Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Us Versus Them: An Intellectual and Moral Logjam

Photograph by Lynda Lehmann

I'm on a steady diet of unwanted emails from some friends and family with an agenda.  The same people who "don't want to talk about it" feel entitled to bombard me with what I perceive to be biased misinformation.  In our legal system, we are sworn to uphold "the truth and nothing but the truth." But we have no such rules nor even a vague promise, to try to recognize and communicate truth in our everyday dealings. 

The truth is that there is no "truth," if we are talking in black and white.  The truth is always relative.  It's complex.  And it can't be communicated in sound bites.  Yet it's easily distorted.  

Politicians are masters of manipulating the truth by withholding, rather than revealing, information.  Every statement knowingly made out of context or without qualifiers is intended to subvert what clear and intelligible truth does exist.  It's hard enough to extrapolate shades of truth in a complex world, without direct distortions or intentional omission.

It's clear by the current climate of opposition in Congress and running in deepening veins throughout our society, that many people feel great anguish and anger.  A lot of them play the Blame Game with relish.  For them, blaming is an outlet for their rage and despair.  But blaming never gave birth to solutions.  

My personal answer to the blame laid on our current President's shoulders is to counter that I feel George Bush empowered the greedy corporate giants and set the precedent to legitimize greed. I have never registered with either party, as I don't believe in the arbitrary taking of sides, but rather in addressing particular issues as they arise. But believe me, what I can discern of the right-wing mentality is frightening and so inward-looking as to disavow any common humanity. Yes, we are born with equal status as human beings who are part of a larger human family.  And hopefully we are equal under the law. But the sad fact is that we are NOT created equal: some are born poor, into war or other forms of desolation; some are born with deformities or diseases; some do not have the best genetic inheritance. Do we embrace our differences and common humanity or do we dump those we perceive as disadvantaged in jails and slums? Do we work for a better society and world, or do we pull in our stakes so we can spend more time counting our personal spoils? Do we embrace or do we label and reject? Do we hate or do we love? Those who profess to be "religious" and moral people, ought to take a good hard look at their rhetoric and their actions.

How does a person define himself as "right-to-life" while voting to cut benefits to the sick and needy?  Or consider cutting Social Security benefits, into which most workers have dutifully paid?  How does one preach morality while teaching his kids to do "anything to get ahead?"  How do you send kids to die in wars that can't institute strong and stable democracies in tribal societies?  

Several people whom I know have expressed a favorable opinion of the Tea Party.  They espouse fiscal conservatism while they, personally, have accrued incredible amounts of credit card debt.  In my opinion, endorsing extreme fiscal policy is not only overcompensation for their own personal misjudgment and weakness, it's outright hypocrisy.  Just as railing against Social Security as a corrupt "entitlement" is absurd for those who willingly collect their own checks every month!

When Bill Clinton was in office, we were not in the red.  Our economy was strong.  When he proposed NAFTA, I was in favor of it because I believed that a global economy would favor the cause of peaceful coexistence among nations.  Now, looking at the job loss crisis in America, I'm not so sure.  But all the blame in the world will change nothing.  Only new IDEAS can change things.  

I believe President Obama is a good and authentic person of vision and high motivation--and that those who want to see him fall are simply acting out of their own insecurity; they don't want justice and they don't want progress. They simply want to protect their status quo/interests.

There!  I've said it.  I have expressed my feelings.  I am so tired of the propaganda being hurled by the right-wing sound machine.  When "factoids" are thrown into the air without any qualifiers or context, we move further and further from the truth as it gets buried deeper in the fray.  Society is complex, and modern life can be complicated.  But we make it more so by our tendency to be reactive and self-serving.  Please do not try to make "liberal" a dirty word by undercutting the facts and throwing epithets.  All that is simply subterfuge.

Society is in some degree of turmoil but still, we function and everyday heroes abound.  People who equate Obama with Hitler, or welfare (for those who truly need it) with Socialism, do themselves a disservice.  Is this the kind of world we want to be complicit in leaving to our children and grandchildren?

One potent thing each of us can do is to listen to our friends and neighbors when they talk.  Invite discussion.  Think critically and exchange points of view.  Do discourse, not "search and destroy."  

Democracy is not built on one act of voting every four years.  Seek the "truth," tell the truth (as you see it) and accept other folk's stories as being THEIR truths.  If you think this requires too much effort, ask yourself this, "What do I want to think of myself the day I discover I'm lying on my deathbed?"  What do you want your children to think?

To myself, to my friends, family, and blogging fellows I say:  Campaign for justice: practice acts of Conscience.  Practice communicating and practice listening.  And stir some empathy into your mind-soup.  You'll be a bigger, better person for it.  And so will I.

Photograph by Lynda Lehmann

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