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Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Rodney King Moment

Warning, y'all. This is a political statement, and includes no pictures of yarn or completed knitted or crocheted objects. There are also no pictures of fuzzy cute animals. Please buckle your safety belt, make sure your thinking cap is seated firmly yet comfortably on your head, and hang on while I do some twisting and turning.

I like to read Letters to the Editor in my local paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (link in the sidebar.) I like to think it's a finger on the pulse of the local mindset. Sometimes, it's downright dismaying.

There's something to notice, though, in the recent letters. It's been out there for a while, and I'm noticing it more now. There's been talk of how divided the country is, sure. And there's no doubt the red-state/blue-state division is a real one. But the division in rhetoric is much deeper, and much more toxic.

What is the breeding ground of this noxious rhetoric? From what foul pit commences the malodorous accusations of facism, weak-kneedness, cowardice, totalitarianism?

I know, I know. You open the dictionary to get a definition of "bleeding-heart liberal" and there's a picture of me, so you think I'm going to say Fox News. You'd only be partially right. It's Fox, or as I prefer to call them, Faux, all right. In fact, they were the ones who started it all. Infotainment, straight out of the script written for them in the cautionary movie "Network". It sells, so it's good enough for them. The only problem is that now, it's not just Fox that's the problem.

All the networks are the problem. The AP is the problem. The internet news outlets are the problem. Newspapers and news magazines are the problem. The local stations are the problem. Vitriol sells. Controversy sells. And We the People have a horribly short attention span.

So last week, while the GOP narrowly elected a known racist and segregationist to the minority leadership position (irony of ironies!), the press in all of its iterations crowed about how Dear Little Nancy Pelosi was facing FAILURE because she showed loyalty to a friend by supporting him in something he wanted to do. Despite the win/win aspect of the House Majority leader vote result for Speaker (elect) Pelosi, all the press could do was trumpet the implied weakness of her and the choices she made. Blindness must prevent them from seeing the truth of it, that Rep Hoyner was going to win the leadership position and she knew it, and that Rep Murtha simply wanted to run for the position, and likely would not win it, and she knew it. She backed him because he'd backed her. She backed him because they are friends and understand each other. Then in grace, all three stood together in unity for the majority of the House and faced the press. Who, in gracelessness, reported that the party was divided and splintering and squabbling amongst themselves, despite the evidence before them of three happy Democrats, ready and willing to work together for the good of the country.

And so I return, circuituously, to the scene of my original point. There is so much anger. There is so much division and hatred. People are so totally convinced that they're right. It's sad. The letters to the editor spew mean-spirited taunts, lobbed like literary Molotov cocktails, across the divide, both sides missing the point. Both sides, missing the facts. Both sides, missing what a Democracy is and what it means to us, the rabble and the roused.

We are, at this point, forced to DO Something. The Founding Fathers, in their flawed wisdom, created a very good system of government with some dangers. We've been living the fruits of that danger for the past six years, and really, for the past twelve. (Clinton's second term was so fraught with witch hunts and trials and scandalmongering that it seemed executive and legislative were controlled by one party.) But it is now not so. It is now, as the Drafters of the Constitution intended, a multiple party system, controlled by more than one, with enough voices on either side of the aisle to give oversight to whatever legislation comes through the pipeline. There is no more rubber stamp for this failed, hubris-ridden president. An angry, maligned party holds the purse-strings now, and he'd better hope that they have the good of the Country at heart, and not just vengeance.

Fortunately for all of us, I think they have good intentions.

It's a deeply flawed system. I'd far prefer a true multi-party system like other countries have instead of our two-party. It's too polarizing. It's too Jingoism-Making. But for now at least, it's what we have. And for the first time in quite a while, it has an opportunity to work properly.

The American public, by and large, needs a long course in Political Science. They need to be taught that it's not about the team. It's not about who wins, your side or mine. It's not about who has the catchiest campaign slogans or the best jokes, or the most attractive spouse, or the most money to run commercials, or who can say the most bad things about the other guy. It's really about what's best for everyone. Everyone.

The running of our country, state, municipality, is not a sporting event, and the press needs to take a front line in dismantling the prevailing mindset. Will they? Not likely. It wouldn't sell many papers or advertising minutes. So until that day comes, it's up to us to educate ourselves, and each other.

And of course, our kids. Maybe they'll grow up smarter than we did, and a whole lot less gullible.

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