The premise of the Founding Fathers was that reasonable men could work together to reach good conclusions. And yes, it was men in those days. These leaders were schooled in the ideas of the Enlightenment. They believed in practical government, intended to serve the people but not to dominate them. They believed that people, when led to see what was right, would vote for it.
And above all, they believed in discussion and debate. They were plenty political. And there were fierce confrontations. But overall, the belief in reasonable discourse was what enabled this country to emerge from the rule of Britain and the conflicts among the Colonies themselves.
Lurch forward to today. We live in a vastly different world. The pace is faster, the issues more wide-reaching in their consequences, and the people actually less well informed, though generally more literate.
Somewhere in the last 40 years, civility and discourse, a collegial atmosphere among legislators, has been lost. The result is unflinching partisanship that is destroying the country.
We cannot make progress on vital issues when people stop listening to one another.
Which brings me to this blog entry.
President Obama has been doing a great job in consistently pursuing the promises he made while campaigning for the Presidency. And he has made every effort to be collegial and statesmanlike, inviting other opinions and showing respect to all.
As a result of his energy and leadership, our international prestige has improved, our relationships with Europe are better, the financial system has been kept from collapse, and there are even some signs that the recession has bottomed out.
What a pity that Mr. Obama, who has attempted to be open to input from many sources, has run into a far-right buzz saw. The ignorant, bigoted, biased, and stupid are terrified of all that he represents. These are the folks disrupting meetings and painting swastikas on congressional office signs. They are being encouraged and manipulated by folks who are NOT ignorant or unsophisticated. An example is the flat-out dishonest advertising by Pat Boone's 60-plus group.
In college I took a course in propaganda, taught by Elmer Choukas of the OSS -- and his definition still sticks with me. Propaganda is the controlled dissemination of deliberately distorted notions for the purpose of engendering action or thought.
Propaganda is not discourse. It is not discussion. And it is moving masses of people to inappropriate action in disrupting town hall meetings, etc.
We desperately need the progressive energy Obama provides. Give the guy a break, and remember that discourse is not evaluated in decibels.
I believe we really do need health care reform. You may disagree, and that's fine. Let's work it out. But screaming at each other, trying to intimidate each other, throwing shit at each other -- that's just what you see chimps do when their territory or personal status is threatened.
Right wingers, if the shoe fits, wear it. The rest of us will be glad to talk it over in a civil manner.