Monday, June 4, 2012

Week of 06/04/2012

Try Practicing Some Standards First!
– by David Matthews 2

If the newspapers are to be trusted (and there are some people that do defer to their bumper-sticker mindset against the media), then most Americans pretty much have had it with the political system and its continued dysfunction.

Congress doesn’t work; that much we all seem to agree to. Both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate would much rather haggle over the “national mammal” than to do anything substantive. The Obama White House is in full spin-mode, which means it is concerned more with winning their re-election than in governing the nation. Meanwhile the GOP is hell-bent on making sure that President Barack Obama is a one-term president, even if it means destroying the country to do it.

The trained parrots of talk radio and cable news are busy regurgitating talking point memos about how “their side” is always right and the “other side” is always wrong. The evangelicals are whipping their mindless masses into an uproar over fictional “evils” that are supposedly just “right around the bend”, and then take the credit with those “evils” never materialize. Fear, hysteria, panic, rage, and self-serving self-righteousness all seem to be the only things we hear about.

The economy is broken; that much we all seem to agree on. Yet every solution proposed that would bring about real change is fought tooth-and-nail as being either ineffective, unfair, or else branded as being “Marxist”, even if those critics have no idea what Marxism is. There is a problem that needs to be addressed, we all know that it is a problem that needs to be addressed, but we supposedly can’t do anything about it. We are supposed to just let it fester and get worse and hopefully it will just correct itself on its own. Right; and if you buy that then you’ll love this great deal that I came across for a bridge in Brooklyn.

The two dominant political parties are supposedly “equally guilty” of screwing up America. That statement only works, though, if you define “equal” as one side engaging in bureaucratic sabotage and the other side simply doing nothing because it would supposedly “look better for them” in the elections. And the only way either side will accept blame is to say that both sides are supposedly “equally guilty”, but each refuse to be held to account for any of it.

But here’s the punchline, guys… in the long run, it’s our fault. All of it! We choose to listen to the trained parrots of talk radio and cable news. We choose to vote against our conscience and against our own beliefs. We are the ones that buy into the lies and buy into the false promises of the elected officials from Barack Obama on down to Joe the Town Manager.

We did that! We did! The spin doctors didn’t show up at the polling places and vote those politicians in for us. The trained parrots don’t control our radio dial or cable TV selections. The politicians didn’t turn us into idiots. The simple-minded bumper-sticker statements didn’t dumb us down, nor did they just magically appear on our cars. We did all of those things ourselves.

Guess what that means? Yes, as much as each of you will hate to admit to it, it is up to all of us to make the changes that we need.

Now I could go on about getting people who threaten to vote third-party to actually follow through with it, a practice that I’ve personally been doing since 1992. However, I think that even that is too much for the average jaded citizen to contemplate right now. Many of you are simply not ready to accept it. We need to start small and then work our way up to voting according to your conscience instead of what the overpaid political consultants tell you to do.

Let’s start by owning up to the faults of our respective groups.

For the longest time, the conservatives and neo-conservatives have played this mind-game on people to deflect any kind of accountability for their actions. They claim that their actions have been justified because of some perceived “false equivalence” that may or may not have happened. No matter what they say or do, no matter how bad the statement, action, stance, or policy is, they always find something said or done in the past that supposedly “justifies” it.

Rush Limbaugh, for instance, lies through his teeth about Sandra Fluke and brands her a “slut” and a “whore”. He gives a half-hearted apology, claims he’s being “persecuted”, then proceeds to attack her yet again. His cohorts then “double-down” on the rhetoric, repeating the same slanderous lie, and claim that they’re being “persecuted” when anyone questions them. Then their cohorts turn to Bill Maher and claim that he’s said “worse” about Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol and demand immediate retribution for something they refuse to accept themselves.

Now does any of that justify Limbaugh engaging in slander? No, it does not. Does that justify Limbaugh’s cohorts repeating the same slander? No, it does not. This is especially damning when you recall that it was Limbaugh that said over and over in his broadcast career that “words mean things”. Well, to borrow from “Animal Farm”, apparently some people’s words “mean more” than others.

But there are plenty that bought into it. They bought into the hypocrisy, and then they regurgitated that hypocrisy in forum posts and emails.

This is how damaging the tactic of using a false equivalence has been to our discourse. It has justified and institutionalized dangerously narcissistic behavior and called it “normal”.

The folks at Reason Magazine continually pull up some of the nastiest comments made in previous elections to justify the current discourse. Never mind that many of those comments of the past were made anonymously. Never mind if some of those past incendiary speakers had to deal with the consequences of their statements. No, according to the “Reason experts”, people said nasty things in the past, therefore other people should say things just as bad if not worse today.

In each instance, they fail to answer a simple question: does it make it right? The answer is a profound “No!”

In the 17th Century, American Colonists falsely charged people with witchcraft and had them put to death. Does that, then, justify Kansas preacher Curtis Knapp’s assertion that the government should execute all same-sex people?

We illegally detained thousands of Japanese-Americans, Italian-Americans, and German-Americans in the 1940’s. Does that, then, justify North Carolina minister Charles Worley’s assertion that the government needs to do the same to all same-sex people?

Go ahead and say it. You know you want to. The answer to both questions is “No!”

Let’s get brutally honest here… if we really want to fix the system, we need to start by dismantling the psychopathic justifications used to validate the extremist rhetoric, beginning with the “false equivalent”. We need to reject the asinine assertion that there is some point in history that justifies and validates every action and statement of ours, no matter how wrong it is.

I know this isn’t easy. I have a hard time with it myself. We hate to admit being wrong about anything. We hate having to defend the indefensible. But how can you expect better quality representation if you can’t first practice what you preach about that quality?

“This is how it is” is not a justification. It’s no different than saying “everyone does it”. It is an excuse for an anything-goes mindset. You’re not going to get anything better from it. The system will not fix itself if people continue to wallow in their hypocrisy.

You each have a choice to make. You can either continue to play the game that has been going on, or you can own up to your supposed “values” and practice what you preach. You cannot claim to want the latter and complain about the former. The politicians will not clean up their act on their own. The trained parrots in talk radio and cable news will not stop justifying hypocrisy as long as you’re still listening to them. The hellfire-and-brimstone ministers will not stop as long as the money keeps flowing into their coffers. If you want better quality representation, then you have to be a better quality person first. Then we can talk about voting for real alternatives instead picking between two dominant and equally failed political parties. But you have to first stop lying to yourself about it.

You have to choose. You have to choose to either do right or to find ways to excuse the wrong, but you can’t have them both. Choose.

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