Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Us Versus Them (politics with no thinking required)

The polarization of American politics has stifled any real progress or discussion. Respectful opposition has been replaced with demonization and name-calling. The free forum of the internet was supposed to liberate us from the hegemony of the two political parties. Instead we got more obnoxious partisan bickering.

Of course, Conservatives and Liberals have real differences worth discussing, but there is little or no discussion online. Political hatreds (such as the Right's vehement disgust toward the Clintons, the Left's similar distain for the Bushes, and various ad hominem attacks and name-calling directed at each party) have replaced political discourse.

No one even tries to understand political thoughts anymore, just label them. Once an idea has been labeled “Right” or “Left” you can reject or accept it based on your affiliations without even having to strain your mind to even give it any real consideration.

A blog like this that often ventures into politics but has no real Right/Left affiliation is an anomaly on the internet. Recently I read a review of my site on Stumble Upon (a social bookmarking site that allows people to vote on any website). The only written review of the site consists of one man giving the site a thumbs down and stating “The guy voted for Bush... not once but TWICE!”

While I did vote for Bush and do not regret it, any reading of the site should reveal that my positions are drastically different from Bush's. I imagine that this man had to do some significant exploration of the site to find my voting history since it is noted in passing on a post that doesn't get much traffic or or have outside links, but thinking about what he was reading didn't seem to be part of this web surfer's approach. I imagine this poor liberal scanning through ideas and posts without giving them any thought until he final found something that made sense. “Two votes for Bush! The writer must be Republican, an enemy. Bad site! Don't consider any of the ideas in these essays! Give it a bad review so no one else reads it either.” Interestingly this is the same site that a conservative acquaintance called me a “pinko commie” after reading.

The truth is I am neither a Conservative or Liberal, but I give a lot of thought to politics—both personal, local, and national. While there certainly are thoughtful people of all political persuasions the vast majority voters have no desire to think about what anyone else says. They only want to win arguments and elections for their side. Having friends who are sincere and intelligent Liberals and Conservatives as well as reading blogs and books from all sorts of political perspectives is what freed me from feeling the need to pick a side. Both sides are right and wrong on a great many things, so I defend what I believe is right and point out the wrongs I see. If most voters aren't open minded enough to even listen to someone outside their own group I fear we will never solve this nation's problems.


Jeff said...

Good, clear, thoughtful writing. Glad to see you're wrestling with the hope for bipartisanship. One correction: the title should read "versus." Thanks!

joannabug said...

You Leftist-Rightist-Pinko-Commie-Conservative Freak!

Only kidding!!!

This was a great post. I admire you for getting your mind into politics even after knowing all of this. What you summarized is what makes me want to run away from it all: not hearing real information from the left or the right, just hearing buzzwords, and bias, and no real information to build on to form opionions.

It just takes a lot of work to get to what's really going on.


This blog reminds me that I must register to vote!