Monday, May 25, 2009
© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Last week, while filling our car with gas, we noticed a truck with a large number of bumper stickers pasted to its rear end. One sticker caught our attention. It suggested that fundamentalism is a destructive force which leads to the death of one’s brain.
We then perused the dozen or so other stickers on the rear panel. Each, in its own succinct way, revealed a personal philosophy about the owner. That prompted us to await his exit from the convenience store portion of the gas station. That he wore his emotions on his vehicle, in so many ways, aroused our curiosity.
After a couple of minutes, the owner approached us. We mentioned how the collection of bumper stickers prompted us to check him out.
He described himself as far left of center, and a self-educated hillbilly, who grew up in the hills of Tennessee. Paradoxically, he said that he was tired of people reducing complex subjects to simplistic explanations, to which many are drawn emotionally and illogically.
We invited him to participate in our forum, after informing him that we welcome all points of view.
Shortly thereafter, we saw Republican Party member Gen. Colin Powell on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday morning. We were reminded us of how someone can explain their position in such a manner that you have to respect their thought process, even though you may disagree with their position.
Powell very calmly, and without emotion, discussed his recent encounter with Rush Limbaugh. Apparently Limbaugh called him out last year when Powell indicated that he planned to vote for and support presidential candidate Obama. Limbaugh responded by suggesting that the only reason why Powell supported Obama was because both Powell and Obama are African-Americans.
Powell indicated that he had always voted for the candidate who he personally considered most qualified, and that despite being a Republican, he had previously voted for Caucasian Democratic candidates Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter.
He then went on to discuss many issues in the news today, including the issues of water boarding and / or torture, the closure of Guantanamo, his differences with former Vice-President Cheney, and the missteps which he considered our new President had made thus far.
What struck us was the tone of his comments, his even-handedness, and the lack of invective. However, during his discussion of the issues, including those in which he was intimately involved during the Bush administration, we thought about our new gas station follower, and how few issues today can be reduced to simplistic, emotional explanations.
All this Memorial Day, we listened to those opposed to our involvement in Iraq preface their comments using the statement, “Let it be clear that I support our troops with boots on the ground.”
We then asked ourselves why it was necessary to even make that disclaimer. How did the debate become so convoluted that one side could conceivably suggest that the other side was unpatriotic and did not care about U.S. troops abroad?
It is clear that such framing of issues "works," and appeals to some baser, emotional instinct. That we as a society find it necessary to engage in such an oblique, unproductive exchange in discussing issues of such moment should distress us all.
To characterize someone opposed to our involvement in Iraq as unpatriotic or un-American simply boggles the imagination.
Quite frankly, we recognize that an argument can be advanced that all’s fair in the game of infotainment, and that non-elected talking heads in the media, on both sides of the aisle, have the right to cast their message in any form that they so desire. Especially if it is to boost ratings and generate more revenue. We’re all for that, right?
However, it concerns us when our elected officials employ such tactics. It smacks of intellectual dishonesty, despite its effectiveness.
But then again, that may be why certain ones of our elected officials have abdicated their leadership responsibilities, and left the sentiment of our citizenry to be dictated and formed by the non-elected.
And that is a very troubling notion.
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