Thursday, November 1, 2012

Step Back and Breathe

A bit of my political "wisdom:" If people selected sexual and life partners like they select political candidates these days, our species would die out in a generation. We don't expect our partners to match our criteria 100%. We overlook faults, differences, and quirks because we see the big picture.
Why do we insist that a candidate support our beliefs 100%? If 80% is good enough for marriage, why not for the presidency?
Politicians used to accomplish great things through negotiation and compromise. Now they scream soundbytes and have their SuperPACs dispense vitriol.
Discourse is getting overheated, so let's all step back for a bit. Indulge my tendency to take a meta-view. Say what you will about profit-driven networks, seems the nation was more civil when everyone watched the same three channels - ABC, CBS, NBC - and the networks did not expect their news divisions to be profit centers. We still had two parties and diverse attitudes, but we were nicer about it.
Now that news divisions are expected to generate profits and ratings and people can choose their news (via cable, talk radio, newspapers, and the Internet) to match their views, we seem to have lost the ability to understand and respect the positions of those with whom we disagree. I remember when my mother supported Johnson and my father supported Goldwater and nary a cross word was uttered. I honestly can't say the same about my own home these days. Mea culpa. 
I've read some heated comments on my Facebook page that give me pause. Who among us can be certain of anything? Now that we can source-shop to support our positions, it's good to remember that believing something doesn't make it true, reading or hearing something doesn't make it true, and saying something doesn't make it true. Pardon the arrogance of my mantra, "Certainty is the New Arrogance."
If we started our sentences with "My position is X" rather than "X!!!" we might actually accomplish something through consensus and compromise. Try this for the next week and see if the rhetorical temperature around you settles into a more pleasant range.