Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Political Discord or Discourse

One of my pet peeves continues to be the lack of political discourse that we are in the midst of in this country. We have finally gotten through a debt ceiling crisis with a "clean" bill that doesn't try to add this or subtract that while in the meantime holding the government as hostage. Compromise has become a dirty word and working with the opposition means to give them 100% of what they want while we get 0% of what we want.

Which is true no matter which side of the aisle or political spectrum we're on.

It sounds like two schoolyard bullies arguing:

I want mine.

You can't have it, because I want mine.

Well if I can't have what I want, you can't either.
Add to that the levels of anger, meanness and incendiary rhetoric and you have lost me.

Over on Facebook several friends (and friends of friends) recently had a short discourse on this again. It was, I admit, started by a shared post I put up. The original author of the original post had, I thought, some good insights and challenges to present. (I may talk about those specifics in another post.) I could see the anger and "name-calling" that was included, but the points were well made.

One of my friends disagreed, not about the points made but about the (lack of) rhetorical style. He was put off by the tone of the post. I could understand that but it sure got me thinking about this whole idea of public discourse over controversial or divisive issues.

From my perspective things like the 24/7 news cycle and polarized talk shows are a big part of the problem today. It is so easy to make a statement- true or false or in-between- and have it spread around the web and real world in no time. Once out there you can't bring it back and it could easily end up as "gospel truth" in no time.

This is nothing new. I remember the Paul McCartney is dead rumor of the late 60s when everyone was scanning all the Beatles' records and lyrics for proof, ignoring his very real presence around us.

Nor is difficult political discourse new. The very infamous election between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson included some of the worst journalism and name-calling in American history. (Read David McCullough's wonderful biography of Adams!) There was also the Civil War which was all that rhetoric taken to its most illogical extreme.

But somehow we have to find a way to do something about this. I am at a loss myself. All I have tried to do, hopefully with some degree of success, is preach my view of civility in discourse when possible, respond in non-incendiary language when possible- and when not, I try to stay silent.

One of the challenges of democracy is the fact that people with opposing viewpoints get some kind of equal time, or at least that's the theory. I don't want to see that changed, challenged, or squashed. Maybe if each of us in our own discourse on these types of issues kept cool heads and try not to be inflammatory, it might just happen.

Then, as if to highlight what I was thinking, I went to Facebook and was confronted with this wonderful picture. Thanks to whoever started it.

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