We live in strange times, at least from a political perspective. On one hand, we have a massive federal government that seeks to dominate the states and the citizens regardless of any supposed restrictions set forth by the Constitution. Deficits and spending are recklessly multiplied ensuring the economic slavery of future generations. But on the other side of things, states are beginning to reassert their power through rejection of nationalized health care, sovereignty resolutions, and the push for nullification. More and more ordinary American citizens are starting to take a keen interest into both domestic and foreign policies. For far too long, politicians assumed that the indifferent silence of the average voter equated to tacit consent of beltway policies. And all the while, conservative and liberal pundits temper the news with their particular brand of spin.
Obviously we all have to get our political news from some source or another. Ideally, the well-rounded person will have several avenues of information. Regrettably, some folks are content to rely on a single pundit. Now don’t get me wrong, there many good commentators out there. Unfortunately, a great many of them do not advance political dialogue, but hinder it instead. They treat politics like a kindergarten argument where the person who is the loudest, most disagreeable, interrupts constantly, and hurls the cruelest insults is considered the winner. You cannot refute this kind of pundit without being declared stupid, brainless, or otherwise mentally incapacitated. These kinds of antics strip politics of any sort of dignity and warp it to be more like an unpredictable circus comparable to the Jerry Springer show.
Don’t think that either the right or the left holds a monopoly on civility; both conservatives and liberals are guilty of dumbing down and stifling discourse. Talk show hosts on the television and the radio, bloggers, writers, and even politicians can all fall prey to this sort of rubbish. Oh, you’re just a “libtard”, a “teabagger”, or a “nutjob”. Therefore, we can’t trust your opinions on any issue and your thoughts are equally worthless. They don’t confront and refute contrary opinions, but rather attack their opponent’s credibility and basic human decency. Ultimately, I believe these tactics display the shortcomings of the argument of those who employ them because it shows that their own evidence is weak, exhausted, or likely both. Their listeners, watchers, or readers are no more enlightened than they were prior to reading their rude drivel, but instead falsely empowered with the worst aspects of political rhetoric. Although a few people may claim otherwise, I try to hold my writing and this blog to a higher standard.
In the first few pages of his First Discourse, Jean-Jacques Rousseau laments the earlier understanding of mankind. “A nondescript scientific jargon, even more despicable than ignorance, had usurped the name of knowledge, and opposed an almost invincible obstacle to its return. A revolution was needed to bring men back to common sense”. Today, some residents fill their heads solely with the vulgar prattling of some pundit or other, holding their petty rudeness as sacrosanct as the writings of the prophets of old. This advice may sound strange coming from an unapologetic conservative, but I encourage you to listen to the words of conservatives, liberals, libertarians, and statists alike. Of course, you do not have to agree with them all (and obviously you cannot for their ideologies are diametrically opposed). Nevertheless, in order to be good citizens and also informed, we must explore and discuss thoughts contrary to our own. By doing so, we increase our political intelligence and bolster our beliefs without denying the right of others to disagree. We must avoid the common pundit’s snare of propagating a political environment devoid of rationality and proof, but one that is rich in slander and childishness. If we fail to do so, then we will never escape our current state of discourse that, for many, is even worse than ignorance.