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"The combination of politics and religion makes me suspicious right from the get go.There's been a lot of talk along these lines ever since Vice President Al Gore selected Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate in this year's presidential election. Lieberman is devoutly religious. In the last month he's given campaign speeches at churches, calling for more spirituality in politics. To which many of us respond: Isn't that a contradiction? Injecting religion into politics is kind of like building a Wal-Mart in the middle of Ebey's Prairie. One is the treadmill of human commerce. The other represents a sanctuary removed from the strum and drang of daily life.Whether it's a favorite spot in nature or a church down the street, we need all the sanctuaries we can get. Bring politics into the church, and the sanctuary is lost.That's been my attitude until recently, and it's made me suspicious of politicians like Joe Lieberman. Any candidate who tries to add a spiritual glow to his campaign deserves some skepticism.But maybe Lieberman is on to something. Maybe a strict separation between our political and spiritual lives isn't a good thing. Political season is an interesting time to be a newspaper editor. You hear accusations and counter accusations. Allegations of shady dealings are made. Denials are uttered. You see records of campaign money passing hands. The desire for power and influence is so thick you can almost feel it in the air. You do your best to be fair in the coverage your newspaper offers. Votes are cast, the dust settles and we all move on.On the one hand, that's the fun of politics. It gets the blood flowing and the adrenaline pumping. At their best, elections are a clash of opinions about the direction for our neighborhoods, our schools, our towns, our counties, our state and our country. The fact that each citizen of the United States has the right to participate in this discussion is an ongoing miracle.But like many people, I'm troubled by the anything-goes mentality of modern American politics. At times, politicians seem to believe their high-stakes game gives them license to do or say anything. Common human courtesy, respect, humility, compassion ... these don't get much play in the political arena. And it's not just at the national level. Political campaigns can get nasty right here in Island County.Again, maybe that's OK. In America we seem to like our politics rare, our religion on the side.However, when one politician (or his supporters) smears another in an effort to gain the upper hand in an election, there's something missing. When a person in office peddles influence for political gain, or private organizations and corporations dump money into the political process for future favors, there's something missing.Sure, maybe it's just politics. But if we treat each other venomously during our political campaigns, can we suddenly become compassionate afterwards? If money and power are our primary motivations during campaigns, can we suddenly shift into an altruistic mode once the campaigns are over?Personally, I'd prefer to see the craziness of the political season become a little more sane, a little more civil. Even - heaven forbid - a little more kind.-------You can reach Mike Page-English at firstname.lastname@example.org "