Friday, October 20, 2006

When Are We To Believe Our Own Eyes And Ears?

Politics in America have become so two dimensional that we are often asked to ignore our ability to see depth. We are given pre-digested information that is then presented to us as if it has only two sides, the left side and the right side that is increasingly being presented as the right side and the wrong side. Never are we to receive facts or an actual unbiased account of events that we can then use to form our own opinion. Never are we to use our knowledge, common sense and experience to determine for ourselves what any event or piece of information may mean. The way our system currently works, that simply doesn’t matter, all we really need to know is who said what, where on the political spectrum that person falls and which sound bite fits best into our already entrenched world view. How sad that we are viewed as imbeciles by our political representatives (and their media handmaidens) who have clearly forgotten that they work for us, not the other way around.

When did political debate die in this country? Was it when television was introduced as a new medium through which a candidate could get their message out? Was it when political consultants took over and turned politics into a spectator sport? Or was it when marketing became an essential part of campaigning? We get our news from a flat screen, a flat paper and cardboard cutouts of politicians that do everything in their power to hide their own humanity. The world may be round, but America is flat. Flat broke, flat wrong, and flatlining.

This week marks my one-year blogging anniversary and I have been reflecting on what has transpired over this last year and how I have reacted to it all. I started this blog for very personal reasons, first and foremost among them was to provide myself a valve through which I could let out the steam that was building up as I watched our country dissolve before my very eyes. I don’t know that I thought I could make a difference so much as keep myself sane by publicly working out my frustrations and fears, but what I got in return was a restoration of hope. I am still angry but less afraid.

I wish I could say that I feel optimistic, that we are on the cusp of big changes that will put us on the right track, but I am still unconvinced of that. I am putting a lot of energy these days into being okay with the political landscape remaining much the same, but after blogging for a year, I now have hope that the people of this country might just be ready to assume the power that we’ve had all along. We are the engine that drives this country and we are not as powerless as the politicians, political consultants, big business and the advertising executives have sunk a lot of money into convincing us we are. We have most certainly become compliant, but there is no reason we have to stay that way.

What would happen if we all started engaging with one another sans the rhetoric and useless partisan chatter? What if we made it our goal to have a conversation with someone for the purpose of learning something rather than convincing them of anything? This is a large country with a diverse population and none of us has all the answers and none of us are disposable. I am the first to admit that my frustration with this administration and this Republican Congress often leads me to feel hostile towards the ordinary Americans that gave them the power to destroy so much of what I love about this country, but when I do that, I am playing their game. And that, my friends, is a losing proposition since the rules were written (and are continually re-written) by them and for them alone.

I cannot say that I won’t lose my shit in the future (perhaps the very near future) and rail against the idiocy and compliance of the voting population in this country, but I will try to remember that they have something to teach me if they were to speak and I were to listen. I’m not talking about the regurgitated Limbaugh talking points or the gospel according to Bush, but if they were to speak truthfully about their lives, their fears and their hopes for this country, there would at least be the possibility of finding common ground. I don’t have to agree to understand and an honest conversation would allow us to cut out the cardboard middlemen relentlessly driving wedges between us. We know that serves their purposes, but what about us?

They want to keep their cushy $180k a year jobs where they only have to work, at most, 150 days a year (although this Congress worked only 72) and enjoy great medical benefits as well as a stellar retirement package (not to mention the opportunity to lobby their former colleagues on behalf of private industry once they leave office for a paycheck with an extra zero attached). That is one hell of an ulterior motive for what comes out of their mouths. When you’re getting screwed, it’s a good idea to turn your attention to who is screwing you, rather than who they are pointing their finger at.

No one is disposable in this system of ours and we need each other to take this country back from the elites that run it now. That doesn’t mean compromising our principles in order to form an alliance, nor does it mean we should allow anyone to claim their own set of facts. Truth matters, facts matter, and what we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears matters. What might save our country is infusing a little self-esteem into the population at large. Trust your gut, trust your own eyes and ears and trust that the cardboard men don’t know better than you. The world isn’t flat and we can’t afford to be either. It’s time for some depth in the political debate. We shouldn’t settle for less.


Anonymous david said...

The book to read is The Selling of the President by Joe McGinnis. It tells the tale of Nixon being sold like cigarettes in 1968.

What I found depressing was that the admen behind the Nixon image said they wouldn't stay in America if their campaign worked.

The whole game plan of Republicans in the past 25 years has been to polarize the nation and then bribe, cheat or steal the necessary swing-voters to win.

Just remember: Leo Strauss did not believe in democracy. His key books on political philosophy were Plato's Republic and Machiavelli's The Prince. And he didn't want any bleeding-heart liberals sullying the interpretation of the "eternal truths" of these classics by mentioning the sordid backstory to both Plato's Athens and Machiavelli's Florence.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Two Dogs said...

Your idea of having a conversation with soeone to learn something rather than convincing them of your point of view is key. This positive approach is the best way to expand support for good things in the long run. If the Democrats take control next year, the work will have just begun. Great things are possible, but to achieve them will mean changing the paradigm. the first thing to drop, in my view, is the negative approach pioneered by Nixon.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Terrifying Truths

Well, of course, you're right. But how can anyone see what's true when they're bombarded over and over and over and over with fear and horror and violence. We have become so inundated we are inured. And the dials are gradually but ceaselessly being turned up. We not only don't see anymore, we don't feel.

This is the real national crisis. Because a useful fear, a realistic fear, a fear that propels us to life-saving and thoughtful action is vital.

There's a book that just came out by J. Acota called THE NEXT OSAMA about Viral Fear. It follows the trajectories of 4 major characters as they are caught in the American Media Slipstream.

We are all ensnared. Do we see it? Do we dare?

Of course, the next question is: what do we do about it?


8:02 AM  

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