Montag, 30. Januar 2012

Dear Ethicist

The other day I went to a campaign event, organized by a candidate and a party which never did get my vote and never will. The purpose was to watch a well known politician and his followers with my own eyes, without the filter of TV footage.

I sat in a back seat in the ball room, far away from the podium. But as turnout was low that afternoon, we were asked by a volunteer to please take a forward seat closer to the podium so that the auditorium would look fuller.

I did so with others, but at once realized that I now would no more be a bystander, but a participant of the cause. I even got a button and a bumper sticker from some volunteer next to me.

When the event started, I further became aware that I sat in the midst of an enthusiastic crowd. My biggest concern at that moment was: Should I applaud and even cheer during the speech of the candidate? If staying silent, I would be a spoiler; I would look very bad so close to the podium and everybody would think, who this guy was and whether he was doing opposition research, which in a way was true, although the research was for purely private purposes only.

On the other hand: applauding and clapping hands, all the more enthusiastic cheering, would be a clear betrayal of my deepest political convictions.

Dear Ethicist, what would have been the right thing to do?

I decided to applaud somewhat meagerly and only for lines I could easily approve - like "America is a great country" -, but tried to be silent and not clapping hands too openly on clearly partisan lines.

However, when walking home from the event I felt full of guilt and I thought that maybe I better should not have participated - or left the auditorium when asked to take a seat close to the podium. But on the other hand: getting first hand knowledge of the political process seems a perfectly good reason to take part in a campaign event of the other side...

Thank you for your guidance.
Yours sincerely
Thomas Ruest

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