The Politics of Hate

I have a confession:  I have precious little patience for politics—American politics as presently constituted, at any rate.

What passes for journalism these days is just one more brand of reality TV.  Entertainment for the angry.  If it bleeds, it leads.  Barring that, if you can get an angry economically disadvantaged person to yell at the camera about the oppression of "the Man", do that.  Anything to tear someone else down.  We buy into the 30-second sound bite with our MTV attention spans and believe we know all the "issues".  We have endowed the roles of judge, jury and executioner all on the 6 o'clock news.

Even "articles" on the Internet and in print lack any substance.  They have degenerated into little more than a headline, a teaser, and a two-paragraph blog post.  McNews—information of the lowest common denominator.

Neither do I believe in "journalistic neutrality".  Not on CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews.  There never has been such a thing.  Since news was carried by peddlers and roaming bards, those providing the information have always promoted their own agenda.  You can collect all the truth you like.  It's what you disseminate that matters.  It's all about the spin.

Opinion polls?  Please!  Don't get me started.  You can make them show whatever trends you like simply by the questions you ask.

We, as a people, have turned politics into our national blood sport, and are fans as rabid as any British football club who riot in the stands and in the streets.  We bristle and posture and accuse one another.  We buy into whatever rumors, innuendo, or outright lies from whatever website suits our own agenda.  We click "forward" on hate mail so reflexively, we never bother to actually find out the truth.  We are shouting so loudly, no one is listening.

We stand our ground.  We stick to our guns and refuse any compromise.  How noble.  In truth, we stubbornly protect our own sacred cows and our own reelection, just like our opponents, no matter the havoc wrecked upon the nation.  It's everyone out for themselves and the devil take the hindmost.  And we sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

But I fervently believe in the political process.  I believe in educating yourself on the issues, reaching your own well-informed opinion, endorsing the candidate you believe best represents not only your interests but the interests of the nation or state or county or town—the best interests of your home owners' association, for mercy's sake.  I believe in volunteerism and yard signs and neighborhood canvassing and phone pools.  If you don't vote, you cannot complain about the outcome.  If you want change, you have to make it.  I believe in political activism—constructive, sane, humane political activism and honest debate, not the mud slinging and hate mongering that pass for it in the US these days.

My family has a Google Group.  My family is also large and opinionated and intelligent and remarkably well-informed.  What they aren't is shy about voicing their opinions.  A broad spectrum of political leanings is represented—if you count straight party-voting Republicans to independents/previous Democrats as a broad spectrum, which, from my family's roots, I do.

Three generations of pundits debate incessantly, but that's all they do.  Debate.  And debate and debate and debate.  But, the thing about debate is (especially in my family), you aren't taken seriously unless you have facts to back up your argument.  It's self-preservation.  Come prepared or keep quiet unless you have very, very thick skin.

Questions are asked, thoughts are provoked, critical thinking is engaged.  Opinions are reversed or modified or reinforced.  Then, once a year or so (of which they will admit), the far right and far left (remember, relatively, speaking of my relatives) will actually agree on something.  Startled speechless, they then scurry back into their respective corners and avoid eye contact with anyone until the shocked silence dissipates.

If they are impassioned, the debates get circular and can go on for, quite literally, hundreds of posts.  Around and around they go and where they stop, nobody knows.  Sometimes, when frustration sets in, they can get a touch snarky.  But, what I really love about my family is, what happens on the list stays on the list.  It's debate.  My family agrees to disagree, they respect one another, and when we have BFFs (big family feasts) or BFOs (big family outings), only love and laughter come through the door.

I'll keep reading my family list, do my own research, and avoid the 6 o'clock news.  Oh, and, it's political ad season.  When  you call, leave a message.  If I don't recognize your number, I won't pick up the phone.

—A Chaotic Mind


Scott Tarbet said...

I think it's hilarious what passes for far left.

Unknown said...

As I said, relatively speaking, referring to my relatives. It's also rather amusing what passes for the rabid rabble-rousing Republicanism. When one is discussing a fairly narrow (relative to the nation) spectrum of political opinion, even the small nudges to the left or right seem tremendous. . . or, at least, worthy of discussion.