You tell yourself you aren't going to do it.
You say you're better than that, you're stronger -- that no matter what, you simply refuse to sink to their level.
And then it happens. Somewhere between the good intentions and the naive promises, you end up going all negative with your campaigning.
I'm afraid we've reached that point with the current race we've got brewing here in the Top o' Utah.
Many of you readers may not be aware of this -- because they've only run, like, a kajillion ads in the newspaper about it -- but fellow Standard-Examiner columnist Charles Trentelman and I are locked in a winner-take-all fundraising competition for the United Way. My freakishly long and shaggy hippie hair, wagered against his transient-inspired beard-like facial growth. The guy who raises the most money for charity gets to keep this sad reminder of his long-faded youth; the other has to look for some other way to compensate for midlife disappointments.
For most of the month, the fundraising contest remained relatively civil. But now, with less than a week left (Friday's the deadline!), it would appear that the gloves are coming off.
It all started when someone -- and I'm not necessarily accusing the "beardist" supporters in the Trentelman camp here -- posted on a newsroom bulletin board a doctored photograph of me, made up to look like some wild-haired, wild-eyed foreign terrorist.
My campaign strategists advised immediate retaliation, virtually begging me to leak the as-yet-unconfirmed story of Charlie's involvement with a radical Weather Underground-like movement of the 1970s. But I nobly refused to foment that rumor, and let me just categorically state that I can neither confirm nor deny any actual, firsthand knowledge that a once-violent communist who now goes by the name of Charles Trentelman was being sought by the FBI back in the summer of 1975.
It does, however, give one pause to note that our favorite liberal columnist began growing the beard that very same year.
I'm only sayin'.
Still, despite Charlie's rather checkered patriotic past, it is a more recent development in this campaign that is the most disturbing. Last Sunday, after Charlie wrote about how his own family had turned against him and was donating against his beard, online comments included this chilling message on Standard.net:
"We will be spreading the word about your plight, and taking donations for the United Way (in your name) at our next gathering. SAVE THE BEARD!"
The message was signed simply, "The Great American Fierce Beard Organization."
I did a little research and learned that this shadowy organization is an extremist facial-hair group based out of Lansing, Mich.
This is exactly what's wrong with our country -- special-interest groups from back East, flooding our local fundraising campaigns with dirty money in a brazen attempt to influence the outcome of an otherwise free and fair race.
Make no mistake: This contest isn't just about hair anymore, folks. It's about freedom. It's about justice. It's about right and wrong, and the inalienable god-given choice of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So I ask you, my fellow Americans, are we going to sit idly by and let some carpetbagging interlopers from out-of-state come in here and tell us how we should be conducting our charitable affairs? Or will we rise up and show them -- through generous, frequent donations to the United Way in my name -- that they can't just come in here and hijack our due process? (Wait. Better make that 'do process.)
Do it for America. Do it for the children. But mostly, do it for the party.
Oh yeah, that's right. I forgot to tell you, there's a party at the end of all this. And you're invited.
On Monday, Oct. 31, the Standard-Examiner will host a Halloween Shearing Party. It's open to the public, and it promises to be the shindig gala of the decade.
Indeed, if you attend only one social event this whole year, you'll obviously want to pick something else. But if, on the other hand, you attend lots and lots of social events each and every year, then this should probably be one that you seriously consider attending. Maybe. If you don't have something else to do that day. Like ironing. Or the crossword puzzle.
Anyway, there's a $5 soup/breadstick fundraiser beginning at 11 a.m., followed at noon by a "Laughs at Lunch" performance with local funnydude Craig Bielik.
Then, at 12:30 p.m., it's the moment you've all been waiting for. Barring any last-second, huge donations by those in attendance that would somehow swing the results, United Way officials will announce the winner of that whole Charlie/Mark thing, followed immediately by the execution of the sentence upon the runner-up fundraiser.
And may God have mercy upon his hair.
C'mon, donate to Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.