It’s a good idea to keep our eyes, ears, and minds open because beauty, truth, and insight will pop up in strange places. On of those strange places was the May 26th episode of comedian Craig Ferguson’s History Channel show, Join or Die. Craig hosts a panel of colorful characters who try to decide what is history’s greatest whatever. It could be history’s greatest gangster, greatest conspiracy theory, or greatest presidential bad boy. The show is something again to a water cooler discussion, interspersed with humor and insight.
In the course of a discussion about history’s greatest founding father, Ferguson nailed our current national dilemma. His stream of consciousness followed these main points:
- The United States of America was born out of the enlightenment.
- The printing press made the Bible and other written works available to the common man, not just an elite group, like priests.
- As people read they developed opinions.
- Opinions created debate (because opinions are diverse).
- Debate created new ideas, like maybe kings aren’t God’s chosen leaders.
- Heretics (those who read for themselves) created debate. Debate (about what a country should be, what government should be, what liberty should be, about the very nature of God and man) created the United States.
Debate is ending.
Insult and rhetoric has replaced conversation and thought.
You develop your opinions through interaction with other people (who differ with you), but we don’t do that anymore.
The political parties, the media, and the politicians have succeeded in dividing America into two self-righteous, narrow minded camps. Both world views are closed. Both are narrow. Both are extreme. Both are somewhat right and somewhat wrong. Both are terribly incomplete. Both are propaganda machines. Both are supper protective and paranoid. Both are simplistic and without nuance. Both have glaring blind spots. Both hate the words, “yeah, but what about…”
Now it seems that any issue that confronts us becomes partisan before it is even understood. We quickly form opinions and choose sides. Those who disagree are denigrated and called names. The rhetoric quickly becomes personal and the character attacks are launched seeking to discredit those who differ.
The media has failed us. We get all of the spin with almost no research and zero investigative journalism. They simply provide a platform for the spin.
Our two party system has failed us. Personally, it seems like parties are a bad idea which is why our founders warned us about them. Certainly, only two parties is a terrible idea. They flourish by created division, not debate.
Our elected officials have failed us by serving the parties, corporate donors, or their own lust for power.
Can America recover its genius? I don’t know. But if it does, it will be because we recover what created it, civil discourse.