Indicting the Talking Heads

I don’t consider myself as much of a die-hard liberal as I used to be, especially during high school. This is not to say that I’m simply more moderate, but that I believe more in arguing subtly than loudly. I also believe in the virtues of arguing sanely. If you’re a republican, independent, green, tea, or green-tea party member, I will respect your ideas as long as you treat mine with equal respect and recognize my side of the issue. No great shakes there – the “golden rule” is well established.

Yet, as much as I try I’m finding it harder and harder to be tolerant of the intolerant. It’s almost entirely hypocritical, but I’m losing my patience trying to reason with anyone who refuses reason. Lately, it seems that you can write anything on a chalkboard or shout it through a radio and people will believe you blindly.
Watching the news and listening to political pundits continually leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As a country, we seem to have completely lost touch with the issues we should be worried about, and instead continue to mire ourselves in personal attacks.

People like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh do nothing for our society. This is not to say that all other parties go free (Keith Olbermann comes to mind), but these three in particular seem to compete against each other in a tantrum for media attention. Political and social debate should be sensible and rooted in reason. That’s why we use the term debate, not argument or prizefight.

The thing that really frustrates me is not necessarily Glenn, Ann, and Rush’s far right viewpoint. Admittedly, I don’t understand or follow it, but they are entitled to their opinions. What infuriates me is that their end-goal seems to be driving a wedge between Americans. As a country it seems the only thing that occurs “across the aisle” is fear- and hate-mongering. People who have such large audiences (who obviously respect their ideas) should use their exposure to set an example of discourse, bridging the gap as opposed to further expounding it.

More and more political races are being won by dredging up personal faults and apparent defects in an attempt to embarrass the competitor. Accusing candidates of voting for the wrong cause, growing up in the wrong place, or practicing the wrong religion does not advance your ideas. Instead it casts a shadow on yourself, the contender, and the democratic process itself. When you were in elementary school voting for student council, you wanted whoever you thought would defend your inalienable rights as a third grader to all-day recess and pizza everyday at lunch. You weren’t concerned that Jimmy wasn’t so good at his times-tables or that Susie still wore velcro sneakers. Yet each year, no matter what amount of uproar is caused during the prior election, the attack ads get worse, and the accusations more and more acrimonious.

To be fair, I have no hope of the United States being a single, harmonious, happy-joy-joy utopia. There are simply too many views and too many individuals in the nation. But that does not give those with influence the license to turn citizens against each other by hurling constantly more hurtful and ridiculous accusations.
Instead of pointing fingers and digging their heels in the mud crying out for help, they should be modeling discourse for the rest of the nation to follow. That is their responsibility. They have been put in a singular position to influence how we see and understand what is going on, and yet they insist on working against progress.
They wheel out their constructed rhetoric and call you a socialist, or a communist, or a Nazi. They scream and yell for anyone else to begin building bridges, demanding ultimatums be met, rather than being the first to reach out a hand.

I’m not here to say that one side is right. What I want to make clear is that whatever you believe in, recognize that others will believe in something different, and many will believe the exact opposite. That gives you no right to insult or fight them. Being a citizen of this country gives you the right to respect and treat others as equals.
Instead of burning flags or Qurans, learn on your own. I urge you to turn away from the political armchair-quarterbacks that dictate how much of America thinks, and diminish their influence. Use your own intelligence to decide what you think.
Investigate what the other side believes, even if you don’t agree with it. Listen to what they have to say, and they in turn will listen to you.


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