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The Anatomy of Popularity

By Brandy Kiger

I’ve recently become a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Before last week, I had never seen an episode, nor thought very hard about it. I knew that it was a television show about doctors that was chock full of drama, with a heaping helping of illicit romance and petty relationships issues on the side. That was good enough for me.

Until my roommate went on a three-day “Grey’s Anatomy” binge.

That’s when I found myself a helpless victim of melancholic off-again, on-again romance as I tried to be studious in our living room. I got sucked in despite my better judgment. I became the closest to a closet junkie I’ve ever been.

What I thought I knew about the show was (mostly) wrong. The storylines, albeit unrealistic and improbable, were intriguing. Most importantly, for me, the characters were likable. Just think about Dr. Meredith Grey.

What people like or dislike is the impetus for many choices. Some even treat the race for president the way I’ve picked my new favorite television show. They don’t search for truth, as John Milton insisted we should do in “Aeropagitica,” but rather let others do the searching for them, and take what they are given at face value.

Sure, there are those that are compelled by the storyline and become seriously invested. They research candidates and their stances on issues. They’ve done their homework and know the background and consequences of the choice they are making when voting for president. I applaud them.

But many people just assume they already know what it’s all about, and either vote just because everyone else is voting, or don’t vote at all.

It is our right to vote. It’s a good thing to vote. But, with that right comes a responsibility to know who and what we’re voting for. During the 2008 election campaign, Barack Obama became a celebrity of rock star status. Women fainted when he gave speeches. Beyond the mania, many people just liked him.

Granted, there were plenty of folks who took the race seriously. But over and over again, I heard people say things like, “Well I like him better than McCain,” or “He seems like a good guy,” or “I’m voting for Obama so Sarah Palin isn’t in office.” Most of the time, it sounded like a popularity contest to me.

Picking a man or woman to run our country based on likability is unconscionable and reckless. So many people come to the polls unprepared, hoping for fate to move their hand to the right candidate or base their decision on a “good speech” they might have heard.

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties,” Milton says. There are many sides to truth. It’s more than OK to pick one over another, but to honor your right to vote is to find out what you’re voting for and not let the election be reduced to who you like most.

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