I spend a few minutes each morning looking at Facebook posts from a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, along with their political diatribes, which some may even call “convictions.” I’m reaching a point at which I’m skipping over any posts that even hint at a righteous (and too often snide) sermon on how stupid or evil the “other side” is. The problem is that there seem to be only two sides nowadays when it comes to politics, two extreme viewpoints.
Had any foreign power actually plotted to pit Democrats and Republicans against each other (which seems more and more to be a reality), the result could never have been more successfully vile than it is right now. That foreign power would be sitting back, gleefully watching us go for the throats of what we have been trained (at least subliminally) to see as the enemy. Commentaries that one sees on the extreme political edges of Fox News and MSNBC masterfully stoke the flames of righteous indignation, that yield what may well be akin to the rush of a highly addictive drug. Blame has become almost our national sport, filled with artful malice. No accusation can be too hideous or vile, as long as it’s cloaked in an American flag, biblical verse, or photo of some poor vagrant struggling to find his next meal. Guilt is of prime importance. Fact checking is too dangerous in risking ratings that fire up our anger or sympathy and, thus, our complete attention, loyalty, and patronage. Maintaining our righteous rage as an emotional high is the goal, not what’s necessarily right for the country.
There is no middle ground anymore, where one might find reason. This has brought me to the point at which I trust almost no one in Washington any further than I can throw a Volkswagon. Personal agendas, fear of losing wealthy donor support and power can purchase brilliant propaganda that seems to be providing an entertaining and riveting “duke it out” display daily for the rest of the world. Also there is our human weakness of believing pretty much anything that we want or need to believe. Hateful sarcasm seems to have become our political face on the world stage.
I love America too much to renounce my citizenship, but the vulgarity, lies, and vanity from both political parties have become too black and white. The nuance that comes from stepping back to view all the shading of a wider view has been sacrificed for the self-congratulatory smugness that I don’t remember ever seeing before, even during the Nixon era. We have come to love that adrenalin rush of righteous indignation, valid or not. That means we’ve sacrificed something else…the responsibility of honesty (even when it hurts our own causes), fairness in an attitude of give-and-take, and giving up the megalomaniacal rush of eviscerating the opposition as entertainment for political points.
I wonder, with much trepidation, what the world and history itself will see when they look back at our current political landscape. The arrogance and cutthroat maneuvers on both sides make me wonder daily who we really are as a nation and what we’re about. The words to our national patriotic songs seem a bit off key right now to the point that our ideals are either blurred to the point of absurdity or given an almost religious reverence not borne out by our actual behaviors. JB