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  • Writer's pictureJ. Basil Dannebohm

Navigate through this election year with strategy not emotion.


The Purpose of Propaganda is to make one set of people forget that other sets of people are human.

- Aldous Huxley


J. Basil Dannebohm

Now that the Twelve Days of Christmas are behind us and the confetti we tossed to usher in the new year has been swept up, we can finally be honest: 2024 is going to be a dumpster fire.


Perhaps you were one of those people who sat at a holiday table with an outspoken relative who made things awkward. As that individual flexed their armchair expertise on divisive matters, you might have been one of those people who just sat there quietly, withholding your opinion because you knew it just wasn’t worth it. Congratulations on your restraint; but that was merely a scrimmage in preparation for the big game that lies ahead of us this year.


It's not that I’m a pessimist. I’m realistic - it’s an election year in one of the most polarizing periods of American history. While one candidate isn’t clear on what caused the Civil War and another thinks he could have negotiated an agreement to prevent it, the truth is that the United States stands closer to a repeat of a civil conflict than we have since the first time we saw brother against brother in the fields of battle.

After all of this is over, all that will really matter is how we treated each other. If the rhetoric being hurled by both sides is any indication, thus far many of us are treating one another like garbage. Teaching our children to avoid discussing politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of both subjects. What we should have been teaching is how to have a civil conversation about the two, but it’s too late for that now. Maybe by the time the midterms roll around we can appeal to our better angels for a more civil approach. For now, all one can hope for is to maintain calm amid what promises to be a nasty storm.


Aldous Huxley wrote, "The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' - this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats."


Certainly, the preservation of democracy counts as one of the good causes Huxley is referring to. Nonetheless, most people don't really want to hear the truth. Rather, they want reassurance that what they believe is the truth. For the most part, minds are already made up based on partisan lines. What the other side has to say, no matter how valid or true, simply doesn’t matter. What matters is determined almost exclusively by the letter following the candidate's name.


Crazy, right? But as Nietzsche once pointed out: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.”

If you’re one of the few people left who is an exception to the rule, the best thing you can do this year is keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. The truth always comes out in the end. By the time you arrive at the voting booth in November, you will have enough information to reach an informed decision.


The trick will be to maintain calm as the rest of our nation eats each other alive. Essential to maintaining calm is learning to be done. Not mad, not bothered, just done. Protecting your peace at all costs is paramount. The longer you entertain chaos, the longer you postpone peace. Thus, the less you respond to negative people, the more peaceful your life becomes.


During an interview, actor Keanu Reeves once said: “I’m at that stage in life where I stay out of discussions. Even if you say, ‘one plus one equals five.’ You’re right, have fun.”

Lately preserving my peace has been more important than proving my point. Distance is my new answer. I no longer argue, I simply remove myself. In the process I've discovered how peaceful life gets when you raise the bar on who has access to you. You don't lose real friends, real opportunities, or real relationships when you start setting clear boundaries. You lose abusers, manipulators, narcissists, control freaks, and mentally draining individuals.


Self-control is strength. Calmness is mastery. To achieve it, you must get to a point where your mood doesn't shift based on the insignificant words or actions of someone else. Don't allow others to control the direction of your life. Don't allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence.


Marcus Aurelius noted, “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”


The calmer you are the clearer you think. Navigate through this election year with strategy not emotion.



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