We have met the enemy, and he is Donald Trump for he is us.
Or too many of us.
Is there a better time than Christmas to reflect on the vicious partisanship of these days that seem to make it impossible for reasonable people to disagree without calling each other names?
Would it be too much to ask for a better New Year?
It is easy to blame the country’s new President for all of this or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who gave Trump the model for building a virulent political base. But the venom flows from so many now.
We have become a country increasingly split between angry Scarecrows who feel government should do everything for everyone, a fiscal impossibility, and bitter Tin Men who think government should do nothing, a societal absurdity.
Civilizations are bound together by a sense of the common good. Sadly, if the recent work of psychologists
The scientists conducted a couple different behavioral studies that indicated “higher social class consistently related to lower levels of wise reasoning across different levels of analysis, including regional and individual differences, and subjective construal of specific situations. The results held across personal and standardized hypothetical situations, across self-reported and observed wise reasoning, and when controlling for fluid and crystallized cognitive abilities.”
Just win, baby
“There’s an apparent paradox in modern life: Society as a whole is getting smarter, yet we aren’t any closer to figuring out how to all get along,” Price wrote.
He might have understated the problem. You don’t have to look at much social media to find someone raging at someone else for being a “f…ing this” or a “f…ing that” because of a disagreement over politics.
A visitor from space might have thought the latest rewrite of the U.S. tax code, which has been rewritten over and over and over again for years, was a national crisis. Here is an actual, Facebook conversation between two relatively intelligent people discussing Alaska’s senators voting for change.
“Can you be arrested for spitting on a U.S. Senator?”
“I bet you could, but I’d contribute to bail money fund!”
“I hope wherever our reps eat out their servers spit in their drinks/food. Assholes!”
Social media clearly highlights and heightens the nation’s divisions, but it’s unfair to blame the medium for the message. It is but a vehicle for expression in a nation now sometimes prone far more to emotion than reason.
The best analysis of the new tax bill says it could boost the national debt by a staggering $1.4 trillion, do little or nothing to grow the U.S. economy, and put only a tiny amount of money back in the pockets of average Americans. But no one can see the future, which is why predictions of this sort are often wrong.
A whole lot of Republicans are gambling their political futures on this analysis being wrong. Alaska Rep. Don Young summed the situation for the critics as well as anyone:
“If we’re wrong, you ought to be happier than the devil. You ought to be real happy. You can say, ‘Look what the Republicans did. Look what they did. They hurt you. They hurt your economy.’ If you’re right, then you can brag about it.”
More than that, if the critics of the legislation are right, Alaska Democrats will have their best chance ever to oust Young, a Republican they’ve been trying to vote out of office for decades.
That the tax change might eventually offer Democrats an opportunity to swing the political pendulum back in their direction in a system in which the pendulum is in constant motion has been noticed by a few, but most just seem angry.
Because they lost, and what the Brienza and Grossman study found, in a nutshell, is that upper class folks hate to lose. Winning for them trumps, possibly the perfect word here, more sensible compromises.
“The concept of wise reasoning has recently emerged in behavioural sciences, highlighting the combined utility of certain metacognitive strategies when navigating uncertainties people face in their lives,”and Grossmann observed. “Such strategies include the appreciation of contexts broader than the immediate issue, sensitivity to the possibility of change in social relations, intellectual humility and search for a compromise between different points of view. Individual differences in wise reasoning are only weakly related to dispositional empathy and perspective-taking, and promote prosocial tendencies in the process of deliberation.”
Appreciation of contexts broader than the immediate issue? Sensitivity to changing social relationships? Intellectual humility? A search for compromise?
These are all things the country’s current president seems to lack, although he has a couple of times made overtures to Democrats that might have indicated some willingess to compromise.
As if anyone wanted that. Compromise is a dirty word in America today and has been for some time.
“The political right is particularly vehement when it comes to compromise. Conservatives are now strongly swayed by the tea party movement, whose clarion call is a refusal to compromise, regardless of the practical consequences,” Deborah Tannen wrote at CNN way back in 2011.
“But the rejection of compromise is more widespread than that. The left regularly savages President Barack Obama for compromising too soon, too much or on the wrong issues. Many who fervently sought universal health coverage, for example, could not celebrate its near accomplishment because the president gave up the public option.”
Tannen, at the time, called the prevailing divisiveness a “threat to the nation.”
Today, we’ve disintegrated to the point where it’s a threat to friendships, a threat to family relations, a threat to the work place, a threat to neighborhoods, and especially a threat to journalism, a large part of which seems more and more focused on proving that Trump is inherently evil or that those who oppose Trump are inherently evil.
As a society, we have come too much to reflect our head-bashing, brain-destroying national sport – football. And the goal of that game at the highest level, the NFL, was simply defined by the late Al Davis, owner of the once bad-ass Oakland Raiders;
A Christmas wish
Maybe in the spirit of the Christmas season a whole bunch of us should consider New Year’s resolutions to try hard to get along, recognizing we would all be better of to heed a few words of wisdom from late President John F. Kennedy:
“So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity isn’t always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.
“Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
Those first two paragraphs spoken in 1961 were directed,of course, at the now-gone Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) at a time when the Cold War raged. We seem now in the midst of our own internal Cold War with Trump our Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table.
And no one can make Trump better by responding to his outbursts with Trumpian furor; all that does is make the nation worse. All that does is widen the divide between Americans when maybe its time for them to actually talk to each other.