“War is politics by other means.” – Carl von Clausewitz
For nearly as long as I can remember, politics has been my cardinal passion. As a boy I would petition my grandfather again and again to tell me the stories about Sam Houston and the evil General Santa Ana. In the tenth grade when other kids were giving book reports on Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, I was reading An American Life: the autobiography of Ronald Reagan. In college I majored in public relations with hopes to one day manage political campaigns. But I have a confession to make. I’m sick of talking about politics.
For most of my life, none of my peers shared my passion for the sport of politics. I could scarcely find someone in my age group with whom I could talk at length about whether or not Bush should have gone into to Iraq, or where Reagan ranks among the greats. But now most shockingly to my chagrin, political discussion abounds everywhere I go. The Big Media septic tanks pump our living rooms full of misinformation each night, and we all have ironclad opinions, made stalwart by a few little data points, to regurgitate at coworkers and friends alike.
Our country faces some of its darkest days. Indeed, this was one of the most dispiriting weeks in our nations brief history. This week we saw a New York legislature legalize abortion up to the moment before birth, a group of high school students humiliated and doxed for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, some military personnel missing a second consecutive paycheck due to a petty partisan shutdown, a close confidant of the president arrested for perjury, a United States Congresswoman siding with a socialist totalitarian regime in Venezuela over the U.S. , and media corporations make more and more layoffs to longtime staffs both in Knoxville and nationally. Worse than the sum of these tragedies was the hatred and vitriol displayed with pride in our modern gladiator pit, Twitter, during discussion over them.
We love to think about he evolved we are, about how different we are from those in our past whose statues we now tear down for their various atrocities. But is the Twitter mob that different from those mobs in 16th century Salem, Mass. hunting for witches? Is doxing and threatening a 15 year old that far removed from tarring and feathering a Tory?
Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our most universally beloved President, wisely said that if we ever lose our freedoms, it would not be from some outside force, but from vicious infighting and self-destruction.
I am not advocating for less political discussion. Politics are an extremely important part of every American’s life, whether he/she wants to realize it or not. Greater political participation is good, and essential in the survival of a democracy. I’m not advocating for less ferocity in our debate. Politics is sport. It’s intense, and the employment of all forms of rhetoric and even mockery at times are moral in the interest of the advancement our our nation’s interests. What I am advocating for is that we start attacking bad ideas and stop attacking one another, that we rededicate ourselves to education and stop relying on one big media entertainment conglomerate for the entirety of our world views. If we reach the point where we can no longer stand to have discussions with those who differ from us, if we begin to view opposing viewpoints as immoral and not just ignorant, we will truly be in dire straights.
Today America stands in a state of chaos. As the great and fictitious Lord Petyr Baelish once said, “Chaos is a ladder.” If we are not careful to ground ourselves now, and listen to one another, the wrong person may grab hold of that ladder and end our great American experiment.