A Long time, very good, friend of mine, has recently started his own blog. He tends to lean towards the liberal side and has some concerns about the current state of the election and something I recently posted.
First, the post he finds troubling in no way advocates ending the free speech OF ANY GROUP. It simply points out the rank hypocrisy of people who believe they have a right to be heard while at the same time advocating that one media outlet, who does not always report in a manner consistent with their views, should be taken off the air. These same people, wile under the guise of Free speech assault GOP delegates, attack police, and disrupt live TV shows.
Second he seems to believe that politics has degraded to such a state that intelligent discussion in no longer attainable. He states:
"Both sides resorting to personal attacks and misleading half-truths/lies, partisans on either side ending friendships over political differences. "I can't be friends with someone who supports killing babies." "I can't be friends with someone who wants to strip gays of their civil rights." "You guys want to fight pre-emptive wars of convenience and take their oil." "You guys support terrorists and hate freedom." It's just worrisome. Whatever happened to intelligent people having differing opinions?"
I personally have not seen individuals ending friendship over the current political battles. But the fact is, bitter partisan battles have been part of the political culture for the entire history of this nation. Heck, Hamilton and Jefferson use to insult each on a consistent basis under assumed names in weekly papers, Burr and Hamilton took part in a duel, in which Hamilton died, because Hamilton questioned his honor, and Lincoln was often referred to as a back-country monkey. These things are not new and did not signify the end of the nation.
Third, he draws a comparison to the deep political divides that existed over slavery and the current divides that exist over social issues today. He seems to believe that the current nature of politics is the result of the religious right.
" I'm beginning to see parallels to an earlier black-and-white (literally) moral issue: slavery. The individuals in charge became completely polarized - either slavery was a positive good or a horrible evil, each side ignoring the practical and historical issues and difficulties facing the other. Was slavery wrong? Yes. Would ending it immediately have caused an incalculable amount of social, political, and economic upheaval? Yes. Lines were drawn, it became a zero-sum game, and there ended up being no room to manuever and compromise. The country then proceeded to tear itself apart in the Civil War."
He goes on to say:
" I see a similar divide forming on social issues, specifically abortion and gay rights. Is it at the same boiling point, same level of severity? No. Could it rise to that level? I don't know."
The current debate over social issues is argued mainly in the courts. This is most likely the cause of much of the bitter, sometime hostile, political debate. I believe that both sides feel powerless over their respected positions since most of the decisions will be decided not in the great hall of the state legislator, or even the National legislator, but by 9 unlected judges. This brings the campaigns for the presidency and the senate to the forefront since the president nominates and the senate confirms the judges that will decide the nature of our rights. This I feel is the crux of the problem. Hamilton once said "Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike." That is why I believe that If state legislators, directly elected by the people, were able to define, based on what is best for their constituency, what should be the law with respect to abortion or gay marriage, then every group has an equal opportunity to be heard, and their arguments vetted and voted on. History has proven this to be the best possible solution to divisive social issues. The best example is the recent sodomy debate. When State laws banning sodomy were first reviewed in the early 80's, there were 30 or so states that banned it. When the Supreme Court recently reviewed sodomy laws, there were 13. Those 17 or so states struck the laws not by court action but by legislative action. Those states had the debate and resolved in a manner their constituency was conformable with. There were no riots, no break down of civil society, just debate and resolution. When weighty issues are decided by elected officials, bestowed to the people, the results are more palatable then decrees from an often misunderstood branch of government. Since the Supreme court decided the fate of the sodomy laws in the remaining 13 states, the issue has become polarizing and divisive more so then ever.Jefferson exemplified this point best when he said: " It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression...that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary;...working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped."
The fact is, the country is in a transitional period. Every transitions period in our nation's history, be it the Revolutionary War, the battle over slavery, the progressive era, or the discontent of the 60's has been characterized by deep political divides. Out of those dark struggles a better nation has ALWAYS emerged. I tend to believe that the cause or the result of a battle is sometimes not nearly as productive as the struggle itself. Avoiding the battle often leads to pent up frustration and an explosion of deeply rooted individual beliefs. Sometimes a battle is best NOT avoided because it may result in far greater consequences. Change is hard and I would not be so presumptuous as to claim I know where the current transitional period will take us, but if history is road sign to the future, the results will be a better nation.
Finally, my friend has concerns over that fact that he finds himself falling into the bitter partisan trap with things I have written or have said. He comments that:
"there have been times when I've found myself saying, "Wow, we see the world in two completely different ways...and yours scares the living shit out of me. Are you really that short sighted and callous?"
I believe that the weightiest of issues are best decided buy mutual zealous advocacy. That sometimes, what a person is saying, is not nearly as important as the fact that the discussion is occurring.
I must admit that I enjoy the fight, I revel in discussing with people whom differ from my point of view. Having a point of view and the willingness to debate it is the foundation of our great country. The resolution to the debate is not nearly as important the debate itself. My friend cites the Civil War as an example of what happens when strong lines are drawn and compromise is no longer attainable. I disagree, it was not the fact that two strong diverging points of view existed, nor was it the fact the that those who were willing to comprise, like Clay, were no longer leading the political debate that lead to the war. It was the fact that both sides REFUSED to continue the debate. As long as debate continues, no mater how vitriolic, bitter, or uncivil, the hope remains for resolution. When the debate ends, if the issue is not resolved, then there is cause for worry. But then again, I am an optimists!
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" -Edmund Burke
Wednesday, September 01, 2004