Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being the Statesman

Ok. I don't want to get deep into the political conversation, because politics in this country makes me want to switch on Apathetic and put in some earplugs. But I have been keeping up with this Tucson thing, have had a few conversations, and I'd like to speak briefly about our clarity.

I think it's pretty clear that we are a pale comparison of the democracy our founders intended. Democracy is meant to stimulate debate and discussion, in order to come to a decision, through compromise. Currently, all I see are arguments screamed loud enough to drown the other out, without the slightest hint of intent to reach a decision.

"We will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults."

I have a hard time understanding how Sarah Palin doesn't see that she is what she describes. To be fair, the yelling and defensiveness is happening on all sides. But Palin specifically has earned our focus this week. And I don't know if, "Don't Retreat - Reload!" is celebrating greatness - sounds more like being the bully to people who don't share opinions, rather than having a conversation with them and REALLY TRYING to understand why they don't agree with you. Either way, let's continue the clarity - screaming at each other, getting defensive and tossing out threats is not democracy.

As to the 'blood libel' comment - let's not forget that Sarah Palin says a lot of stupid things. I'm not sure if her speech writer is just as ignorant of politics as her or if she ignores the speeches they write, but she doesn't evoke intelligent deliberation. Being a non-Jew talking about a Jewish woman and using the term 'blood libel' - really ridiculous, but I expect nothing less from her. Perhaps she wanted to try to 'take back' the phrase; if that's the case, she's really gotta work on her timing.

In her favor, however, she just isn't presidential material. And that is in her favor, because it releases her from her missteps. She was put into the Vice-Presidential candidate role without any grounds for it, and she has since become no more of a Presidential candidate.

I had a conversation with one of my patients the other day. He is a person living in San Francisco who likes Palin and the Tea Party (they exist, but they are rare). I was eager to have a deeper conversation about his opinions and was, as expected, disappointed. Why was he a supporter? Because he is a Republican and he has no idea what is going on in politics. He just knows that he should dislike Obama and like the Tea Party. He asked ME to tell him what the Tea Party believed in. I hope all political sentiments aren't borne this way. But I'm sure many are.

He asked me why I disliked Palin, and I explained to him that she didn't have the ability to be a statesman/stateswoman. For better or for worse, if you don't like Obama, you have to admit he has that ability. He's chosen the 'voice' that he uses to communicate with the country - it's an idealistic voice, similar to Kennedy. Perhaps that isn't your particular preference for a leader - maybe you just want an aggressive voice which takes you under its wing. What Obama's words are doing can be uncomfortable - he is deeply trying to turn the mirror inwards on the American citizens, and to help them re-set their moral compasses.

Sure, with the state of our society now, where the majority of people want to be taken care of and not have any personal responsibility, I can see why people balk at Obama's mirror. Fear of taking on responsibilities and motivating oneself daily is bad enough, but to expand that and make each person responsible for the attitude of a community, society, country - most people become too overwhelmed and want to relieve themselves. They put it on their leaders - so the blame is on anyone but them when something happens they don't like.

Anyway, I'm trying to keep a neutral political tone - any person, regardless of political ideologies, who stepped up and spoke in a voice that acknowledged the responsibilities inherent in each person and encouraged everyone to take more control of the way their world functions, I would respect. 

We are nit-picking. We aren't looking at the bigger picture and we aren't asking enough questions to which we actually want the answers. When we become too frightened of what it would mean if we ask a question and get an affirmative response, because then we'd be obligated to take action - we've lost the ability to be in the world fully, to form fair and informed opinions. 

When we can no longer ask why, we are no longer individuals. 

When we stop listening and repeat only what we've heard, blaming the 'other' rather than seeing how we are responsible for the state of affairs we are mired in - we are no longer a functioning brain.

We might as well be robots.

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Please feel free to comment, discuss, challenge, or expand on anything I have written. In fact, I encourage it.