Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Teach the Politicians How It's Done

I'm involved in an interesting yet distressing dialog (political in nature). And it occurs to me how far we are, as a nation, from being able to find any kind of common ground. I mean, if we can't even agree on the nature and purpose of dialectic, much less dialectic with a view to political practicalities and (oh my!) compromise, how can we ever hope to ever have anything but the unfortunate deadlock and lack of meaningful progress out of the political mire we find ourselves in today.

Let me be clear--both sides (and shades in between) are at fault on this. I am just as put off when I see blatant, dishonest vilification of Obama as when I see it of, say, Ryan.

I get that politicians have vested interests in not engaging in true dialectic. It seems inherent to the job, in being an ideologue or a demagogue who gets paid by being elected by the masses. But what excuse do the rest of us have?  Why is it that discussing politics (or religion) is seen as off limits? What's more important than these things, in society? 

We expect our politicians to fix this, but they simply reflect our own unwillingness to engage in reasoned, polite (wonder where that word comes from??) dialogue towards an end of finding some common ground and some ways that we can find practicable compromises to move forward.  At the very least, we can learn to have a healthy respect for one another and treat each other as human beings with dignity, instead of dishonestly caricaturing and vilifying one another in hopes of scoring some imagined rhetorical points (or worse, winning someone over through these things).

We have to live with each other, for goodness sake! What is our other option? Civil war? Again?  It's not unimaginable, you know... deadlock, entrechment, polemics, refusal of dialogue, refusal to see the other as a reasonable person capable of dialogue, a dispersoning of the other, conflating their ideas (which you may rightly abhor) with them as a person, a human being, and treating them accordingly.  Those are all precursors to war, genocide, and other forms of social atrocity.

We must fix this. But it won't start with the politicians. We can't demand that our politicians take the lead--their job is, essentially, to reflect us, to represent us. And by God, they are! We are the ones that need to change. We, each one of us, is responsible to stop this downward spiral. We must re-learn how to have polite discourse; we must stop dishonestly caricaturing each other. We must learn to listen, to see the good in the other, and to use that as the starting point for our dialogue.

Only after we change will our politicians have incentive to change their ways. Let's show them how it's done!

P.S. For the believers among us, I encourage you to consider offering this prayer before engaging in dialogue with others. And by all means, pray for our country as well, but let's not lose sight of our own failings in this area before addressing others.  All in humility.