Saturday, September 8, 2012

Political Discourse and Stupid Arguments

This Presidential election season is turning into one of the ugliest in my lifetime and I don’t like it. I have witnessed and engaged in some ridiculous political discussions during the past few weeks. On Friday someone who I consider to be very intelligent told me he believes the world will end within five years if Obama is reelected. He really believes this. WTF?! I have also heard predictions of dire consequences if Romney becomes President.

My fellow Americans … this is NOT a dictatorship. No one American, even the President of the United States, has that much power. The world will not end on Inauguration Day next January, regardless of who takes the Oath of Office. The Mayan calendar says it will end this December. So there! Actually recent studies indicate that the Mayan calendar ends in December 2012 because they ran out of room on their tablets. Hey, just trying to lighten the mood.

One of the arguments I was in with a co-worker centered on past President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic convention last week. I thought it was a great speech. I did wonder about some of his facts, however, but that wasn’t of much concern because I believe the “facts” on all sides of the arguments are flawed in some way. This co-worker tends to lean right in the way I tend to lead left … we’re neither Liberal nor Conservative on every issue. He and I have had some interesting conversations about politics and economics over the years we’ve worked together. So I asked him if saw the Clinton speech. He did and immediately said it was the worst he had ever seen and that the facts were all lies. Funny thing is that just an hour before our conversation I read a reputable news article which claimed that most of his facts checked out. There was some exaggeration in the speech but the facts were mostly correct. According to this article. My co-worker said the article he read said just the opposite, that the facts were incorrect.

And that’s my point … ‘facts’ aren’t always facts. It is easy to make statistics back up different sides of a the same argument and it is also easy to pull a sentence out of context and make it say something different than the writer/speaker intended.

What bothers me the most is the arrogance on both sides of so many political arguments. Some people think their way is the only way and those who disagree are in some way less intelligent or less patriotic. Stop the bullshit! NOBODY has all the answers!!

FACTS prove that we are better off than we were four years ago. By an inch or two. Not enough to make either side of that political argument a clear choice.

FACTS prove the economy is improving. By a little. Very little. It is hard for the average American to feel it. Too early to tell if it’s a trend. None of this leads to a clear choice. All of it backs up each of our choices for the election.

A great case can be made for making a change in leadership. An equally great case can be made for giving the incumbent more time to finish what he started. I think the poll I saw today said Obama is at 46.8% right now. Romney is at 46.8% right now too. That tells me a few things: the choice is NOT clear, NOBODY has all the answers, the best way forward is for both sides to start working with each other for the common good.

Whichever Republican leader said last year that their number one goal is to prevent Obama from having a second term clearly proves my point that they don’t give a shit about fixing problems and they were determined to reject anything and everything in the name of making the President look bad. And our tax dollars pay this guy’s salary? THAT’S the problem! Conversely, a Democratic leader a few years ago (Pelosi) was equally arrogant and unwilling to work toward fixing problems and I have just as much negative feeling toward her.

The thing that scares me more than which candidates win which races is the attitude individual people have toward others with differing opinions. I have several bumper stickers on my car, mostly displaying musicians and towns I like. I want to add an Obama sticker to the collection, but I live in a county populated by right wing conservatives and I actually worry that harm will come to me or my car if I slap that sticker on. The sad part is that the harm would likely come from a coward who instead of looking me in the eye and saying “I disagree” he or she would just damage my car instead. That, of course, is the same kind of unrealistic paranoia that leads to the ‘end of the world’ fear I referenced in the first paragraph.

Every American has the right to believe what they want. Political discourse can lead to effective solutions to difficult problems. Stupid arguments only add to the divide. As we approach the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks I wish we could all remember what it felt like that day … we were UNITED in the name of helping each other get through an attack on our country. We were UNITED in our nation’s resolve to find the people behind the attacks and bring them to justice. And we did. It is time we remember we are the UNITED States of America.

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