The most important thing that John Stewart was trying to get across from his Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear, was this:
We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.
I think this is true for the most part, yet unfortunately I tend to wallow in the dregs of the internet, where the idea of having “animus and not be enemies“, can be lost in empty talking points and name calling. Recently, I’ve felt like I spent two days fighting an argument that was inevitably fruitless. It all started with this phrase about the Health Care Recovery Act: “The end-goal is to destroy the American health insurance industry and create a public entity to do the same. Isn’t that socialism?”. Instead of discussing, whether or not the policies created would help or hurt the insurance industry, whether it would be effective at lowering prices, offering alternatives, it ended in an argument on the hypothetical goals/desires of the people creating the bill. Away from policy. Instead, it was an endless argument that truthfully had nowhere to go. People can’t argue against a belief that begins and ends on an opinion. My opinion that, it’s not the aim of Health Care Reform, versus the opinion that it is.
The ideas that drive us apart, incapable of fixing our problems is a mindset that thinks of each other is an enemy. As untrustworthy. As having ulterior motives than the ones we express. Be it, if you think conservatives are out to dismantle Social Security when they say they are trying to fix it, or to as I said liberals are trying to destroy parts of the health care system instead of help it. Instead of thinking of each other as politicians, citizens, activists, all with the sincere and authentic desire to make things better for the country, we treat each other as trying to go out and maim and hurt what we value. While I agree with John Stewart’s hypothesis, and blame on “The Media” for magnifying anger and dissent, it’s been around for a while in our political discourse. While arguing against that previous hypothesis about Democrats out to destroy, it probably didn’t help that I referenced the always pertinent “The paranoid style in American politics” where in 1964 Hofstadter references an almost identical argument, typical of historical conservative mindset ”
The basic elements of contemporary right-wing thought…[is that]…there has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy, running over more than a generation, and reaching its climax in Roosevelt’s New Deal, to undermine free capitalism, to bring the economy under the direction of the federal government, and to pave the way for socialism or communism.”
As a side note, I’m not trying to vilify and simplify conservatives for always being this way. In the article, Hofstadter does mention that this historical pattern, “is far from new and…is not necessarily right-wing”. Yet it’s a real problem that’s evident, especially on the internet and the media. Outside of those spheres, each of us needs to have a mindset that stays away from paranoia.
Paranoia , suspicion, leave us where we can’t talk about results, possible solutions, instead we have to speak to our fears and biases. What you fear liberals are out trying to do, what you fear conservatives are out trying to do. That doesn’t leave room for anything substantial.
What conversations can we have? The liberal, instead of calling Tea Partier’s racist, possibly speak about the ramifications of policy on minorities. The conservative, instead of calling people “socialist” we can talk about specifically how private industry would be better in a specific field. Then we can talk about the tangible of what we want, how policy affects people, and eventually what policy choices we think would benefit everyone involved. Possibly getting pass the biases we hold for “the other side”.
That’s the other part of the rally. While The Media is culpable in encouraging these sort of divisions, we all should be cognizant on whether or not our political discourse is caught in the dregs or producing a conversation worth having.
I hope that was enough Kumbaya for everyone.