Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lets Change The Debate!

Debates?! It's a joke. A candidate gets a whopping two minutes to declare how he'll fix a problem. Or a 30 second rebuttal. Which means someone wasted part of their two minutes to ride down someone else's idea.


Nobody wins these debates. America loses in all regards because they don't inform us. What they do is identify with an emotion. And that's the real problem.

Not that I believe we shouldn't be emotional. I partly agree with the bumper sticker that says that if you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention. When it comes time to debate the merit of a so called solution to a problem though, the rage needs to be checked at the door.

In Roger Osborne's book, Civilization, he makes this observation: "The Reformation, an apparently simple act of rebellion against the Catholic Church, was in reality a complex series of events that appear to contradict the rules of historical cause and effect. The most obvious legacy of the Reformation was a period of intolerance, bitterness, and religious conflict...."

He concludes that chapter with this: " We have returned to the paradoxes set out at the beginning of the chapter, and the historical story may have shown us that we have been making the wrong kinds of connections. Perhaps the key to the Reformation does not lie in our own rationalization of the motives of the principle actors and meanings of the events, but in the emotional lives and spiritual needs of the people of Western Christianity. If the Reformation tells us anything, it is that humans live through their emotional needs, not through rational consistency."

This is so much the case that Drew Westen has written a book all about it called the Political Brain. I have not yet read it, but I get the point. These two dots connect, and so I respond.

What marks the political debate in this country is not rational consistency, it is emotion. And that is why we have such partisan feelings. Such bickering, such name calling. A Vice President sinking to gutter level language on the Senate floor in public to a colleague. Radio hosts that call people "feminazis" and the like. I myself am guilty of using the phrase the Religious Reich. It may be truly my opinion, and I may be able to substantiate that opinion with fact. But I also have the choice to view them that way and not voice it that way. So my own tongue rebukes me. And that's okay.

What we need in this country is to alter the debate. We finally need to actually enter into an age of reason, as Tom Paine wrote about. For it is reason that will get us the answers we need. For those that won't debate, they then forfeit the right to participate. And there are those that see only their dogmatic ideology as being the right way to solve all problems. Neither is that wise or American. Especially for America of the 21st century.

Ed Schultz offered a great idea on his radio program. he said he would be willing to open his show, actually give up a whole three hour show, one per candidate, to any who wished to air their ideas about solving this country's problems. In response to that, I wrote to the Edwards and Kucinich campaigns, encouraging them to jump on this offer and start making the change.

I am sad to say that I got canned sound bite, or the e-mail version of it (e-rhet?), in response. So I am asking any readers to do two things. Start contacting the different candidates and asking them to contact any and all radio hosts for time slots to explain in detail how they would solve our major problems. Then contact the radio hosts to offer up their slots.

Do I think this will eliminate the emotional partisanship that fuels the vitriol from the political extremes? No I don't. But it will start if we start to make noise, and request of our candidates and radio shows what it is we the people, we the consumers, want of those who serve us. The Customer is still the King folks. It's our money they want. Let's tell them what we want in exchange for it.

And let's learn to shelf our emotions when we talk to our fellow citizens. Problems usually have facts that explain what the problem is. And well thought out solutions to those facts can be applied. Not everything the conservatives believe in is right. Not everything the liberals believe in are wrong. Maybe in our discussions we can arrive at a solution that includes a little of both camps. It's worth trying.

As William Martin wrote: "In America, we wake up in the morning, we go to work, and we solve our problems."

We, we we. and I say this to myself as well as you, "We the people."


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