or: Schizophrenic Feelings of Whether I Want to Travel on Your Highway
When I was growing up I was taught that yelling was rude. I was taught that name-calling was wrong and hurtful. There was the idea that sharing was caring, and that giving was better than receiving. I grew reciting “treat others as you want to be treated” and I was instilled with the idea that women are not to be disrespected. I think these are all lessons that we can agree on, and lessons you will or have taught your own progeny. It seems though, that these lessons are not worth their salt in the arena of public discourse. I have never seen a megaphone used for anything but venomous language and name-calling. Libel, slander, anger and hate-speech are the flavor of the month. Pull their hair, gouge eyes, and fight dirty; anything to get your point across. As times and tensions reach a boiling point I wonder whatever happened to calm conversation and open-minded discussion. What happened to respect and constructive criticism? As factions in the world dig in deeper and abandon the no-man’s-land of the middle, it seems we are getting further from progress, and are devolving in to some queer blend of Mad Max post-apocalyptic survival and Warrior-esque gang mentality. No one wants to come out and play anymore.
Through rose-colored glasses, beer goggles, or through the kindness of time’s distortion of fact, some would say that times used to be simpler. Maybe there was a time where things were simple; in the primordial ooze, as a single-celled organism. I am betting there was less tension. Once we crawled out of the oceans, things got as complicated as our evolving DNA structures. Since man could think we have been at odds. You would think that with enough time and a further developed frontal lobe for cognitive thought, we would have gotten to a point where the responsibilities of our place in the world would weigh on us to make the best decisions. But alas, we have not gotten to the point where the greater good is in our minds, but that we just want to be right, and that if we’re right in this camp, then they are all wrong in the other camps. A flawed construct if there ever was one.
Religion is in this vein, and I’ve written on it extensively. Really? You think you got it right, and everyone not following your path is damned? It seems a bit obtuse and even grandiose to think that you interpreted the message of the all-knowing exactly as he intended it. The ego on you knows no bounds, and that kind of pride and closed-mindedness must be a sin. Maybe, just maybe you aren’t right? Maybe you are on a good path, but is being “good” not enough, God cares about my diet? God cares about my impure thoughts, my cursing, my acceptance of His son? Really? Don’t you think he might not be the type to hold a grudge or get bogged down in the details? That is after all, where the Devil is? No matter, I’m sure your particular interpretation is exactly right as a Protestant, and those naive Lutherans are fucked. Jesus, get over yourself.
Besides religion is the political system, which is connected very closely to the social construct of today. Does everyone need to yell so much? Megaphones, protests, name-calling, Hitler references, occupations, “my way or the highway,” “love it or leave it,” and “you’re either with us or against us.” Is this the path to understanding one another? Closed minds and open mouths only makes for a cacophony of bad noise falling on deaf ears. Today we see factions broken off and dug in, ready with a salvo at any moment to smear and defame one another. Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party-ers, Libertarians, Independents, and now Occupiers. We have seen any one of these groups split in to it’s own group, just as religion has done over the last few thousand years. Each party thinks the other is poison for the America we can be. They think their exact way is the only way, and that we are doomed if we don’t change everything now. Seriously, we need to change everything, start over, and rebuild from the ground up. Not one of these parties wants small tweaks and concerted efforts, they want their agenda installed en complet without deviation. They’ve got the perfect plan to fix everything. That damned ego, again.
While most are arming themselves with facts, figures, clever signs, bull horns, organizing community action, smearing the “enemy,” and designing t-shirts as they raise funds for their cause, I can’t help but feel that Sun Tzu would look upon the current landscape and be proud that everyone read his book. He would fill with pride as political armies followed every rule of warfare he outlined so long ago. He we are, trying to make progress as a society, trying to rise to a grander place, and the tactics we are using are that of invading armies!? We want to take the next step, and we are trying to do so in combat boots and a military load out. There will be no progress with fists and a war-cry. When you treat someone as an enemy, they will play that role, and fight back.
In all of this hatred and obtuse thought processes, the real victim is society and refugees of the nation of the level-headed. Those poor people trekking across expanses of war-torn ground in rags with all they have to their name on their backs. Spires of smoke dot a barren landscape and the newest statistics and campaign slogans are exploding in the distance as mortar fire from great distances. Libelous shelling, slanderous espionage, trench warfare. Meanwhile, those that just want compromise and progress in any form walk a trail of tears just hoping not to be ambushed at any moment.
The tension has broken our spirits. Why can’t we come to a table and talk? Why must every victory be Pyrrhic, and every step forward be a stumble? Is every subject worth all-out war from the utterance of the first talking point? Can’t we just do something good? Why is funding schools a political pawn? Do we really need to hold a gun to the temple of grandma’s Social Security check and slowly back out of a conference room? Must it be all or nothing on a moot point like pot or gay rights? Are you crazy, or do you actually believe what you’re saying? I know, you’re just trying to whip up controversy and distract us from actually wanting action. Anger is a great distraction from inaction. Hold your position and never lose that hill, no matter how many suffer in the campaign. Speak robotically and never honestly. Hold to party lines because you need support, if you deviate from the group you will be picked apart by the wolves encircling your camp.
This hellscape is no place to raise a child, and no place to attempt a compromise. Your desire for an end to the bloodshed will be interpreted as weakness. Hold strong to the credo of your particular faction, anything less is flip-flopping, and mutiny. Only trust the man next to you if he agrees with you, but the moment you smell dissent then you bayonet his ass and throw him into the open grave with the rest of the “enemy combatants.” No group even has a white flag here. Surrender is not an option. You hold this hard-line to the death. Progress be damned, and the suffering of your countrymen, just don’t lose any ground. Stick to our guns, man our posts, and give no quarter. If we don’t try to take an enemy position, the we can never lose a battle, so we stay entrenched and whether the seasons.
This is ugly. This is the way it’s been done for so long, so we don’t know anything else. Politics is a battlefield today, not a summit or a meeting of the minds. Everyone has it wrong but you. Religion is the same. Blood is shed because faith galvanizes your soul to the point that the only option is to wipe out any other option. It’s no different in social discourse. People have died for an idea. I suppose an idea is a fine reason to die, but it does nothing but to further entrench the factions. As the rise of a possible new faction, Occupy, becomes a more real reality, there is a new army joining the fight. An army with no plan, no leadership, and no real exit strategy. Just another army ready to stay until everyone else has died. The Patchouli Party, maybe. It’s catchy. But as another group enters the fray, the only outcome is louder anger, and new ammunition in an ever evolving battle against progress. The only answer is for everyone to put aside their pretensions, put down their guns, and work together to clean up the mess and get somewhere, anywhere. A nation cannot withstand this kind of extended battle, and I know the level-headed refugees just want an end to the war. It has done nothing but wear raw the hope for anything but more of the same. Put down the bull horn and talk to each other, not at each other for once. We can’t take much more of this.