Inspection- The Dangerous Dynamic
American Indians, Puritans who feared starvation, shared resources in what one side referred to as “The New World,” the other by many names… but to them it was very old, going back so many generations we only have good guesses as to how it was first discovered by humans.
Now, not that much more than 400 years later, the dishes have hopefully been washed and put back, the turkey is waiting for fattened bellies to dip a bit to be carved some more, it’s time to pause and reconsider a few things…
A while ago I joined a discussion over at Volconvo.com called, “So, when will it be OK to mock Obama?”
Here was my initial response…
“Yeah, I complained about some of this early in the election. Things said, obviously not racist, were tormented and tortured syntax-wise until they were considered such… mocking was verboten or intentionally interpreted to be something it was not… Some of the most serious followers seemed to have a giant chip just waiting to tip over on their shoulders, their heads, even their little toes…”
“But let’s be fair. Much of the Bush II years were spent with any criticism or mocking considered “Bush bashing,” or only something only al Qaeda sympathizing traitors would do. If I had to point a finger at who started this current trend; it would probably be right back at some of those… who… (complained the most) …during the past eight years.”
“So, though I am concerned that our political landscape seems to continue to be bullsh… dozed in this manner, I also would pull out the world’s tiniest violin for many of those whining about it, that also helped to encourage it… But they don’t make them that damn small.”
Maybe you agree.
Maybe you don’t.
But I’m just using that more specific comment here to make the following general observation…
“We have gotten to the point in society where our partisanship is so important we are unable or unwilling to accept humor, opinions and questions that don’t confirm our preconceived notions. We are so determined to be this way we willingly take whatever has been said or done and assign both motives and meaning that either isn’t there, or we’d have to be inside the other’s head to really…(understand)”
Here is another observation: this is very close to the same dynamic of the racist… so willing to see a speck in the eye of those he hates, and ignore the 100 foot steel girder sticking out of his.
The racist observes, or thinks he observes, behavior he doesn’t like. Hence: all, or most of “those people” behave like that.
Does he sincerely question his initial observation?
…the motives he assigns?
….the meaning behind it all, the reasons “why?”
Are you kidding?
In the same manner, the skewed partisan observes, or thinks he observes, behavior he doesn’t like. Hence: all, or most, of “those people” behave like that. Their intent is “evil,” or “stupid,” or “ignorant.”
Question his initial observation, the motives he assigns, the meaning behind it all, the reason “why?”
Ha! Now you really have to be kidding.
This edition if Inspection started to dribble down from my mind; “head…ing” (pun intended) to this computer screen I’m typing my words into, a long time ago: probably in my first High School where you had to hate the other team. Hitting other fans, throwing things… well, they’re less human: inferior, so why not? One didn’t dare question such doctrines amongst fellow classmates. While I was never beaten up over my rather sardonic observations regarding this, I came close. Threats; including in front of teachers who said nothing about such behavior, were plentiful.
Regular readers at my longest digital home for Inspection, Liberaltopia, are probably laughing and repeating a phrase I have typed many times, “Things don’t change much, do they (Ken)?”
There’s no reason why they can’t change. My mother was close to a Fundamentalist, my Father a heretic. We lived next to our good friends the Setzers. Mr. Setzer was fairly liberal. My father was a conservative. They even ran against each other for public office. Yet everyday Bill Carman and Gene Setzer would ride the hideous, dangerous; bumper to bumper at 60 mph, 20 mile commute into nearby NYC, talking and teasing each other; as only friends could do. As my friend Dell said to me recently,
“Your father knew just how to get under my father’s skin.”
Jay Ward; creator of Bullwinkle, and his fellow creators; Alex Anderson and Bill Scott were quite the trio. Ward was quite conservative. The other two: one liberal, the other; somewhere between. In today’s dynamic I doubt they would have ever joined forces to seed the imaginations of children with a more creative and intellectual approach to scripting. Still, in the world of cartoon-dom… (Or I suppose “cartoon-‘dumb'” if you include the far less intellectual, to quite un-intellectual musings of the likes toon houses like Hanna Barbera.) …they were known to huddle close and crack each other up with their own scripting ideas.
What has happened to us? Well partisans and media types learned that the more hatred and animosity is stoked; the more they paint those who disagree as satanic cartoon like caricatures: the more papers they sell, the better their Arbitron ratings and the more mindless drones they get who are willing to do anything for their cause.
Their power; far more insidious and pervasive than any single printing press, radio wave or TV station, has been bought out, consolidated and melted like rancid butter all over the country; even the world. We are truly nasty tasting “toast,” if I am to continue my somewhat poor metaphor.
And nothing else but “evil.”
From the first President Adams who put a bar patron in prison until Jefferson freed him after his inauguration for calling Adams “toothless,” to a most Uncivil War that has echoed unto the election of 2008, to Vietnam, I’m not even going to begin to pretend this is all “new.” Puritans; some who shared Thanksgiving with one tribe of Indians, brutally slaughtered another competing tribe including… all the women… all the children: everyone. When their friends in the other tribe complained they simply did what extreme partisans everywhere, called them the current term for “pansy,” and then had nothing more to do with them. True “thanks” for eagerly sharing the first Thanksgiving and helping them hold back starvation in “The New World.”
Karl Rove would be proud, the one of the many intellectual great grandchildren of these slash and burn forefathers.
The difference between now and then is, it seems, this take no prisoners attitude has rippled down from the highest realms of our government and been institutionalized nationwide: more than a select group of White immigrants to a very unwhite land. Much has been laid at the doorstep of our president elect and a bar raised stupidly low, I fear, is already impossibly high. Despite my own doubts, I worry… yet applaud, his insistence on including those his own base has problems with.
Will they all respond in kind, or become what Joe Lieberman has been since he was also offered a prime position for being the opposite of supportive? The history of such peace offerings, so far, had been nothing one can define with the modifier “kind.” Much of this depends upon the media, and this dangerous dynamic has become institutionalized by hordes of partisans who started flooding Communications schools shortly after I graduated in the mid-70s, according to my profs, and the ever more consolidated media corporate interests who have profited from it.
So let’s go back to the first Thanksgiving and ask what we should have done, rather than slaughter those not on “our side.” These are things you can do personally: attitudes to take, that just might move us ever so slightly away from this dangerous dynamic. Every little bit helps.
A few rules to live by that would ease things a bit…
1. No one ever has to be anyone’s, or any party’s/any movement’s cheerleader. Ever.
2.You could always be wrong. Always. Doesn’t matter the topic. If you don’t get this then you’ve already checked your humanity at the door. A dog has more common sense.
3. Being right doesn’t make you the better person. You’re probably just lucky. We all have our own personal demons quite eager to misguide us. Everyone. No exceptions.
4. Everything changes. Everything. So even if you are right at this moment, maybe not during the next.
5. We are like those proverbial blind wise man. Each of us has a piece of the elephant in their hands, but probably will never be able to see even a part of the whole without talking with others who have a different part: a different perspective.
6. Maybe you and God, Allah, (fill in other deity here), Science or rationality totally agree. More likely… not. No matter how damn smart you think you are there’s a better than 99.99999999% chance you have got it wrong at least a little.
7. What you believe, you have every right to believe. You have no right to force it on others, lecture them and they have every right to disagree and be respected too.
Hope that helps. Maybe it won’t. But hey, it was worth a try. And I also hope you had a great Thanksgiving: no matter what you believe.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.