Crossing the solid yellow line

(Writer’s Note: In this pre-election analysis, I point out that people will eventually do something. Thankfully, things haven’t been too violent yet, but I see angry talking heads on television who won’t accept Donald Trump.)


A number of years ago, we saw another car in our lane of travel coming straight at us! It had crossed the solid yellow line and in seconds, we would collide.

We had three choices: Play the game of chicken and defend our right to stay in the lane, no matter what the outcome; we could swerve to the left into the oncoming traffic lane and hope that two wrongs would somehow make everything right; or we could swerve to the right if an avenue of escape would open up.

Fortunately for us, a space opened up to our right and we got out of the way. When the police finally got the rogue car stopped, they found the driver unable to reason rationally because of a medical emergency.

I saw a segment on the news recently that made me question this. It was about a driverless tractor-trailer truck cruising down the highway using modern technology.

What if a steering sensor malfunctioned and suddenly sent the 80,000-pound rig to the left, across the solid yellow line?

Hundreds of millions of vehicles around the world travel on two-lane highways every day. Like a statement of faith, the vast majority of drivers respect the unseen agreement of mutual benefit by not crossing the solid yellow line.

In my ongoing analysis of the 2016 Presidential and General Election, I’m left to wonder: Have we as citizens and voters allowed our political system to abuse the trust of the proverbial solid yellow line? Hmmm?

Fueled by seemingly unlimited amounts of special-interest money, cash-rich political campaigns have become juggernauts, intimidating others, by virtue of being the bigger, and forcing weaker opponents off the campaign trail. Those who stand up for their rights become roadkill and smeared onto the trail’s surface!

All of us who travel on the information highways to make an informed decision become victims of this vehicular tyranny all too well.

Which brings me to the 2016 political one-two punch, “fear and smear.”

Since we still label our government as a democracy, someone must then justify these dictatorial actions.

In 1579, poet John Lyly, in his novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,” introduced a phrase we currently know as, “All is fair in love and war.”

By 2016, I feel this quote has transitioned to “All is fair in love, war, and politics!”

I’ve now given you the political weapons of choice: Fear and smear. Combine this with the justification, all is fair, and the weapon delivery system from a previous article, “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

While this election strategy provides us with a victor, it comes with a lot of collateral damage. We saw it in the continued silence from Donald Trump’s opponents after a disgusting primary season. Many of the prominent leaders of the Republican Party remained silent, and left the Trump campaign to its own devices.

Hilary Clinton heavily courted black ministers and their congregations, but I didn’t hear separatist crying foul! Also, the recent steps (some say missteps) by the FBI provides evidence to some that this agency is politically-oriented, as well.

As voters, we were under assault by television ads and postal fliers with the pounding drumbeat of “fear and smear.” In turn, mesmerized voters become enablers, supporting their soldiers in the epic of battles of gridlock. Someone said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if all the costs of these elections had been spent on something good!'”

The fear and smear campaign strategy not only perpetuates the deep divides that exist, it further polarizes people’s attitudes. From the president on down the food chain, elected leaders will be shackled to clouds of suspicion amid basement-level approval ratings.

When governments operate under the storm clouds of suspicion, how does this affect the dynamics between them and those they govern?

These are my thoughts:

1.     We never really know if what they are telling us is true, a half-truth or an outright lie! Will you then believe what the biased news moguls tell you?

2.     Without a foundation of accepted truth, how can we build any measurable trust?

3.     Without the assurance of trust, how can we have faith in what our leaders decide? We actually put more faith in total strangers every day that obey the dictates of the solid yellow line on the highways!

4.     Without an overall consensus of citizens having faith in government, how do you generate the hope many desperately seek?

5.     Without hope, it becomes easier to substitute hate and anger by dissatisfied individuals who feel left out of the process.

6.     When hate and anger take control of our emotions, people begin to hatch plans to willingly cross the line, thereby using violent retaliation as a form of self-imposed justice.

7.     When you have systemic violent acts, you now have a political system in chaos. For those who want to see how this plays out in our modern culture, look at Ferguson, Mo., and then Baltimore, Md.

8.     For those readers who believe my thoughts are hogwash, then pledge allegiance to the “pay to play” status quo, go back to step number one and start over again.

When politicians feel it’s necessary and justifiable to use fear and smear tactics to control voters in an election, it’s just a shell of democracy.

When both parties scatter the seeds of discontent simply to advance their own agendas, it’s reckless.

I’ll sum up my thoughts with another farming analogy: When you agitate a herd of cattle to the point of them breaking down a barrier to get out of the pen, putting the broken barrier back up won’t put the wild cattle back in their pen.

Ralph Dotterer Jr. is a lifelong Nittany Valley farmer, hayseed philosopher, barnyard artist and soapbox theologian whose roots in the same soil go back almost 200 years.