09 March, 2011

the politics of it all

I've been paying attention to the goings-on in Wisconsin and the repercussions around the country, and several things have come to my attention.
First, we are in a time of incredible political upheaval; with all the riots and overthrows going on worldwide,with the domino effect of political destabilization occurring in Africa and the Middle East, we should be thankful and, I think, somewhat confused as to why, that is not happening here.
Second, we need to grow up. All this came into sharp focus for me when an acquaintance of mine reposted a link calling what the Wisconsin democratic senators are doing “a temper tantrum”. I posted in response that I disagreed, and gave a brief rundown of why, as I figured he simply didn't have the whole picture of what is going on. Less than a week later, he posts a link about the arrest warrants going out and this time he himself calls their actions a temper tantrum.
I was honestly angry, and it took me a bit to figure out why. It isn't because we are on opposite sides of this issue, it is because of the words he used: belittling, disrespectful, and polarizing. I realise we have had a lot of polarizing in our country, and it does not seem to be slowing down. Both sides are defensive and offensive, refusing to 'back down' or 'give in'. The problem is that we have lost sight of an important fact: these people represent us. All of us. They all represent the same people: the American people. The reason for the mass amnesia regarding this can, I believe, be summed up quite simply: we have lost respect.
This is easy to see on an individual level; when a society is so fragmented that any type of authority (parents, police, etc) are seen as the enemy, rather than people from whom we can learn and who protect and guide us, we lose our anchors. We lose our connections, and our ability to see ourselves in each other. When we can no longer relate to one another respect falls away. It is this lack of respect that dissolves honest political debate into mudslinging campaigns, where anyone who disagrees or stands up for their beliefs can be mocked and ridiculed, and have this belittling language taken and spread by people whose only contribution or involvement seems to be participating in 'winning' this pointless game.
For that is what politics currently seem to be: a game. For all that each 'side' is fighting to keep the other 'side' from getting anything done, we are all losing. When the poor and the needy in our country are denigrated and abused, we all lose. When any segment of our population can be pushed aside and branded as the enemy, we all lose. For then we are not healing our body public; for a tourniquet does not heal the wound, and amputation leaves us forever scarred. In both, the gangrene sets in and soon we are all feeling the sickness and decay, however much we can pretend we are not all part of the same societal organism.
We should be working together, to heal what is clearly a weak and sickened system. The first step toward that healing, I believe, is to regain and reestablish respect. Respect does not mean liking each other; it does mean setting aside personal feelings when they are irrelevant. To respect does not mean to unthinkingly agree; in fact it's even fun to say: “I see, and I respectfully disagree.” Respect does mean listening to each other, fully examining the issue at hand, and working together to come to a workable solution. Respect means keeping the insults out of the public discourse, and remembering that these people are elected by us, for us, and we must work through them and with them, and with each other, to continue this country.
So please, do not cheapen debate by relying on insulting and fearful language to sway those around you to join 'your side'. Rely on the truth, on insightful, honest discussion, and on your regard for your fellow person to reclaim your role as a citizen and a loving member of a vast, vast family. We need each other; I would that we all regain sight of that.

No comments: