paulson adds, you�re at a bit of a disadvantage. There�s no appropriate way to ask someone to decorate their own property differently. You may just have to settle for the satisfaction in knowing that they�re alienating themselves from the neighborhood.

�Realize that they pay a cost for that in the ill will they will get,� he said.

Know when to walk. Political conversations can be exhilarating, mind-enriching discussions when they happen in the right company and in the appropriate setting. Other times, they can be tumultuous, divorce-inciting, friendship-severing, office-alienating battles that seemingly have no end.

Amy Palec, owner of Mind Your Manners, a Cedarburg,WI company that offers professional training in business etiquette, argues that politics should never be discussed in the workplace. But if you do get stuck in the midst of what is becoming an emotional political debate, it�s best to bow out.

�When you get into a heated debate, somebody will try to belittle you, jump off the topic, and it becomes more of a dagger-throwing banter versus an intellectual conversation,� Palec said.

She suggests calmly and politely saying, �I respect your views; however, it�s time to end this conversation.� Or, more simply, �I have to get back to work.�

Naturally, I have to add one more thing: no nasty, threatening, anonymous notes. We�re a newspaper, for crying out loud. We�re the one place that welcomes, sometimes evens begs, people to express themselves intelligently.

Not happy with today�s political climate? Have some good ideas for constructive change? Write a letter to the editor.

You don�t have to tape it to our door. But please sign it.

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