We can all take a deep breath and settle back into a winter of normalcy this week as we come to the end of the season of glittery and sparkly things. Oh yeah, and the holidays are over, too.

The season to which I refer is not the holiday season, but the political season. It has lasted far longer than any of us could have hoped and I, for one, am weary of the constant glare of the gilded lilies that are begging to be picked.

We don’t have cable at my house, so I have missed much of the song and dance of the airwaves, but I have gotten a goodly dose each week on the radio, enough to make me glad I have been able to tune most of it out.

A friend of mine posted news this week that the overall campaign spending in Georgia’s Senate runoffs had topped $540 million with still eight days left in the race. Her question was simple: imagine what good things could have been done with even half that money, while very few people are even swayed by the barrage of expensive ads.

I had to agree, especially when you consider how poorly represented the issues and candidates in question are in the sea of salesmanship.

This past week I took advantage of proximity to a Target store for a little post-holiday shopping. I had a particular list in mind and was hoping to benefit from the markdowns that always happen as the seasonal dust and glitter settle.

I happened upon a frivolous item that was awfully tempting with its half-price tag. It was an old-fashioned style wooden pinball game. They had done a nice job with the packaging. I am a sucker for retro stuff, and it was hard to resist the idea of how fun it would be to play with friends and family.

At less than $10, I decided I couldn’t go wrong, so I swept it up and carried it home. But, surprise, surprise, when I pulled it out of the box I was immediately disappointed. The board itself was as it had been represented, but for one small detail. On the box, in two different pictures, there were seven little silver balls with which to run your turn, but in the box, there were only three.

This is a small problem, I know, but it immediately reminded me of how marketing can work against us so easily. It doesn’t matter that there are only three balls in the set, but it immediately left me feeling like I had been duped, because I had.

Isn’t it pretty much always true that the pitch we’re receiving is too good to be true?

The burgers from the fast food chains are never as beautiful as the ones that dance across the television screen. We never feel as cozy or comforted as those cartoon bears when we use that particular brand of toilet paper. Our lives are never as perfect as the people who have discovered the miraculous healing powers of that new fangled drug, and they never look as though they may have experienced one or more of that rapid list of potential side effects.

I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, but all those dollars spent on pitching the candidates are not expected to necessarily change anyone’s mind as much as to solidify what you already believe to be true about the candidate you love, and the one you hate.

It’s not until we get home and unpack what we have chosen that we realize that not all the marbles are there.

The thing about the pinball game is that, in the very fine print on the back of the box, right next to the second picture of the game with seven balls, mind you, the truth is perfectly spelled out. “Set contains: wooden pinball board, three balls, peg stand and instructions.”

But I didn’t read that. I was too busy looking at the picture and imagining the fun. I was trusting the ad rather than investigating beyond it.

Again, the pinball game is a very trivial example of a much larger problem. How often do we end up with the question, why didn’t I investigate further?

Why did I think that this product/person that was so beautifully represented to me could be remotely close to that kind of perfection?

While I strongly encourage you to take your opportunity to vote this week, if you haven’t already as throngs of folks have, I must also implore that you look more deeply at the candidates before you. Find the fine print, ask questions about the things that appear too good (or too bad, for that matter) to be true, because they likely aren’t.

I say all the time that we should all be angry, regardless of our political persuasions, but at the players, not at each other. We are poorly represented in Washington on all sides, and we are the only ones who can do anything to change that.

Stop arguing with your neighbor about the sign that is in his or her yard and look at where the real problems lie.

We should be demanding accurate and truthful representation and refusing to be starstruck by a cloud of glittery rhetoric.

As we move beyond this flashy season, we have an opportunity and an obligation to demand a change. And, before you think that you know exactly what needs to change and how, remember that none of us are immune to a little starry-eyed confusion.

Really, truly question what you have accepted to be true. Educate yourself as best you can on the complicated nuances that are at the heart of the issues. As you stare at the shiny words that reflect the “perfect” image of how you think, think again. That sparkly and beautiful package is likely holding a far less perfect product inside.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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