This video of a MoveOn.org protester at a Rand Paul event has been making the rounds in the blogosphere today. I find it intriguing that it hasn’t really received much attention in the mainstream media, given the level of violence that took place – but that’s another topic. Take a look:
I have been trying to remember what political rallies were like back in the 1980’s and 90’s. Given that I was rather young back then, I had a bit of trouble at first. However, the more I’ve thought and researched, the more I’m sure that this level of violence is relatively unprecedented in recent American political history.
If violence is generated by anger, hatred or fear, what is driving this downward spiral in American political discourse? What happened to sitting down as a family and watching debates between candidates on television, then having spirited – but respectful – discussions of their positions? What happened to being able to take your child to a political rally, and put them up on your shoulders so that they could see the candidate whom you could only hear speaking? When did we lay aside Patriotism for Nationalism, and turn the Land of the Free into the Land of the Fearful? And when did we trade responsible journalism for sensationalism and fear-mongering?
Here’s how I think it happened:
- A loss of respect. Somehow, despite all the times that we’ve memorized it, we’ve forgotten the point of one of the most important phrases in American history: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” To put it in modern terms, we must respect the absolute right of every human being to live his or her life as he or she sees fit. Somewhere along the track of the last few years, we’ve stopped doing that.
- Gullibility & Laziness. Over the past few centuries, humankind has been used to regarding printed media as relatively truthful; after several decades, Television was given the same level of regard. Then came the internet, shortly followed by the social media revolution. Facts, truth and reality are now determined by who posts first, who pays for the best placement, or who has the best marketing team. People allow their opinions to be swayed at the whim of the media elite, and can’t spare even a moment to check the facts.
- Fear & Ignorance. Since the tragedy of 9-11, we have allowed ourselves to be guided by fear, and remained willfully in ignorance of the results. In the name of “Security”, we allowed our leaders to damage the basic freedoms guaranteed us in The Constitution. We allowed them to do even worse to others: the methods of torture our agents have employed around the world unquestionably violated basic tenets of human rights. We allowed our great purpose – the American Dream itself – to be cheapened.
It’s time to wake up. It’s time to remember who we are. We are the nation whose Founding Fathers believed that government was “for the people, of the people,” not for and by those who are willing to seize power for themselves. We are the nation whose greatest gateway welcomes immigrants with the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…” We are the only nation whose explorers have walked on the surface of the moon. It is time to reclaim our sanity, re-discover our purpose, and move forward.
I’m going to the Rally to Restore Sanity this weekend. I’ve never watched Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert’s shows for so much as a second in my life, but it’s time for people to realize that the state of political discourse in America is unproductive and dangerous. Maybe two comedians mocking the hell out of us for acting like dark age peasants with pitchforks and torches can start things moving in the right direction. Stranger events have happened in human history.
What about you? Are you willing to join me in laying aside you pitchfork for honest, polite discourse? It’s time to remember that facts aren’t decided by a majority vote, that truth is not based on opinion and that somewhere in the 3.75 million square miles of this great country there is probably enough room for all of us, if we simply remember to respect each other.