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Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Touch of Realism about our Society Today



Inevitably, most arguments in favor of wedge-issues such as; Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Abortion, or Governmental Regulation, are met with the same type of opposition. It is an irrational, emotion driven, ideological viewpoint, through which no amount of logic or reason can penetrate. Science doesn't matter, People don't matter, and Facts do not matter for many of these types of people. It is sad how we are unable to have a civil conversation on the national stage over these issues, without it devolving into ideological platitudes of freedom and morality, religion, or outright paranoia.

Such issues and many others of generations past, have always been a part of our national discourse; However, it seems as though over the last 140 years, post-civil war, we are once again entering into a period of political obstinacy, where one ideological party refuses to find any amount of compromise acceptable and is willing to tear the country apart, in the process. We saw this at the beginning of our Nation, when we were picking up the pieces after the Revolution. We witnessed rigid ideological divides and a period of political turmoil once again with the civil war. A milder version of this same behavior emerged during the civil rights movement, tempered perhaps due to the Vietnam conflict. Today a resurgence exists which is threatening to once again bring our society toward the brink of disaster.

Most people expect their elected representatives to advocate on their behalf and to achieve results. In a diverse society, achieving results involves the ability to compromise toward a common ground; However, when you have Ideologues who are elected and refuse to compromise or work together with those whom they disagree, Government is then broken. So whose fault is it when Government is broken, and one political party refuses to cooperate or compromise with another? It is our own fault. We elect those who serve in government, we bare the full responsibility for their unwillingness to compromise, because we are capable of voting them out of office, yet do not..

As a society, we are forced to coexist peacefully with one another, despite all our differences. We may not like each other, we may not even like ourselves, but the fact remains we have to coexist. The problem is, some people do not want to coexist. They want everyone else to bow before their beliefs. They are uncompromising about this fact, unwilling to peacefully coexist, and completely willing to tear the country apart, if it means getting what they want. Many of them believe they are living in the end of times, they are convinced of this so deeply, all the logic and reason in the world, even the stark truth staring them in the face would not waver their resolve. In fact it can be argued that the more proof you show an ideologue against their beliefs, the more entrenched their beliefs will become as a defense mechanism.

How do we then approach this dilemma? We could fight against it; However, as we see with groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, it only strengthens their resolve when people fight against them. If reason and logic will not work, perhaps an emotional appeal? Well, that wouldn't work either, because these people are already emotionally compromised with their beliefs. We've seen what educating these types of people has done, as they simply refuse to believe the truth of things in front of their noses. How then do we solve this problem?

I think part of the reason this type of behavior has gotten out of hand, is because we have turned a blind eye for too long, as people have used their soapboxes to spout crazy, paranoid, ideologically driven propaganda. We haven't done enough to call out this behavior, we have assumed most people would ignore it because it was so fringe; However, what we are seeing is a culture of undereducated, uninformed people who are closed off from the whole of our diverse society, being led by snake oil salesmen. They are being convinced 24 hours a day, that the paranoid, crazy, ideologically driven propaganda is the truth and everyone else is lying. Fox News is particularly visible in this regard; Although, if you look deeper, you will find a whole profit-driven industry particularly on talk radio, who make a living by spreading conservative propaganda to their listeners, and encouraging their listeners to tune out anything remotely resembling reality.

So the Question should really be, how do we cut the head off the snake of these snake oil salesman? Advertising. We saw the effectiveness of sponsor targeting during the Sandra Fluke incident with Rush Limbaugh and again during the Susan G Komen controversy over Planned Parenthood funding. In fact, if you look through piles of media stories going back decades, you will see the impact of pressuring sponsors to stop affiliating themselves with certain viewpoints. The next step should be an FCC regulation, preventing News Outlets from broadcasting false or misleading news, requiring such outlets to designate themselves as Opinion Outlets. There is room to maneuver on these solutions, but the fact remains something has to change. People should be free to believe what they wish, but that freedom should not cross over into the ability to force others to live under that belief. The truth is, Gay marriage only affects Gay couples, Abortion only affects the Woman and potentially her partner, Governmental Regulations are supposed to protect a powerless population from the overwhelming forces of business, and Gun Control is about reducing gun violence by having a structured system in place to promote responsible gun ownership, while limiting the ability of those who would cause harm from doing so with a gun. If you are against these things, you are free to not marry someone of the same sex, not have an abortion, enjoy the negative effects of pollution to your heart's content, and free to own whatever firearms you want, though with the freedom will also inevitably come the responsibility.

These issues will continue to rage, eventually society will move on to the next slate of wedge issues, and Gay Marriage or Abortion will be looked at through the prism of History, the way we view Slavery today. Educating people from an early age will help limit the harm caused by undereducated, uninformed citizens who blindly follow an ideological shepherds of all stripes. Ensuring people are able to access the news, and not become drowned in lies and misleading propaganda, will help the uninformed become active participants in the diverse world in which they live. Standing up and speaking out against these soap box snake oil salesman, every minute of every day, relentlessly shaming them into the shadows, will drive the serpents from the temples and bring light back into the world.