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The haze from far away forest fires is less evident in town than out here where we are, but if your eyes are burning like mine you still notice it. I guess the only good thing that comes of this is that I remember to pray for the firefighters and people who have lost homes and whole communities. And to realize that it’s only by the grace of God that we haven’t had similar trouble here.

Yet.

We dismiss news of tragedies and trends that occur far away from where our daily lives are playing out, are glad we don’t live in big cities where riots and protests have turned violent, where pollution is rampant, and the smog is as thick on a daily basis as the smoke is in our valley this morning. We go about our routines believing those events have little to do with us, even though the graphics are put in front of us daily in our own living rooms. But everything that happens on this planet, even in a remote corner of a country we couldn’t find on a map if our lives depended on it, has an effect on all of us.

There are all manner of distant fires burning on any given day. Some are set off by angry people who burn down businesses of those they believe have special privilege. Sometimes it’s a careless camper, or a person who’s compulsive about fires. Often, it’s a word of ridicule and contempt spoken by folks who are unwilling to acknowledge that the right to hold differing opinions is how America was founded, and has managed to continue until now.

Our country’s worst side comes out during election years. Seems that every third person is carrying a box of matches and ready to ignite a firestorm. The rest of us chase the fire engines, just for the thrill of watching something burn; maybe toss a little trash or gasoline on the blaze so the excitement will last a little longer. We ought to be carrying a fire extinguisher instead.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote or who I plan to vote for. I don’t even tell my husband. My dad never mentioned whose name he marked on a ballot, just said he never voted for anyone in his life. Always voted against someone.

I support your right to campaign for your favorites, but I hope you’ll do it with class. Not that many candidates do that themselves. Cheap shots, red hot rhetoric, and name calling escalate until it feels like we are dealing with a bunch of third grade playground bullies, and I begin to ask myself if any of these candidates are the kind of people I want leading and making policies.

Breaking News! It would be helpful if we all stated what we like about our guy or gal, instead of focusing on what we don’t like about the opposing person. Also, if the candidates spoke about what they intend to do to improve our common lot rather than what the opponent did, or should have done.

We can make a difference by not speaking disrespectfully of anyone, whether a public figure or neighbor. Every demeaning remark is like a Molotov cocktail. It may land in a sand pit and fizzle out but if it hits the intended mark the fire will spread and the smoke will choke us all.

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