I've got a blood test before work today, so I've got a little time to blog and blather this morning.
The White House is now trying to spin President Obama's gaffe at bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Again, had this been Bush, it would've been the #1 story for weeks on end--proving his incompetence, stupidity, cupidity, etc., but because it's Obama, it'll get some play on Fox and Drudge, and then sink into the peat bog of the conservative blogosphere, never to be heard of again. That would be an unevent, as Orwell would say.
Now I do take some pretty serious potshots at the President, liberals, etc., on this page, and I don't apologize for them. I try to keep the rhetoric out of the blatant insult range and focus on policy, but I'm not above questioning motives or competence. That said, I don't begrudge anyone their right to respond. What I've found lately--especially in Facebook--is a certain contempt for differing opinions. The Libertarians slam the Republicans. The triumphant liberals pound the heck out of Christian conservatives. The conservatives ping Obama. And around and around it goes.
Awhile back, I watched a TV show or read an article describing signs of divorce in a married household. One of the leading contenders is contempt by one partner for another. I was under the impression that Americans were known for their fair-mindedness, sense of fair play, or acceptance of differing viewpoints. Apparently that is going by the wayside. It's not just a matter of John believes X while Mary believes Y, it's that Mary must be evil, stupid, corrupt, or a scumbag if she believes Y, and therefore has no right to her opinion. This is not healthy for our republic. It's a short step from attitude to legislation, especially in the hothouse that is Washington, DC. Political arguments are not just political, but referenda on individuals' moral worth. Or, to turn it around, politics has become very personalized, with a healthy helping of contempt, and if you can discredit the individual, you can thereby discount the logic or merit of any argument they make.
Again, my objection is not to the arguments--those are healthy and necessary in a dynamic civilization like ours--but their tone. The level of contempt is rising, as is the "winner-take-all" philosophy of the governing parties. If you're in power, you do everything you can to force your opinions and policies down the throats of everyone before you're out of power. If you're out of power, you do everything to stop whatever the party in power is doing. And if it's a split decision, both sides take their swipes to ensure a better opportunity to get into power.
I suppose this might be "politics as usual," but being a student of rhetoric (hence the title of this blog), I take words very seriously. I dislike terms like revolution, heads will roll, treason, violence, secession, or balkanization, all of which have crossed my inbox from various sides of the aisle. The level of rhetoric is heating up to an unnecessary degree. The nation has serious issues confronting it. We're the most powerful nation in the world, the stakes are high, and everyone and his brother thinks he could do a better job than the President. (I don't, by the way. I wouldn't want the job.) Criticism is no longer couched in some highfalutin' sense of "the good of the country," which I'd actually prefer, but as a game of "smashmouth" politics. Every fault must be pointed out and pounded relentlessly as a personal failing. Every failed policy is part of some conspiracy. Every speech is a lie or a d@mned lie.
I'm tired of it. I vote, because that's the quietest way I know to enforce my opinions. I express my opinions here, but that doesn't mean they have any force of law. I'd like to think I'm contributing to a conversation, albeit a high-level and sometimes-deadly-important one. They are my opinions, and you're welcome to yours. No one needs the insults or questions of character when all I'm doing is disagreeing with yours. "Live and let live" is still a good philosophy, but it's becoming very rare indeed, between political leaders and private individuals, to the loss of us all.