It appears the decades-long political apathy that has existed in the U.S. may be at an end. That apathy which has allowed our government to reach systemic corruption, with our representatives filling their own pockets – unchecked – with little regard for the desires of their constituents. Americans have finally gotten fed-up with it all. Not since the Vietnam War have I seen so many people actively concerned about the state of our politics. And it is certainly not a bad thing, since a democracy, after all, is a government by its people.
But ‘waking up’ has come with a price. Too many years of not paying attention – whether due to job focus, lack of interest, or simply not wanting to offend – have eroded our skills in civil discourse and thinned our skins. It has reached the point where healthy debate over political things that matter quickly devolve into unproductive arguments, name-calling, and strained relationships. This has been magnified by the impersonal aspects of social media, where a person can sit behind the shield of their computer and say things they would not typically say directly to someone’s face. This situation is made even worse by the explosion of ‘fake news’, causing people to fight over things that simply aren’t true.
I feel it myself and worry how many of my friends and family have had enough of my thoughts. Probably more than I want to know. Where is the right balance between being an educated, involved citizen and not driving those around us completely nuts? I have tried to read differing, well thought-out perspectives and the debates that ensue, and sometimes add my own opinion. I think it helps. These are the debates that will hopefully bubble up to hold our elected representatives accountable and drive them to find the compromises that serves us best. But the number of those debates and the ugly confrontations that frequently result are becoming too much for most of us these days, myself included.
We need to find a balance between staying silent and speaking out that allows each of us to remain part of a healthy, respectful discourse while not turning us into enemies. Because it is the discourse that is needed to fan the flames of our re-awakening and let those we elected know their party is over. We have learned that apathy doesn’t work.
Lately it feels like my head is going to explode, trying to make sense of this sideshow that is our current presidential race. The egomaniac has TERRIFIC plans for everything but has no details. Trust him. The socialist will provide all of our constitutional rights for free by just taking money from the rich. Don’t worry that those same rich control this oligarchy. The radical right promises to whisk us back to the good times, when goodness was measured only through the eyes of God-fearing white men. And the most experienced candidate -a woman – smiles on top and paddles like hell underneath so the truth of her past doesn’t reach the surface. Ultimately it appears yet another voting choice will be driven by the lesser of evils, because decent, qualified people don’t want the job. Ugh. It must be quite the spectacle for the rest of the world.
While some of us yearn for the miraculous appearance of a rational, experienced moderate to vote for – and we honestly don’t care from which party – the rest have crowded onto their chosen side of the great chasm that currently defines US politics and are throwing rocks and spears across the void. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen such a divisive America, where strong opinions have become the norm, with more and more people moving further to the extremes of the parties. I think this is why I can’t make sense of it all. There is no real discussion of ideas. There are just false promises, accusations, and lots of mudslinging. The land of the moderate, where compromise exists and people actually discuss, has become a barren, lonely place. Why is this?
My guess is it began with the well-meaning political correctness movement in the late ’80s when we started losing the ability to have meaningful, civil discourse with each other. You know, that ancient art of listening and sharing of ideas. Instead, now afraid we might offend someone with our honest thoughts, we cower in the incestual safety of our like-minded friends and media sources, reinforcing our opinions with one-sided, circular arguments. The closest we get to discourse, if you can call it that, is the online sharing of unverified, typically false, social medium memes which bolster the opinions of our side. That way we don’t have to entertain an opposing concept. No wonder the void is so large.
We can only hope that someday we start reclaiming that lost art of verbal intercourse. When college students can once again discuss controversial ideas late at night without fear of suspension by the school’s Orwellian 1984-esque PC squad. When tactfully stated, well-meaning concepts are graciously accepted for consideration. When an open mind holds more political weight than a thin skin. Then, maybe, we can begin to find that middle ground again, when compromise is a sign of strength rather than weakness.
(Image courtesy of VisitDerry.com)