Monday, November 15, 2004
Inside the box, outside the box, part one of two
The recent election will be analyzed for years to come, with pundits crunching the numbers and opining on what went right and what went wrong, for the each of Presidential contenders.
What very few pundits and analysts will attempt to do, in a real and meaningful way, is examine why it is that religion and politics are so divisive.
Much conventional liberal thought despises the notion of religion as being influential in politics and many liberals openly abhor the participation of religious adherents in the political process.
Many conservatives wish to obliterate any idea that is deemed to originate from a liberal source, as if liberals wish to poison the well we all drink from.
A few weeks after the election, we are once again comfortable in the mindless bashing. Rather than discuss relevant issues in a meaningful exchange, as BunkerMulligan has often stated, the next round of debates have begun- debates in name only, with the intent of silencing the any and all of the opposing voices.
There are reasoned voices out there, of course, heard at The Commons, LittleRedBlog and Bittersweet and a host of other here on HSB. For some reason, HSB seems to have found a good mix of well reasoned bloggers. No small feat, that- the blogsphere is replete with forgettable, shrill voices.
Having said that, with a bit of reasoned thought, this 'great divide' may serve a higher purpose.
If we consider the nature of the divide and the driving forces behind it, we may perhaps better understand the real issues. Some issues will continue to divide us- not in terms of our value as citizens, but rather in how we look at things. Others issues aren't the national catastrophe that some, including the media, would have us believe, and still other issues do not divide us at all. They are rather, looking at the same idea from different angles.
For the purposes of this piece, I will state that I will exclude the radical idiots, on both sides of the political landscape. While it is tempting to define those mindless voices, I shall not. We all are a whole lot smarter than most political pundits and the media would have us believe.
To paraphrase the Supreme Court definition on pornography, "We know stupidity when we see it."
The matters that have caused this great chasm between Americans and the vitriol they seem to inspire, must be addressed. Simply being dismissive of voices in opposition serves no one- not the country, not our communities and last but not least, not ourselves. The real outrage is that we tolerate this divide, that has been manufactured in the same way that Hollywood makes movies.
While we like to see our candidates reflective of our views and beliefs, here's a reality check:
Candidates are the creation of well funded machines, packaged, marketed and put on display. There is nothing 'real' about any candidate today. What we see is Hollywoood, DC, no more, no less.
The R&D department of the political machines do well funded market studies and determine the 'mood' of a particular constituency. If that 'mood' needs a bit of tweaking, well, there's enough money to go round. It isn't pretty, but it's reality.
If that reality isn't apparent, quit reading now, because this piece isn't headed into the fantasy land of self serving political, passionate pleasures.
There is of course, the mindless pablum of Hollywood's influence, but in the end, bakers need to bake and hatmakers should make hats. Everyone of course is free to express their opinions- and they should. But being influenced by star power is a sad commnetary on the rest of us. What is even more sad is that the political machines attempt to utilize the tactic. Do they think so little of us?
No candidate today, for a variety of reasons, including the PAC's that fund campaigns in the hope of gaining influence or access, can run on real vision, program for change (and thus giving us a better country) or even real conviction. What at times may appear to be convictions may be no more than pandering to a political base or well organized agendas.
There are no longer visionaries that can run on ideas and higher convictions alone.
The last President that was able to do that was Lyndon Johnson- and his vision of the Great Society was bitterly opposed by many for no other reason than it upset too many apple carts.
As a wise man once said, "If you want to make an enemy, propose change."
Real change and real progress, from either side of the political spectrum, is both elusive and ethereal.
Candidates today are selected because the machines that regurgitate winning political campaigns have focused on manipulation our emotions and not appealing to our real and reasoned sensibilities.
We are reminded of real and legitimate fears, and cajoled into carefully crafted ones, with the intent of presenting the opposing candidate as a potential Benedict Arnold or ready for immediate capitutalion to the dark forces we oppose.
Like or not, admit it or not, politics is driven by money (pork), financial considerations and agenda based ideologies.
There are no Abe Lincolns that can run for office anymore, and there are no Jimmy Stewart portrayals of 'Mr Smith Goes to Washington,' that aren't parodies- and 'we the people' are poorer for it.
In this reality and environment, much has been forgotten.
Liberals have forgotten that our country includes even those who disagree with them and their voices are just as relelvant as theirs. Simply disagreeing with some ideas does not make someone stupid. They have also forgotten that simply because they wish to define morality, their definitions by extension, must therefore define us. Life, politics and morality are not zero sum games, that all or nothing proposition. Nor do definitions serve as the means of measure of anyone's worth.
Religious Conservatives have forgotten that 'free will' applies to everyone, and that God places value on everyone. It is not for them decide who is meritorious and who isn't. Nor is it for somepeople to decide morality for everyone. Morality is and will always be, a personal matter. Further, as disconcerting as it may be to some, God made Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and atheists, as well. Part of the bigger picture that seems to be forgotten sometimes.
Secular Conservatives have forgotten that 'My country, right or wrong,' is a bumper sticker, not a profound ideology. The Founders placed great import on debate and spirited oppsosition. To simply follow along, without great thought, is antithetical to what this country stands for and values.
Lemmings are hardly the model for political inspiration.
Fortunately, the truth prevails, notwithstanding Mr Carville or Mr Rove.
Plenty of Christians voted Mr for Kerry, and plenty of progressives voted for Mr Bush in numbers that are beyond a statistical blip.
That happened because some religious voters recognize a greater spirituality as opposed to a specific set of beliefs, and felt comfortable with their choice. Some secular voters felt comfortable with how things are being handled now. Despite all the packaging, pundits and shrill political voices warning of impending doom, many Americans, quietly reasoned and came to decisions without being influenced and without tearing anyone down.
America was founded and made great by many liberal beliefs and convictions, by people of great conviction, honesty and foresight
America was was also founded and made great by many conservative values, by people of great conviction, honesty and foresight.
America it seems, also needs it's cowboys, some wearing white hats, some wearing black hats, all interchangeable. It is to that notion that the 'Hollywoodization' of politics was exploited, by the political powers that be.
Elections and issues are now emotional exercises, rather than intellectual ones. As any good Hollywood director knows, 'make 'em laugh or make 'em cry, and you'll sell tickets.'
We are being sold tickets and the studio with the funnier or sadder film, wins.
This cannot continue.
We, as human beings, always look to our inner compass, our belief and value systems. For some, the magnetic North is the church and faith. For others, it is the 'good works,' sans religion, of much Liberal thought and ideology.
Many mouths a day are fed by religious people, and many mouths a day are fed by secularists. To the hungry I think, it matters not.
As a result of the media and the packaging, however, somehow what has become important is who's picture is seen dispensing the food. Each side declares the other's kitchen as infested with disease, and each side manufactures conspiracy dark theories, implying that 'they' really want to poison us all.
Faced with the barrage of orchestrated and contrived crises, we retreat into ourselves, into the boxes that have been provided to us. All too often, we refuse to think outside that box. And the cycle contiues.
Now that I've haven't made anybody happy, the conclusion to these thoughts will be up tomorrow. No doubt, more head shaking in store.
I can hear it now- "Alex, how little we knew ye."
Tomorrow, I'm going to discuss what is outside the box, that threatens the current political leadership and landscape: Common ground.