Monday, August 29, 2011

Election 2012 on the Horizon: A Plea for Peaceful Politics

It's that time again.  We spent August maligning the "incompetent" politicians in Congress and their inability to reach a budget agreement.  Now we can go back to picking apart presidential candidates after every public appearance or criticizing the President after every perceived misstep.

Have you ever said you're sick of politics, politicians, and all the bickering and posturing that goes on between the parties?  Have you then gone on to verbally malign a political party or politician?  Ever see the dichotomy there?

I'm guilty of such hypocrisy, much to my shame.  It is possible to have reasoned debates and disagreements without maligning the character or intent of your opposition, but it is very difficult.  It's much easier to say someone is uneducated and backwards (or conversely, say someone is part of the ivory tower intellectual elite) than to say you just look at an issue differently.  It's easier to say someone is unpatriotic, or anti-American,  or heartless, than to give specific reasoning as to why you disagree with their stance.  We learn it very young on the playground-- name-calling gets results.  As adults, we learn that nothing rallies people to our cause quite like getting them royally pissed off at the other side.  So we malign our opponent's character.  We ascribe to them evil intentions.  We consider ourselves the reasoned, tempered ones, while considering our opponents evil scum bags out to destroy our country.

I've been active in both major political parties at one time or another.  This habit goes both ways, because I've done it from both sides.  And it is completely and utterly pointless.  Democracy lends itself to the power of the majority and while the minority is out of luck. But any hope of compromise requires us to see our "opponents" not as our enemies, but as fellow citizens who just happen to look at the problems differently and see different solutions.  It's probably naive to think the tone of our discourse could change on the national level, but at least this change in thinking can temper our political conversations with friends, family, and coworkers.  It can dictate what "news" sources we feed into our minds-- do they inform, or do they agitate?

One final word-  I remember after the 2010 elections reading reports that called the results a "bloodbath" and talked about the "carnage" of the congressional upset.  First world problems, baby, first world problems.  Talk a look at Zimbabwe or any of the many countries where elections aren't free and the price of voting for the wrong candidate can mean death.  We have a peaceful transition of government after every election--no fighting, no blood, no civil war.  So let's not act like we're going into battle in the ballot box.

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