Right Side: Political Debates In Media
It’s Fine To Debate About Politics And The Issues That Deserve Our Attention. But It Comes Down To Asking Yourself, Do You Want To Just Say Something, Or Actually Do Something?
I initially thought I would begin this article with a Chinese parable about the futility of shouting at the skies and cursing the weather. But, then I remembered the Oscar Wilde quote, "Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative." I already did that for 20 years on television, but the analogy will still hold.
Since we're counting career years, I also spent four-and-a-half years on the radio talking about, well, a lot of things, but mostly politics. It wasn't a job that came naturally to me, but I guess I became kinda sorta debate-ably passably adequate by the end. Minus offers of syndication, I did walk away with this maxim: the level of one's complaints about politics is inversely proportional to what one can do about it.
The amount of time and emotion that some people invest in becoming immersed in arguing about politics is baffling. It should be to them, too, based on evidence. They can't seem to recognize that despite their sizable personal, often negative, investment in the topics of the day, they have actually done nothing to change anything. Unless you are a political activist, and I think it's safe to assume that a heaping, overwhelming number of us are not, you can only do one thing to influence politics: vote. And you can only do that once every two years.
Yet, despite a lack of results from their memes, posts and rants, they ceaselessly toil in the commodity of verbal bile, bankrolled by the immediacy of a keyboard or cell phone. Look how many of my Republican brethren and sisters spewed out the alt-right inspired "snowflake" and "libtard" monikers prior to and following the election of Mr. Trump. Interesting that the party of family values and personal integrity felt compelled by lazy wit to gleefully spread a pejorative using a truncated version of the word retard.
As for the Left, their hyperbole over what they fear will be policies that will send our Union back to the 1700s due to the antiquated policies of Trump is laughable. I heard them in my multiple interviews at the Women's March in January, and from protesters I spoke to at the Republican National Convention. Completely unhinged. Most Republicans who voted for Trump are not horrible, Confederate flag-loving, country clubbers. Most of them simply want three things: lower taxes (not going to happen), smaller government (ha!), and protection of the Second Amendment (iffy). Given the choice between Trump and Clinton, who did you think they were going to support?
I have friends who defend Trump (they're exhausted) and those who vilify Trump. It makes for great talk around a campfire. But what separates them politically should be obscured by their commonality; good fathers, good husbands, dedicated providers and just all around nice people who make their communities better. These things evidently don't matter. Listen to certain shows, read a Facebook post here and there, visit a few choice websites, and you would think the opposition is a mashup of the Westboro Baptist Church and the Orcs from Lord of the Rings.
When asked by a coworker what I was going to write about next, and I mentioned the tone of political debate, he picked the low-hanging fruit of, "You know this kind of thing isn't new. People have been doing this since this beginning of the country." Yes, I'm well aware of the racial smears against Jefferson, that Lincoln was called an ape, and that Sen. Sumner was caned on the Senate floor. I can only assume that when this coworker was young he often told his parents, "Everybody else is doing it!"
True, that human nature hasn't changed, but the medium has. It's just too tempting to not convulse up one's every passing thought by hitting the post button. This is not debate. It's bathroom graffiti. It's a complete lack of understanding of the dynamic at hand. Inherent in normal debate is that you are trying to convince the other person they're wrong. We don't like to think we're wrong. Ego convinces us otherwise. Therefore, your chance of actually changing somebody's mind is the same as Tiger Woods' next girlfriend finding true, monogamous love.
The most effective tool in any debate is a fact. If you spend just a little time coming up with three of them, then maybe your silly meme of Hillary laughing, or Trump's hair blowing weirdly in the wind, might actually influence someone. But attacking a candidate so crassly, so childishly, is by extension attacking the person who voted for them. Do people really think their "Hillary For Prison" sticker, or the bloated statue of a corpulent Trump would cause someone to say, "Wow, now I see the light"?
It comes down to asking yourself, do you want to just say something, or actually do something? Unless your name is Don Rickles, it's easy, mindless drivel to constantly name call. If you're so aggrieved over policies, get involved. Write emails and letters, make phone calls, attend meetings, and for crying out loud read something instead of just watching your amen choir on Fox News or MSNBC. They are only telling you what you want to hear. It's how they make money. If you're only willing to invest in your mouth and not your time, know that any results you consider favorable are not of your doing, while those you view as negative are.
Hey, I'm not saying we shouldn't have a good debate about politics. I love that stuff. Issues deserve our attention. But the next time you’re tempted to call somebody a snowflake or gun nut, try keeping a few things in mind. Most of their days are spent worrying about the same things you do: money, health and sex (it's a different order when you're young). They laugh at the cowbell skit just like you. I'm not getting all kumbaya on you; just trying to remind you, and me, of a little perspective. It's like that line from Bull Durham, "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains."