One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
There’s no middle ground between these views.
Experience tells me otherwise, though. Maybe not with the cynics in Washington. Because of the peculiarity of running for office in these days, they’re less in tune with their electorate than they should be (though I’m not so sure they have been. Lobbyists have had extraordinary power in legislative circles long before the Supreme Court decided that corporations should have freer speech than other citizens) and are more beholden to corporate interests. Which means they’re less willing or able to listen to the struggles of their constituents than they should be. But that’s only one part of the problem. A big part of the problem. But only one facet.
But I think we’re divided and politicians have the ability to side-step and ignore us because the rest of us are so willing to listen to the myths that we hear about The Other Side.
Conservatives don’t care for or about poor people. They’re racist.
Liberals think that government is the solution for everything. They’re not realistic and want lazy people to take over the world.
And the arguments just keep spinning until you can’t have a decent conversation with your neighbor anymore because a trigger buzz word (“accountability”‘, “freedom”, “equity”) sets one or both of you off. As long as we continue to frame the debate in simplistic polar terms we’re not going to find common ground. If I look at everything based on that rubric, what common ground could I possibly share with anybody else? That we’re both on the same stick? Of course we won’t find solutions. We can’t even agree on a common language.
But complex problems call for complex problem-solving. And we can’t get that if all of our energies are spent finding and making enemies and then cock-fighting them. Especially if many of those enemies are really going for the same thing you are.
It doesn’t help to look at myriad, multi-dimensional, sociological views as if they were just points on a simple, one-dimensional line. And to equate one person with all the views that their supposed leaders supposedly hold* is shutting down before we start. Sometimes we need to shut down, but it doesn’t help us to find solutions.
I am, and this may be obvious to many of my Facebook friends, speaking from a lot of experience. I tend to be the first to rush to judgment. But I’ve learned that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t speak for any of my conservative friends (and I thank God). I’ve learned that many of my ‘conservative’ friends may have solutions, may have ideas, just may care more than we on the left have given them credit for.
Just need to listen… and maybe grab some beers together and hammer stuff out.
And stop worrying about who’s drinking who’s Kool-Aid.