Right here at the outset I will admit to no longer being “young.” And clearly, not “with it,” as in, I “don’t get it.” Except, I actually do “get it.” I just don’t like “it.” Now, I know there are many who seem to hold to the idea that if one “gets it,” then one must a priori like “it” as well. Sorry, but I don’t buy into that solipsistic cul-de-sac. I “get” that “the people” are fed up with the existing political process. It is quite clearly broken and in shambles. And I “get” that for many this means they have free reign to rail without cease or moral backbones at whatever their fear of the week is, as supplied by whichever side of the political spectrum one adheres, with special vitriol aimed at whatever group they are directed to spew at. But, I don’t like it.
Now, I am fully cognizant of the current facts as they are – that anyone who dares to say another may be wrong about their understanding of the facts must themselves be idiots, or far worse, deemed offensive to the very act of sharing the air with “our side.” So I anticipate scorn and opprobrium by the bucket-load, shoveled as fast and furious as possible by those with nothing to really say, but who use every means at their disposal to say it – loud, often, and as nasty as possible. But what the heck, waste your time. I do in fact know where the delete key is, and use it with increasing frequency.
At the risk of appearing both old, and a curmudgeon, (both which have a certain amount of truth, mind you, but these are only two traits I possess, and among the lesser important, far less important, in fact, than the fact I actually admired the addition of gills on Kevin Costner in the bomb Water World,) I find very little of real value coming off the Web and it’s many arms these days. By value, I admit to passing judgment on this, but that is one of the larger voids from the ether – sound judgment. Hyperbole seems more the order of the day, along with fear, rants, outright falsehoods, and open and unapologetic hostility, especially toward anyone who disagrees with the other’s point of view. As well as their very right to say it in public, though hidden of course behind often silly nom du Web.
We are awash in information, but nearly devoid of wisdom. Unfortunately, I find myself among a dwindling number of reasonable and rational people who “get it” on this point. You see, the more extreme one moves one’s position toward the extremes, the fewer options exist for changing one’s mind. Moving to the furthest extremes in social and political conversation makes backing off that position very difficult. Mustn’t lose face, you see. And even more important, mustn’t be wrong. Because if I admit you may actually have a valid point about something, that in fact the facts you present are actually more true and even more believable than mine, then I may in fact be wrong about everything. So, do not look behind that curtain, Toto.
What happens is largely what we see happening currently in Congress. When faced with a populace who demands you act on behalf of the populace, and not on behalf of your ideology, and for truly good reasons, what do you, the Great Leaders do? Try to find common ground? Negotiate in order to save face, and bow out with some form of self-respect intact? No. You do what any loathed two-bit, third-world dictator would do – you bomb and strafe your own people with hyperbole, invective, small-minded and petty talking points, and of course let’s not forget, complete and utter disdain for the very people with whose work you are charged. Somehow, I doubt this will result in those same people coming back into the fold. Clearly, Qaddafi, sorry, Congress doesn’t “get it.” (I feel the need to note here the word “congress” also refers to the act of sex. I suppose the question is, who’s nailing who, here?)
This will be construed as an extreme example, and therefore not worth consideration as evidence of my stated contention. I would differ with that assessment, of course, but in an attempt to humor and mollify, let’s use a different example, say, Glenn Beck. Extreme? Well, certainly, but he is our “non-governmental” extreme, and therefore, fair game. Glenn has been running further and further into his special corner of the Universe every day, becoming more clearly delusional, though many with at least half their synapses capable of firing at the same time believe he is merely getting sloppier covering it up, and closer in that special narcissistic way to trumping Howard Beal. We get that Glenn is mad as hell, but he expects everyone else to be as mad as he is, about things just as far removed from reality. Shared delusions are so much more fun, of course, but recently, many who have enjoyed their special moments with Glenn are beginning to doubt his hold on reality. Now, this, I don’t “get.”
All one has to do to see he’s been several green tentacles away from Area 51 for his entire career as a “personality,” is go back and watch something of his ten years back, then watch him today. Do you “get it” yet? I will admit there is a certain amusement value here, but when one considers the degree of fear and hate this man has fomented by virtue of his Tormented Brainiac imitation, it gets might hard to laugh. But perhaps a good laugh is what we all need right now. It would represent an excellent break from the hate and vitriol coming from all sides. But no, perhaps not.
Because that would mean we might have to laugh at ourselves.
I will assume that by saying the words, Founding Fathers, you will anticipate I am going to either a) deny the validity of the bubble-heads on the right, or b) put the similar bubble-heads on the left in the small box they came wrapped in. But I am in fact going to do neither. What I will say about the Boys of Philadelphia is simply this: they did in fact envision this nascent experiment would change, as they knew full well it had changed for them, and were intelligent enough to understand this to be the way of time and history – things change. In the immortal words of Homer, no, not that Homer, I am speaking of Bart’s Dad, “Doh!” Not necessarily for the better, or worse, but they do indeed change. And it was this understanding that allowed them to “get it” when crafting, and finally signing, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. They even used the term “tree of liberty.” Now, said tree did not just refer to the right of the people to rise up and water said tree from time to time with their blood. (Sadly, many today are using this as an excuse to use another bodily fluid to water said tree.) Trees, in fact, do grow. And they sometime need pruning, as well as being thinned from time to time to prevent the wind from pushing them over. But they (The F.F.) never said, and clearly never intended it to be construed, we must kill the tree when it blocks out view, or no longer goes well with the sofa and curtains.
Because knocking the tree down means that true liberty is gone. True liberty permits all who seek it to shelter beneath it’s vast shade. If we prevent some from sharing this shelter, that very act represents the failure of the American experiment, and it can no longer be called the tree of liberty, but instead must be known as the tree of intolerance, the tree of tyranny, the tree of failure. This tree has been watered with much blood, on and off the battlefields. And all of it is precious, and deserves to be remembered both for who shed it, and why they each did so.
America is a big tent, we often hear, yet people from all extremes of the population often believe that the Other is not patriotic, not worthy, not even sane, and this ever-increasing chaos threatens to bring that tent crashing to the ground. Liberty is the center pole of this tent – knock it down, and no one can be sheltered.
We are an experiment precisely because we dared to try self-governance under a Constitution, and those Founders knew deep in their bones that creating it with absolutes would ultimately doom us all. To call for and act with the desire to institute absolutes is to aim at bringing down the republic. Both Qaddafi and Beck are examples of such absolutes. The question is, will we “get it” in time? Or will we choose sides, and arm ourselves with absolutes of an irreversible nature? It is one thing to hold an opinion. It is another to hold a fact out that is demonstrably false, and use that falsehood to fan the flames of hate, to drive the entire species off a cliff, just to score a point. But that is where we appear headed, and I will admit right here I don’t “get it,” no matter how many ways I try to spin it. Because the harder I try to make sense of it, only one thing has become crystal clear.
I don’t like it. Not one bit.