From now through Nov. 6, 2012, any political-cultural discussion that seeks to entice us into emotional responses unrelated to either the presidential election or to the election of members of Congress, should be looked at as a probable smokescreen and sleight of hand to distract us and foil our focus and concentration.

It’s a tactic that has worked many, many times before. Pickpockets, at least the successful ones, have always mastered the art of distraction and misdirection, long enough to relieve us of our hard-earned valuables.

Regularly re-elected politicians, likewise, in case you have not noticed, also must bring certain befuddling skills to their tasks. There is no campaign and no direct question from constituents that cannot be handled by skillful and timely usage of a little smoke and mirrors, or outright misdirection, so too many elected representatives are taught to believe. We, the electorate, must re-educate them. A lot more truth-telling brings better results (and can keep people in office longer, too).

Thus, to some, the ugly Internet battle over what Joe Biden did or did not mean by his “they’ll just put you back in chains” metaphor the other day was a master stroke of misdirection.

Interestingly, there was no rush to interview the Black attendees in the audience that evening to see in fact whether any of them got insulted by the vice president’s bold comments. Instead, we got a blistering menagerie of interpreters who really were beside the point.

Truly, if one wants to know what pain to expect in delivering a baby naturally, the better expert will be one who has done it, not one who has merely seen a YouTube video of the process.

So, where were all the comments from people who’d had a relationship with chains and shackles, or at least were kith or kin to those who had, whether slave-related or banker-debt-related? A dead giveaway to a misdirection being played is the overt lack of real relevant evidence of the issue at hand. Predictably, all we got were pontificators about the vp’s supposed gaffe and how it embarrassed the president’s candidacy (which the president completely denied).

Likewise, there was a torrent of invective from some circles commenting on Serena’s Crip Walk celebration after she literally blew one of her major opponent’s off the tennis court in straight sets, to win another gold medal in tennis at the Olympics. Why did she have to disgrace the affair with that ghetto behavior, some asked? ‘That’s why the American flag flew off its holder when she was on the winner’s stand,’ another said. “She just showed you can take the girl out of the ghetto, but not the ghetto out . . . . “You get the picture.

Needless to say, Serena’s rightful response was “kiss my grits. I won and I can celebrate however I want to. I was the one out sweating and huffing. This is my party.” A recent commentator took it a bit further and said this was the Tommy Smith-John Carlos fist-in-the-Olympic-air for the 21st century. Take that, suckers!

Well, whatever Serena meant or did not mean, the resulting semantic cross-currents all over Twitter, Facebook and Google chats for at least a week suggested someone had slapped the queen, or at least peed in her teacup.

Talking about a lot of sound and fury signifying absolutely nothing, this was another attempt at distraction. From what, you may ask? Maybe from the Republican candidate’s recent international gaffes, including the tasteless comment in London about the preparation of the Brits to even host the Olympics. But whether the reason for the sleight of hand is obvious or not, the ploy should be. During these heady days before the election, we must become much more accurate at recognizing and sidestepping the okeedoke move, since it will be used more and more in the next 80-something days, and the aim will be to confuse, befuddle, and frustrate voters to the point of nullifying their participation in the process. That result must be prevented. Voting is always important–this time it is crucial.

Get and stay informed. Challenge with facts those who try to throw you off your game. Make an informed decision and vote your choice. And don’t let anyone stop you.

We need to remember that we know what three-card monte looks like, and we know the old switcheroo. Our mothers didn’t raise any fools. We must remind them all, bring it real, and bring it right, or keep it home. We won’t be buying it.

We’re all looking at the tests of true character that stand out in the media, and that we expect to increase in the next few days. What’s the deal with not releasing the tax returns as all other presidential candidates have done since 1968? After all, the next president has to stand for us in the rest of the world. We need to know the man will be sharp in intellect, honest in negotiations and be a serious decision-maker not bound by church doctrine, ideological shackles, or plain silliness.

Now, let’s go and elect our champion for the next four years! And if you’re bringing nonsense to distract me or try my patience, don’t even think about it! I’ve got my third eye on you.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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