All too often, I feel the need to weep for the people of America. It hasn’t always been like that, at least not to the degree it’s at today.
All too often, I find myself getting into discussions that have to do with politics and the person on the other side ends up saying something like “I really don’t follow politics, I just go by my feelings/emotions.” All that tells me is that the person on the other side hasn’t taken enough time to search out some basic facts to help form a logical conclusion which could lead to a more informed decision. How often do feelings/emotions betray us?
All too often, I find myself getting into discussions with people so deeply locked in to their political ideology that they refuse to allow themselves to look at any other view, even when that view is based on facts and not opinion. It would be nice to discuss something like raising the minimum wage and have the main argument against it not come from some far right-leaning opinion website saying that raising the minimum wage in Seattle cost 1,000 restaurant workers their jobs, so it can’t be a good idea. I then reply with some fact-checking — including information from a source in the Seattle area who’s also not in favor of a $15 minimum wage — showing the argument about Seattle job losses was not true. Do you think the facts made any difference in the discussion? No. I often wonder if people that locked in to their ideology even bother to read the information I share, simply because it’s felt that I’m “too liberal,” one of those “libtards.”
All too often, we find ourselves getting into discussions involving politics in which the other person ends up saying something along the lines of “All politicians lie.” This happened most recently in a discussion about Donald Trump, coming from someone who’s been supporting another candidate for President but who now seems prepared to throw their support behind Trump should their first choice not make the cut. So I try to wrap my brain around this: This person is sick of politicians lying, yet they’re ready to back a lying, bloviating real estate mogul with the persona of an egotistical used car salesman who’s played a large role in multiple bankruptcies involving his business holdings, flushing a professional football league (remember the United States Football League?) down the toilet through serious misjudgment driven by his own ego, etc., to be the leader of the free world?
Yes, my friend, politicians can and do lie. Politicians on each side of the aisle have been known to lie — from “Tricky Dick” Nixon to Bill “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman” Clinton and beyond. But not all politicians lie, and that’s where a tremendous responsibility falls upon each one of us as citizens — the responsibility to put in the research, the effort to seek out the facts and the truth, to put aside political ideology and personal biases at times, to ask ourselves whether our feelings and emotions make sense, and make the most logical choices possible.
Are we up to that task?
“Better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.”
— President Barack Obama in his final State of the Union address, January 12, 2016
Speaking of lying …
Here’s a challenge. Can anyone name one President (at least in recent memory) who’s had more lies spread about them than Barack Hussein Obama, had them shown to be untrue, only to have the lies not just continue but grow? He’s Muslim … he was born in a foreign country … he’s going to declare martial law and appoint himself dictator … he’s going to take everyone’s guns away … he’s been the biggest spending President in history … he’s misused his executive powers … he’s always on vacation …he’s been terrible for business … he’s tanked the economy … Benghazi … Operation Jade Helm … all just the tip of the iceberg. Can anyone offer any factual evidence to support claims like these without going to some far right source?
Even when honest facts are presented, they get heavily discounted. It’s that “Alex Jones mentality” that’s way too prevalent in America’s political discourse today. That’s what makes me feel the need to weep. We used to be a better nation than this.
Obama closed out his last State of the Union address with his most important point, issuing a challenge to the American people that should be seen as the equivalent of JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” demand.
“(D)emocracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
Too many Americans feel that way right now. …
And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a congressman or a senator or even a president; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.”
Trump’s mantra is “Make America Great Again.” Yet it’s candidates like Trump who bring out the worst in Americans. It’s candidates like Trump who play on people’s fear and anger, offering no sensible solutions. The truth is, America’s still great. It’s great in the fact that we are still free to disagree, and if we’re smart enough we can work through those differences and find solutions. But we are on the crest of a slippery slope. “Compromise” in government is becoming a dirty word. Not only can Democrats and Republicans not seem to agree, but Republicans can’t agree amongst themselves. And they’re the ones holding the keys to solutions to the problems that face us with control of Congress. So is it any wonder Obama feels the need to push through executive orders on issues like immigration and gun control, only to see criticism for him doing so?
We look to our politicians to fix things, and then gripe and moan when we elect people incapable of even trying to fix things. We look at people like Trump and get excited because he’s “not politically correct,” he “speaks his mind,” and we ignore the question of whether the man is capable of showing so much as a shred of common decency. We look at people like Ted Cruz and get excited when we think of him as someone who’s not afraid to piss off leadership on both sides of the aisle, and we ignore the question of whether he can come up with any solution to a problem other than a costly and useless government shutdown. And, yes, we look at someone like Hillary Clinton and get excited by the things she could do, and we ignore troubling signs coming from her camp when a race gets tight and untruths come from her or her daughter about Hillary’s main opponent.
Yes, it can come from both sides.
So, what do we do to make things better? How do we go about “fixing Washington?” Too many people get the urge to throw up their hands, and either refuse to participate in the process or just go with the lesser of the “evils.” They refuse to believe there is truth out there, when it can be staring them right in the face if they’d only wake up and do a little searching.
Obama said it himself toward the end of his State of the Union address.
“If we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”
And that’s true not just on a national stage, but on a global stage. The truth is out there. We need to find it with our own eyes. We need to put aside preconceived notions, strip away biases, and take a look at what’s really going on around us. There’s too much at stake.