9.06.2012

Seeking a Cynic-Free Election-Year Climate

Just because I've become worldlier and savvier as I've aged doesn't mean I still don't ache over the cynicism and arrogance that marks our nation's election-year politics.  With a historic vote just around the corner, it seems everyone - from candidates and parties to neighbors and colleagues - have amped up the bile.  Twisted truths, offensive statements, smug rejoinders - and these are just my Facebook friends.  (Just kidding.  Kind of.)

Deep down, I wonder if we all realize our own hubris.  Maybe we do, but care too much about the ends to be more thoughtful about our means (e.g. "I know I'm being a jerk, but I just can't fathom what'll happen if the other side wins").  Or, worse, we are unaware of how poisonously close-minded and taunting our positions have become.

Look, I realize that Republicans and Democrats have fundamentally different perspectives on the world, on foreign policy, on economics, and on the role of government.  There is a very real choice in our political preferences, and what a country we live in that we can express those preferences and can vote our person in or the other person out.

But (and I have read President Obama say this numerous times), we share much more in common - in terms of where we're coming from and what we want - than our bickering and zingers would seem to indicate.  Sure, if we want to consider our elections purely as competitions - and what is America if not a series of competitions - then smear the other guy, mock the ignorance of the other party, and take in only the messages that jive with your existing worldview.

But if you care about, I don't know, the real world, in which we're all trying to advance and in which people suffer and in which what we do today in America will influence the rest of the world for the rest of our lives, well maybe we ought to be a little bit more humbled.  After all, none of us know all the answers or have all the resources for the struggles ahead - no one person and no one party.  We've got a lot to do, and instead we're bickering like the bickering is the most important thing.

Again, I get that it's fun to make fun of the other side, or to throw up your hands in righteous indignation at the ignorance of those who don't share your perspective.  And, I'm not suggesting that it's inappropriate to respond in outrage to outrageous statements or positions or behaviors.  I just want to say a word of caution - including to myself - to not become either smug about our beliefs or closed about others'.  In doing so, many of us are flying dangerously and unknowingly close to the sun. 




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