Sunday, June 14, 2009

Daily Demonization, Vigilante Violence, etc.

June 14, 2009

I have not posted much in the last month or so. I have been reading, and thinking, a lot. And more things have occurred in the news than I can keep up with.

It is hard to know when or where to take a stand on many issues, because it seems like taking a stand means condemnation and demonization of those with whom one disagrees.

We've had several vigilante killings in recent weeks. One abortion doctor, one museum guard, one army recruiter. There has been a lot of discussion. One great source pinpointing many different views on the topic is a blog page by the NY Times called "The Opinionator."

President Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to fill the soon-to-be vacated justice seat of David Souter. Conservatives have cried, "racist!" and other things, while liberals have labeled conservatives as obstructionists, even though they (liberals) acted in a similar manner with the confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

Obama is now pushing healthcare reform, while his opponents are claiming he wants to turn U.S. healthcare into Canadian or British healthcare. I read an excellent article from The New Yorker this morning about how overtreatment may be one reason why healthcare costs are so high these days. There are many out there trying to scare people away from trying to make meaningful healthcare reform happen. Even if Obama's intentions are good, it is very doubtful he is going to make much progress in his efforts to reform. Take a look at how many prominent legislators have a stake in some form of health care.

Of course, there are other silly issues like David Letterman making jokes about Sarah Palin (which, by the way, I happen to side with Palin on this particular matter).

But what seems to be the biggest problem through all of it is, while there are great discussions and arguments to be made about most of these pressing challenges our country is facing, those discussions more often than not will not even happen. Both sides are too busy demonizing the other side. It is a legitimate challenge to take a position and respect the other side to believe the way they do.

While I still tend to have opinions and sometimes even make a claim to know an answer or two, the more I read and listen to the talking heads, I just want to stay out of the fight. I don't want to be mean and hateful like they so often seem to be. I would rather try to find common ground, and see if there are ways that I agree with those whose ideology differs somewhat.

If I cannot do so, I would rather stay quiet, and let others be critical and angry. There is more than enough of those types of feelings out there without me adding to the pot.

But enough about me. Even though I do not want to demonize, it is lamentable how difficult it is to have respectful, reasoned discussion in our country today. It seems you can only discuss things civilly when you agree with the person with whom you are speaking. One problem is that certain faces on TV are very touchy about others demonizing them, but don't seem to even take note of themselves when they say, as Bill O'Reilly does in the following clip: "I don't demonize you for thinking what you do, but you have blood on your hands."

It causes people to cry foul when David Letterman jokes about Palin's child getting knocked up by Alex Rodriguez, but laugh when Ann Coulter calls Bill Clinton a rapist.

I know I don't have the answer. Right now, I am content to get most of my information from NPR, or the newspaper (the local Laramie Boomerang, or the New York Times). At least those sources are much less combative and negative. And there are plenty of other articles to read in the paper if I don't like the one I'm reading at a particular moment in time.

If others want to demonize, I will leave it to them. I will try to avoid doing so, while still reading, and having opinions. But really honestly, in my gut, I worry that this is just the start of vigilante violence. Another contention about which I hope I'm completely wrong.

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