As we all have witnessed over the past few years, thoughtful debate on issues has literally disappeared only to be replaced with an unprecedented coarseness of dialog that is primarily comprised of outrageous allegations, demagoguery and diminishment of fact-based appraisals. We see it right here on these pages in the Shawangunk Journal
America is now clearly divided into three major camps: Conservative Republican, Progressive Democrat and Middle-of-the-Road Independents.
Conservative Republicans mostly ascribe to what George Lakoff (UC Berkley, Professor of Cognitive Linguistics in his book "The Political Mind") calls the "strict father" model as championed by James Dobson. Such a viewpoint contends that there is absolute Right and Wrong. Only painful punishment can teach a child to be moral and make them disciplined enough to "pursue their self-interest, they can become prosperous, in this land of opportunity. And pursuing their self-interest, as Dobson points out, is good. It is part of free market capitalism. As Adam Smith said, If everybody pursues their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized, as a law of nature, by the invisible hand. Dobson writes that: this is what our country is about-the free market…The good people, the moral people are those who are disciplined enough to pursue their self-interest and become wealthy…So it follows that if you are not disciplined enough to pursue your self-interests and become prosperous, then you're not disciplined enough to be moral, and you deserve your poverty. That's the logic. So what does this say politically about social programs? They are all immoral-every one of them. Immoral in 2 ways: they give people things they haven't earned and therefore take away the incentive to be disciplined enough to pursue their self-interest. And because they take away discipline, they make people immoral, unable to do right."
Progressive Democrats mostly ascribe to the "nurturant parent" model which contends there is no absolute Right and/or Wrong, that respect must be earned, that painful punishment of children is criminal. This model also contends that empathy with others is a primary requisite for being a moral person; it's not all about one's self but rather the whole of community/humanity. "From the notion of nurturance, every progressive value immediately follows. If you care about your children, then you identify and empathize with them and you want them to be protected. Fiercely. Who from? Crime, drugs, pollution, unscrupulous companies. All the things you need to protect children from. What does that mean in politics? First, it's the progressive idea of protective security: environmental protection, consumer protection, worker protection, all part of what we call total security. Second, if you care about your kids, you want them to be treated fairly and equally. Very important-fairness and equality are important values. If you care about your kids, you want them to be fulfilled in life, and they can't be fulfilled unless they're free-so freedom is a value. They can't be free if there's no opportunity, and there's no opportunity if there isn't general prosperity. So opportunity and prosperity become values. But you live in a community-what kind? The strict father model where a community leader tells you what to do? Or a nurturing community where you care about one another, do community service, are responsible to one another. And to serve the community, you have to cooperate. To cooperate you need trust. To trust you need honesty and openness. Those are progressive values. They all come from nurturance. It makes sense: from the larger social groups, states and nations, to the smaller-community and family."
And then there are the M-O-R Independents that hold to some of both the above philosophical orientations; sometimes leaning Conservative while at other times leaning toward the Progressive.
The abject irony of the current situation in America is that Conservative Republicans- those champions of morality -are using immoral tactics to further their vision of America. Cases in point:
- Their charges of "Death Panels" that have been shown to be complete fiction .
- Their charges of Obama's Health Care reform giving benefits to illegal aliens when there are two distinct passages in HR 3200 (the House bill passed on to the Senate; there has never been an Obama Health Care Bill) denying illegal aliens benefits.
- Their laying of the 1.5 trillion dollar deficit at the feet of the Obama Administration when the reality is the Bush Administrations spent a .5 trillion dollar surplus in addition to being responsible for increasing the deficit by 1.2 trillion, "When Mr. Obama took office, his budget office projected it had inherited a deficit for 2009 of $1.3 trillion; the C.B.O. estimated $1.2 trillion;"[New York Times] the Obama Administration's contribution of .3 trillion nearly all of it to deal with the crises left by G.W. Bush and Company.
- The continuing charge of Team Obama being "socialist" when the reality of the Bush promulgated financial bailout (TARP) is socialist in that it socialized the cost (with taxpayer's money) of a few elites gambling losses while continuing privatized profits to same; not to mention the corporate welfare give-away of even more taxpayer money that dwarfs federal welfare expenditures to needy citizens.
- Conservative Republicans have also continually derided ACORN for malfeasance and actually railroaded Congress into passing a bill that revoked funding to this agency which existed to help the underprivileged even as this same Congress refused to pass a bill offered up to include ALL federal contract holders being held to the same standard as ACORN. Of course, this latter bill would've included Halliburton, Blackwater, KBR, etc which have been found guilty of scamming enormous sums of money from government coffers on a scale many magnitudes greater than ACORN.
- And what about the Conservative Republican claim that global warming isn't manmade via continual reference to a petition signed by 32,000 scientists stating their disagreement with global warming being the result of man-made carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere; this petition containing less than one percent of climate scientists and is affiliated with the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine which employs Frederick Seitz, a "scientist" whose career was essentially creating "scientific" cover for RJ Reynolds cigarette company regarding the bodily harm caused by smoking. Seitz also has worked for anti-global warming groups funded by ExxonMobil.
- And then there's this from the King of Disinformation, Rush Limbaugh: "I've instinctively known this from the get-go 20 years ago. The whole thing's made up. And the reason I know it is because liberals are behind it. When they're pushing something, folks, it's always bogus. It's never what they say it is. There's always a hidden reason behind the objective. The objective -- stated objective is just designed just to get you feeling guilty, responsible, frightened, scared -- and your kids as well."
Please educate me as to where the morality exists in such Machiavellian tactics. The self-serving quality of the above positions is obvious and immoral! Fabricating in order to win the hearts and minds of the People is underhanded. It is divisive in that facts are murdered in order to claim the superior position of righteousness thereby leaving fact-based viewpoints on the other side of the divide.
Think about it. If global warming isn't anything more than natural cycles, cycles occurring tens of thousands of years apart, (this point demolished in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth") how does one otherwise explain ice core samples extending back over 650,000 years that, when analyzed, showed a steady ban of CO2 until 100 years ago, coinciding perfectly with the advent of human industrialization, when the CO2 level spikes and continues an upward trend?
The science of global warming isn't at all in dispute as so many Conservative Republicans contend. The ONLY unknown is what percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere constitutes a "tipping point" beyond which there can be no remedy. Ask yourself, "How logical is it to ignore such science?" when, if we do ignore it and it turns out that global warming due to manmade pollutants is real, the Earth and all living creatures perish.
It may be that America has come to the point where we need to alter our Constitutionally based democracy from representative to parliamentary. In this way, viewpoints would have to cobble together alliances to gain a simple majority and get legislation passed as opposed to where we now have a distinct minority (Conservative Republicans) being able to fold their arms in "No-ist" posturing and stop government from working on behalf of the overwhelming majority. So, too we must educate Americans well enough to understand the issues or we will not have an America that is able to intelligently deal with the issues.
As it now exists, we have two sides screaming at one another. A lot of heat generating no light to illuminate fact from fiction. This is a recipe for disaster.