Thursday, May 1, 2008

Post No. 3: Some Lessons to be Learned by Kids in the Current Political Environment - Or Should They Be?

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

I have always found the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do,” interesting. I have often tried to remember whether I actually really heard anyone, who I respected, utter it. I’m pretty sure that I never heard it from my parents, although I may have seen the concept in action. I’m fairly convinced that it is something that we’ve all heard in various television shows or movies, but not in real life.

I had a conversation with my good friend Gail in Wisconsin today about the tone of the current political campaigns. It occurred to me that depending on the particular side of the aisle on which you sit, you might find certain conduct, on the part of the party with which you disagree, as “objectionable.” But I asked myself, are there some universal principles, which kids of parents, across the entire philosophical and political spectrum, should be able to take away from this period in our history, as examples of appropriate and acceptable conduct. I further asked myself whether the principles were inspirational in nature. Finally, I asked whether these principles advanced our societal interests and encouraged civic participation.

Before trying to identify some of these principles, I was reminded of the fact that each generation seems to think that the following generation is going to hell in a hand basket. I also thought about the fact that with technological advances, there are always good and bad ramifications associated therewith. With respect to the printed word, few would argue against the proposition that the invention of the printing press, and the resultant dissemination of information and knowledge through books, was overwhelmingly a positive thing. At the same time, we also recognize that some of that information may not be appropriate for children, and may actually have a deleterious effect. It is the same with computers and access to the internet.

So in thinking about the current political discourse, I tried to think of similarities and differences for purposes of analysis. In the case of books, someone or some authority has historically controlled the availability of books. There have been bans, or burnings, of various sorts over the course of history. We have restricted the ability of various citizens to gain access to certain books and information. The same might be said about some content on our media vehicles and the internet. Parents have technological devices permitting them to deny their kids access to certain channels and content. Additionally, parents can track the surfing habits of their kids.

I also recalled that many historians have provided evidence to support their contention that political mudslinging has been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and has always been hardball in nature. However, in the case of the Lincoln – Douglas debates, we did not have the incredible technologically sophisticated media vehicles that we have today. The communication of the vituperative nature of the discourse was not as widely distributed, and with far less speed. In the case of our current presidential political campaigns, much of what is broadcast appears on the regular, non-cable channels, available to all, including those with rabbit ears, or even those without. Additionally, many outlets can be viewed, or heard in the case of radio, twenty-four hours per day. In fact, some might consider viewing or listening by our youth to be a good thing in that it helps them appreciate and fulfill their civic responsibilities.

Well, I’m glad that you’re convinced. I’m not as comfortable with that notion. Let’s look at some of the lessons to be learned from the practices that we see today:

(a) Individuals in the public arena who have managed to acquire masters’ degrees, raise families, be elected to national office, and make efforts to have an impact on American society have “done nothing in life worthwhile.” I would imagine that the argument could be advanced that they have not done anything worthy of being elected president. However, if that is the case, why not state that clearly.

(b) Anything done in the world of politics is acceptable and justified, including negative campaigning, because “politics is a tough business, and participants should realize that,” and because “negative campaigning is effective.”

(c) It is acceptable during the course of political discussions to refer to others whose views you do not accept as “liars, vermin, unpatriotic, commies, pinkos,” and various and sundry other descriptors which need not be repeated here.

(d) Someone willing to sit down with our adversaries or enemies to discuss possible resolution of our differences is “selling out,” and will “surrender our values,” and consequently discussion should not be had until your opponent bends to your rules.

(e) Americans expect, and respect, those who fight back, even if the level of the respondent attack is of the same quality and kind as the precipitating attack, no matter how negative. We don’t respect those who take the high ground, because it will not help you achieve your goals.

(f) Should you seek a position of high visibility or public office, you should ensure that you agree with, and accept, all statements made by those close to you or your campaign, during public events, and in the event that you do not, you should immediately denounce or fire them, and consider forfeiting your membership in the groups or organizations with which they are associated.

(g) If you are a member of any party or group, it is unacceptable to espouse views that differ from the “group speak,” or the party’s or group’s platform or principles.

Of course, I’m being ridiculous here even trying to formulate positive principles for our kids to take away from these campaigns and their attendant activity. None of the “principles” outlined above is really an acceptable principle, to be utilized in our examination or evaluation of our political candidates, or anyone in a high position for that matter. But that’s exactly the problem. I can not, with a straight face and with a clear conscience, identify any principle worth holding that is to be gleaned from this experience. And that’s sad… If the parents have tuned out, and find the discourse nasty and distasteful, imagine what the kids are thinking. If they are paying attention at all… Not to mention those worthy and dedicated (but imperfect) individuals who might consider entering public life…

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

1 comment:

  1. The other day I heard a fine majority member of our society say about Obama's minister "vile, poisonous, vitriol-spewing, America-hating, Jew-bashing, racist son-of-a-bitch former pastor - not to put too fine a point on it."

    What follows was a response. You may find something there of interest. (All facts from Wikipedia.)

    This is pure politics. Think of everything they have thrown at Obama and he still keeps on going:
    1. not Black enough

    2. too Black

    3. Harvard educated/elitist (that died once everyone realized that the last 8 years dedicated to the intellectually-challenged has not exactly been stellar)

    4. not electable

    5. no political machine

    6. a Muslim

    7. etc., etc

    Now the Right goes after Obama because of his minister ... guilt by association. Why? Because the Right is engaged in revisionist history and is pretending the past did not happen. It did. Period. What is more amazing is that all those so offended by his pastor's words fail to equally condemn the racists on their side, including ... Jerry Falwell! Falwell grew up in a strongly segregationist setting and supported racial segregation. In 1965, he gave a sermon at his Thomas Road Baptist Church criticizing Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil rights movement , which he sometimes referred to as the "Civil Wrongs Movement". On his Evangelist program The Old-Time Gospel Hour in the mid 1960s, he regularly featured segregationist politicians like Lester Maddox and George Wallace. He said this about Martin Luther King: "I do question the sincerity and non-violent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left wing associations." [If my memory of the times is correct, the term "Left wing" was then a code word for "n----- lovers", wasn't it?.]

    While we are also talking about their pastors, let's take a trip down memory lane ....

    Jim Bakker - financial improprieties

    Jimmy Swaggert - prostitution

    Oral Roberts - In 1977 Roberts claimed to have a vision from a 900-foot-tall Jesus who told him to build City of Faith Medical and Research Center and the hospital would be a success. In 1980, Roberts said he had a vision which encouraged him to continue the construction of his City of Faith Medical and Research Center, which opened in 1981. At the time, it was among the largest health facilities of its kind in the world and sought to merge prayer and medicine in the healing process. The City of Faith was in operation for only eight years before closing in late 1989. In 1983 Roberts said Jesus had appeared to him in person and commissioned him to find a cure for cancer.

    Oral Roberts - In 1986, during a fund raising drive, televangelist Oral Roberts announced to his television audience that unless he raised $8 million by that March, God would "call him home" (a euphemism for death).

    Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell - the 9/11 attacks were the result of " divine retribution provoked by rampant sexual immorality"

    Pat Robertson - who openly called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez

    Pat Robertson - warned the town of Dover, Pennsylvania of a severe natural disaster following the defeat of the local school board for advocating intelligent design

    Aimee McPherson - Prior to recent events, the most famous evangelist scandal involved Canadian-born Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s, who allegedly had an extramarital relationship and faked her own death as a cover. She later claimed that she had been kidnapped, but a grand jury could neither prove that a kidnapping occurred, nor that she had faked it.

    Mike Warnke - a popular Christian evangelist and comedian during the 1970s and 1980s. He claimed that he had once been deeply involved in a satanic cult and was a satanic priest before converting to Christ. A 1991 investigation turned up damaging evidence of fraud and deceit. The investigation also revealed the unflattering circumstances surrounding Warnke's multiple marriages, affairs, and divorces. Most critically, however, the investigation showed how Warnke could not possibly have done the many things he claimed to have done throughout his nine-month tenure as a Satanist, much less become a drug-addicted dealer or become a Satanic high priest. Simply, a liar.

    Ted Haggard - Ted Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) from 2003 until November 2006. Haggard's position allowed him occasional access to born-again George W. Bush. In 2006 it was alleged that Haggard had been regularly visiting a male prostitute who also provided him with crystal methamphetamine. Haggard admitted his wrongdoing and resigned as pastor of New Life church and as president of the NAE.

    Enough already ....


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