Here comes a tirade for which I feel my logic and rhetoric professor would probably rip me a new one for, but its what I have in my head tonight, and I need to let it out.
I have a confession, something I almost hate to admit, but I must. I love to listen to talk radio. I am not sure at what point this happened, or when it began to seem like a good idea to me, but I love to listen to it. Very rarely do I hear anything interesting, but it fills up the empty space when there is no CD I feel like listening to in the car. There are some days I like to be alone with my thoughts, and there are some days I want more material to shovel into the info-grinder that is my mind.
The two options available to me that are not religiously oriented (though I do listen to those if I want a good laugh...especially that one guy who sounds like Bobcat Goldthwait...hes pretty damn hilarious) are NPR and the local AM talk station, KPRL. NPR is generally speaking fairly interesting, with lots of interviews from many viewpoints, this is what I would prefer to listen to. KPRL is sorta-ok in the morning, when it is covering local issues. Once it is turned over to the nationally syndicated talking heads, it just kinda comes apart. The thing that strikes me about all of their broadcast material is the fact that it is so incredibly partisan. The complete and total "Us or Them" mentality is sickening to me. It is not the thought of this difference in principal, sometimes there ARE situations in which there are two options, and one is the clear and immediate correct choice, however this implies that there are in fact some REAL differences between these two choices. This is something that I believe is severely lacking in our current political discourse.
Tonight, on my way back from getting a bowl of pho, I had the Jerry Doyle Show on, broadcasting on KPRL. NPR was busy playing some cheery violin pieces, and I just wasn't feeling it, and the CD I have in the car is too sappy sounding for a night of productivity. All the radio stations seemed to be simulcasting Lil' Wayne, and I had the "5 Dollar Footlong" song stuck in my head...SOMETHING else had to be turned on. So, Jerry Doyle is was. He was going on and on about an interview of Rahm Emanuel by Wolf Blitzer. In his critique of Rahm's answers, he trotted out all the normal talking points. Doyle is an outspoken Independant, and so he is a little better than the rest of the peanut-gallery, but listening to him I realized that both sides have an odd sort of worship for their own chosen representatives.
Politics in the United States has become a spectator sport, in which people chose their side and paint their faces. We show up to the polls wearing our flag-pins and go to marches holding misspelled signs, rooting blindly for our side, which is in our eyes clearly infallable. We all manage to miss the clear fact that we are all little more than grit in the teeth of the political machine. We sign petitions and hold signs, the drying ink evidence of our Sisyphean task of attempting to bring about actual change. We hurl insults at the "fans" of the other team, pointing to our players as the paragons of virtue that we see them to be. We, as a whole, never take a critical look at those we champion. How many people know the names of their representative? How many know their voting records? How many even know how to find out their voting records? Who pays for your senator's campaign? The problem with our representative democracy as it exists is that it does not just encourage collusion and corruption, it is a prerequisite for doing business. I sometimes wonder what would happen if suddenly everything became transparent? What would happen if suddenly the entire network of privilege (in its most basic form...private law) was exposed. The billions of dollars of no-bid contracts, the shuffling of billions of dollars of resources and enough pork-barrel spending to stock the navies of the world with salt-pork for eternity.
Things have fallen into this sorry state because we quit asking questions. We quit paying attention, we became content with the warm glow of our TVs and monitors, enraptured by the flickering lights of our lives, punted around by the obfuscation of the TV and radio punditry. Allowed our passions to be enraged by misinformation, thinking things to be true simply because we WANT them to be true. Allowing ourselves to be lulled to sleep by the quiet hum of the world through our own ethnocentric headphones, oblivious to everything that goes on outside our skulls.
Next time someone tells you something, ask why. Why are they telling you this? Is it true? How do I know? When you turn on the radio, and someone spits out some figure, look at their motive. I don't care who they are...question them. Look to the root of the problem, follow the money, follow the votes. Look beyond the ridiculous screaming radio personalities and examine the basis of their statements. What is the motivation? Don't take anyone's word for anything when it comes to politics. Before you decide whether you like or dislike a person or a piece of legislation, look at it yourself. Don't trust Glenn Beck or Rahm Emanuel or Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh... find out for yourself. Before you complain about the bill, READ it. Your job as a responsible voter is to know what the hell your representatives are up to, not to just trust some guy with a blackboard to spoonfeed you his idea of the truth. We must do our best to learn the truth for ourselves, and draw our own conclusions. Throw out your preconceptions, start from zero...throw it all out, and prove it to yourself. Hold no piece of your beliefs inviolate, for in that untouchable and unproved piece of your mind your weakness will take hold and send out its tendrils into the rest of your mind.
I love this country, this land of my birth and the land in which my heart lays, but I refuse to just accept that this is the way things are. Our system is broken, our people are deaf and blind because they have put out their eyes and stopped up their ears willingly. Our leaders on all sides do nothing but spend time carving up the world a little finer amongst themselves, all while we wander around with eyes cast to the ground. Stand up! Shake the slumber from your bones, take off your headphones, turn off your TVs, and go out into the world that we live in. Stop listening to the mindless in your life, stop following your preachers, politicians, and societies blindly. Look at it all, look at it, in all its beauty and complexity, and make your own decisions. Give nobody a free pass, question it ALL.
Part of this...if you disagree with this, tell me! Don't just sit there and take it in, letting it fall into the back of your mind and be forgotten, step up and own your view. Give it back to me with the full strength of your conviction! Don't just do nothing... Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!