There’s Enough Wrong to Go Around

Michele says it’s all the Left’s fault. The Left is violent, and we’re going to cause all sorts of violence in August. Yeah, some people probably will be violent. But, it won’t be because of their political point of view. It’ll be because they’re prone to violence. And to say there’s no violence on the Right is misleading. It’s not like everyone on the Right is peace loving. Let’s look… We have the whole militia movement, from the Right (Michele is dropping “far”, so I will too, just to keep the vocabulary the same) which spawned Tim McVeigh. He killed a lot of people. There are the followers of Fred Phelps, from the Religious Right, who probably count in their number the guys who killed Matthew Shepard. If not literally, at least figuratively. Fred wants to put up a monument to Matthew’s murder. We have Pat Robertson, who went so far as to ask the Almighty to kill off some Supreme Court Justices. We have Hitler. He’s the poster boy for the Right, right? Oh, and we have Stalin. Oh wait, he’s from the Left. He killed twenty million people, which means that the Right has a ways to go in catching up, right?

I’m not trying to make light of all the people who have died at the hands of maniacs from both ends of the political spectrum. I’m really not. But, if we’re going to play tit for tat for all the violence attributed to people registered to a political party, we’ll be here all night, tomorrow, the next day, and may never stop. We’ll end up hating not only each other, but ourselves in the end.

I’m on the Left. I used to be on the Right, drifted to the Center, and am now drifting Left. I am not prone to violence. Most people I know, and all the ones I hang out with on both sides, are not prone to violence. They come from both parties. They’re the vast sea of people in the middle, the people who vote quietly without fanfare or protest, and live their lives the best they know how.

What I feel happening is the silo-ization of our culture. We tend to hang out with people who think like us. It makes us comfortable. We can now consume all kinds of media now without ever having our reality challenged. On the Right, you have Fox News. The Left has CNN (well, according to the Right – I don’t really see it, but I’ll accept it for this analogy). On the web, you can read Daily Kos or InstaPundit and never leave your political comfort zone. This didn’t happen until very recently, and I think it’s causing all sorts of problems. When people who all agree get together, it forms an echo chamber. The dialogue escalates, because there’s no reason to think you’re going to hurt anyone’s feelings or offend anyone. Everyone agrees! We’re all pals here! We can speak freely! Then, the other side comes in, is shocked, and then goes back to their little corner of the world, and the force of language escalates again. It’s a death-spiral, that I fear will end in the complete death of political debate in this country.

I tried (and failed) to fix it over at nonDependant. I wanted a dialogue. It didn’t really develop, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to keep it going or develop it. I think someone with Michele’s personality and fire could start it. If we want to fix it and stop the violence before it starts, we need to stop yelling and start talking. We need to stop laying blame and start finding solutions.

I know this is getting long, but I want to confess something. I listened to a good part of Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9/11 comission. I was good and fired up, angry at Bush, like the good Lefty that I am. Then, I read Reid’s post about the testimony, and the switch flipped. It doesn’t do anything positive to lay the blame for 9/11 at anyone’s feet. It doesn’t matter now. There were things missed all over. Everyone made mistakes, and it doesn’t do any good to second guess that now. It’s more important that we fix the problems that remain, together.

We need to stop preaching to our respective choirs. The preaching is turning into shrieking, and isn’t doing anything to fix things. We need to turn around, shake hands and talk to each other: about our problems, about our respective solutions, about our dreams, our lives, our families, and our communities. It’s time to get a little uncomfortable. Hi, my name is Kevin. I’m a Lefty. Nice to meet you.

6 thoughts on “There’s Enough Wrong to Go Around”

  1. I admit I was wrong to blame it solely on the left. I was fuming when I wrote that post – I should have walked away from the computer and wrote later on.
    I say amen to your last two paragraphs. That’s what I’ve been writing about all week.

  2. Michele, that’s a pretty flaming rant. I wonder how much you want to keep something that inflammatory on the Internet.

    I think the political and opinion-based media, including the Internet, and regardless of specific political leanings, is basically a disease of contemporary Western culture. I believe completely in freedom of expression, but I also believe in censure (that is, public denouncement) of people who think that opinions are, in and of themselves, worthy of expression.

    People with uninformed opinions, for example, should not be encouraged. Unforunately, most people have uninformed opinions. And, not coincidentally, they are most likely to believe that their own opinions are sound. It’s always worse when the opinions are totally disconnected from practical matters, instead being all about cultural disagreements, like the merits of sexual abstinence vs. sexual freedom, religion A vs. religion B, or forgiveness vs. accountability (one of those false dichotomies which is so prevalent because no-one will admit what it’s really about).

    For people who do (or try to) have informed opinions — or who at least try to balance their opinions with a sense that reaching an agreement is more important than being right — listening to the shrieking of everyone else is miserable and depressing. The only solution I know of is to ignore the partisan sheep and forge a new direction.

    Partisan sheep are not leaders, by definition, so you are best to just ignore them. You have to communicate with the leadership, and participate in it. Otherwise, you might as well just ignore the whole thing. Speaking one’s mind has absolutely no impact on cultural debates.

    The real error of discussing “the left” versus “the right” is the implicit attribution of reason to what are irrational blobs of emotion. I fear that a large number of people are basically incapable of rational thought. Whether they are in the majority, no one knows. Fortunately, their irrationality makes them incapable of taking leadership roles, or at least roles of any consequence. At best, they provide short-term channels for popular sentiment, and use fear and ignorance to prolong this. As Kevin points out, extreme examples are found on both the “left” and the “right”, but elsewhere, too. Those political distinctions are basically meaningless, anyway.

  3. Me, I thought I was on the Right, but now I don’t like them so much. I don’t like the Left much either. But I might be prone to violence if pushed too far. Hmm, where does apathetic rage fit in to all this?

  4. Anger is the mood of the moment. Apathetic rage is an amusing term, if I may be mildly flippant. Whatever the case, it “fits” only as badly as everything else on the one-dimensional line of politics. That is, not at all.
    Just warn those around you if you’re feeling like you’re about to lose control!

  5. I really do miss your little experiment. I used to drive around and think of witty, intelligent things to write about. But then we I got home, I ended up catching up with Doonesbury and President Bartlett….

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