Here I go wandering into the shark-infested waters of US politics during an election year. But this is meant as a non-partisan post.

First, the financial advice site Motley Fool has a thought-provoking writeup titled “3 Huge Economic Misconceptions From Election Season”. Remember, this is coming from a financial advice site, not a sideways-leaning news or politico site. I think all of us have misconceptions, unintentionally, that sound perfectly logical and sensical. But when really digging in to them, they aren’t true, at least in the simplistic way we assumed them to be.

Second, the amount of partial truths being tossed around by both parties is just astounding. Perhaps “saddening” is a better description. Take a provocative soundbite, start to dig under it, and generally only half (or less) of the real story is being told. Everybody is twisting the partial truth that is convenient for them into a full truth, with the expectation that by repeating it enough we start to believe it as the whole truth. Life is not as simple as the politicians make it out to be. They are playing to our own lack of knowledge, our knee-jerk reactions, and our misconceptions, for their own benefit. Don’t let that happen. Take a look at FactCheck.org to unwind the spin and to get fair information. Be informed with the full truth, even the parts you don’t like.

Third, please vote. Get registered, get informed (correcting misconceptions and partial truths), make a choice, and manifest that choice with a vote. And after the vote, communicate with your representatives. It saddens me that living in the greatest democracy in the world, only 50% of eligible voters vote (on a good day). And how many times have you communicated with your representative regarding a topic you care about via a phone call or email? As a citizen in a democracy, you have a sacred responsibility to uphold that democracy and participate in the political process. Otherwise, the democracy is weakened by your absence. Don’t be absent.

Fourth, learn to coexist with others that have different opinions. Respect them, even when you disagree with them. Be able to have a meaningful exchange where ideas are shared and understandings are widened, instead of forcing a conversion or just hurling insults. You don’t have to agree with them, but do you understand them? Do you understand what their motivations are, even if you disagree? Often we have the same goal, but differ only on how to achieve it. Make it about finding the best ideas independent of the source. Understanding others will help you understand yourself. This country is made up of a lot of unique regions, histories, and cultures. The USA is not homogenous. And that is what makes us strong.

It may not feel like the best time right now, but this is the best place.