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Elections Hysteria

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Message Larry Sakin
"We need more civics lessons and less hysteria", wrote Amy Dalzell, an activist from the great, rebellious State of Kansas. Truer words have been committed to paper, but none as succinct as Dalzell's. Yet, when it comes to the upcoming 2006 midterms or almost any American election for that matter, hysteria is still favored over civics.

Between conservatives leafleting the South with claims of Democrats banning The Bible and progressives inventing new ways of comparing some conservative policies to a fascist camel's nose entering the tattered tent of American Democracy, it's increasingly difficult to know exactly who to believe. Speculation substitutes for truth in these heady times, and anyone trying to bring rational thought into the debate is threatened with ostracism from their chosen political camp.

It's wearing a lot of people out. Recently, an interesting article in the NY Times' "Week In Review" discussed political realignment. It points out that there has been an unusual rise in the number of people who reject both political parties. The article suggests that this spike is occurring at the expense of the Republican Party, but also that people are rejecting democrats' inability to chart an alternative course just as much as they're rejecting the GOP's inability to govern. However, I also suspect that the real-life experiences of the electorate just don't match the rhetoric hurled at them from both the left and the right.

I blame campaign spinmeister Karl Rove, his late mentor, campaign consultant Lee Atwater, and the internet for the onslaught of fear-based elections. Rove and Atwater both painted liberalism as an evil second only to Stalinism back in the eighties and early nineties and now, hardcore progressives and non-committal Democrats are catching-up to the politics by pejorative game, trading issues for invective. The internet more resembles a broken down frontage road littered with advertising and inane rumors of doom posted to long abandoned telephone poles rather than the sleek information superhighway it is touted to be. It's all led to much more posturing these days, a kind of uber-certitude about the correctness of ones' position without benefit of education or experience. Such is the fear these entities wrought that very rarely does anyone question the stereotypes of Constitution-castrating conservatives or atheistic, amoral liberal values without feeling the rope burns of flaming, high tech lynch mobs, especially among one's own philosophical comrades.

A quick look at any seventh grade civics reader should be enough for anyone to understand there is no black and white to American politics. People simply aren't that simple. We possess a mélange of attitudes, some conservative, and some liberal. They develop because of our upbringing, experiences, and observations. It has always been thus, and anyone who tells you they're completely liberal or conservative probably doesn't know themselves very well. More importantly, a good civics lesson would inform people that nothing has ever gotten done in this country without compromise. The legacy of the founding fathers to us was to constantly be creating a "more perfect union". In order to fulfill this promise, people of all political stripes sometimes sacrifice deeply held convictions for the common good. Sadly, many are unwilling to make those sacrifices in the 21st Century, and that also contributes to the ongoing hysteria.

My hope is that people take Dalzell's quote to heart in the near future. Without a return to rational thought and civic participation by the politically polarized in this country, progress cannot be attained.
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Larry Sakin is a former non-profit medical organization executive and music producer. His writing can be found on, Blogcritics, OpEd News, The People's Voice, Craig's List and The Progressive magazine. He also advocates for literacy and (more...)
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