Our Polarized Political Camps in America

dems and republicans

I can’t remember another time in my life when Democrats and Republicans were so distant, one from the other. In the political arena, both have become stereotypes of their former selves so that the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have become catchwords for a series of associations that have come to define us, not just for political choices, but as human beings. Republicans use the word “liberal” in derisive tones, and Democrats say the word “conservative” in similarly mocking ways, making up their minds before even getting all the information to make sound judgments. Our responses have become more emotional than rational.

american flag

The results of this deadlock of philosophical differences are a comatose Congress and political battles in the media bordering on civil war, stirring up the basic prejudices and preconceptions by the media, and a few resonant voices on both sides. There seems to be no middle ground for sensible discussion, only an atmosphere of suspicion and accusation, as in Ann Coulter’s sweeping generalization this week that “Liberals hate Christianity,” which made me want to know her definition of that religion.

conflict

It’s interesting to me, for example, to observe the often self-righteous extremes of social and political vitriol between Fox News and MSNBC. There are certainly other forms of media, but these two television networks distill down to their purest forms the convictions of Republicans and Democrats. Tweaking issues and facts by leaving out important details has become an art form on both sides. It reminds me of the British cartoon posters displayed during World War I of German soldiers wearing spiked helmets and stabbing infants with swords before holding them up in triumph. Both our political parties are guilty of such unapologetic hyperbole to the point at which it becomes almost comic. There’s no better way to get an ally than to make someone angry in a shared cause against a monstrous enemy, real or imagined. Martyrdom on both sides is basic in gaining sympathy (and votes). Persecution has become a political device.

Pick%20A%20Party

What bothers me most is the blind hatred of one side for the other, often funneling itself down to mere name calling and pure meanness of spirit through altered photographs and other caricatures. There is nothing new about such deliberate exaggeration. That sort of furious rivalry goes back more than two centuries of our political landscape, but such rage can have a powerful effect on our figurative and collective vision of whatever and wherever the truth may be.

fox news

I’ve always been suspicious of people who have no doubts, second thoughts, or reservations about their apparently clear-cut answers to spiritual questions regarding God and our “only” ways of seeking and achieving salvation (whatever that may mean) and eternal bliss. If such a person has no questions or no gray areas of thought, I usually run in the opposite direction. By the same token, if someone is so satisfied that he is completely correct and omniscient about the political arena in this country (especially if he or she foams at the mouth), I know the person is emotionally or sentimentally reduced to a simple and puerile black and white view of whatever the truth may turn out to be.

boxing gloves

No matter how staunch a Democrat may be, if he can’t examine calmly Republican values and try to see the sense of at least some of them, his grasp on reason is impaired by tunnel vision. This works the other way around as well for Republicans. Members of both political parties wear blinders, whether they are the most naïve and fantasy-prone Democrats or the most rigid, gun-toting Tea Party Republicans. On Facebook almost daily, I see deliberately isolated and trimmed issues posted, creating false impressions and faulty conclusions among readers, who often express indignation and white-hot anger before knowing all the details, which have been cleverly omitted. The result is unjustified anger, simply because people have not done their homework to see important details that help provide an entire picture. This type of vigilante publicity is only half-information, which can sometimes be worse than total ignorance.

rush limbaugh

I suppose we need both extremes to arrive at some sensible kind of middle ground, where we can look at enough sane details (dispassionately if need be) from both sides and understand them without having brain aneurisms.

rachel maddow

Finally, I would love to see literal boxing matches with the political opponents paired off in this way:

Chris Hayes versus Ted Cruz

Chris Matthews versus Mike Huckabee

Ed Schultz versus Rush Limbaugh

Al Sharpton versus Bill O’Reilly

Rachel Maddow versus Sean Hannity

What a great TV special this would make! The sponsor would be Ovaltine. 

JB

ovaltine

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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