Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Politics of Distraction

I got a comment on my last post, Staying Sane, saying that I "wasn't that smart" and then proving it by citing three specific things I mentioned in my post. The commenter was anonymous, which I've tolerated so long as they aren't selling something. For the record, while you would have to register with Blogger to leave a comment that had your name or moniker in the heading, there is nothing preventing people from putting their name in the comment itself. 

Foolishly, I responded to the person's complaints. I say foolishly, because the complaints were not germane to the point I was making - that we're in serious trouble in America, and that the level of political and social discourse has reached such a low level (we have pastors telling people to vote because the main issues are eliminating abortion and gay marriage - what country do these people live in?) that I see zero hope of the acceleration of our trip away from the most powerful and influential country in the world. 

What did the commenter have to say? That the 2000 election, decided by the Supreme Court and argued on the winning side by the son of one of the Justices, was constitutionally sound. That slavery was not the root cause of the American Civil War and there were other reasons. That the left was picking on Sarah Palin. 

It took me about an hour after I responded to realize that this is what we've come to. Hear an argument you don't like, pick on the smallest of details, and call the other person names. 

For the left, it's been to claim anyone running on the Republican ticket is just another W. Equally ridiculous. Palin is clearly someone that would have caused even more damage! ;-) Seriously, it's a bogus claim without anything to back it up, and that includes discussing the ways in which a candidate would *not* be like W. 

Here's another excellent example. On Sunday, we got a DVD in an "advertising" flyer called "Obsession," an anti-Muslim screed that, had the focus been Jews, African-Americans, gay men, or just about any other socio-political group, would have been called hate speech. In fact, this has been called hate speech, and it shows just how desperate both the newspaper industry is for revenue (their classifieds sections, long a big source of income, have dried up with the advent of Craigslist and other internet-based advertising), and the Conservative movement is to find a reason for people to vote for the party that brought you Iraq and the financial meltdown. So they distract us with not only fear, but take up column inches and minutes on the evening news by spending a lot of money to send out this four-year-old propaganda film produced by radical Jews. What do you think the chances are that they would have done this for a propaganda film produced by radical Muslims railing against radical Christians promoting bombing abortion clinics? And why do you suppose this DVD would have been limited in it's scope to potential swing states (although how they can consider Oregon a "swing state" when it's voted Democrat in every election since 1988 is beyond me)? 

Again, distraction. 

Our overriding issues are not a bunch of people who live on the other side of the planet, a very small percentage of which really don't like us (I find the people in my own country scary enough, thank you). They are overpopulation. They are climate change, regardless of who or what is bringing it on. They are the increasing toxicity of our environment. They are the fragility of our financial institutions, brought on by unregulated greed. They are the lost credibility of our leadership, affecting in rather startling ways our ability to deal with any of the above problems. 

When people are still arguing that the South was right and just to secede from the Union, over 150 year ago, and pastors say that homosexuality and abortion are our biggest problems, I have to think that these are people who are, willfully or not, choosing ignorance and whistling in the dark over improving their and our future. And our politicians keep on putting out the message that the willfully ignorant wish to hear rather than telling us what we *need* to hear - that things are gonna change in a big way, and sooner rather than later. That we need to do damage control *now*, not later. That the concept of the Rapture, while a very appealing idea, saying as it does that just when the world is going to completely fall apart God will lift up the righteous and leave the other 7 billion of us in the toilet against every creed of forgiveness and mercy that Christianity claims yet manages to gloss over because that wouldn't drive people into the churches to donate money, is all well and good but highly unlikely seeing as it's been predicted about a million times already and yet we're all still here. 

Christianity also includes the message of stewardship, that we need to all take care of our own house and our own house means the planet. Why aren't pastors preaching that message? Because Satan, even metaphorically, doesn't come looking like Satan, it will come looking like the good guys and screaming at the top of it's lungs that it has the message, and the only message, that you should hear and listen to. Satan wants us to focus on the ends, not the means. Satan wants us to look at this shiny distracting issue over here, not the important ones that mean survival for not only our country as a political entity, but also for a huge number of species around the planet. Satan (and I clearly meant this in a metaphorical way - I believe in Satan as a discrete entity like I believe in the Christian or any other god as a discrete entity, which is to say not at all) is winning. By a landslide. 

And I'm pretty sure that, given my observations over 45 years, that even good people will act in evil ways if they are given the right motivations or told the right lies. Because the world is far too complex for most people to grasp, myself included, and it's much easier and more comforting to complain that I'm an idiot and should read a book and that I'm a damnyankee and am going to hell. 

We won't get rid of the distractions, but we can learn to identify them and ignore them and demand that the important problems get fixed first, or at the very least mitigated. It may not help in time, and my guess is that those who enjoy professional blood sports and NASCAR and spend their Friday afternoons after work in strip clubs aren't going to be helping out much, but at least I for one am not going to give these distractions the time of day. 

So, Mr. I'm Not Giving My Name, complain all you want about ancillary issues and minor points of contention. I'm sure someone out there will say that I just don't understand NASCAR, or that Ultimate Fighting Craziness is a legitimate sport that requires insane amounts of intelligence and agility. In the end, the people who enjoy *watching* those sports do it because the possibility of seeing blood and death are very appealing. If that's what you like, you'll see a lot of it in the coming decades as we fight wars over the last remaining pools of oil, as we watch fundamentalists of all stripes increasingly resort to violence as a way of gaining attention. 

We have real problems to face. Perhaps we should pull our heads out of our collective asses and start dealing with them instead of thinking that the market will fix everything, or God will sort it out, or that it's just easier to whine that your side should never have lost a 150 year dead civil war because, tarnation, you were in the right. I think we have more important things to deal with now. 

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I thought it was a poor use of your time responding to an anonymous poster, but I have to confess to being drawn in repeatedly in similar cases; the number of outrages inflicted on our country over the last eight years is so great in number it's easy to feel like you've got to man the barricades at each new offense.

From my perspective, every US president since Eisenhower has been a mediocrity who has done more harm on balance than good. We, as both a body politic and as a species are on the verge of being overwhelmed by a small number of really huge problems. As waters both metaphorical and literal rise, people on both the left and right will be arguing about the numbers of angels fitting on their respective pin heads.

We need to both to work together and to make sound choices, but where's the evidence we're still even capable? Even now congress is in the process of lacing the egregiously bad bailout legislation with a little more poison to get a few more republicans on board.