There are days that I feel like I am the last Moderate - the last person in the world who remains open-minded in all manner of discourse, the last person who respects intelligent opinions that are in opposition to my own, or to that end the last person who even acknowledges that there can be opinions that are both intelligent and in opposition to my own. Of course this isn't true. I am not the last moderate, nor am I a moderate in reality. I strive to be, but all so often my intentions buckle under the human need to sensationalize. I have to admit that I (like many of you) have convinced myself that the end is near - the 2nd American Civil War is just around the corner! - and despaired. Of course that is a sensationalized and radicalized thought and statement, but it is one so easy to make. So I cannot say that I am the last moderate, nor can I say that I am, in fact, a true moderate. But I can say that there are days that I feel that way. Today is one of those days.
The media, America, has taken you hostage. In the name of ratings, people like Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow have stoked the fire of your emotions. Whether it be hate, anger, fear, or any other strong emotion, the media has learned to stir them up until we, in our fervor, cease to think. Instead, we let them do our thinking for us. Using words like patriot, choice, freedom, and equality, these masters of manipulation frame their position in such a way that it seems unassailable and so we, accepting the premise upon which they offer their arguments, agree with them. This agreement is not the kind of agreement where you sit quietly and nod your head. It is a loud, boisterous, self-righteous agreement based upon emotional response and only rarely upon fact.
We call these people pundits, taken from the Hindu word for expert, and thus we have allowed them to dictate our thoughts, our prejudices, our opinions. These pundits, these so-called experts, have impacted us so much that they have changed the way we talk! Words like conservative and liberal have taken on new meanings and hold new connotations, and are now being used as anything from an insult to a credential. Statements like "He's a true conservative - he's got my vote!" or "That liberal hippie is shredding the constitution" are tossed around in water cooler politics so much that to label them as cliche somehow doesn't seem enough. We do not consider that there can be more than two sides to an argument, or that a person can agree with only come of a political party's positions while disagreeing with others. No, we instead listen to the talking heads and think in absolutes. Right and Wrong. True and False. Us and Them.
Take, for example, the abortion debate. It's a conversation that most of us have had, or at least heard, and it always boils down to this: you're either pro-choice, or you're pro-life. Ignoring, for the moment, that the labels are presented in such a way that opposing either is akin to playing with a loaded gun, is it not an egregious example of the mis-characterization of political issues that these pundits so love to present. Is it unfathomable to think that the situation is more complex than a yes or no answer? We don't think of it as a multi-faceted discussion because it isn't presented as one - as far as the talking heads are concerned you're either a baby killer or a sexist who wants to stomp on a woman's reproductive rights.
And so we find ourselves living during a time in which our great nation is fractured, more divided than at any time in our history save the Civil War. We have allowed our emotions to be manipulated, shaping our views and opinions into radical, uncompromising stances. Then once this change occurred, this radicalization of the populace, it began to be reflected in our vote. The Tea Party came into being and has held this country hostage with their self-righteous extremism. (I'm not mentioning a left-wing movement simply because the Tea Party has the unfortunate luck of being easily named, but make no mistake - radicalism on the left is just as rampant and just as toxic.) The 112th Congress will, I believe, go down in history as one of the worst legislative bodies this country has ever seen, and the low approval ratings they consistently received during their tenure proves that the American people mostly agree with me on that. Yet we, the people, haven't changed the self-righteousness and radicalism that plagues us, and it is that same radicalism that led us to elect this shameful congress in the first place.
The fact of the matter is this - we are not enemies. Contrary to what the talking heads have told you, the left is not trying to shred the constitution, the right is not trying to force the world into poverty so the 1% can become even more wealthy, and people can agree with parts of each party's platform (or can equally disagree with both!) and still be intelligent people. I mentioned in my opening that I sometimes worry about another Civil War, and I call that a radical thought. While presenting it as an unavoidable outcome is, indeed, extremely radical, admitting that Civil War is a possibility in the future is, I feel, simply realistic. However possible Civil War is, we have it within our power to prevent it! We can turn away from the sarcasm, the misrepresentation, the demeaning of those we don't agree with. We can begin to bring intelligence, rationality, and moderation back to political discourse.
And so, good reader, this is my promise to you - I will not say that I will never speak something that is untrue, but I will say that I will never intentionally do so and that I will always try to present the facts. I will not say to you that I will not be biassed, but I will say that I will always try to present both sides of a debate without disrespect or misrepresentation. I will try to moderate my commentary to ferret out the radicalism that has so damaged us.
Please return to this blog - read, comment, and share. You will not always agree with me, nor I with you, but it is my earnest hope that we can learn respect.