Home > Democratic Responsibilities > Rhetorical Extremism—Again

Rhetorical Extremism—Again

A politician can’t open his or her mouth these days without blaming “the other side” for everything that’s wrong with everything that’s wrong. Then there’s the endless trail of activist groups, each with their no compromise message on whatever it is they’re not going to compromise on, and you end up right where we are today.

Example? The Illinois Gambling legislation. The chowder heads who are supporting it claim it will put an apple pie on every table, clear acne, save the world, and even do your dishes. Meanwhile, the chowder heads who are against it claim it will turn your face into one big pimple boil, wither the apples on the vine, and of course, destroy the world as we know it.

It doesn’t take a wit the size of Einstein’s to realize the claims of both side are as wrong as they are ridiculous. But it does take some work to figure out where some concept of truth, or at least logical potential outcomes, might be found. And there in lies the rub. Most people aren’t even interested in educating themselves about issues, never mind getting off their fat, lazy asses and doing something constructive to participate in our democracy. For over half the population even going to a polling station once every two years is entirely too much work—never mind that, for a large percentage that do go, they have no more idea who or what they’re voting for than they can glean from reading what’s been printed on the ballot. Or maybe they’ll take some partisan “voter’s guide” to the polls with them because they identify as liberal or conservative and so whatever the fearless leaders of their band say must be right. Or worse yet, they’ll have “educated” themselves on the issues and candidates (I use that term loosely) by listened some drooling idiot on talk radio.

You want to know what’s “wrong” with our country? This is exactly it. A lazy citizenry who either can’t be bothered or no longer knows how to educate themselves on the critical issues in front of us. They either do not participate or, if they do, they spend all their time listening to the likes of Keith Olberman or Rush Limbaugh; what serves for news comes from equally partisan outlets like the Andrew Breitbart’s “Bigs” (Big Journalism, Big Government, etc.) or the Huffington Post. They don’t seek out the arguments of all sides; they don’t thirst for academic and research data on the subject; they’re not interested in facts or the reasonable theories of those who have spent their life trying to understand the issue and what the results of various proposed solutions might be. And yet, this is exactly what a functional democracy requires of its citizens.

We have, as I told a friend today, the government we deserve. Its shallowness echos the shallowness of the citizens. The uncompromising partisan divides in government are but echos the divisions of the people themselves who are no longer willing to consider that maybe, just maybe, the arguments of other side might contain some wisdom. And until we the people get beyond our laziness, our insistence that our side and our side alone holds the salvation of the nation in its hands, there will be no real solutions to anything.

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