If you are unable to trust (or stomach) the TV ads, and you cannot determine the accuracy of the numbers and statements made by candidates in debates, and if even the media fact-checkers conclude that "both candidates are right," then you have no other choice. Turn it off. You can do better.

Truancy from our much-loved, push-button information begins with the initial feelings of disappointment and loss. It is sensory stimulation gone, but it will be alright (get over it). You have successfully halted the toxic stream of tightly edited sound bites, those biased and derogatory statements that usually end with someone smiling and saying something like this: "I'm so-and-so and I approved this mud pie."

That's a good first step. Trust that there are more expansive thoughts and information available and forthcoming, but you must make one additional sacrifice. For a brief time you must cast off the political affiliations and labels that define and confine you. Release the notion, for the moment, that you are one of them. No political label or allegiance -- Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative or even independent -- can contain the greater human thoughts, values and meaning you can generate entirely on your own.

When these habits are undone -- political commitments dismissed and media menaces muted -- you are free to explore the wealth of information you have archived, naturally and unconsciously, over at least 18 years, through the wealth of personal relationships you now own.

The most important decisionmaking information you have is already there, planted, sprouted and growing from a thousand human interactions. Since it is really you, and not your political party or favorite talking face who must vote, you must look to the lessons that apply from all of your people.

Check out your vast personal resources, like the information files from your relentless parents, and the positive attitudes and humor shared by a few very engaged teachers. Review the joy and discomfort of friends, classmates and coworkers; measure the sensational achievements of the bully, the druggie, a lover (or two) and the heroes. Give a little extra time to revisit the connection with out-of-towners, the old people and friends made overseas.

This is your primary source of understanding about how humans get along, and with only days before the election, it is also a serious voter's guide. Out of this, most of us will form a positive image, rising from the lesser human traits. In words, it is leadership, compassion, truth and drive. Each attribute is from the important people in our life who offered up pieces of the puzzle. We can piece them together to form an image of the positive forces in our life, and an image of our next president.

Simply superimpose these ideal presidential traits on our two candidates, then take time to consider how these -- Leadership, Compassion, Truth and Drive -- rest on their shoulders. This time, without that constant buzz in the ear, and with your own personal conclusions, there is the likelihood you will see clearly how to vote.


Steve Watson, of Minneapolis, is a retired teacher.