Page Two: When Pointing an Accusatory Finger, Three More Point Back at You
This ugly political season grows ever more vicious
"You see, in this world, there is one awful thing, and that is that everyone has his reasons." – Jean Renoir
A recent column offered that, in this ugly political season, "Not only is there little redemption in sight, but few seem even interested in such. Categorizing political foes as viciously as possible, we are again in a time of heroes and villains with few of the former and all too many of the latter." (See "Page Two: Darkness on the Edge of Town," July 29.) A reader, so certain that his beliefs were factual truth, attacked the column because expressing opinions different from his was cowardly pandering to those in power. I don't think it had ever crossed his or others' minds that most involved in politics, even those with whom there are the most intense disagreements, believe just as passionately that their ideas are in the country's best interests.
Instead of a pitched battlefield between the pure and the corrupt, the good and the evil, the noble and the malevolent, the almost necessary life-blood belief of our constitutional government should be the assumption that most Americans love this country and their politics, at the very least, are well intentioned. This does not argue against considering those with different beliefs to be misguided, misinformed, and wrong, driven by prejudice and ignorance or even just stupidity. Politics is a blood sport. But a core concern of the crafters of the Constitution was to create a government that would work in the most vitriolic, disrespectful, and partisan atmosphere.
Unfortunately, right now debating ideology seems less important than attacking the beliefs and integrity of others. This is compounded by too many on all sides having moved to the extremes, where embracing and knowing the absolute truth has led to moderation being viewed as treason. The current Republican-controlled Congress is more interested in embarrassing the president than governing. The left is just as narrowly focused on personality. Outside of buying what the Republican hate machine has been selling for decades, the only way the extraordinary hostility toward Clinton even begins to make sense is if each of her votes carries grotesquely disproportionate weight.
The problem is not Trump or Clinton or Sanders. It is not the Democratic or Republican parties, the New World Order or the Illuminati. It is not them, it is us, the American voters. It is not just that we have become overly secure in our own beliefs or that we question the beliefs of others. Rather it is the growing acceptance that those with differing opinions are evil traitors.
No longer is the dialogue sabotaged by single-issue advocates who judge a politician solely as to how they stand on abortion or immigration, but rather those who find every single issue a litmus test to the extent that a single wrong vote or worse, a series of such votes, is proof of corruption. Armchair ideological purists, who rather than run for office simply post on social media, liberated from the restraints of actual governing, declaring those with differing views are evil, corrupt traitors.
The dearth of common decency in this overly charged atmosphere rather than lamented is celebrated. The political dialogue, drenched with assumptions of corruption, now accepts any and all accusation against political opponents as proven convictions. There are a number of Sanders champions regularly posting on social media whose driving ambition and purpose is to cost Clinton the election. The election of Trump is clearly acceptable collateral damage in this effort to defeat and humiliate Clinton and the Democrats. Driven by an astonishingly myopic pettiness, seemingly uninterested in political objectives, too much of the current dialogue champions the purity of personal beliefs while condemning as corrupt those advocating most anything else.
Some insist that the only answer is a new violent revolution, the armed resistance of pure and righteous, gun-loving, flag-waving American patriots determined to restore the country's greatness. In the real world, unfortunately, these Turner Diaries fantasies lead not to an American utopia but rather civil and class wars often resulting in mass slaughter, as happened during the French Revolution, Stalin's rule in the Soviet Union, and Mao's in China.
I am the most foolish of sheeple. Thinking that rather than being easy, governing is impossibly hard. Given universal suffrage with all feeling their vote and vision should count, it seems almost apparent that most citizens will be unhappy with the government much of the time. But rather than seeing this as the necessary bitter aftertaste of universal suffrage, it is taken as proof of corruption and traitorous hatred. Despite these current wholesale accusations, we not only should but must assume most Americans are well intentioned.
Unfortunately, the current political campaigns we are witnessing are not driven by visionary goals and ambitious try-for-the-sky agendas. Instead, ideology is simply an affectation, serving the politics of finger-pointing accusations, driven by the main goal of dragging political opponents down. Across the board, with an increasingly ravenous, mad hunger, those pushing political agendas different from one's own are personally attacked and derided. Instead of assuming good intentions, the most vicious questions about their integrity, patriotism, religion, and intelligence are raised. To many on both the left and the right, happy with their own unquestionable patriotism and rock-solid moral grounding, the concern is not the best interest of the country, but championing one's own ego while viciously indicting those in opposition.