Sunday, August 10, 2014

America’s Dialog Problem

     It’s become de rigueur in chat rooms, newspaper and magazine comment sections and social media, for Americans to take a “me against the universe” position. Not only Americans, of course because this is basically an internationalist problem. But it boils down to an equation in essence, of this:
Whomever does not believe as I do is an idiot.
     It does seem that when some people are taxed to the point of a maximal intellectual box canyon, the common reply is not to offer a counter-argument, but to throw out the canard “You’re a moron!”; “You're an idiot!”; “Libtard”; “Repugnican” ; “Demorat” and the like. I am sure you’ve seen your share of this, so I presume that you, the reader, have had significant encounter with it. If not, believe me, you shall before you die, somewhere! Just state our opinion forcefully and succinctly enough, and there will be someone who crawls up from the bushes to raise this cheap shot. It’s probably all the ammo he has left anyhow.
     One of the big arguments that has become something of a leftwing meme in defense of President Spybot is that he is “faced with an obstructionist Congress”. Actually in a society which is built on a principle of checks and balances, loyal opposition to question the moves and motives of Executive authority - of either party- seems like they’re pretty much doing what they’re paid to do- not “obstructing.” But part of the problem is the partisanship which IS of itself, “obstructionist.” But neither party is immune from this illness.
     It seems that this loyalism to Spybot is rooted in the partisanship which accompanied his political victory, and which seems to get worse with each passing election. Americans who have achieved an election then begin behaving like lager louts at a football match” “Our team won! Your team sucks!” and taken to an extreme, you hear one party saying of the other, that the opposition must be driven completely from the field. No, they are not allowed to the corner of the ring to nurse a wound, regroup, come up with alternative positions. Just get rid of them, because: THEY are morons!
     This euphoria however only goes so far. It rarely if ever lasts longer than the first year and a half after each election. This is true for a few reasons, but the biggest, of course, is that we live in a liberal democracy. Let me explain what I mean when I call it that, so nobody goes all haywire and screams I’m writing out conservatives myself.
     The classic definition of “liberal” means, able to tolerate opinions held contrary to one’s own. Toleration in this society does involve the extension of the rights of minorities- minority viewpoints, not just minority demographically speaking. Therefore, one would think that “liberals” would welcome the expression of diverse viewpoints to the political dialog. But what do we find? We find those who otherwise champion first amendment rights often calling for the censorship of commentators they deem distasteful: “Pull their license! “ “Ban them from the airwaves!” “the man is a moron!” etc.
     While a true liberal would shrug, and say, “Okay, that’s just HIS opinion...What a great country we have, that people can be so wonderfully whacko”, “progressives” often wish to take things to the next step, which is the equivalent to censorship and inability to tolerate ideas and persons who make them uncomfortable. But fortunately, the Constitution does not settle for people just being comfortable. There have been a great number of societies where that was attempted, but almost all of those which have held that chosen goal are those who can be blatantly labeled totalitarian. But then we are on our way to a totalitarian society in America, anyway. You can notice that in the social media and other commentary spaces, where Americans cry for the “extermination of all Moslems!” in a manner reminiscent of the Nazi pogroms against Jews. One sector of society, by dint of religious adherence, is the stain and infection of the nation, and must be eliminated! Gee, but where have we heard that before?
     American exceptionalism is not limited to a belief held by “conservatives”- the old right wing that sent America into a losing war in Vietnam, and rushed the USA into another hornet's nest in Iraq. American exceptionalism is actually something of a national religion akin to patriotism (q.v., my blog post dated 6-14-13 Our State Religion: Patriotism). This theory rests on the belief that the United States, (at one time) the first and best world hope for  a “Novus Ordo Seclorum” after two hundred some odd years is STILL the first best hope for same. And that despite all evidence to the contrary, American interventionism anywhere in the world is justified by that alone.  Somehow it is proving itself. Somewhere. It must be because, God Bless the Greatest Nation on Earth!
     Americans are all exceptional individuals, this is true. A nation is not its government, its people are more virtuous than those with lack of sense enough to meander into what is charmingly called “public service” but which amounts to (basically) public robbery, insider trading, and corruption. But calling the other guy an idiot, well, that’s just part of free speech ma’am.
     But here I have to refer to the other great Latin sentence at the heart of our democracy, “E Pluribus Unum”- Out of Many, One. It need not only refer to the nation itself in the furthest macro cognition. From the other end, it recognizes that out of a diversity of opinions, the people of America choose that which they deem best to hold their self-governance. It recognizes that minority opinions have a place (even if it’s just sitting back in the corner) but that minority opinion has a right to its existence. No place in the Constitution does it claim we have a “two party system.” This has been a myth fostered by the major parties to justify their bullying other competition from the ring, and continuing the charades of “Big Evil” vs. “Bigger Evil” each party poisons its partisanship with before during and after each election, that same force which drives people to yell “Our party rules! Your party sucks!” as if that should substitute for debate, and dialog. All too often, unfortunately, it does.

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