Is it so wrong to recognize that indeed "We all do better when we all do better"* and that we do so by providing more opportunities to more of our fellow citizens, rather than denying them to protect the interests of the already-too-powerful? Elevating the content and quality our public discourse while displaying more honorable public behaviors in the process--instead of what we witness on a daily basis--might prove more gratifying and meaningful in the long run, and for more of us.
That's about as low a bar to overcome as one can set, yet we note every day that even that low threshold is too challenging for some. That aggressive, mean-spirited, bigoted, hateful behavior has become too much the norm for those who've now been given permission for public proclamations of their cultural ignorance by a witless demagogue who has sucked up far more than his fair share of oxygen from the rest of us. Those behaviors reflect upon all of us, and if these inch-high standards are now the means by which we measure American's exceptionalism, a big re-think is in order.
National figures in past generations would have never shown themselves to be too cowardly to call out Donald Trump's ignorance and bigotry, yet "leaders" today seem paralyzed by the inability to stand up for what is nothing but minimal human decency and awareness. We're all the poorer for their negligence and lack of even a basic level of integrity.
Are the intensely emotional, partisan, highly-charged, and polarized conflicts the better and wiser pursuits [notwithstanding the pointlessness of it all]? Is this simply the public display of how the political combatants' private/social/professional lives are conducted: just an endless stream of constant, almost always senseless conflict, opposition, and obstruction?
Is this truly how we'll now define American exceptionalism and leadership on a necessary global scale? What happens if this remains the standard political and social problem-solving MO? If the behaviors and comments of Trump, his national sycophants, and supporters giving absolutely no consideration for What Happens? if Trump prevails aren't automatically inspiring great embarrassment and shame for the depths of these ignorant displays, What Happens Then?
Ideologies acted upon have consequences [although one is hard-pressed to define whatever Trump proclaims to be his ideology]. Until and unless we develop a better understanding of what those guiding principles are, why they exist, what their significance is to the individuals and groups most closely identified with those characteristics, and most importantly: what are the short- and long-term ramifications of mindless pursuit of policies supporting them, we're left with the sole option of continuing to blindly wage ideological wars on all fronts.
It is that way; it just does not have to be that way.
Sure as hell what we're doing now isn't going to cut it if a peaceful and prosperous future is the goal! Do we pursue ideological victories above all else--disconnected as most tend to be from the challenges and issues we face in daily living--or do we instead work cooperatively to make lives better for all of us, rather than just the few? That choice is first an individual one, because we cannot depend on those in charge to begin disseminating more honest and complete information. Self-serving current tactics have proven to benefit the few at the expense of the general public, so let's not hold our breaths that leaders and spokespeople will soon see the Light.
Half-truths and misleading strategies justifying current policies produce exactly what one should expect from half-truths and misleading strategies. While it is impossible to ignore the influence of cognitive dissonance on our ability to consider different viewpoints and modify our own if facts warrant, that intellectual/emotional/psychological discomfort when we sense we might be wrong about a firm belief is itself a powerful impediment. How to get past that when human nature inclines us to seek out whatever information we need to bolster our existing beliefs rather than challenge them?
Can we at least begin to appreciate the consequences of a failure to do so as a meaningful first step?
* [The late] Sen. Paul Wellstone