Politics as usual

I didn't get a chance to watch President Obama's State of the Union address live last night. As with so much of my news, I read it online. I just read the transcript of the SotU address, and I continue to be impressed with President Obama. He took an opportunity to make his last SotU address one to remember. He tackled the political issues of the day with thoughtfulness and insight. I've seen a lot of criticism about his speech online today, and it saddens me. Not that people criticize him or what he said, but that it is done with such hate and vitriol. I am tired of having our President called an idiot, tired of having his patriotism and commitment to this country called into question. President Obama is one of the most educated, eloquent, and thoughtful presidents we have had in a very long time. It's okay, expected even, to criticize what he has to say and disagree with his politics. But to denigrate his accomplishments and integrity because you disagree with him is vile. Yet it has become pervasive in our culture.

My friends and family represent a full cross-section of the political spectrum. I have Bible and Constitution thumping conservatives, Ayn Rand spouting libertarians, FDR loving progressives, Marxist socialists, and every flavor and variation in between represented in my Facebook feed. While some would argue, I in fact fall a very little to the left of center. Those who call my political opinions and stands to be ill-informed are flat-out wrong. I read and listen to every opinion posed, and try to see beyond the rhetoric and vitriol to see the value in the proposal. Sometimes I don't find much value, but the difference is that I do not assume that the person espousing the opinion is stupid or hateful or hates this country. I wish I could say the same of every person whose opinions I am exposed to.

I know enough history to know that the polarization of politics is nothing new. Nor is the vitriol and hatred spewed at those who disagree with the speaker. There have been times that our country was as divided politically as we are now, and the political rhetoric was just as vile between the political camps. I also know that those periods historically have also preceded some pretty nasty violent times. So I don't have to like it, or accept that it's inevitable, just because there is precedent.

What troubles me more than the vitriol is that the various political camps cannot even agree on the most basic facts, which means finding common ground is nigh unto impossible. That we have media outlets deliberately distributing untruths as true facts is both damaging and indicative of where we are as a country. When the attitude is factored in that if you don't agree with me that you are trying to destroy America, it guarantees that the divide will only worsen. Ultimately, it is not a good thing for our country, and certainly not for interpersonal communications.

I don't expect that anyone will change their minds because of what I write, but my hope is that I might get even a couple of the extremists in my circle of friends and family to stop and think. I love America, and want to see the country grow and succeed. If you believe that I am stupid or ill-informed because of the things I believe will help the country and my fellow Americans do just that, or worse that I want to destroy the country because of them... then I have to wonder why you would want to have anything to do with me. Is it because you think you can "save" me by educating me, or getting me to see things your way? Or do you think you can out-shout me, or intimidate me into supporting your opinions? Either way, you must not think much of me as a person. You certainly have no respect for me based on that position.

I was taught that conservatives and liberals all want the same thing - to live in the best country on Earth with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That they simply disagree on the ways to make that happen. When we start assuming that those who oppose us are evil, or at the very least stupid, we lose what makes us a great nation and society. What will it take to get back to the place where we can disagree without the hate and vitriol?

I usually try to find an upbeat way to end my posts, and today I just can't.  So I'll leave it here, and hope that the comments posted will revive my faith in my fellow humans.

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