Saturday, June 26, 2004

Time for a Change

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my theory that the end of the Cold War had left a huge void in America: Those who needed to hate no longer had an enemy of the state upon whom to unleash that most negative of human emotions. I wrote that I felt Americans had begun to revisit racism and civil rights as ways of venting their inner demons. Lately, I’ve been giving some further thought to this issue, and I’ve come up with another theory. I still believe that racism DID experience a renaissance during those years when America drifted in a more or less peaceful co-existence with her fellow nations. But besides that, we raised up two new sources of evil to fulfill our need to hate: The President of the United States….and each other.

President Clinton became one huge, unfortunate target for the bottled-up hatred in this country. His intelligence, personal charisma, and political savvy propelled him into the office, but they couldn’t save him once the tide of public opinion was turned against him. Eight years of a mostly decent presidency were turned to dross by the relentless forces directed at him. In the end, he was disgraced, an object of scorn, a target of some of the ugliest derision I have ever heard directed at a public figure. I wonder, where were all those folks who are now insisting that Americans need to have respect for the "office" of the Presidency? Why didn’t Mr. Clinton deserve that? Was it because he cheated on his wife and lied to Congress about it? I don’t know….it seems to me that if we had shown one tenth the "respect" for him and his office that people are now demanding for President Bush, the "Monica" incident would never have been uncovered, much less dragged in front of Congress.

But apparently, it didn’t appease us enough to hate and vilify our own president. We had to start turning on each other, too. We had to debase political discourse in this country to the level of radio talk shows that display a sickening degree of rudeness, closed-mindedness and complete disregard for the opinions of others that do not line up with our own. We cultivated radio personalities who embarrass, ridicule, patronize, and just verbally abuse callers with opposing viewpoints. Over the air, to millions of listeners every day. I don't know which part of that bothers me the most: the fact that the hosts actually treat people like that on the air, or that SO many people tune in? It has gotten beyond out of hand. People not only listen to this verbal abuse, they emulate it. To the point where, when a liberal group decided they needed "liberal" radio talk, they completely duplicated the format, down to the rudeness and verbal abuse to the callers. It has become what we do, daily, in all forms of media—television and print, as well as radio. It’s how we communicate with people who don’t believe as we do. How terrible is that? And how ugly, and wrong!

It hasn’t helped that we’ve since acquired a new "National Enemy." It is an amorphous, slippery group of international thugs that we haven’t had much success in identifying, finding, and attacking. We STILL don't have a solid, undeniable target for our all-too-human capacity for hatred. We’re all over the map, Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Saudi Arabia, in North Korea. Some of us even remain mired in Viet Nam. And unfortunately, we still haven’t softened our attitudes toward each other or our political leaders. If there are people out there who are genuinely worried about the future of our country, this is what they ought to be worried about. We are eating ourselves alive, from the inside out. If we can’t learn to get along with each other, if we can’t learn to treat other AMERICANS with respect, if we constantly feel the need to tear down our leaders and drag them in the muck, how are we going to make it in the world? How can we expect the rest of the world to look up to us, to admire us, to desire this "democracy" that we want them to believe is the highest form of human government?

Last week, I posted an entry about getting past trying to lay the blame for the 9/11 attacks. I tried to stake out a middle ground in that entry…to NOT blame either the Bush or the Clinton administrations. I got enraged comments from BOTH sides of the political spectrum. There are still people out there who can’t read a positive reference to Mr. Clinton without foaming at the mouth.  There are folks who have a zero-tolerance attitude toward the current administration. I’ll even admit to being one of those…but that journal entry and the reactions I received to it opened my eyes, at least a little. We are too polarized in this country…too unwilling to compromise, too unable to acknowledge that there are at least two sides to every issue. This situation must change, or our nation will not be able to move forward effectively in the 21st century. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…" Henceforth, I am going to try to be more tolerant and open-minded in my own political viewpoint, and less vitriolic in my assessment of others’. It might not change a thing, probably won’t win any converts to my way of thinking. But, to me, it will be "walking the walk."


  1. Lisa, I think the best course of action for us all is to go back to Kindergarten.  We need to learn to share and play nice together. To flush and to always say I'm sorry!!! I think I will read that book again Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten..Maybe I will send a copy to Washington DC too!  Salem could most likely use it too!!!

  2. Brava!  I have a fairly high bs tolerance, but I get sickened regularly by the vitriol that passes for public discourse.  I work to make sure that I have information with which to form an opinion, and I try to avoid knee-jerk reactions to any issue.  I feel that the joy this country takes in spewing hatred isn't just polarization, but a warning of what might come.  We have to fight it, and exercising the tools of reason, tolerance, courtesy and civility are the weapons.

  3. I'm voting for you in November.

  4. Just a note to let you know I was here.  Kristi

  5. I came. I read. I'm leaving without causing problems.  You're the greatest!!!

  6. Well, it's all *right, Lisa.  Everyone doesn't have to agree with you. :-)

    I went to the bookstore today, and I looked at the books on both sides of the political curve.  In essence, "liberals suck" versus "George W. Bush is a homicidal maniac."  lol  Truly, most of America is way in the middle between these two. Most of the part of America *I know is sadly misinformed on the topics anyway, (including myself, to a degree), and they just want people to behave reasonably.

    And yes, some people are going to act like a**holes, and sometimes I do,
    too. :-/  But it's not only evident in the political spectrum.  Any look at popular culture and the realization that people are watching shows called "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" lets you know there's been a real breakdown of good manners in this society.  Of course that will affect all areas, including political.

    Oh, if only this was coming out the way I intend it. lol  But, you know, don't let it bother you that some people have extreme views.  Let it be their problem. :-)

  7. I think you've hit upon why so many Americans have checked out of politics lately... they're tired of hearing the arguments ratcheted up to ridiculous extremes, and see all politicians as engaged in the same stupidity.

    Personally, I think the Clinton bashers wasted an obscene amount of the government's time and money. Did we really need to spend $70 million to find out that Bill was cheating on his wife? Since when did infidelity become a matter of national security? Meanwhile, for George W. and Cheney to be doing business with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden... THAT is national security! Are we spending $70 million to uncover that?

    I saw a commentator last night saying that making the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 was un-American, because of the way it criticized the President. If we go by that standard, then we should have arrested the entire Republican party for treason back in the late 1990s.

    And we're trying to spread democracy to other countries by force? How about spreading it in our own?


  8. hestiahomeschoolJuly 1, 2004 at 8:33 PM

    Well said....until we begin to see our leaders as fallible human beings, and not expect them to be perfect, then we will be unhappy. What has happened to our country is truly sad. We are the richest country in the world, spinning around like a mad dog biting it's own tail.  We need to be compassionate with each other, and with the other countries...I'm just babling here, when you summed it up so beautifully.