Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Random Musings

I recently joined Facebook, just because everyone else in the world seems to be on there. On the home page is a blank box entitled "What's on your mind" where you are supposed to write whatever. What's on my mind is this. I have a number of Facebook friends, mostly people in my email list. It's a diverse group. There are people who think George Bush is the devil himself, while others reserve that sentiment for Barack Obama. One of my Facebook friends posted that today is the 60th anniversary of Germany's invasion of Poland to start World War II (she meant 70th, but that's irrelevant to my point). She went on to say that in her mind, January 20, 2009 (Obama's inauguration) is on par with that date. Now, I'm no Obama fan, but equating his inauguration with the start of a world war is a bit much. On the other side, I recently read an opinion by a well-meaning University of Utah student lambasting the Bush administration and asserting that "generational equity" is THE greatest problem facing the United States. By this she meant that she is contributing, forcibly by dint of law, into a Medicare and Social Security program that will in all likelihood be broke by the time she is eligible for its benefits. Granted, this is a problem, but is it THE most important problem facing America?

My point is, it seems everyone (and here I'm guilty of what I'm criticizing) is going to extremes. We as a nation are polarizing ourselves. We demonize the other side. Depending on your point of view, George Bush/Dick Cheney/Sara Palin are Satan or he's Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Harry Reid. Once you've called the president the greatest disaster since the start of World War II, you have alienated him and his supporters. You simply can't reach a consensus because the other side is evil, immoral, unethical, and probably cross-eyed. Of course, the other side has to retaliate in kind, and we end up with a sort of mutual assured destruction.

Can we set aside hyperbolic rhetoric, if for no other reason than that hyperbole, like the boy who cried "wolf," soon loses is impact? As a more aspirational goal, can we have true civic dialog? The recent town meetings with people shouting each other down, waving canes and threatening physical violence are not a good reflection of what is supposed to be the greatest democracy in the world. Can we find a way to disagree without being disagreeable? And in our civic dialog, can we stick to the facts? Just the facts, ma'am, as Jack Webb used to say.

No comments: