A neighbor recently received an email from a friend complaining about a fundraising letter sent her by the Democratic National Committee. Her friend, an ultra-conservative, launched into a harangue about the incompetence and dishonesty of our president, the evils of socialized government and how she and her husband never got anything for free; they earned “every dime” they had.
She concluded her diatribe by attaching her vitriolic response letter to the DNC. And, for the coup de grâce, she mentioned enclosing a “dirty dime” for accent.
Now, it’s true that I am troubled by ultra-right conservatives who claim “bootstrap” roots, wrap themselves in the flag or wave their Bibles at me. But, conversely, I am also troubled by ultra-left liberals who would lead us down the path to socialism. So where does that leave me or, for that matter, the majority of my fellow Americans who do not appreciate the extremists of either persuasion? How about … somewhere in the middle?
When given opposing positions, the truth usually lies somewhere in between – usually, but not always. For example, medieval minds believed the Earth was flat, while Galileo believed it was round; both were absolute positions and only one could be right. Science eventually proved Galileo correct, but not before he was threatened with torture and imprisonment for heresy by those in power.
Without getting into philosophical arguments, I believe that in politics absolutism is hardly ever correct. And, in most situations, both conservatives and liberals can put up solid arguments in support of their positions.
I believe this to be a good thing, as it forces us to evaluate which, if either, position to support, based upon the truthfulness and relevancy of the facts and our individual value system. We may even come up with a third position that encompasses the best aspects of both arguments – a “sweet spot” if you will.
Sometimes it is hard to discern that “sweet spot” when all we hear are the fanatical ravings of tribes of liberals and conservatives with their respective medicine men/women. They hyperventilate and beat their drums to warn of the impending dangers of extreme progressivism and goose-stepping nationalism.
Now, I do not mean to make light of the perils of either and fully realize that there is risk in charting our future national course. But, enough is enough. We cannot allow the extremists of hyper partisanship to demonize the other side, polarize the nation and prevent us from addressing urgent national issues.
So what to do?
First, we must turn away from media provocateurs who have come to the realization that there are ratings, power and personal wealth to be amassed.
These media celebrities inflame the situation by pandering to a base audience who wants to be affirmed rather than be informed. Instead, we must look for neutral news sources; 30 minutes on a Google search should get you there.
Second, we must listen attentively and respectfully to our political leaders. OK, I realize that less than 20 percent of us actually trust our elected officials. But, there are some honest politicians – even if it takes a little effort to find them.
Those are the ones who value our collective well-being over their own individual welfare. Look for those who tell you the hard truth, admit errors, lead with the facts and propose positive courses of action. Avoid those who deal in bombast, the blame game and appeal to your emotions over your reason.
Third, we must restore some civility in our civil discourse. Remember when we used to say, “I respect your right to say that, but I don’t agree …. Here’s why.”
According to Steven Covey, “We must first seek to understand, before we seek to be understood.” In this vein, almost any topic can be discussed in a give-and-take scenario and, hopefully, many an insight can be gained even if not agreed to.
With all the above, the onus still falls directly upon us to make our choices wisely. We need to chart a more neutral course – a course that will bring most of us together. If we are to accomplish anything, it can only come about through the willingness to listen and understand each other.
And so to the people on the far left and the far right I say, “Tone it down … stop being played … and just listen for a change.”
If you really believe in American values, you know that it is wrong to forcibly impose your beliefs upon others. You know that our society is based upon civility, diversity of views and a tolerance that allows for all voices to be heard.
PS: Even the heretical Galileos of this world deserve to be heard. After all, sometimes they are proven right, and that right can make all the difference.