I think it’s pretty obvious that I lean, politically, to the left more often than I do to the right. Like my Dad was, I’m a registered Democrat in a family of Republicans. Family gatherings could get interesting IF we talked about politics all the time, but we don’t. As a matter of fact, we have had 1 political discussion between my step-mother and myself in 50 years. That one happened, not because of politics, but because a black man was running for president. I know that sounds like rhetoric, but I was born in this family and for some it was a matter of color. Old habits die hard. We don’t discuss those habits. It keeps the peace.
We have spoken about the recent tragedy in Tucson, however we never explored it as a matter of political rhetoric gone wrong. We focused more on the direction that society, as a whole has taken. The rush to judgement, the anger that many don’t deal with other than with violence. We spoke of the First Amendment Right to Free Speech and the consequences of failing to accept responsibility when we say what we think without regard to others. We asked each other why the United States seems to have the most gun massacres of any country. We did discuss Sarah Palin’s crosshairs map, and the kind of weapons and ammunition legally available to the public. Neither of us understand why it would be necessary for anyone to have a weapon capable of shooting 30 rounds of bullets to protect themselves. It seemed to both of us that fewer bullets and more lessons on how to shoot straight would be in order.
We, she and I, are family. We could wash our hands of each other because of our differences, or we could respectfully allow each other our opinions and move into the gray areas where nothing is ever cut and dried. We could spend our time shouting over the expressed views of each other, or we could listen with an open mind to them and find those areas where some form of compromise can be reached without giving up our own ideals. During this gray area exploration we came to a few conclusions that we both could agree on.
We are a nation of extremes who have lost the ability to live in the gray area where peaceful progress can happen. We alternately idolize or villify people of the world depending upon our beliefs and the media fans that flame because it sells. It works to make them money. Extremism isn’t working well for us but rather than accept responsibility for that and actually do something to change it, we point fingers at the very media we created and make them the scapegoat. We’ve worked long and hard to erase the middle ground where our best hope of real results occurs. I believe that Abraham Lincoln said it best, “A house divided will soon fall”. We are that house divided.
Inflammatory rhetoric exists because we’ve chosen the Black or White of the Chessboard and are fighting with each other to win. Not to solve the problem, but to ride roughshod over every opinion that we don’t agree with and stamp it out. We’ve become a nation of bullies trying to force others to our way of thinking. My way or the highway. It is our very desire to be right, to win, which creates the rhetoric that we blame for the tragedies, and no one wants to accept responsibility for their part in what happens.
The shooting in Tucson of Rep. Gabriella Giffords, the death of others including a 9 year old child, is a tragedy perpetrated by someone who appears be mentally ill. To the best of my knowledge we have no idea what caused him to snap and do this. The rush to judgement does nothing towards answering any of our questions. It’s just one more expression of anger that seems to be so prevalent today. The type of anger that allows a stressed out driver to explode at a perceived insult when someone doesn’t drive fast enough or makes a mistake in judgement and cuts him off. The type of anger that allows an adult to create Facebook or Myspace pages to bully children or others. The type of anger that kills.